Monday, August 25, 2008

Matt Ryan: The Right Guy, Right Now

You'll find a lot of people on both ends of the argument about whether or not to play a quarterback in his rookie season. It's a difficult question, and the real answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Some guys should start right away, based on their talent, their maturity, their ability to grasp the offense, and the team's situation. Other guys would be best served (and so would their teams) by waiting a few games, a year, or more. Matt Ryan is in the former category: it's time for him to start, right now.

I don't think he's supremely talented. I don't think he's exceptionally mature, though I think he's mature enough. I have no idea how complex Atlanta's offense will be, so I couldn't speak as to whether or not Ryan is able to grasp it. But the team's situation suggests, nay, demands that he be given the reins immediately, and the Falcons will rise or fall based on his performance.

First, the other two quarterback options are Chris Redman and Joey Harrington, two guys have proven only one thing in their NFL tenures: they can lose with the best of them. Listen, I thought Harrington would be a solid football player for years, but the proof is in the pudding. The same can be said about Chad Pennington, who's a fine player but will never be the answer for a team in need. He's a nice fit for Miami because he's smart and efficient, but nobody is foolish enough to think the Dolphins will win anything more than 6 games this year. But back to Atlanta's situation, their options besides Ryan are weak.

Second, and in my opinion far more importantly, Redman and Harrington are no-names. This is a team that's trying to get out from under a gigantic shadow (both on and off the football field) in Michael Vick. Chris Redman and Joey Harrington aren't going to make anybody forget that Vick was Mr. Falcon for five years. In fact, they didn't make anyone forget when they played last season. Matt Ryan, even with his inevitable growing pains, will give Falcons fans something to talk about, and will give national commentators a non-Michael Vick story to discuss when Atlanta plays on national TV. That's good news for both the Falcons and the NFL, who would both like to distance themselves as much as possible from that outrageous story.

Putting Ryan in immediately may not be the best move for his short-term confidence, and there's a chance it hinders his development, but in terms of getting the franchise back on track, it's the only move you can make.

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