In 2015, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was neither at his best or his worst, but he would’ve liked to be a lot better. The next season, he was a lot better.
From 2013-2014, Ryan had experienced Atlanta’s two worst seasons with him as their quarterback, going 10-22 in the final two years of the Mike Smith era and posting a passer rating of 91.7 and an adjusted net yards per attempt of 6.2 under offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. Then in 2015, the Falcons hired Dan Quinn as head coach and Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator but an 8-8 transition year inspired a lot less confidence in Shanahan than we currently remember with hindsight.
Matt Ryan, 2015: 407-of-614, 66.3-percent, 4,591 yards, 21 TD, 16 INT, 7.5 Y/A, 89 passer rating, 30 sacks, 6.35 adjusted net yards per attempt
Jared Goff, 2019: 394-of-626, 62.9-percent, 4,638 yards, 22 TD, 16 INT, 7.4 Y/A, 86.5 passer rating, 22 sacks, 6.46 adjusted net yards per attempt
I wanted to keep those two statlines next to each other at the cost of skipping ahead so that we could observe them side by side. In 2016, Matt Ryan won MVP and it took him 80 fewer pass attempts to do so:
373-of-534, 69.9-percent, 4,944 yards, 38 TD, 7 INT, 9.3 Y/A, 117.1 rating, 37 sacks, 9.03 ANY/A.
Again with hindsight there may be people going, “Yeah, of course he did. He’s Matt Ryan!” But what were people expecting of Ryan headed into 2016? Well, they were expecting him to be less likely to win MVP than ... Andy Dalton.
2016 MVP odds as of July in that year had Ryan as 66-to-1 to win MVP. Dalton and Derek Carr were 50-to-1. They were among 15 players who had better MVP odds than Ryan, including JJ Watt, Adrian Peterson, Eli Manning, and Todd Gurley. Ryan’s odds were tied with Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Blake Bortles, and Brock Osweiler, four players who are never and were never going to win MVP.
But Ryan did. And did so in a year when writers were making fun of him for being intercepted by Shanahan in practice, calling 2015 a “nightmare” for Ryan, talking about “silly mistakes,” and wondering if he was getting outplayed by backup Matt Schaub. There are plenty of ways to compare Ryan and Goff — this article mentions posits Goff is the Ryan to Carson Wentz’s Joe Flacco and one person who would know is Matt LaFleur, Atlanta’s QBs coach from 2015-2016 and then the Rams offensive coordinator in 2017 — but this is not specifically a comparison or a declaration that Goff is going to win MVP.
However, when I realized that there were a number of great quarterbacks in the last decade who also posted similar stats of Goff’s 2019 and then immediately went on to have career-best successes, I recorded a podcast. And I’ll leave it at that.