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The Iceman Cometh

With the Atlanta Falcons soaring at 5-0 for the first time in team history, expectant eyes are falling upon quarterback Matt Ryan once more. Impact’s Peter Klein, however, wants to keep the noise down until the January playoffs…

Matt Ryan has been off the radar for a while now, and honestly, I have no idea why. Since 2008 his win to loss ratio has fluctuated between good and outstanding, yet stubborn eyebrows have refused to be raised. Not anymore. After leading his team to their fifth win in as many games, Ryan, aka ‘Matty Ice’, is now being lauded as the NFL’s next elite quarterback. Once-ignorant critics are jumping at the chance to crown him with the faux wreath of ‘Quarter season MVP’, the value of which is mere flattery at best.

But why? Why has Ryan found himself suddenly propelled into the spotlight for the first time since his third-overall draft in 2008? After all, he’s put up big numbers in the past and remained little more than irrelevant to the pundits and writers. There are two reasons. First: big names around the league aren’t having the season everybody predicted. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have both dropped games they should have won, and Drew Brees’ Saints aren’t even in the playoff picture. The league needs a hero to sell and Matty Ice just keeps winning. Second: he keeps winning in style. With the absolute arsenal of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez at his disposal, Ryan has had plenty of fun exhibiting his weapons’ receiving capabilities. The fruit of his labour? A very tasty thirteen touchdowns and three interceptions.

Now I’m all for giving credit where credit’s due – and I think with Ryan it has been long overdue – but some of the praise being shovelled upon the 27 year old is ridiculous. Those who smile approvingly and sigh with relief because he’s “finally making the leap from talented prospect to elite quarterback” need to check themselves. He’s been just as impressive in the past with half the tools, yet hasn’t garnered anything like the level of acclaim they’re giving him this year. His inability to perform in the playoffs has prevented observers from putting any considerable amount of faith in him. However, with the superpowers of Brady and Rodgers stumbling, Matty Ice is looking like a messiah to analysts and pundits searching for the next big story-cum-poster boy. I’m dreading the headlines should he win a sixth straight game against Oakland on Sunday. Pandering, misguided journalists will be throwing the term ‘Ice Age’ around like no one’s business.

Therefore, I’m wary of using the term ‘elite’ alongside ‘Matt Ryan’. I’ll give him a deserved nod, and concede that thus far he has had an excellent season. But until he proves that he won’t melt in the pressure cooker of playoff football I’m loath to concede that he’s ‘made the leap’. I am, however, much more excited about Ryan’s postseason prospects this year than I have been in the past. If he can play out the rest of the regular season in the same way he’s started it, superbowl favourites and plucky wildcards better beware. Ice doesn’t melt in January – it only gets cooler.

Peter Klein

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