2020, from start to finish, wasn’t the year any of us wanted. In purely NFL terms, the Atlanta Falcons had as poor a year as they’ve had in recent history. The players fell flat on their face immediately after leaving the starting gate, the long time General Manager and Head Coach duo were unceremoniously moved on mid-season, and the team ended the season with their highest draft pick since 2008. It was a mess.
With the season over, it’s time to dissect that mess. As we face an uncertain new future, let’s take one last look back at the season, so see if there’s anything positive we can take into the new regime. So, join me as we sift through the awful to, hopefully, find little nuggets of good.
Matt Ryan – C+
Matt Schaub – N/A
Kurt Benkert – N/A
Matt Ryan played just about every offensive snap for the Falcons this year, and had an up and down season to say the very least. 4581 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions is pretty good on paper. Bar his touchdowns total, Ryan’s personal statistics improved from 2019, albeit not quite to the level we had hoped prior to the season’s start.
Ryan’s biggest issues in 2020 came from interceptions at completely inopportune moments. Case in point, at the Chargers in mid-December. At 17-17, with the ball in his hands, and mere minutes on the clock, Ryan had the chance to put together a classic “Matty Ice” drive. He threw an interception, though he was bailed out by his defense forcing a pick of their own. Ryan followed up that stroke of good fortune by throwing another interception, leading to the Chargers scoring the game winning field goal.
More concerning is the amount of sacks he’s taken. No just in 2020, but stretching way back. Ryan was sacked 41 times last season, good for 5th most in the league. A large chunk of those can be attributed to poor protection, but that doesn’t absolve Ryan completely from blame. Indecision from the veteran quarterback led to the play caller holding onto the ball longer than he really should have, resulting in several self inflicted sacks.
Above all, however, Ryan struggled to make a number of throws he would have been able to make even a season ago. The deterioration of Matt Ryan is probably overstated among some circles, though it’s certainly something that needs to be taken into account moving forward. Expect Ryan to adapt his game moving forward, as he seeks to extend his career.
Regardless, Ryan completed more passes than anyone else in the league. Only three players threw for more yards than he in 2020. Matt Ryan’s “down” years are still better than a lot of players’ “up” years. Ryan wasn’t the reason the Falcons lost 12 games in 2020. There’s no real reason to believe that Ryan is incapable of leading teams to wins with an intelligently-run offense.
The Back ups
Following the conclusion of the season, Arthur Blank announced that Matt Schaub would be retiring. The Falcons back up has been limited in his usage since signing in 2016, only really coming into games in relief on Ryan. In his one start, however, he set the franchise record for most passes completed in a single game. Congratulations to him on his retirement.
Kurt Benkert was elevated from the Falcons practice squad for one week in 2020, and signed a futures contract on the 4th of January 2021. He will be on the team next season, looking to take over the role of primary back up for the 2021 season.