As we head into championship Sunday, Matt Ryan will be the only starting quarterback who hasn’t won a Super Bowl.
We might not be able to say that for much longer.
“Matt is playing as good as he’s ever played,” former Falcons receiver Brian Finneran said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Those of us who have played with Matt or been around Atlanta know that he’s a really good quarterback and can make all the throws. The good thing about Matt, being a former receiver and playing with him for three years, (is he throws) one of the most catchable balls you’ll see. He throws receivers away from trouble, finds different lanes to make it happen, and the deep ball is one of the most catchable you’ll ever have. So he makes it easy on his guys.”
Ryan had career-highs in yards (4,944), touchdowns (38) and completion percentage (69.9) this season while throwing a career-low seven interceptions. Finneran, who played with Ryan from 2008-10, sees a much more confident quarterback under center these days.
“The humbleness he came into the league with has disappeared,” Finnernan said. “Not in a bad way. In a way where he commands the respect that he gets on the field, commands the huddle more. He’s not afraid to get on guys and jump guys in a respectful manner on the field, in game, out of game, practice, whatever. His first couple years in the league, (he was) a little tentative, a little unsure of how to respond or how to get on different guys like myself and Roddy White and Michael Jenkins and Harry Douglas. So he’s learned how to be that, and I think it’s carried over to the field, where he’s a commander now at the line of scrimmage. The stuff he does in the no-huddle is as good as you can do across the league, and it’s part of the reason they did a lot more of it this year, as opposed to last year.”
Finneran, 40, played for the Falcons from 2000-10. Early in his career, he was one of the top deep threats in football. In 2008-10, however, he was not. He had 51 catches for 446 yards (8.7 yards per catch) and four touchdowns in three seasons with Ryan.
“I wish I was younger when I played with Matt so I could go get some balls for him and make some things happen,” Finneran said. “Chris Chandler could put the football anywhere he wanted on a football field. He’s probably, for me, one of the best deep-ball throwers I’ve been around. But Matt, if he’s not even, he’s a close second.”
Either way, Finneran is happy the Falcons are heading in the right direction. They went 18-30 from 2013-15 but seem like they belong with the big boys of the NFL.
“It’s starting to feel that way for sure,” Finnernan said. “It really went sideways. In 2011 and ’12, the draft classes were not great. You got Julio Jones at the top of that draft and gave up a bunch of guys. But the ’12, ’13, and ’14 draft classes were just God-awful. Free agent busts in Steven Jackson and Osi Umenyiora. Ray Edwards, you can throw in there, too. So a lot of mistakes in the front office. But they made up for that the last two or three drafts. Thomas Dimitroff has totally redeemed himself. It feels like they got a good group of core guys. Matt Ryan is 31. Julio Jones is youthful as well as far as receivers are concerned. It feels like they’re building something. Another pass-rusher in the offseason maybe, a couple more nice draft picks and maybe add a couple more pieces here and there, and it feel like they could continue to do this for a handful of years.”