The debate that raged in 2008 when the Falcons held the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft was whether the new Falcons regime of Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith should select Matt Ryan or one of the defensive players available in the draft, specifically a defensive tackle.
On Thursday as the Falcons opened Russell Athletic Training Camp for the 2013 season, the decision to select Ryan as the franchise quarterback looks like a smart choice because the two-time Pro Bowler has helped reverse the fortunes of the franchise and shattered more than a few records.
Also on Thursday the Falcons announced a five-year extension for Ryan, assuring Ryan and Falcons nation that they'll be together for quite a while longer.
Everyone won Thursday. The Falcons were rewarded by locking up their franchise quarterback, Ryan was rewarded with putting together five of the best seasons in franchise history and the fans were rewarded with the security of knowing their QB isn't going anywhere.
In hindsight, the decision to select Ryan looks like the right one and team owner and chairman Arthur Blank said as much.
"Thomas, Smitty and the whole organization obviously made a brilliant decision," Blank said as he began Thursday evening's press conference for Ryan. General manager Thomas Dimitroff echoed Blank's relief regarding one of the first decisions the team made under Dimitroff and Smith.
"I'd say right now that I think we're all glad that we didn't go defensive tackle in the first round in 2008," Dimitroff said.
The GM said Thursday's deal with Ryan would allow this season's roster to remain "fluid," enabling the Falcons to make moves should the need arise. Dimitroff also thanked Blank for allowing the Falcons to extend Ryan's deal, a deal Dimitroff said was with a championship-caliber quarterback and the player that will run the team now and in the future.
Ryan's head coach said the quarterback makes him a better coach and he looks forward to coaching Ryan for a long time. With a deal done, Ryan anticipates the opportunity to talk strictly about the upcoming season, unlike in the past few months when he's fielded persistent questions about his contract status.
Often well-spoken, Ryan, as he sat with the other three men, appeared to be at a loss for words at one point. Addressing Blank, he said, "I can't thank you enough. It's awesome. I'm happy to be here."
Although the deal generated a lot of questions and discussion in the media, Ryan said he never questioned whether or not the deal would happen in a timely manner. With the deal complete, he's happy to be able to focus all of his attention on the task at hand: getting ready to play in 2013 and making another run, the same goal he said he's had since he arrived in Atlanta in '08.
And although he's lived in Atlanta for five seasons now, his new deal guarantees he'll be here for a while longer, an exciting thought for the 28-year-old quarterback. Everything about the deal works out in the Falcons' favor and all the other interested parties that cheered when they heard about the deal on Thursday. The fans, the Falcons and Ryan and his wife Sarah can continue the relationship started five years ago and hopefully will continue on.
Ryan said he's been welcomed in Atlanta and with this deal, there's no reason why he'll need to call another place home again.
"It's an opportunity to continue my career in a place that I call home, in a city that I love," Ryan said. "I think we have the best fans in the league. They've been so receptive to my wife Sarah and since we came down here in 2008. I'm really excited to have this done."