Top 50 Falcons: No. 7, Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan is the winningest Atlanta quarterback of all-time and the all-time leader in passing yards. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 7 is quarterback Matt Ryan.

Years played for Falcons: Drafted third overall in 2008, Matt Ryan has quickly become the face of the franchise and holds nearly every passing record in Atlanta Falcon history. His first pass ever thrown in a regular season NFL game set the tone for the rest of his career. Ryan struck with a 62-yard bomb to Michael Jenkins for the first of his record breaking 199 career touchdown passes. Ryan is now in year No. 8 in Atlanta and is the unquestioned leader of the locker room.

Jersey No.: 2

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

In 2013, Matt Ryan signed what was at the time the second-highest player in the league. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

His impact on the team: Matt Ryan is the winningest Atlanta quarterback of all-time (73 wins), all-time leader in passing yards (32,117), touchdowns (199), completions (2,868), fourth quarter comebacks (24) and game-winning drives (31). He immediately lifted the Falcons from the doldrums after Michael Vick’s suspension and the dark days of Joey Harrington. In 2008 as a rookie, he led Atlanta to an 11-5 record and a playoff appearance. From 2010-12, he orchestrated the Falcons first-ever back-to-back playoff berths by making three straight trips to the postseason including two division championships. He helped lead Roddy White into becoming the franchise’s all-time leading pass catcher and has played a major part in the development of Julio Jones. In July 2013, he signed a five-year, $103.75 million contract, making him the second-highest player in the league at that time behind Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

On setting franchise records: “No one has more respect for Steve Bartkowski than I do and what he did for this organization. He’s become a great friend since I’ve been here in Atlanta and a great mentor. I’m very proud to be in good company. It’s really a great honor.” (AJC)

On signing long-term: “My goal, and my mindset has been the same since 2008. It’s about winning a championship. And it’s about getting rings. I’m just happy I’m gonna have the opportunity to do that here.” (NFL.com)

On how to fix the struggling Falcons: “We need to jump-start it on offense. Obviously, the last couple of weeks have been unacceptable, in terms of us getting into the end zone. I mean of all the things that are important, in terms of playing good offense, getting in the end zone is No. 1. … We’ve got to create some explosive plays, and then when we get into the red zone, we’ve got to be really effective.” (AJC)

On helping Julio Jones potentially break the single-season reception record: “I’d love to see him get [the NFL record], that’s for sure. And there’s certainly a chance. With how productive he’s been and how good he’s played all year, there’s definitely a chance that he could do that in the next two games. But it just doesn’t come up a lot in the locker room.” (NFL)

Where he is now: Ryan, 30, is suffering through his worst seasons as a pro with his Falcons undergoing a collapse from 5-0 to 7-7 with the playoffs for the most part out of reach. He has tossed just 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and has heard the loudest criticism of his successful career in 2015.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
48: Jonathan Babineaux
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler
42: Tim Mazzetti
41: Buddy Curry
40: Scott Case
39: Jeff Merrow
38: Elbert Shelley
37: Matt Bryant
36: Alge Crumpler
35: Michael Turner
34: Ray Buchanan
33: Chris Hinton
32: Terance Mathis
31: Devin Hester
30: Don Smith
29: Greg Brezina
28: Chris Miller
27: John James
26: Bob Whitfield
25: Rolland Lawrence
24: Alfred Jenkins
23: Billy Johnson
22: Chris Chandler
21: Morten Andersen
20: John Abraham
19: George Kunz
18: Jamal Anderson
17: Keith Brooking
16: R.C. Thielemann
15: Tony Gonzalez
14: Andre Rison
13: Julio Jones
12: Roddy White
11: Steve Bartkowski
10: Michael Vick
9: Bill Fralic
8: Gerald Riggs
7: Matt Ryan


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