Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

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Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

Postby Pudge » Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:19 am

http://falcfans.com/falcons-year-end-su ... ayer-22513

POSTED BY: AARON FREEMAN JANUARY 24, 2016
It’s time to wrap up the annual superlatives with the one award that is a dishonor rather than an honor. After looking at which player was the most improved player on the Atlanta Falcons, it’s time to look at the opposite end of the spectrum and discuss who had the most disappointing 2015 campaign.

The obvious choice is quarterback Matt Ryan, but before I go into more detail about his 2015 season, I’ll first discuss some other potential runners up for this dishonor.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Durant
There are several candidates that bear mentioning, including wide receiver Roddy White (who “won” last season), guard Andy Levitre, linebackers Brooks Reed and Justin Durant and safety William Moore. Of that group, I’ll choose Durant as one worth elaborating on why he had a disappointing season.

After signing a modest three-year contract, Durant was arguably the “jewel” of the Falcons incoming 2015 free-agent class. His veteran presence was set to replace long-time Falcon Sean Weatherspoon, and in the eyes of some exceed the latter’s production. However like Spoon before him, Durant’s first season in Atlanta was marred by injury. Durant missed most if not all of six games in 2015 and his performances even when he was relatively healthy just didn’t have the expected impact.

Durant started well in 2015 to the point that he was considered the top newcomer to the team by the middle of the season. But it seemed like it was all downhill for the veteran linebacker thereafter. Unfortunately, his performance in the season finale against the New Orleans Saints left an especially bitter taste due to being a liability both against the run and pass on a scoring drive early in that game. It just capped off what amounted to a season not worth remembrance for the nine-year veteran, who hopes to bounce back with a stronger 2016 effort.

But it’s now time to go further in depth on Ryan, whose poor year in 2015 could be considered a microcosm of the Falcons performance throughout the season. As is often the case in the NFL, the Falcons season often went as their quarterback’s performance allowed.

Ryan began the season relatively strongly, earning a passer rating of 101.2 over the first four games the year. That rating ranked as the 10th highest among qualifying quarterbacks during that span. However during the next nine games, Ryan went into a slump with a 81.2 passer rating, which ranked 31st among qualifiers. That decline largely came due to higher rates of turnovers Ryan experienced over that span. After turning the ball over just twice in the first month of 2015, Ryan would go on to turn the ball over 16 times in his next nine outings during the middle of the season. The Falcons managed to win just two games in that span with too many of Ryan’s costly mistakes coming in critical situations.

Ryan finished the year much better, earning a passer rating of 100.5 and turning the ball over three times over the final three weeks with the Falcons earning two wins. That rating was good enough to rank eighth among qualifiers during that span.

Like the Falcons, Ryan was able too bookend the season with fairly strong play, but the lull experienced during the middle really derailed their playoff hopes. While the Falcons’ midseason struggles weren’t always directly caused by Ryan, they were perfectly reflected in his indecisiveness and discomfort.

Expectations and pressure will mount on the Falcons quarterback in 2016 thanks in large part to the massive $100 million contract he signed back in 2013. With only one playoff win over eight seasons in Atlanta, concerns over whether Ryan is capable of winning “big games” grows each year. A common past complaint always deflected the Falcons’ lack of postseason success due to a lack of balance offensively and shoddy defensive play as holding the Falcons back. But with significant improvements in both areas in 2015 but a lack of progress on Ryan’s part, the quarterback is now poised to carry a significant portion of the blame.

It will be critical for Ryan to have a bounce-back year in 2016 and look more like the player he was in September and December than the guy he was in the middle of the season. Delivering more touchdowns and less turnovers will ultimately be his goal for next season and his overall body of work over eight seasons certainly suggests he’s capable of accomplishing it.

To hear other people’s picks for the most disappointing players in 2015, check out the awards episode of the FalcFans podcast.

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Re: Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

Postby backnblack » Thu Feb 04, 2016 8:08 am

Mos def have to go with MR. He gave critics all the ammo they needed this year by putting his weakest attributes on full display. Matty Ice Pick was esp brutal this year in crunch time and the mind blowing fumbles continued. I've generally been a pretty tepid Matt fan. I admire his toughness and his leadership qualities even though he's a little too Eagle Scout and not enough gangster at times. You can't help but pull for the guy but right now I'd rank him as the 4th best QB in the division. Drafting a guy in the 2nd or 3rd round wouldn't hurt my feelings though I can't say there is anyone remarkable out there that I know of with that sort of projection.

Guys like Durant, Moore, Roddy, etc., are hard to rip as they are just old and beat up. I've always kind of liked Moore because he brought the wood and we have been soft for so long any hint of that is greatly needed. The new rules have sort of negated this though and he has always been weak in coverage. Reed, Collins and Coleman come to mind.

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Re: Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

Postby Pudge » Thu Feb 04, 2016 10:42 am

You've been very quick to jump on and off that Ryan bandwagon. I do recall that 2010 opening game vs. the Steelers, where everybody and their mama thought after that game that Ryan was never going to be anything more than a game manager. Although at the time, I didn't get why people were so quick to stamp to cement what type of QB he was going to be 31 starts into his career.

Ryan has some limitations. One BIG problem is that our management has done a poor job building around those limitations the past few years. We've seen clearly in 2012 and 2013 that when Ryan has weapons to throw to, he's very good and when he doesn't, he's very bad. But of course in 2014, this team stood pat for the most part with giving him talent to throw to (no drafted WRs in one of the deepest classes ever and for some reason threw Toilolo out there as a starter when they had like 4 opportunities to make a change). Then it doomed that team when Roddy became old and was unable to separate from Dominique Franks in the 1st half of that season.

Now DQ comes in and they bring in Hankerson and Hardy, Tamme & Moeaki, and it's certinly a step in the right direction, but none of those guys are going to really reverse course. Not to mention, Roddy is even worse and Julio is basically playing at 70% for about 5 weeks during the middle of the season.

The Falcons need to give Ryan talented WRs that he can build trust in. It was very clear that Julio was the only WR this past year that Ryan trusts. With Roddy gone, Hardy moving into the WR3 spot and hopefully a major upgrade at WR2, I'm hopeful Ryan will look better this upcoming year than he did. We'll also have to see what the Falcons do at TE. Next year's draft class looks to be one of the strongest in years (at least that's what I'm hearing), so I think probably the smarter strategy will be for the Falcons to go for some FA help at that position in 2016 and hopefully land a talented player in the 3rd round or so in 2017.

The problem is until then, Ryan is probably going to be closer to an average starter than one of the top guys (#elite as many would say). It's just a question of whether Falcons fans have the patience to wait another 2-3 years to get the pieces in place for him to be really good again.

I would say the answer is no. It'll be a damn shame how we wasted so many prime years of Ryan's career because of bad GMing.

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Re: Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

Postby backnblack » Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:14 pm

I still think of MR as an uber game manager and I think he has been given plenty of weapons when you compare him to, say, Tom Brady. When you have the $ we have tied up in Matt and JJ it is hard to keep loading up on O talent. They've spent bad money (S. Jackson) in an effort to help him. I just wonder how many QBs would look bad with Tony G, JJ, Roddy and Harry D. He does have limitations as do must QBs not named Cam but I really cannot buy into the notion that Matt has not been afforded weapons. This was the Vick Excuse too. Had we invested more on D we might have been in the SB. Who is an example of a top drawer QB that you think has an esp luxurious arsenal?

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Re: Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

Postby Pudge » Fri Feb 05, 2016 7:12 pm

backnblack wrote:I just wonder how many QBs would look bad with Tony G, JJ, Roddy and Harry D. He does have limitations as do must QBs not named Cam but I really cannot buy into the notion that Matt has not been afforded weapons.

Well, when he had all those weapons (2012), he nearly got the team to the Super Bowl. When he didn't (2013-15), the team was pretty average. That's the reality. We saw the team try to go "cheap" during that point in 2013 when it was basically HD, Gonzo and Drew Davis, and it failed miserably. We were barely able to score 10 points during that run. Now you fast forward to 2015, and you had that point in the year where Julio and Hankerson were hurt, Roddy was old and our offense was basically left with Jacob Tamme to carry the passing game and we saw Ryan go into a deep funk. The problem is that people immediately blamed that on Kyle Shanahan being a terrible OC and a blight on the existence of humanity rather than asking the question, maybe 2015 Roddy White was a lot close to 2013 Drew Davis than his 2007-13 versions.

:?

And you're probably right, Ryan is an uber game manager. Alex Smith on PCP during his best days. Matt Hasselbeck circa 2005 when the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl. That particular Seahawks team had a good running game (#3 ranked), #elite OL (2 HOFers), good defense (#7 scoring defense) and pass rush (#1 in sacks). Is that the type of team that the Falcons are going to have to put around Ryan in order to get a Super Bowl? Maybe. Is that an easy task? Hell no.

But while some might say, "Man, that's too high a mountain to climb. If that's what we have to do to win a title, we might as well cut bait and try to get a better QB." The response of course is that's the sort of team that nearly EVERY team that wins a Super Bowl has to build to win it all.

I mean that's basically what Carolina put together this past year (minus the #elite OL).

This isn't meant as an excuse for Ryan, it's just saying that too often people want to point to him (or any other QB really) as the start/stop of why a team can't win big games and the reality is that this league has shown us that you can take a variety of QBs to being on the doorstep of greatness. But you have to put the right team around them to make it work.

Look at all these QBs that were able to "lead" their teams to Conference Championship Games since 2000:

Tom Brady (10)
Peyton Manning (5)
Donovan McNabb (5)
Ben Roethlisberger (4)
Joe Flacco (3)
Drew Brees (2)
Jake Delhome (2)
Brett Favre (2)
Rich Gannon (2)
Colin Kaepernick (2)
Eli Manning (2)
Aaron Rodgers (2)
Mark Sanchez (2)
Kurt Warner (2)
Russell Wilson (2)
Kerry Collins (1)
Daunte Culpepper (1)
Jay Cutler (1)
Trent Dilfer (1)
Rex Grossman (1)
Matt Hasselbeck (1)
Brad Johnson (1)
Andrew Luck (1)
Steve McNair (1)
Cam Newton (1)
Carson Palmer (1)
Jake Plummer (1)
Philip Rivers (1)
Matt Ryan (1)
Alex Smith (1)
Kordell Stewart (1)
Michael Vick (1)

What does that list tell you? There's 32 names on that list. How many of them would you be against starting for your football team? They're the "guys you can win with" right?

I'll tell you what the list tells me...sometimes you're only going to get 1 good chance to win a title. And you better hope you have a team good enough to take advantage of it. Because if you don't, that might be it. Unfortunately for Ryan, his team wasn't good enough. And if his team isn't good enough from here on out, it's probably not gonna be cuz he isn't good enough. And instead of people being upset with the people responsible (coach & GM), they blame the QB.

That's the nature of the beast. I just wish we had more enlightened fan base. And once upon a time, this forum was a nice refuge from the mob.

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Re: Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

Postby backnblack » Fri Feb 05, 2016 7:47 pm

Valid points...except about the refuge. :lol:

Consider that Manning this year is prob as bad as a SB QB gets. We could win it all with Ryan but the margin for error is smaller than with a Russell Wilson, Aaron Rogers, T Brady, Drew Brees, etc., and keep in mind that list only includes one guy who has won more than one. Matt has a few liabilities that are glaring to me--relatively weak arm, immobility and a weird tendency towards critical mistakes at critical times. This last one is prob more perception than reality.

People blame QBs too much and credit them too much. Oldest cliche' in football. The excuses for MR at times get like the ones for Vick were--thick on the ground. Talent wins games and I think our procurement of talent is ultimately to blame since, oh, the dawn of history.

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Re: Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

Postby Pudge » Fri Feb 05, 2016 8:18 pm

I agree, I think people tend to gravitate to absolving Ryan of any blame or the opposite corner which is saying he's the biggest (or only) reason why this team hasn't achieved whatever.

I agree with the limitations. As for the arm strength, I think we're trying to work on that by having a play-action based vertical attack. But you need to have a stronger running game than we have (although that probably has more to do with OL's deficiencies than the RBs) and you need to have somebody else on the roster that can get down the field (which are not what guys like Hankerson, Roddy, Nick Willliams & Hardy do best). We need more speed at WR.

The immobility isn't really an issue, it just only seems that way because of how many of the other in vogue QBs like Wilson & Cam, etc. are mobile. Now it does mean that unlike Seattle and Carolina have done, we can't really afford to scrimp on investing in our OL. We need to beef up our interior so Ryan has a clean pocket to step up into (see the Saints).

As for the critical mistakes, I don't have any hard data that either says that one way or the other. I certainly can say that in 2015 that was a major issue. I'm not sure if the other 7-yr body of work that Ryan has says the same. Not to say that he didn't make some bone-headed mistakes from time to time (I can think of at least 3 examples from 2009 & 2010), but I'm not sure if he's really any worse at that than most other quality QBs. And it would seem that give him a reliable otpion like he had in Tony to throw to over the middle, and you probably mitigate much of that.

Not to mention, if you have a good defense, then you're not going to be as worried about the mistakes because you can trust the D to get stops or get the ball back.

He has limitations, but you can deal with them if you know what you're doing. Again, I think the bigger issue is that the Falcons organization hasn't really gone about their business as if they knew what they were doing. Throwing shit at the wall and hoping something would stick by and large for the past 5 years.

The problem for Ryan is that to get all our ducks lined up, it'll probably take another 3 or 4 years, all the while more and more enmity will be directed at Ryan, so that when the Falcons are faced with renewing his contract come 2018 or so, probably a majority of the fan base is going to be ready to move on. And then he'll face a potential no-win situation.

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Re: Falcons Year-End Superlatives: 2015 Most Disappointing Player

Postby backnblack » Fri Feb 05, 2016 11:50 pm

I think of Brees as mobile. There just aren't many QBs in the league as ungraceful as Matt besides maybe Manning and Brady! I've never thought Matt's pocket presence was remarkable. You know how Brees, Brady are so good at shifting just a little bit to one side or the other to buy time? Again, possibly just my perception. Matt has always been a hard guy for me to excited about for some reason. Kind of like Tom Glavine was as a pitcher. Effective but a tad boring sometimes.


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