Falcons owner Arthur Blank played into these rumors by suggesting that the team’s new head coach-general manager tandem would ultimately make the decision on the 35-year-old Ryan.
It was always going to be about who the Falcons brought on to call the shots. Once they hired former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to be their next head coach, it made sense that the team would run it back with Ryan. That now seems to be a virtual certainty.
“Matt’s had a lot of success. He’s a great leader and there’s a lot of things he can do. I don’t get into comparisons. Just because we did something with Ryan doesn’t mean that we’re gonna do the same thing with Matt,” Smith said Tuesday, via the Falcons. “We’re gonna play to Matt’s strengths just like we tried to play to Ryan’s strengths.”
In reality, Ryan has not been the problem in Atlanta since they earned a trip to the Super Bowl following the 2016 season. It’s primarily been on the defensive side of the ball as the Falcons finished up a third consecutive season without making the playoffs.
This three-year span has seen Ryan average 4,657 yards with 29 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Unfortunately, the Falcons’ defense did not hold up to its end of the bargain.
As for Ryan and Smith, the latter did wonders with Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee. There’s every reason to believe that the Falcons quarterback will excel under the innovative offensive mind. That could very well be one of the reasons Smith was brought to Atlanta as a way to help right the ship.
Smith seemed pretty clear with his sentiments relating to the former Super Bowl MVP. However, that could be nothing more than PR spin in order to up the ante in potential trade talks.
The Falcons’ new head coach will work with first-year general manager Terry Fontenot to analyze their roster and come to a conclusion regarding what’s best for the team moving forward.
In addition to the Ryan situation, NFL rumors had suggested this past season that Julio Jones could be dealt. Short of Atlanta moving Ryan, that possibility makes no real sense.
The backdrop here is a Falcons team that won four games a season ago and is much closer to bottom-feeder status than playoff contention. They boast the No. 4-overall pick in what is a loaded 2021 NFL Draft class at quarterback.
If Smith and Fontenot come to the conclusion that short-term contention is not in the cards, a Matt Ryan trade would still make some sense.
Even at his advanced age, the four-time Pro Bowl signal-caller would net a first-round pick and change. That could help expedite an eventual rebuild in Atlanta.