2016 unit-by-unit analysis: The quarterbacks

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the 3rd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – DECEMBER 24: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the 3rd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons reclaimed the NFC South title and became NFC champions for just the second time in franchise history.

The Falcons, calling themselves a Brotherhood, had a major breakthrough in coach Dan Quinn’s second season as head coach before collapsing in the Super Bowl LI in grand fashion against New England, blowing a 25-point lead.

The offense soared to new heights and the young and marauding defense made great strides over the course of the season, but that didn’t keep defensive coordinator Richard Smith and Bryan Cox from being fired.

We start a unit-by-unit review of the 2016 team. Today, the quarterbacks:

UNIT-BY-UNIT ANALYSIS

QUARTERBACKS

Who: Matt Ryan. Backup – Matt Schaub. Practice squad: Matt Simms.

Contract/free agent situation: Ryan is set to make $15.75 million in 2017 and $19.25 million in 2018. He’s up for an extension before the 2018 contract runs out. Schaub who made $2.75 million last season can become an unrestricted free agent and may be set to join former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Simms is on the practice squad.

What they did in season:   Ryan is coming off his most spectacular season. The key was the re-established front interior of the passing pocket that allowed him more time to find his wide receivers and spread the football around. He threw touchdown passes to 13 different receivers, which was a NFL record. He continued to thrive throwing to Julio Jones and by sprinkling the ball to his other receivers, tight ends and running backs.  With Ryan leading the way, the Falcons went 11-5, won the NFC South, seized No. 2 seed for the playoffs and stormed through the postseason. With some pinpoint accuracy, Ryan led the league’s top-scoring offense, setting franchise records in passing yards (4,944) and touchdowns (38). “If you are looking at consistency this year, you can talk about Matt Ryan,” Falcons owner Arthur Blank said.  Ryan was the first Falcons player to earn the most valuable player honor from the AP and PFWA. He started all 16 games and completed 534 of 373 passes (69.9 completion percentage; third in the NFL), with only seven interceptions and a 117.1 passer rating. Ryan’s 117.1 rating was the fifth-highest in a season in NFL history. He had a passer rating of 100 or better in 12 games, tying Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and former 49ers quarterback Steve Young for the most 100-plus rating games in a single season.

What they did in postseason: Ryan was spectacular in the playoffs as he completed 70 of 98 passes for 1,014 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 135.3. He couldn’t have done more to lift the team. His one turnover was caused by running back Devonta Freeman missing a blitz pickup with the Super Bowl on the line.


Comment: Ryan clearly fit better in the team’s offense and was not afraid to improvise when things broke down. Schaub is a quality veteran backup and should be re-signed. Ryan will must now connect with new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.

RYAN’S MESSAGE TO THE FANS

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