Matt Ryan will be 31 by the time next season – his ninth – rolls around. He will have 218 sacks on his odometer and several times that many knock downs. With that comes zero playoff appearances in his last three seasons, and but one postseason victory to his credit.
Not time yet to talk about closing windows of opportunity, but maybe it is at least time to at least look out the window and assess the view.
Among those quarterbacks who were invited to this postseason, six are older than Ryan. That roster of 30-plus QBs: Peyton Manning (39); Tom Brady (38); Carson Palmer (36); Ben Roethlisberger (33), Aaron Rodgers (32) and Alex Smith (31). Half of the remaining field. So, time has not abandoned Ryan just yet. Goods things can happen well into a quarterback’s athletic dotage.
When looking at these veterans for a best possible scenario for the Falcons leader, you automatically throw out the most famous. Ryan is not going to achieve Brady or Manning status – it’s patently unfair to judge their reflections in the same mirror.
In a comparable stage of his career, Roethlisberger already had a couple Super Bowl titles in his quiver. Ryan’s not catching up.
Rodgers has a physical arsenal that Ryan will never match, not even if he starts his off-season training tomorrow morning.
Palmer is the most interesting case study. His career has been mostly unspectacular. The talent was there, if not the results (he is 0-2 as a postseason quarterback). His eighth year was far more miserable than Ryan's (13 touchdowns, 16 interceptions in 10 games).
But look what happened when he was surrounded by a complete Arizona team (second in the NFL in scoring, eighth in fewest points allowed) and some inspired coaching. Palmer at 36 just finished a regular season with career-highs in quarterback rating, passing yardage and touchdowns. And the Cardinals are the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
You see what can happen when a more-than-capable elder quarterback is given enough tools, and doesn’t spend every Sunday afternoon picking pass-rushers out of his teeth.
Ryan just finished an ugly year. He seemed uncomfortable through most of it, like he was wearing a helmet two sizes too small.
But, there being nothing else in this postseason for the Falcons, perhaps there is at least one useful example. Yes, there it is. If Carson Palmer can do it well into his 30s, certainly Matt Ryan can, too. Given a lot more help.