Blank: Matt Ryan ready for next step

April, 2, 2012
4/02/12
10:10
AM ET
Sometime this week, Arthur Blank and Matt Ryan will get together. It’s something the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and his quarterback do every offseason.

It’s nothing overly formal and shouldn’t be looked at as Ryan’s performance review -- that’s done by the coaching staff and general manager Thomas Dimitroff. This meeting is generally more about Blank and Ryan discussing the state of the franchise, and that means they’ll also touch on Ryan’s development.

At the NFL owners meetings last week, I asked Blank for a summary of what he plans to discuss with Ryan and if he has any specific message for his quarterback.

“He’s grown as a quarterback,’’ Blank said. “He’s grown as an individual. He’s obviously a great team leader. People recognize that and identify with him. He’s exactly what you would want in the CEO of a business. He’s the first to work and the last to leave. He works the hardest and studies. He provides all kinds of leadership on and off the field. I’m thrilled where he is.’’

It’s one thing to be thrilled, but I don’t think Blank, Ryan, the coaching staff and front office are satisfied with what the Falcons accomplished last season. Although Ryan had the best statistics of his career, the Falcons went 10-6 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. They have yet to win a playoff game since the arrival of Ryan and coach Mike Smith in 2008.

It’s pretty safe to assume that fact will be brought up when Blank and Ryan meet.

“He understands this, that to become an “elite’’ quarterback in the league, you’ve got to win playoff games,’’ Blank said. “Smitty understands that. Thomas understands that. I think we’ve done a remarkable job the last four years considering it took us 42 years to have any back-to-back winning seasons. But there are three seasons in the NFL. There’s a preseason, a regular season and a postseason. We haven’t played well in the postseason. Smitty understands that, Thomas understands that and we need to change that. And Matt certainly understands that as well.’’

I asked Blank what Ryan has to do to take that next step. The owner sounded like he believes his quarterback remains headed in the right direction.

“All the things he’s doing are things he has to continue to do," Blank said. “He has to continue to have humility. He has to continue to be willing to learn and grow. He has to be excited about the opportunity to get better and I think he does all that. I think the worst thing you can see in a leader whether it’s on a football team or in business, is to see someone say 'I’ve gotten as much as I can get and I’ll just keep performing that way.' But you have an opportunity to grow throughout life, professionally as well as personally. I think he has that mentality. It’s not just words with him. He really believes that. We’re fortunate to have him as our franchise quarterback and look forward to a long relationship with him."

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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