When you look back at Atlanta's disappointing end to the 2015 season, it's easy to play the blame game. In fact, the guy who probably received the most scrutiny was QB Matt Ryan.
Rather than shifting the blame to another direction, Ryan stood tall and took accountability for everything. And, unfortunately a player's leadership and dependency isn't something that can be seen on a stat sheet.
"Matt Ryan is your prototypical franchise quarterback," said ESPN QB analyst George Whitfield, known around the league as a QB guru and has had Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston as pupils. "He processes well, he has great accuracy and more importantly, he is tough. When you put that combination of things together, it's hard to find that consistently in a lot of guys, that's why there is so much turnover and change at quarterback.
"People have to understand that although it's the most high profile position, it's also the most dependent."
Ryan will be the first to tell you his 21 turnovers weren't acceptable by any means. But, there are some things to consider when looking at that number: He was playing in a brand new offensive scheme and he was also sacked 30 times.
Whitfield said the transition into a new offense is a huge undertaking and one that takes time to iron out all of the wrinkles, especially in the complex zone blocking scheme.
"It's learning another language," Whitfield said about Ryan's first year in a new offensive system. "So, he might have been speaking Spanish up until Shanahan arrived, and now you're speaking French. You need a second year in French to fully change over. They are going to do great things. People forget, he's a Pro Bowl quarterback; they have been in the playoffs with him already. They have talented receivers on the edge; they just have to stay healthy."
The past five years in the NFL have proved to all that in order to win, teams need solid play from their quarterback. Continuity at this specific position is immeasurable and should be something that is cherished.
"Atlanta fans should be excited that they have a guy who can anchor their whole franchise and they're not constantly back looking for another quarterback," Whitfield said. "There are cities all over America that would love to have Matt Ryan."
Ryan has the ability to decode defenses pre-snap and take full command of his offense, all traits you see in the other top tier quarterbacks.
What separates Ryan from the rest of the group is easily his toughness.
To show just how tough Ryan is, try to think of the last time Ryan missed a regular season game. It might take a while because it was in December of 2009. He's played 99 consecutive games since then, and has been sacked a total of 186 times.
Ryan epitomizes toughness and that's not always the easiest thing to find in this day and age.
"He's tough," said Whitfield. "Matt Ryan gets his butt kicked out there a lot. And he pushes up and gets right back up to the huddle, and that's what you want at the end of the day. This dude will battle.
"He's going to wind up driving this franchise for years to come."