McElhaney: The things I won't soon forget about the Matt Ryan era

Professional and stable until the end. Putting the last 14 years into perspective dulls sting of Matt Ryan's departure

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan #2 poses for a portrait during 2021 AF Creative Days at CW Davis Middle School in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Monday, June 7, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)

I was 13 years old the day Matt Ryan was drafted to the Atlanta Falcons in 2008.

If I am being honest, I don't have very many memories of the organization prior to Ryan. I don't have clear memories of the Michael Vick era. I do remember the scandal that brought about the end of it, though.

I remember the Falcons, as an organization, needing to turn a page.

I remember feeling like the Falcons needed Ryan to do so.


Over the next 14 seasons, Ryan arguably became the greatest Falcon of all time. As Arthur Blank said in his statement after Ryan’s trade, Ryan will one day be added to the Falcons Ring of Honor, with a bust in Canton to come soon after.

I won't list Ryan's accomplishments here. I don't need a refresher course on what he did in Atlanta. I saw it all as I grew up. I would imagine many of you did, too. Remembering all he did, I guess it's time to confess I never understood why Ryan was as polarizing a figure as he was in the Atlanta market.

I always say Ryan brought a professional stability to an organization that was anything but stable at the time of his arrival. As I look back, I remember feeling that stability and professionalism at 13. I still feel it 14 years later. Ryan was the Falcons quarterback I grew up with. Funny how I felt like Ryan never changed even when I did. Funny how I felt like Ryan never changed even when the organization did, time and time again.

Why that professional stability was not valued or respected at times I'll never know.

All I do know is that this divorce doesn't feel good. Call it a disturbance in the force, if you will. To me, It just doesn't feel right. Perhaps that's because it's all I've ever known as someone who has lived and worked in this market, as someone who's watched Ryan play almost every game since he was drafted, as someone who's asked him countless questions -- all of them he answered with poise and respect -- throughout the last two years.

Perspective, though, is important. And it's the perspective of this trade that dulls its sting.

Ryan is going to a competitor that has a roster ready to win now. It's a fresh start for Ryan, one that holds the presumption that he'll see success with his new team. Success he could see sooner rather than later.

The Falcons could have traded Ryan to a team not yet ready for a quarterback of his caliber. They didn't. Atlanta sent him to one that's playoff ready with Ryan at the helm.

In any situation, particularly that of a parting of ways, perfection isn't an option as an outcome. But this agreement holds a certain level of contentment within its grasp that feels as close to perfection as any of us will get. Perfection in this agreement isn't possible. Contentment can be.

Getting Ryan to a team that won't waste his final years in the league is the least the Falcons could do for the veteran quarterback after his 14 years in Atlanta.

Let's not overlook what Ryan is doing for Atlanta in this agreement, too. He's helping the Falcons turn the page on a chapter he began writing. It's a chapter that will go down as one of the most successful in the history of the franchise.

So, as it closes, celebrate the chapter the Ryan era was and prepare for a new one. But, Atlanta, don't forget what Ryan did for you.

There's nothing I'll be able to write that won't already be written. There's nothing I'll be able to say that won't already be said. But for the future that is Ryan's in Indianapolis and for the future that Atlanta is trying to build, there's only one phrase that seems right to use when preparing for both:


Get f*ing set.


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