Well since I incorrectly predicted a holdout for Matt Ryan, I’ll try to make up for it with another not so insightful prediction, that Ryan will be the starter once the season opens.
With his contract being signed so quickly, we can all see the context clues being left by this front office and coaching staff, it’s just a matter are we going to choose to continue to ignore them at this point.
And at this point, it’s really not whether Ryan is ready or not. It’s really about whether Chris Redman can showcase enough of his ability to make the coaching staff think he isn’t just another guy. And if Redman is for real, then he’ll be up to the task. And by for real, I mean whether he’s a playoff-caliber quarterback on par with players like Chad Pennington and Marc Bulger because that’s exactly what he’s going to have to be in order to keep Ryan out of the lineup. If the inevitable training camp battle comes down to anything close to a tie, Ryan will definitely receive the benefit of the doubt.
I know many Falcon fans are high on Redman, but don’t count me as one of them. From my count, he was only productive in 4 of the 17 quarters he played last year. That amounts to about 4 complete games over the course of a 16-game season. The Falcons offense, while more productive on the scoreboard was seemingly just as prone to stagnation under Redman as it was under his predecessors, evidence by the 13 quarters are pretty much non-activity. Can Redman be the next Kurt Warner/Derek Anderson? Yes, he certainly is capable of that. But that doesn’t mean he will do that. Being capable and being able to accomplish something don’t always mesh.
But don’t get me wrong. Just because I’m not filled with confidence about Redman, doesn’t mean I’m rooting against him. Frankly, I’ll be rooting heavily for him, because I don’t think starting Ryan right off the bat will make him any better, or this team any better. One of the reasons why I graded Ryan so highly is because I think he’s capable of dealing with the pressure of being a rookie starter. But just because he has that capability, doesn’t mean he should be put under that what I would call undue pressure.
My mindset is that if by midseason (just like a year ago), the Falcons are almost certainly out of playoff contention, then by all means plug Ryan in. But until that point, I don’t think you should be asking a rookie quarterback to try to put you into the playoffs. And again, while I’m not super high on Redman, I think at least he has that capability and potential, something I cannot fathom for Ryan this year. So I’d rather give Redman the chance to prove me wrong.
And while it’s not impossible for a rookie quarterback to lead a team to the playoffs, it’s highly improbable. Frankly, I think it’s doubtful for any quarterback, whether a rookie or a 10-yr. veteran to accomplish that with only three months of prep time. And while I realize that it’s probably highly unlikely that this team would make the playoffs this year anyway whether it’s Ryan or Redman starting, that doesn’t mean it should not be the goal. To me, starting Ryan off the bat is a blatant indicator by this coaching staff that they have no intention of competing for the playoffs in the next year or two. That they are more interested in developing Ryan than winning football games. And I don’t like that mentality. And I also don’t believe that if Ryan starts the next 32 games will make him into a significantly better quarterback come 2010 than it would if he had only started a tenth that amount in the same time frame.
Because if you believe that, then you also should believe that Carson Palmer would be a better quarterback now if had started every game in 2003 or that Joey Harrington would be a worse quarterback now than he currently is if he hadn’t started a game in 2002. Or that we would have probably went to the Super Bowl in 2004 had Chris Chandler not been around to keep Vick on the bench in 2001. And I’d call you downright crazy if you actually believed any of the above.
As I see it, the best way to develop a young quarterback is to sit him. Let him watch, learn the offense, and only play him when he has a complete grasp of the offense and thus is ready to be a leader on the field. In my opinion, this method of development helps quarterbacks much more than throwing them to the wolves right off the bat.