It’s not Matt Ryan’s fault. Don’t blame him.
He’s just a rookie, a good one, no doubt. And Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank (along with, yeah, rookie head coach Mike Smith) made the right call in naming the Boston College grad starting QB for the 2008 season.
But he’s no Michael Vick. And if Blank is expecting the young nor’easter to make this city forget about Vick, well, don’t blame Ryan if that never happens.
Because it won’t. Not for a while. Not in this city. Not in ATL. Not to fans who embraced the Falcons in droves, in large part, due to Vick.
It’s a bit foggy but if you can shake the ugly images of the last couple of years – the images (and fact) that landed Vick in federal prison – you might recall how Vick lifted football to heights in this town the sport had not seen since, what, Steve Bartkowski? Jeff George? See what I mean?
Sure, Vick was flawed. (I’m still talking on the field.) He was all feet and too little arm for the purists. But for Atlantans, he was theirs. He was them. He was skilled. And yet he was his own man.
Michael Vick refused to fit into someone else’s mold of a QB – as stubborn and wrong-headed as that tact may have been. He kept screaming, “I am a quarterback!” even as many tried to slot him elsewhere.
He took Atlanta to the playoffs twice, reaching the 2004 NFC championship game, to lose to Donovan McNabb and the Philadelphia Eagles. To many, it was not enough. But to Atlantans, Vick was still theirs, flaws and all.
Then he let them down.
Now, after blips of mediocrity – named Leftwich and Harrington – Matt Ryan is trying to become theirs.
It won’t happen soon, and it’s not his fault. He’s a solid talent and he earned the top nod. He’ll play well in some games, and like a rookie in others.
But he won’t replace Michael Vick. Not in some hearts. Even the broken ones.
Photo courtesy Getty images