The Falcons success next year will be highly determined by which Matt Ryan shows up next year. And the two Ryans I’m referring to is the one that played for this team in November and the one that played in December.
I think it’s a pretty good conclusion to believe that Ryan hit a rookie wall late in the year. From looking at his numbers in November vs. December, it’s a pretty fair conclusion:
MONTH ATT CMP PCT YDS AVG TD PCT INT PCT RTG
NOVEMBER 128 87 68.0 1184 9.25 6 4.7 1 0.8 109.6
DECEMBER 101 62 61.4 815 8.07 3 3.0 5 5.0 76.1
Ryan’s December numbers aren’t terrible. But the one stat that should jump out at you is the interception percentage. Ryan was 6 times more likely to throw an interception in December as he was in November. As you can imagine, if Ryan played that way over the course of a full season, we’re talking about potentially 20 interceptions thrown by him.
Now, I think Ryan can and will certainly bounce back. Again, I believe his decline in play had a large part to do with the grueling marathon that is an NFL season. He’ll be more physically and mentally ready to play 16 games next season.
But I’m not naive enough to think that it’s as easy as flipping a switch. NFL teams will be much more prepared for Matt Ryan and the Falcons in 2009 than they were in 2008. Teams won’t treat him like he’s a rookie quarterback. I think one of the reasons for Ryan’s drop in play in December was not just him being tired, but he also wasn’t making great decisions with the football. Certainly, not as good decisions as he was making earlier in the season.
That too is going to have to change. The Falcons aren’t a team that is built to be able to turn the ball over frequently and still win consistently. We did so this past year, but there is little reason to believe that mojo is going to carry over in 2009. And unless our defense makes significant leaps and bounds, that will likely continue to be the case next year.
I’m confident Ryan is going to go into the film room, and watch his entire rookie season, and make the necessary adjustments. That’s what the great ones do. They’re always looking for ways to get better. Which is a very refreshing change for a Falcon quarterback.