There's been a whirlwind of buzz about surrounding a recent interview given to ESPN the Magazine by retired Falcons Tight End Tony Gonzalez. The main comment to receive the buzz was Gonzalez’s comment about whether or not Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback. Gonzalez commented honestly on Ryan’s status calling Matt Ryan an "excellent quarterback, but he's not elite. He's this close. He'll get there, but he has some learning to do."
Many people saw this comment as a snub to Ryan, but there is much to think about when we consider the word “elite”. The only word thrown around more frivolously than that word is the N-word, but enough about the Miami Dolphins!
What we are failing to do when we consider this idea of what makes an elite quarterback is RESULTS. Last year’s Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens had Quarterback Joe Flacco at the helm and they won. Would anybody call him elite? No. in fact, of the last ten wins in the Super Bowl, there are only three quarterbacks who could even be considered in the argument. That would be Manning, Brady, and Brees. Ben Roethlisberger is a generous pick. Don’t even begin to argue that Eli has two rings. Big Ben can’t support his team single-handedly. Flacco and Wilson are excellent game managers, but they are lucky to have their teams or they would be in Ryan’s boat.
I would call Matt Ryan the poor man’s Peyton Manning. He needs a great supporting cast to achieve his greatness. He’s smart, he reads at the line of scrimmage, and he is capable of being a face of the NFL. This past season should not be the barometer of his capability. There was a time when this quarterback was undefeated at home, he was a major part of bringing the Falcons out of the dark place they were left in after the Vick-Patrino debacle. Super Bowls are not won single-handedly by great quarterbacks. You need great teams. The Atlanta Falcons were a great, but hurt team last year. They were constantly slowed by injury. The argument of elite quarterbacks is about to come to an end. There is a new crew of quarterbacks who will not single-handedly carry their teams, but will be surrounded by great pieces and anchored by a strong defense. If there is one thing that we learned from the recent beating that was Super Bowl 48, it is that you can be elite all day, but the whole game changes when you get hit in the mouth!