What does a Super Bowl ring mean for Matt Ryan’s legacy?

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has been one of the league’s most underrated signal callers since he was drafted nine years ago. How would winning Super Bowl LI alter his legacy?

The No.2-seed Atlanta Falcons are set to meet the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game next weekend. All eyes are locked on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers as he chases his second Super Bowl ring, and his first in six years. Rodgers has been playing at an unprecedented level over the past eight weeks, so it’s no surprise he’s drawing as much attention as he is. But why are so few people talking about Matt Ryan and his Falcons?

Ryan has been phenomenal since his rookie season in 2008. He has five 10-win seasons under his belt, and won nine games in 2009. 2009 was also the year Ryan missed the only two games of his professional career. His streak of 115 consecutive starts is already the seventh-longest of its kind in NFL history.

Appropriately nicknamed “Matty Ice,” the Boston College alum has 25 career fourth-quarter comebacks to his name, and 33 game-winning drives over the course of his tenure with the Falcons. Those stats rank 14th and 12th, respectively, on the all-time lists among quarterbacks. Ryan is as good as any signal caller in history at rallying his team and putting together classic finishes to games.

Ryan’s late-game magic is a product of his extremely accurate arm. He possesses a career average of 265.5 passing yards per game and 11.5 yards per completion; the latter number bests those of both Drew Brees and Brett Favre.

His 37,701 career passing yards over less than a decade’s worth of play land him at 21st on the all-time list. And he’s only beginning to enter his prime. If he can play at this level for just three more seasons, he’ll finish his career as one of the top 10 passers of all time in terms of total passing yards.

Ryan’s never been incapable of playing like one of the league’s best. What’s tarnished his legacy so far has been a lack of success in the playoffs. Ryan has a career postseason record of 2-4, and both of wins came in 2012, when the Falcons lost in the Conference Championship to the San Francisco 49ers. Ryan has never had a chance to immortalize himself in NFL quarterback folklore by hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

And so despite his stellar regular season numbers, there’s a monkey on Ryan’s back heading into Conference Championship weekend. He’ll have to outperform one of the game’s best in Rodgers to earn a shot at his first Super Bowl ring. The hardship doesn’t stop there, either. If Ryan can best No. 12, he’ll then have to conquer one of the best quarterbacks in Super Bowl history, regardless of who wins the AFC Championship game. It’ll be either Tom Brady or Ben Roethlisberger.

Fresh off of the best statistical season and strongest playoff performance of his career, Ryan is more confident than he’s ever been. It’s entirely possible nothing this league can throw at them can stop the Atlanta Falcons with Matty Ice under center.

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