The Atlanta Falcons will enter the 2013 with a lot of excitement. Last year, they came excruciatingly close to going to the Super Bowl after running away with the NFC South Division title, and now they’ve signed quarterback Matt Ryan to a five-year extension, which ensures that Ryan will be in a Falcons’ jersey for at least six more seasons. However, while they are excited now, it’s quite possible that three, four, or five years from now, the Falcons may regret locking up Ryan as their franchise quarterback.
In no way was Ryan undeserving of the contract extension, or the money that accompanies it. He stepped into the starting lineup right away as a rookie, and in the past five Ryan has missed just two games and put up impressive statistics, eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark each of the last two seasons and throwing 28 or more touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. However, despite leading the Falcons to two division championships and four playoff berths in five seasons, Ryan has a postseason record of 1-4, which raises the question of whether or not Ryan is a quarterback that will be able to lead Atlanta to the Super Bowl.
The 2013 season may be Atlanta’s best chance to reach a Super Bowl, as they’ve added running back Steven Jackson and retained Tony Gonzalez for at least one more season before he retires, to go along with Ryan at quarterback and arguably the best wide receiver tandem in football. However, it also may be Atlanta’s last chance to reach the Super Bowl for the foreseeable future, as their roster is getting older while several younger teams (49ers, Seahawks, etc) are striving to establish themselves among in the elite teams in the NFC. This has created a Super Bowl or bust mantra in Atlanta, and if it goes bust, there will be some complications for the Falcons following the 2013 season.
If Ryan leads the Falcons to the Super Bowl this season, the next five years will be icing on the cake, especially if they win, but if not, the Falcons will be in a precarious position, especially with regards to Ryan. After the 2013 season, it’s possible that Atlanta could enter a two or three year period where getting to the Super Bowl is unrealistic, as they would have to find a way to transition from an older roster to a younger roster, despite retaining a strong core of Ryan, Roddy White, and Julio Jones.
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As for Ryan, he would be stock in the middle between elite quarterbacks with Super Bowl titles that are still in their prime, like Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning, and a group of young and talented quarterbacks that are starting to take the league by storm, like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. There’s little doubt that Ryan would be able to make sure the Falcons remain an above average team, but as far as winning the Super Bowl is concerned, the odds would be stacked against him and the Falcons for the foreseeable future, and his 1-4 postseason record doesn’t do anything to curb that.
The Falcons are all in for 2013, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be. However, with or without Ryan as their quarterback beyond 2013, they’re going to have a tough time competing for a spot in the Super Bowl on a regular basis. They may have been better off seeing how 2013 panned out, and then reassessing where they stand with Ryan and the rest of their organization. They’ll be in safe hands with Ryan over the next half a dozen years, but if their ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl, and it doesn’t happen this season, then a few years from now, they could regret giving Ryan an extension.