Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ESPN survey says: Matt Ryan is the NFL's 11th-best QB

No. 2 is Tier 2, according to ESPN.  (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Conventional wisdom has held that Matt Ryan isn't quite an upper-crust quarterback. (That crust consists of Rodgers, Brady, P. Manning, Roethlisberger and Brees -- though I'd argue that the Saints' man is slipping -- and maybe Luck.) But some of us, maybe most of us, have believed that Ryan ranks near the top of Tier 2, alongside Flacco and Rivers and E. Manning.

In sum: We've come to regard he Atlanta Falcons' centerpiece not as a top five quarterback, but definitely top 10.

Comes now Mike Sando's latest survey of league executives/coaches for ESPN Insider, and it slots Ryan in 11th place , behind not just the Big Five plus Luck but also behind Flacco, Rivers, Wilson and Romo. That's a slide from last season, when Ryan was tied for eighth. I guess that's what happen when your team goes 10-22 over two seasons and fires its coach.

Sando's second tier includes eight names. Ranked behind Ryan are E. Manning, Stafford and Newton. Twenty-eight of the survey's 35 participant identified Ryan as a Tier 2 quarterback, which would constitute a consensus, and the anonymous quotes gathered by Sando are intriguing.

From a head coach: "I think he was coddled a little bit. I do not think he needed to be. He is not that kind of guy. I think he is a real guy, a guy's guy. I think if he had gone to a blue-collar place, it could have been different. I think he's a 2 who could be a 1."

From a personnel director: "I say (he's) a 3 because once pressure gets to him, he struggles and turns the ball over ... Put him in the situation where he is the guy and he tends to struggle, even if he puts up big numbers."

From a defensive coordinator: "He will play lights out and then all of a sudden, where did that (turnover) come from?"

A case can be made that Ryan's what-the-heck interception at Wembley was the moment when Mike Smith's final season started to become Mike Smith's final season. (Smith would be culpable in other ways, as we know.) Last season Ryan was precise except for those moments when he'd make an utterly awful throw, and those awful throws were a reason his team finished 6-10 and not 8-8 or better.

Don't get me wrong. I still think he's a really good quarterback. But it will be fascinating to see how he fares under new management.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.