Tony Gonzalez indicated to ESPN The Magazine that "Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback".
When you are issued a $103.75 million contract, it is widely assumed that you are an elite quarterback. But as retiring tight end Tony Gonzalez indicated last week, that may not be the case.
“Matt’s an excellent quarterback,” Gonzalez said in an upcoming piece for ESPN The Magazine. “But he’s not elite. He’s this close. He’ll get there, but he has some learning to do.”
Holding his index finger out near his thumb, Gonzalez indicated that Ryan is “this close.” The future Hall of Famer clearly meant no slight to Matty Ice, reiterating that he has full confidence that the QB will get there soon. But sports outlets and bloggers nationwide have led with the catchphrase “Tony Gonzalez says Matt Ryan is not an elite quarterback”. Gonzalez’s twitter feed has been riddled with negativity with users calling him “traitor”, “backstabber”, and even racial slurs following his ESPN interview.
But one thing we should all be able to agree upon. He’s right. In my opinion, Matt Ryan is a poor man’s Peyton Manning. (which if you think about it, is actually a compliment) Matty Ice, like the General, has impressive regular season statistics and a lackluster (in comparison) post season resume. Both are known more for their leadership and football I.Q.s than for their arm strength and abilities outside of the pocket. In a time in the NFL where more and more teams are looking for a quarterback who can extend plays with their feet and make something happen outside of the pocket, #2 is your traditional NFL pocket passer.
Gonzalez went on to clarify that in the NFL, there are only four elite quarterbacks. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers (6 NFL championships between them) are on the Mt. Rushmore of QBs according to Gonzalez and everyone else is behind them.
Yet again, Tony G. is spot on. While it is impossible to overlook Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning both holding two NFL titles each, neither has maintained elite quarterback play. It could be argued that Eli Manning has actually regressed as a passer (18 TDs to 27 INTs in 2013) and Roethlisberger’s Steelers have not made the playoffs for two consecutive years. Meanwhile, do “elite” quarterbacks lead a team to a 4-12 season? Although Pittsburgh was clearly disappointed at another 8-8 season, Roethlisberger did finish the season 8-4 after a disastrous 0-4 start. The same can be said of Manning’s Giants who began the year 0-6 only to close their final 10 games at 7-3.
Clearly, nearly everything that could go wrong for the 2013 Falcons, did go wrong. The team lost star wide receiver Julio Jones in Week 5. Roddy White was not 100% healthy the entire season. Defensive captain Sean Weatherspoon played in only 7 games for the Falcons. The team was last in the NFL in rushing, even after the acquisition of Steven Jackson. But to answer the question “is Ryan elite” might be best determined by asking another question. Would the 2013 Atlanta Falcons have won more than four games with Manning, Brady, Brees, or Rodgers at the helm? For me, that is an easy “yes” which makes the preceding question a resounding “NO”.