Atlanta football writer: Matt Ryan ruined it for everybody

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has taken an interest in the Lions this year, with former Georgia Bulldog Matthew Stafford the Lions' franchise savior in waiting. sports columnist Jeff Schultz has joined a growing chorus saying the Lions should not start the season with Stafford under center.

The problem with Matt Ryan is he has ruined it for everybody else. Ryan had an off-the-charts first season with the Falcons and so now every team and fan base with a No. 1 draft pick at quarterback thinks, “Our rookie quarterback can be off the charts, too!”

If the Detroit Lions make that mistake, they’re going to screw up Matthew Stafford. And it’s not as if this franchise hasn’t wrecked quarterbacks before.

Ah, yes; the old "did the Lions ruin Joey Harrington, or did Joey simply not make the most of ample opportunities to play?" debate. It's been going on in The Den for years. A definitive answer is elusive on that one.

But back to the QB debate at hand. Schultz notes that Ryan's and the Falcons' situation was significantly different than Stafford's and the Lions'. Atlanta didn't have as good of a veteran option at QB (Chris Redman) as the Lions do (Daunte Culpepper).

I would add to that the Falcons' defense was among the worst in the NFL the year before Ryan's arrival (29th), but the Lions are coming off one of the worst defensive performances in NFL history last year. And the way the inept Cleveland Browns offense shredded them Saturday was an ugly flashback.

Writes Schultz:
(Stafford) has shown he’s not ready to step into NFL starting job yet. He has struggled with his feel in the pocket and anticipating defense adjustments, and it’s certainly way too early to assess leadership abilities. All three were knocks on him before the draft. Two exhibitions (one start) hardly define a career. I still believe Stafford will be a successful NFL quarterback. But the Lions would be making a mistake to rush him.

It's easy to careen from Stafford's good performances and say, "He's ready to start now," to saying after the struggles "Keep him on the bench for now." I'm of the opinion that Head Coach Jim Schwartz and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan haven't made the call yet, and will wait to see what they see at least through this weekend's game with the Colts.

Consistency is a difficult thing to ask for from a rookie for whom it's all so new -- unless you're Matt Ryan. But who is most consistent will decide who starts under center for the Lions in Week 1.

Discuss in The Den!