End of An Era: Is the Window Closed for Matt Ryan and Tom Brady?

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matt ryan tom brady

These NFL Playoffs have been entertaining on multiple levels. Tony Gonzalez and Ray Lewis are writing the final chapters of Hall of Fame careers. The Harbaughs are making history as coaches. And, most importantly, the games have (mostly) kept us on the edge of the couch.

Another development happened right in front of us: the NFL quarterback landscape shifted dramatically. Three rookie QB’s led their teams to the postseason, bumping playoff mainstays like Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning and showing they should be taken seriously. I couldn’t help but feel like an era ended for a class of quarterbacks on Sunday. The results of each game helped drive this home. Will Matt Ryan and Tom Brady still be true Super Bowl contenders in the near future? Their play this weekend did nothing to prove they will, and their losses should have them and some other QB’s worried.

Matt Ryan

Matt Ryan Taking an L

Ryan had one huge, glaring question to answer heading into Sunday: was he ready to lead his team to the Super Bowl? After three postseason letdowns, Ryan risked being known as “the QB who isn’t ready for primetime.” This might be the worst possible fate for a star player. It defined LeBron James for almost a decade, and it has become the narrative for Tony Romo.

For Ryan, Sunday’s game against San Francisco had career-defining implications. Sadly, his performance was a microcosm for his career overall. Ryan lived up to his “Matty Ice” moniker in the first half: throwing for over 250 yards and three touchdowns. Things changed after halftime, though, with Ryan accounting for far less yards, one interception, and zero points. Welp.

Ryan will throw for 45,000 yards in his career, make a ton of money, and win lots of rings regular season games. But after this Sunday, I am convinced he is another player bound for the Hall of Very Good. LeBron was headed down a similar path, but he realized his potential as the best player in the world and re-shaped his image as a crunch time performer.

Sadly for Ryan, he isn’t that good.

He is caught between players in their prime who are better than he is (Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Eli Manning – it’s true) and younger players developing very quickly who could be championship-ready sooner than normal (Joe Flacco – it’s true, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, RG3). Where does that leave Matt Ryan? His postseason performances would suggest he’ll be on the outside looking in while the above quarterbacks are celebrating championships. He’ll be standing next to Romo of course.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

Brady had a question similar to Ryan hanging over his head: could he lead his team to the Super Bowl…and win it this time? Any Brady/Patriots detractor will tell you that the team hasn’t won a championship since 2004 (and since they were busted for SpyGate in 2007). Now, I won’t pile on because Brady has enjoyed a post-2004 career that most quarterbacks would take for their entire careers. That includes two Super Bowl losses by a combined seven points, a 50-touchdown season, and a 16-0 regular season. The guy is a first-ballot Hall of Fame player and an all-time great. Period.

Now, how will the rest of Brady’s career pan out? I recently wrote that a Super Bowl win this season would vault Brady to the Mt. Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks alongside Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, and Johnny Unitas (probably bumping out Marino). With Sunday’s loss on his resume, it’s fair to wonder if Brady will ever make that leap. He seems to be on the same path as Ryan, only with three Super Bowl rings to fall back on. The rings will protect his legacy forever, but failing to crack Mt. Rushmore will be a disappointment after the amazing start to his career. In many ways, Tom Brady is a doppelganger for Ben Roethlisberger. Not good news for Big Ben.

Brady’s undoing has been the Patriots’ transition from an elite defensive team to one defined by its offense. Too much of Brady’s success has been out of necessity as the Patriots failed to adequately address the defensive liabilities that held the team back. How long has New England sought a consistent pass rusher and disruptive defensive back? Chandler Jones and Aqib Talib seemed like long awaited solutions, but the Patriots gave up lots of yards (again) and are gone fishing (again), still searching for another Super Bowl victory.

This game can’t be pinned completely on the defense, though. Brady, like Ryan earlier in the evening, was shut out in the second half. Adding emphasis to a larger point…

There is a new crop of quarterbacks who are ready to win now. Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tony Romo are (varying levels of) great quarterbacks, but their championship window has closed.

Do you see the QB landscape shifting like I do? Is the new crop of young quarterbacks ready to take over the league? Will Ryan, Romo, Brady, or Ben win a ring in the future, or has their ship sailed?

 

Hit the comments and let me know what you think!

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  • http://Www.kanpix.wordpress.com Kan

    Window closed after 5 years as a pro? Really???

    • CLK

      Yea, This article is horrible. Worse than the ESPN experts the way they speak only speak of football on the surface. This article makes me want to waste my money on ESPN Insider.

      • Joe Sargent

        Lol, we’ll thankfully this is free.

        Anyway, I’ll reiterate what I said to Larry below. They said Peyton couldn’t win te big game…until he won it. I get that. However, the championship window is a fleeting thing. It’s hard enough to win as-is, and Ryan has shown himself to be very good. I think a lot of guys have caught up on him, with several still ahead. That math is very daunting for Ryan and the Falcons.

      • Adonis

        SitYoAzzDown

  • AfterMath

    I don't think its anywhere near a window closed for matt Ryan. He's about to sign his second contract of his career. But he may be making less than Flacco next year. Who would have thought that at the beginning of the season?

    I think John Smith (is that the HC's name? It sounds wrong, but I know its some very common name) – but I think his time is coming up soon. I mean he probably won't be fired, but he's got to learn to coach.
    My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

  • AfterMath

    And as far as Brady – u serious? nah, you're joking. I mean last year with BJGE he was in the super bowl. I just think that Ridley was a poor replacement for him. Their defense is improving and you put a running game on that offense and its two dimensional. The problem with Mr. Hoodie is that he went from being all about defense to being the new version of the Run and Shoot offense and anybody who knows anything about football knows that the Run and Shoot offense can't win in the playoffs. Sadly, I remember realizing this while praying for Barry Sanders to get a ring. He did finally get 2000 yards when he got a FB but they still lost in the playoffs.
    My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

    • Joe Sargent

      I’d argue that you supported my argument against Brady with the second half of your comment.

      If Brady’s offense can’t win in the playoffs, then he’s not gonna win a Super Bowl, right? On top of that, I agree the defense and running game have improved, but I think Brady is also diminishing. At some point his skills won’t be enough to carry the team, even one with improved defense and RB’s. Given that the quality of QB’s around him have improved (which I take for granted since its the crux of my argument), I’m saying that all adds up to Brady’s championship window being closed.

      • AfterMath

        So yeah, I agree if Brady and Bellicheck don't change. But anything can happen tomorrow and in the draft. If somebody like Alfred Morris were to fall to them in the draft this year, it could revolutionize that offense. I think they were a better team last year with law firm at RB because he was much more of a threat that teams had to respect. But on any given day, I think Brady is either the best QB on the field or its a tie so that leaves him in every game and so he'll probably make the playoffs just about every year and who knows maybe the ball bounces for him right one year (or he goes up against a Saints offense in the Super Bowl thats built pretty similar but around Brees).

        And that's another question. If the window's up for these guys, who's to say its not up for Rodgers or Brees or Eli or Peyton?
        My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

  • Kyle

    Interesting point in regards to Ryan and I kinda buy into it. He's solidly a tier 2 QB in the NFL but like you said he's getting squeezed from the elite guys above him and the upstarts below him. That new landscape is gonna but unbelievable amounts of pressure on guys like him and Romo to win quick and their inability to deal with lots of pressure is what has them on tier 2 to begin with haha –

    Not sure I agree on Brady. Their defense sucking can also be tied back to their high-speed offense. Means the defense is on the field a lot and so they get tired and give up a lot of points. Bill has always just tried to outscore people and the lack of investment in D comes back to bite him in the ass when the O struggles. Not sure that can get pinned on Brady

  • Larry

    "Is the Window Closed for Matt Ryan and Tom Brady?"

    In short: No.

    Contrary to popular belief only one team can win an NFL Championship each season. Just one. Most superbowl rings by one franchise is 6…and franchises last longer than players last time I checked. Case in point: It's very hard to win an NFL Championship. If you don't make it one year doesn't necessarily mean your ship has sailed. Too many moving parts goes into winning ball games outside of the QB. (yes, I fall into the camp of the QB gets too much credit and too much blame camp).

    I mean, Matt Stafford and the Lions of Detriot were set to take off to the next level and compete for a big run in the postseason this year after a good year last year. How'd that work out for him? (Sorry, Joe….I had to, lol,,,can't be letting you roll all over my boy Kobe unabated lol.)

    • Joe Sargent

      I agree completely with your second and third paragraphs…which is why I wrote the article.

      It IS damn near impossible to win. 1/32 odds right out of the gate. And when I see QB’s passing by a Ryan, Romo, Stafford (sigh), etc. I think you can say those guys might have missed their (already small) window.

      While its true that you can’t win the big game…until you win it, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there are teams out there that won’t have the right QB, coach, scheme, good health all at the same time.

      • Larry

        From that context of having the right QB, coach, scheme and good health I can see what you're saying. To be fair many teams that make it deep into the playoffs have those attributes, but more so to your point it doesn't guarantee that team will have those attributes the very next year.

        If a Matt Ryan, Tom Brady and the like was part of an organization that decided to blow up the team and start "rebuilding" and both were a year or two away from retirement then that window is closed. I do see what your saying, though….more qualified QBs equals more competition which makes it THAT much harder to win the big one, therefore makes windows smaller. Great write up.

    • AfterMath

      What's funny (and goes into this argument) is that last year around this time people were saying that maybe the window's closed for Joe Flacco and now he has a chance to win a ring.
      My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

  • Mr. SD

    The days of the pocket quarterback are dwindling away right in front of our eyes!! Manning, Rodgers, Brady and Brees will try to keep it alive but it will slowly fade to black.

    • Larry

      No their not. Wilson, RGIII, Luck….Kaepernick…they're all pocket QBs, but they just happen to have the added dimension of running to their arsenal. You will always need a QB that can sit in the pocket and deliver the ball.

      Some people insinuate some of these guys are "running" QBs….lord I hope not….you don't see a lot of old "running" QBs in the league now a days..or ever, lol.

      • Mr. SD

        I can't agree with you that Wilson is a pocket quarterback…He cant even see over his offensive line.. Don't get me wrong they all can deliver from the pocket, but they (the young guns) have proven (as you alluded) you have to be versatile. Running horizontally must be apart of ya game these days. For so many years Brady lived in the pocket and now dude is afraid to actually get out and run. It was hilarious watching him scramble in the Ravens game

        • Adonis

          Larry is right on this one. Throwing the football is #1. Running is #2.

          Brady archtypes will always be a factor. But the RG3s, Luck, Rogers types trump him.

          Also, all these pocket QBs rookies types this year were VERY cerebral, no offense to Michael Vick

      • AfterMath

        I wish I could believe you, but there's a difference between the run that Flacco had against New England and the Pistol Read Option. That's a play that's designed to take advantage of the QBs running ability. Sure they can opt to give it to the RB, but as long as they're running that play (which although it originated in the NFL with RG3, we've seen Wilson and Kaepernick running it too), they're running QBs. I mean, Kaepernick took something like 16 runs against GB. That's not a pocket passer by any means. And RG3 averaged about 6 runs a game. Much more than a standard pocket passer.
        My recent post Learn to Solve Single Variable Linear Equations

  • Larry

    I thought this was a more interesting point:

    "I recently wrote that a Super Bowl win this season would vault Brady to the Mt. Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks alongside Joe Montana, John Elway, Dan Marino, and Johnny Unitas (probably bumping out Marino). "

    I'm trying to figure out why Brady wouldn't be on Mt. Rushmore right now. More rings than Elway and Marino and comparable numbers.

    • Joe Sargent

      The only thing keeping him off today is time. He could still amass the numbers of those guys, then you add the rings and you have a Mt. Rushmore career. If he quit today, I think he’d just miss out.

      • Larry

        Ah ok, I gotcha

      • Dr. J

        No way. Brady is already the #2 QB of all time.

        Tom Brady has been the Pats QB for 11 seasons and in those seasons he went to 5 Super Bowls. He's missed the playoffs only once. He's tied for appearance and ranks #2 in Super Bowl victories and also #1 in postseason victories.

        • Joe Sargent

          That’s a hell of a case. Marino is on there for me because IMO he thrived like QB’s today without the benefit of the rules favoring the offense. He advanced the QB position. Is that enough to outweigh Brady in light of the stats you laid out? I gotta think in that one. I’ll prolly hit your Gmail randomly 2 months from now, lol.

        • Dr. J

          I don't know… someone was making an argument about how Montana would have a lot more stats if he played in this NFL today. 1) I don't think that really matters. 2) Montana should have at least the same amount of yards as Elway or Marino, he don't.

          About Marino, he was in an offense that didn't run the ball. He didn't advance the position as much as Shula did. You can make an argument about Montana here too. Some of these great QBs are products of their systems and great coaches. They really didn't have much of a choice.

          It's like if Colin Kaepernick was to go on to break all the rushing records for the QB and then they heralded him the greatest running QB of all time. We would be remiss if we didn't mention the system.

  • Peter Parker

    Yeah good article Joe. Window close for Brady, ummm NO. Brady has atleast one more super bowl win in him. I know one man does not make a team, but losing Gronk hurt them bad…Just think about the mis-match opportunities he presents.
    Ryan, umm I think that chapter remains to be seen. ATL has a few issues going, but one of the key reasons why they lost is because their run game is not effective. I think if they can establish a decent run game to run the clock down when they have the lead, it makes for a better situation. I also think losing Grimes early in the year really hurt the Falcons secondary…Just my thoughts…

  • Streetz

    Theres too much parity in the NFL to say their windows are closing. The patriots play in a weak conference and a weaker division, so theyll always have a playoff shot.

    I just dont believe in Atlanta sports to ever take the Falcons seriously

    • Larry

      "I just dont believe in Atlanta sports to ever take the Falcons seriously"

      I've been on Twitter the last couple Atlanta playoff games trying to figure out people's dismissive attitude toward the Falcons, lol. Still don't necessarily understand it, but I do hear the reasons for it.

      I first noticed when they started off 9-0 or 10-0 or whatever and I mentioned they were a good ball club and people (not fans of division rivals, mind you) were telling me how weak they were.

      I understand if one takes on the Cleveland Browns as not a serious team…especially with that city's sports history…and the fact that the Browns haven't had much recent success. At least the Falcons organization gave the city an opportunity for some playoff games this century, lol!

  • Dr. J

    Re: Brady — Hecks no. He just needs a healthy Gronk and this would have been an easy win for him.

    Re: Ryan — Maybe. The window closing is because other teams are getting better. As those other teams continue to get better and AS LONG as the Falcons have Mike Smith as their coach. It's over for Ryan.

    Go Niners… bitches.

  • http://twitter.com/HeadcACE1906 @HeadcACE1906

    You are very accurate with this article but miss on many points Lebron was never destined to the Hall of Very Good, Ryan is a top 10 qb in this league, The Patriots dynasty has been falling for years we just now are starting to notice. Matt Ryan and Joe flacco came in the same draft so is joe Flacco younger. Matt Ryan was drafted in 2008 how has is window closed , when he is in his prime and so are his weapons. The panthers and Bucs going to take the Falcons spot . Patriots = The Spurs of the NFl win games no championships anymore. Matt Ryan = Peyton manning. Consistent how is Eli so much better when you never know when he will make the Playoff . Eli = Stabler which most don't even know. Matty Ice has time so you might wanna open that window back-up

    • Joe Sargent

      Yeah…the LeBron/Ryan analogy wasn’t perfect. Trying to get to the point that people doubted LeBron’s ability in the clutch like they do with Ryan. In that sense they’re similar.

      I’m not arguing Ryan’s window has closed because he’s old. I think he’s being squeezed. By that I mean there are elite QB’s on teams I’d rank ahead of him (Brees/Eli/Rodgers) and now a new class that may be passing him once that Brees/Eli/Rodgers class gets old. You mentioning the rising of the Panthers and Buca would seem to strengthen my argument, no?

  • jdoubleu

    "Too many moving parts goes into winning ball games outside of the QB. (yes, I fall into the camp of the QB gets too much credit and too much blame). "

    100% agree w/ this…Brady can't be blamed for drops on very catchable passes and as Dr. J mentioned, a healthy Gronk and we likely wouldn't be watching a Harbowl (this coming from a longtime Patriots hater).

    I don't know that I'd say the new class of QBs will surpass Ryan (the opposite is true for Romo). The offensive talent is already there if Atlanta can keep it intact. But I'm inclined to agree that he'll likely fall in the middle due to other teams boosting their talents at other positions. No fault of his. Aside from perhaps Colin the Kappa (gotta root for the NFC), I don't see any of the upcoming QBs mentioned winning a ring before Ryan though.
    My recent post Fantasy Football Woes 2013: I’ll Still Draft Em Though

  • http://glippost.wordpress.com Darrk Gable

    While I think Brady has at least 2 more years to get another ring, it won't happen until Belicheck addresses the defensive issues, as you said. Ryan on the other hand is another issue entirely. People have to remember, he's not much younger than Aaron Rogers. It up the (again) defense to get him over the hump too.
    My recent post The Gawd Is Not God

  • Adonis

    I think Brady will be fine. And might get to one more SuperBowl.

    It's over for Matty Ice.

  • Adonis

    I am NOT a Niners fan.*

  • banks

    I think this entire debate is so silly. And this is coming from someone who can't stand the Falcons… Patriots either. Larry has it right that QBs get too much of the credit and too much of the blame. If you're truly honest about it, it's easy to see that the league's parity is so prevalent that there's often a hair's difference between victory and defeat; which is to say that A LOT needs to go right in order to win the title (the 'Any Given Sunday' rule in full effect). The examples go on and on…

    I don't believe Aaron Rodgers would have a ring if not for David Akers missing field goals– otherwise, the Packers don't make it out of Philly in the wildcard round… The Saints were incredibly lucky to win the title; I was the one telling people how Minnesota would absolutely run right through the Saints in their own building– who knew the Vikings would put the ball on the ground seven times…

    The 49ers winning drive had actually stalled, but fortunately they got that weak-ass penalty for 'roughing' Kaepernick… Brady would have never even got that first ring if not for that ridiculous 'tuck rule' call… Shoot, even my Panthers came *this* close to winning it all. In a given year, the planets can align for any team (even #6 seeds). In team sports– football, more so than any of them– championship runs are not made by individuals, so you can't make these judgements. True, a sucky QB like Romo can preclude a team's success, but on the other hand, Mark Rypien and Trent Dilfer both have rings.

    • Adonis

      I like this comment

  • Slim Jackson

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  • http://www.opinionatedmale.com cortonio

    i didn't read all the comments so excuse me if i repeat someone. As far as brady, the window is closing but not by that much. He's 35 has 2-3 more good years in him (4,000 yds 30+ TD's fewer than 10 int) but he needs his dudes to be healthy at the same time, a good pass rush, and a better secondary. Notwithstanding that he's still gone to 5 superbowls, 7 AFC championships and with their les than stellar division–barring a major injury of course, will win 11+ games a year and more often than not get a bye. I will say the Pats have wasted a lot of his prime years though. 2007, for example, was an absolute disaster by having a perfect season wasted in 2 minutes. As far as Matty Ice he's only about 27 so he has a few years to go. Peyton manning didn't win until 30, Kurt warner 28, Favre 28, Aikman 27, and steve young and John Elway were in their mid 30's when they finally won. So I'm not worried about Ryan..he'll get there

  • http://www.opinionatedmale.com cortonio
  • Kopa

    As long as the rapist keeps losing, I'm happy.

  • http://twitter.com/docbndgrl9113 @docbndgrl9113

    I know that this has been said a million times, but defense wins games. In both of these games, the Falcons and Patriots were shut down in the 2nd half. Yes, the receivers dropped passes, but in the end, they were afraid of getting hit. With the Patriots, Brady was also afraid of getting hit, so that's why we saw him sliding to the refs instead of running to get 1st downs when his receivers were covered. I don't get it, football is a contact sport, if you're afraid of getting hit, why play it professionally?

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