Dear Matt Ryan,
I am writing this open letter so that I can fully apologize to you, and I think I speak for many Atlanta Falcons fans when I say that I was totally, freaking wrong to doubt you. Yes, I realize you have no reason to care what I thought, but this is entirely about me getting to celebrate for once as a Falcons fan. You can just get over yourself Mr. Millionaire Toast of the NFL if you think this is really about you.
Honestly, my anger was never really directed at you. Why would it have been? It wasn't like you picked Atlanta just to screw me over. I even said back then that you'd make a good starting quarterback one day and that you were getting screwed as much as the fans were in this deal. I just knew that you were going to get thrown to the wolves too soon behind an offensive line that couldn't stop the pass rush of a Pop Warner league all-star team. It was obvious then that the constant beating you were sure to take was going to sap your confidence and leave you a dried up joke like Joey Harrington. After all, look what playing for Miami, Detroit and Atlanta at each of those teams' lowest points did to his career. Detroit always sucks and Miami actually got worse after Harrington departed for Atlanta.
Then something bizarre happened. The Atlanta offensive line started blocking. I'm still not entirely sure that I'm not hallucinating every Sunday afternoon when I see you drop back for a pass and not get creamed by the time you take your third step. That's not supposed to happen. Michael Vick had to be fleet of foot because the other team's defensive line was guaranteed to proceed unblocked in his direction. Harrington may be slightly retarded from the hits he took last year (or from his years in Miami and Detroit). Ryan, you've been sacked less than once per game, and that's not just because you don't throw the ball. Atlanta isn't exactly Texas Tech on offense, but you've thrown for over 200 yards and two touchdowns every game for the last six except Chicago (301 yards, but one TD) and Green Bay (two touchdowns, but 194 yards). When you are throwing it, you very rarely look like you're in a hurry.
The whole reason for my contempt for Atlanta's pick of you in the draft was that I thought the Falcons really needed to pick up some offensive linemen. After all, no quarterback was going to look great behind the line we've fielded for the past few years. Of course it may seem like the height of vanity for a fan to second-guess the guys who get paid to do this sort of thing, but I'm a fan of the Falcons, not the Patriots. If I were second-guessing Bill Belichick and his front office, you could make fun of me. Instead, I was second-guessing the leadership of the Atlanta Falcons. I mean the team hasn't put together two consecutive winning seasons in the history of the franchise. There's a good chance I could have run the team more effectively during that period. For the first time I may have actually been wrong to second-guess the team's personnel decisions. The new guys obviously knew what they were doing. They didn't need to fix the O-line. It'd already been fixed.
I'm not sure anyone (even those new geniuses in the Falcons front office) expected you do be able to do so much so soon, however. Michael Turner is awesome (and so is Jerious Norwood), but there's only so much a running back can do. The other teams know they're facing a team with a rookie quarterback and a great running back. They're going to stack the box against Turner, and the really good run defense teams are going to stop him (and the Detroit Lions are going to give up over 200 yards to him). On those days it's been up to you and ever since the Green Bay game you've been able to take the pressure off of Turner. I'm beside myself with glee at this fact. Atlanta is suddenly a multi-dimensional team with a guy who can actually throw the ball instead of just serving as an extra running back.
Of course, as any good sports fan knows, my words and actions can sabotage the team and players I love, so before I jinx you, I'm going to knock on wood (I hope particle board counts). It'd really suck for you to get my hopes up only for you to turn into a Derek Anderson who sets the world on fire one year and then sucks the next. We don't exactly have a Brady Quinn type sitting on the bench behind you. But then you aren't exactly setting the world on fire. You're outperforming expectations for a rookie, so maybe this is the beginning of the real deal and not just a one-hit wonder.
Until then, I'm just glad someone other than Obama is trying to give me a little hope.