Personally I think Ryan is that player, but I do think there is a lot of room for improvement from him as well as this coaching staff. Asking him to simply be a game manager is not going to cut it, especially if they cannot invigorate him with the confidence to be able to make the big plays in the big games when this team needs him to. Against the New York Giants, Ryan played poorly. Frankly, he played with the confidence of a guy that had just been handed the starting job a few weeks before. And while Ryan deserves ample blame for his impotent performance, I can’t help but point a few fingers at the coaching staff as well. Especially when I’m watching Alex Smith and the 49ers do exactly what should have happened with Ryan and the Falcons, which is basically playing like they have a pair.
One of the weaknesses of Ryan this past year was his ability to throw the deep ball. It’s never really been the strength of his game dating all the way back to his days at Boston College, but he’s been effective from time to time during his short NFL career (particularly as a rookie). New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is expected to install an offense that emphasizes the vertical pass, and so it will be critical for the Falcons to get Ryan to improve significantly there.
Personally, I think one of the reasons why Ryan struggled with his vertical passing this year is because of how much this coaching staff stresses not to make mistakes and turn the ball over. It’s why Ryan is consistently overthrowing his streaking receivers because “if you’re long, you’re never wrong,” a statement I’ve heard Ryan say more than once. Throwing the ball shorter, which will allow his playmakers like Julio Jones and Roddy White to go and get the ball should make him more effective. But at the same time it will allow defensive players more opportunities to make a play on the ball. But if Ryan is going to work in this new offense, then this coaching staff is going to have to be much more tolerant of turnovers and interceptions. It simply comes with the territory.
You hate to put it in a sort of ultimatum, but if this coaching staff cannot trust Ryan enough to coach him that way, or are unable or unwilling to coach him that way, then something has got to give and someone is going to have to go. Being too conservative and “playing scared” which in my eyes summarizes the disappointment of the 2011 season is simply not going to cut it anymore. Championships are not going to come to you, you have to be willing to go out and take them.