No more frauds in Atlanta: Matt Ryan is the MVP

Jay Croucher Columnist

By Jay Croucher, Jay Croucher is a Roar Expert

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    Conceptions are built hastily in the NFL and endure with a resilience that belies the speed of their construction.

    We knew who Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons were. They were the archetype of talented-but-soft, loaded with talent but perpetually undermined by the definitive, elusive ‘it’ factor, the ethereal toughness and determination that separates the champions from the boys who whimper at the sight of blood.

    Ryan was the ultimate regular season quarterback, the lite, diet-conscious version of pre-2006 Peyton Manning. He put up big numbers, as impressive on paper as they were hollow in reality. Because if you looked him hard in the eye, little Matthew would scamper away back to his mother.

    But Ryan was rarely the problem in Atlanta. He’s regularly been at the helm of above-average to elite offences. The failed 2013 and 2014 seasons were undermined by key injuries and the league’s 29th and last ranked defences by DVOA. The five seasons prior to those two Ryan took the Falcons to winning records and four times to the playoffs.

    Matt Ryan for the Atlanta Falcons

    The playoffs, though, have been Ryan’s torture chamber, where his reputation was formed as lacking a certain lower body fortitude. Ryan is 1-4 in the playoffs, with three of those losses at home, and two defeats completely uncompetitive. When he drove down the field against the Niners in 2013 with a Super Bowl appearance on the line, he couldn’t get into the end zone. His lone playoff triumph is remembered not for his own heroics, but for the incomprehensibly conservative defensive scheme the Seahawks played to allow him to quickly get into field goal range.

    And so Ryan’s career went, a talented but timid signal caller, destined to peer over the edge at success but absent the wherewithal to ever take the leap. His descent, from young star and elite quarterback to playoff failure and then, ultimately, to irrelevant stat accumulator – the spiritual successor to Matt Schaub – reached its nadir last season when Ryan gave real credence to his critics with a woeful interception-filled season. He looked like a broken man.

    But this year Ryan has re-written his own script. It’s rare for a quarterback to so dramatically shift our opinion of him as Ryan has done this season. Sometimes players like Joe Flacco or Eli Manning will get on hot streaks, but we’ll accept those runs and process them accordingly, believing that high variance will occasionally produce brilliance. What Ryan has done goes beyond that – he’s gone from a quarterback who can’t win to one that can.

    The statistical case for him being the MVP is powerful. He leads the league by a mile in quarterback rating (117.1) and yards per attempt (9.26), ranks in the top three in total yards, touchdowns and completion percentage, and finished number one in quarterbackR. And these numbers have come against the league’s toughest schedule of defences.

    In the past, you could argue that Ryan’s success was inextricably tied to the transcendent gifts of Julio Jones. Not this year. Jones has been remarkable in his own right, but Ryan has spread the load in crafting not just the best offence in the NFL, but one of the best in history. Incredibly, he’s thrown multiple touchdowns to ten different receivers.

    The other three credible MVP candidates all have flawed cases. Ezekiel Elliott, while breathtaking, is helped immeasurably by the league’s best offensive line.

    American footballer and Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott

    Aaron Rodgers, returning to dragon status over the past six weeks, played for a team that plain sucked for its first ten weeks (it should also be remembered that in this commanding run, the only truly ‘good’ team that Rodgers and the Packers beat were the post-Earl Thomas Seahawks). Tom Brady missed 25 per cent of the season, and his resume isn’t breathtaking enough to compensate for all that missed time.

    Ryan will be judged by most by his success or failure in the playoffs, but his work for 2016 and the first day of 2017 is in the books and untouchable. Whatever happens, he’s proven that he’s an elite quarterback.

    Ryan has never oozed greatness like the generational stars, looking more like a suburban solicitor than the football God that Brady resembles. He just stands tall, goes through his reads, then executes. In the 2016 season, he executed better than anyone else.

    Jay Croucher
    Jay Croucher

    From MSG in New York to the MCG in Melbourne, Jay has spent his adult life travelling the world, indulging in sport and approaching it from the angle of history and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter @CroucherJD

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • January 4th 2017 @ 8:47am
      joe said | January 4th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      To be fair Matt Ryan & Atlanta didn’t exactly face a “murderers row” in the final 6 game stretch after Thanksgiving either.
      They played 1 team with a winning record (KC) & some god awful teams in there (LA,SF).
      So to knock Rodgers for that home stretch run against so-so opponents is fair but Ryan had the same luxury.
      That said Matt Ryan deserves the MVP.He isn’t the best player nor the best QB but has been the most consistent & important player on a #2 seed for the whole season.

      • Roar Guru

        January 4th 2017 @ 11:15am
        Chop said | January 4th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        The best player isn’t necessarily the most valuable though.

        As far as a contribution to his team’s success, I think Matt Ryan is definitely a contender for the MVP and even as a Green Bay fan I’d be happy to see Ryan win the MVP over Aaron Rogers.

        I’m surprised that Jay didn’t mention Dak Prescott in the mix.

      • January 4th 2017 @ 11:15am
        Mushi said | January 4th 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        I think the glaring difference is that Ryan also had a tidy first 10 games so his case is built on the entire season not just the last 6 games (where he’s been pretty similar to Rodgers anyway – it just didn’t come after a catchy relax press conference).

        • January 4th 2017 @ 3:56pm
          piru said | January 4th 2017 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

          the RELAX conference was in 2014

          • January 4th 2017 @ 11:52pm
            Mushi said | January 4th 2017 @ 11:52pm | ! Report

            Yep and it still gets pulled out now (did you see the fan banners at the lions game?)

            If guy named John Smith had Rodgers full 16 game season he’d get air time but no genuine consideration for MVP

            • January 6th 2017 @ 6:29pm
              piru said | January 6th 2017 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

              Something about being Packers QB just earns extra attention and goodwill.

              Favre used to get it as well.

    • January 4th 2017 @ 12:01pm
      joe said | January 4th 2017 @ 12:01pm | ! Report

      Off the top of my head the best player(s) in terms of true value are Aaron Rodgers,Andrew Luck,Drew Brees,Matt Ryan,Rothlisberger & then Tom Brady,in that order.
      Thats based upon Vegas power ratings & an individual players worth to a pointspread.And even those pointspread value ratings are skewed in part because of the overall team,coach & supporting cast.
      Brady isn’t as valuable to a pointspread because he has Belicheck & an organization around him that can win games in his absence.Whereas Andrew Luck carries the Colts.He has a crap owner,mediocre head coach & below average talent so his absence has more impact on a pointspread.
      The MVP award is based upon a journalists opinion & a players popularity rather than hard numbers,thats why these awards aren’t a true indication of who is really “most valuable”,thats why i don’t put much stock in those awards a lot of the time.But Matt Ryan deserves to win it this year.

    • January 5th 2017 @ 9:19am
      andrew said | January 5th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      Matt Ryan is a worthy nominee.
      Like Joe said it isn’t all about numbers and different judges use different numbers.

      I like wins over replacement to gauge how valuable a guy is – which isn’t an exact science, but the reason I wouldn’t give it to Brady is – even though that 28-2 TD/interception ratio is awesome, they were 3-1 without him, so if Garropolo (3-0) in that system with that coach plays the whole season what would they have finished? probably 12-4, 11-5 at worst. Still enough to win the East.

      Prescott gets replaced by Romo or Cassell and with that 0-line and running back they still finish with 10 wins.

      Ryan is replaced by Matt Schaub. 11-5, comes back to 9-7 or 8-8 and possibly missing the play offs so a case can be made.

      Rogers on the other hand; His team finished 10-6 and just won the division. Brett Hundly, is his back up. What is GB’s record with Hundly playing 16 games? 3-13? maybe 4-12….

      Rogers is the most valuable player in the league in my opinion.

      • January 6th 2017 @ 7:00pm
        no one in particular said | January 6th 2017 @ 7:00pm | ! Report

        Wins Over Replacement doesn’t represent the value over the next player in the depth chart but over a standard replacement player (whose value is zero). There is no real stat in the NFL for this. Advanced Football used to have Expected Points added, but that hasn’t been updated since he went to ESPN.

        The only other measure is DYAR, but some of Schatz’s worked is flawed http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/qb

      • January 7th 2017 @ 9:00am
        Chuck said | January 7th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        Doesn’t Carr win in that scenario?

    • Roar Rookie

      January 7th 2017 @ 11:05am
      Matt Daley said | January 7th 2017 @ 11:05am | ! Report

      Ryan got the nod for the AP All-Pro team announced last night. Same 50 voters choose the MVP. Don’t hold your breath.

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