Jeff Schultz

This AJC sports blogger takes things seriously when he has to, but he really would rather not

Matt Ryan gives Falcons shot to win title, they had to give him this deal


It was five years ago when the Falcons signed Matt Ryan to a contract extension worth $103.75 million, and some among the lunatic fringe found this to be an affront against all that is football holy when it comes to paying a quarterback who didn’t own a drawer full of championship rings and hadn’t parted one or two large bodies of water.

“Matt Ryan is not elite!” they screamed.

Three years later, Ryan threw 38 touchdown passes against only seven interceptions. He led all perceived NFL deities in passing efficiency, won the league’s MVP award and led the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

That the final game of the 2016 season ended implausibly in defeat was little fault of the quarterback’s, and it didn’t change what had long become clear: Ryan was one of the league’s premier quarterbacks, and as such it should be expected that he will be paid accordingly.

On Thursday, the Falcons signed Ryan to another five-year contract extension. This one is worth $150 million over five years.

Hopefully, he left enough on the table for the Falcons to fix the damn roof.

Ryan’s $150 million contract includes $100 million in guarantees. If he never sees the other $50 million, he’ll just have to suck it up.

Ryan was never leaving town. Anybody who fretted over this contract negotiation as the quarterback entered the final year of his 2013 deal doesn’t know him. They certainly didn’t fully comprehend what the Falcons think of him or understand how Ryan is viewed around the NFL.

When I write, “Around the NFL,” I mean players, coaches and general managers. This isn’t about the analysis of those who swim in the shallow end and don’t go deeper than a tweet.

Ryan has not won a Super Bowl yet. There is no guarantee he ever will. For those wishing to measure somebody’s talent, leadership and career worth by the championship-ring metric alone, I guess Dan Marino should’ve just been an Edmonton Eskimo. Slacker.

But because of Ryan, the Falcons have an opportunity to contend for championships over the next several seasons. Also because of the Falcons’ overall talent level and youth and the franchise stability and direction since coach Dan Quinn’s arrived three seasons ago.

The past few years suggests the team will contend for championships at least through the duration of Ryan’s contract. That means something.

He won the Rookie of the Year. He has won the MVP and gone to the Super Bowl. He has been selected to four Pro Bowls and gone to the playoffs six out of 10 seasons, playing for a franchise that had been to the postseason in only five of the previous 43 seasons.

Elite.

Élite.

Elita.

Elit.

Elitar.

Nukhba.

Yuán zhðng.

Wasomi.

Go to Google Translate. Find out how many different ways you can say “elite.”

He has played 10 seasons. Remember the 2008 draft when the Miami Dolphins were drafting first and Bill Parcells decided to take Jake Long? And then the St. Louis Rams picked second and they took defensive end Chris Long? And the Falcons’ turn came up and so many screamed: “TAKE GLENN DORSEY!”

The reason I remember that so clearly is I was among those who believed the Falcons needed to build the defense and that should start with the LSU defensive tackle over the Boston College quarterback. Dorsey is out of the league. Never had more than two sacks in a season. Forced one fumble in his career. Never made it to a Pro Bowl.

That pretty much killed any chance I had of being an NFL general manager. Then again, that draft pretty much ended Parcells’ tenure as a resident genius.

Credit to Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and owner Arthur Blank and then coach Mike Smith for getting it right. It forever changed the direction of a franchise.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years already,” Ryan said in a statement. “I want to thank Mr. Blank and Thomas Dimitroff for bringing me here back in 2008 and for this extension. While we have accomplished a lot, our goal remains what it was the day I got drafted, and that’s to bring a championship to our city and fans. We know there is a lot of work to do, but being able to ensure I can end my career where I started it, is something that I am very fortunate to be able to do.”

Ryan will make $169.25 million over the next six years, through the 2023 season. By the end of this deal, he’ll be 38 years old. By his last comment in that statement, it sounds like that might be it. He and his wife, Sarah, have two beautiful baby boys. The man has everything he could possibly want in his life, with the exception of a title ring.

But maybe that’s coming. Maybe even more than one.

“Matt has guided us to a decade of success that is unmatched in franchise history,” Dimitroff said, “but we all know there is more to be accomplished, and we are confident we can get that done with Matt.”

Listen to the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast. Check out the podcast show page at AJC.com/sports-we-never-played-the-game. Subscribe on iTunes or, Google play, StitcherTuneIn, or listen from the AJC sports podcasts page or the WSB Radio on-demand page.

Earlier: Odds (and moves) say Falcons should return to top of NFC South

Earlier: Make that 19-11 for Braves; franchise history tilts toward playoff berth


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About the Author

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger who isn't afraid to share his opinion, which may not necessarily jibe with yours.