Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC South [Print without images]

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Hot Button: Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco?

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

One thing I wanted to get to Tuesday, but didn't  -- thanks to the NFL schedule release and some other projects -- was this Hot Button debate. So let's turn our attention there now.

It’s between colleagues John Clayton and James Walker and they're asking which class of 2008 quarterback, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan or Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, will get to a Super Bowl first. There’s also an attached SportsNation poll where you can vote for Ryan or Flacco.

Let’s be clear that Clayton and Walker are friends of mine. Clayton’s been a mentor and Walker has become a good friend since we’ve been teammates on the ESPN blog network. I respect the opinions of both of these guys.

But I’m going to side with Clayton on this one. He says Ryan will win the race and cites Baltimore’s residence in the AFC as the reason because Flacco has to compete against some great quarterbacks and great teams. I see it as a little more than that.

No knock on Flacco, who is a very solid quarterback. But I think Ryan is flat-out better, even if their statistics are virtually the same. I think Ryan’s the kind of talent who could carry an offense to the Super Bowl.

I think it’s time for the Falcons to start letting him do that. While Ryan’s first three years have been very good, the Falcons have yet to totally turn him loose. Part of that is because they have a very good running game and like to keep balance in the offense.

But I think, when coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff sat down after the season and really thought about how to take the next step, they had to start thinking about putting more on Ryan’s shoulders.

They weren’t happy with their production of “explosive plays,’’ -- plays that go for 20 yards or more. Well, there’s a way to solve that. Let Ryan throw some more passes downfield. Let him work out of the shotgun formation more often and let him run the no-huddle offense more often. Every time Ryan runs the no-huddle it seems to work quite nicely. Also, stop wasting time having Ryan roll out. He doesn’t really like it, it’s not what he does best and it doesn’t accomplish much. Oh, and it also might be nice to add a speed receiver in the draft to go with Roddy White.

Walker’s argument in Flacco’s favor is that Ryan has yet to win a postseason game. That’s true and that knock is going to be with him until he wins one.

There’s one way to erase that knock. Simply turn Ryan loose and he’ll start winning postseason games and that’s how you get to a Super Bowl.