NFL players don't have much time to watch football games during the season – what with them preparing all week for their own games on Sundays and all – so that perhaps explains how quarterbacks such as Buffalo's Josh Allen and San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo made the Top 100 Players of 2020 list while Matt Ryan was left off.
The list, which is voted on by players from around the league, has been the source of much discussion throughout the last week. Three Falcons players: Grady Jarrett, Todd Gurley and Julio Jones were included among the top 100, but it seems hard to believe Ryan doesn't deserve to be the fourth.
No slight intended to Allen or Garoppolo, who both led their teams to the playoffs in 2019, and, in Garoppolo's case, to the Super Bowl, but neither played the position better than Ryan last season or will likely do so in 2020.
Ryan finished fifth among all quarterbacks with 4,466 passing yards in 2019, making it the ninth straight season that he's topped 4,000 yards, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. He completed 66.2 percent of his passes despite getting sacked more times last season than at any other point in his career.
The average pass length of Ryan's completions was 6.96 yards, which ranked seventh among qualified quarterbacks, but he received the least amount of help from his receivers as their 3.99 yards after the catch ranked last among. San Francisco, on the other hand, averaged 6.56 yards after the catch – the best mark in the league – but Garoppolo's average pass length on his completions was 5.53, which ranked 24th.
Due to the frequency with which the Falcons trailed early in games in 2019, Ryan had the third-most pass attempts in the league. Life is hardest on a quarterback when defenses know he has to drop back and throw the ball, and Ryan found himself in that position frequently last year. That makes his accomplishments more impressive, because he made plays without the element of surprise in his favor.
That's really the key point when considering how Ryan played compared to Garoppolo. Garoppolo's stats are actually quite good in a number of areas, but he had one of the most complete teams in the league surrounding him and arguably the best offensive play-caller as his head coach. He should have produced the stats that he did, everything was set up for him to do just that. The degree of difficulty for Ryan last season was much higher.
Allen's place ahead of Ryan is even more perplexing. He's a great dual-threat quarterback, scoring nine touchdowns on the ground last season, but Allen is nowhere near the passer that Ryan is, and the NFL remains a pass-first league. Allen ranked dead last in completion percentage among qualified quarterbacks last season and his 3,089 passing yards and 21 passing touchdowns were 23rd and 21st, respectively. Ryan did throw more interceptions than Allen, but those often happen when a team becomes one-dimensionally pass heavy early in games.
Both Garoppolo and Allen have already accomplished a lot, and they seem to have bright futures ahead, but they are in spots that play to their strengths while hiding their weaknesses. Ryan, however, continues to be overlooked for the success he's had in adverse situations.
It's interesting that Ryan can't shake the notion that he needs everything around him to be perfect for him to succeed. Rarely in his career has he worked with a truly complete team, or even a truly complete offense. Ryan does as much with what he has as any quarterback in this league, and he is the reason the Falcons have consistently be among the best passing offenses in the NFL for the last decade.
More than any other position on the field, a quarterback is judged by the overall success of his team. If the Falcons can return to the postseason in 2020, perhaps Ryan can return to the NFL's top 100 list.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was unanimously selected to the 2010-2019 Atlanta Falcons All-Decade Team.