Arthur Smith Non-Committal About Matt Ryan’s Future

Arthur Smith and Matt Ryan

Getty Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith in discussion with QB Matt Ryan.

Matt Ryan’s future with the Atlanta Falcons isn’t set in stone. At least not judging by the response of head coach Arthur Smith, who was asked about his veteran quarterback after Week 18’s 30-20 defeat to the New Orleans Saints.

Smith gave a response that indicates he and general manager Terry Fontenot want to keep their options open at every position, including quarterback. The cagey answer comes amid a flurry of speculation about where Ryan will play his football next season. There have been conflicting reports the 36-year-old could be bound for a contender in the AFC North.

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Smith’s Right Not to Be Drawn on Ryan’s Future

It was only natural Ryan would be the focus of Smith’s post-game presser. He began parrying and fending off speculation after just two questions.

Smith refused to be drawn on a tweet from ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen. The tweet appeared earlier on Sunday, January 9 and stated rumors linking Ryan with the Pittsburgh Steelers wouldn’t come to fruition.

As well as dodging questions about Mortensen’s article from ESPN’s Michael Rothstein, Smith made it clear he would evaluate every player, including Ryan, per this video from the Falcons’ official YouTube channel:


VideoVideo related to arthur smith non-committal about matt ryan’s future2022-01-10T12:44:49-05:00

Rothstein also tweeted a transcript of Smith’s full answers:

The crucial exchange occurred when Smith was asked specifically about Ryan’s status for next season. Smith wouldn’t say outright that Ryan will remain his quarterback for 2022, but he didn’t rule it out either.

There’s an important distinction here because Smith is right to stay non-committal at this stage. His first season at the helm has just been consigned to the books, and while the 7-10 finish is far from ideal, there have been signs of progress from these Falcons.

Yet, like any rebuilding team, the Falcons need to reset and make frank assessments about where and how they can get better. Most fans naturally want that transformation to happen sooner, rather than later, but Smith and first-year GM Fontenot will likely share a different view.

They are at the start of what is supposed to be a process. There will be a blueprint for how the process will unfold, but it should be a flexible plan. Meaning Ryan’s place in it could change, even if he knows where he wants to play next season.


Ryan Has Made His Feelings Clear

While Smith didn’t give much away, Ryan was far more explicit about his future. He made it clear where he wants to be in 2022, per Tori McElhaney of the team’s official site:

Ryan staying put would be the simplest solution for the Falcons ahead of next season. Anything else would involve a major overhaul at football’s most important position.

The Falcons should be wary about that kind of transition since there’s a core of talented playmakers on the roster. They include record-breaking tight end Kyle Pitts, powerful guard Chris Lindstrom, and do-all weapon Cordarrelle Patterson.

Those players need the steady influence of a productive and experienced quarterback. Ryan still fits the bill, despite a trying season.

He offered a reminder of his career-long quality when a late touchdown pass to Russell Gage put Ryan in select company alongside some of the game’s greatest quarterbacks. The Falcons relayed a highlight of the historically significant play:

Records have been commonplace for Ryan this season. Falcons Multimedia Features Reporter Kris Rhim noted how the connection with Gates also moved Ryan above Eli Manning “to become ninth on the NFL’s all-time passing touchdown list. Ryan’s touchdown was the 367th of his career, the fourth-highest total of any active player.”

Rhim added this accomplishment to Ryan’s other notable feats: “In week two, he became the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards through a player’s first 14 seasons. In the Falcons win against the New York Giants, he became the tenth quarterback in NFL history to throw 350 passing touchdowns. And in week five against the New York Jets, Ryan became the seventh quarterback in NFL history to throw for 5,000 completions.”

Those are all the numbers of a passer who still has plenty left to offer. Perhaps Ryan’s enduring talent is why the speculation he’ll leave Atlanta isn’t going away.

Mortensen’s report came after The Ringer’s Steven Ruiz urged the Pittsburgh Steelers to go all out for Ryan this offseason. The same idea was posited by ESPN Insider Jeremy Fowler back in December.

The only decent argument for moving Ryan on now is to try and offset the hefty cap hit he carries for this year. It’s $48,662,500, according to OverTheCap.com.

Owning the eighth pick in the 2022 NFL draft puts the Falcons in a position to draft a successor under center. The question is are Kyle Pickett, Matt Corral or Sam Howell good enough to replace Ryan right away?

Atlanta’s safest move would be to keep Ryan in the fold and use the draft to give him more help along the offensive line and at wide receiver.

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