Around the League will examine one key figure under pressure on each team heading into the 2012 season. Next up: The Atlanta Falcons.
The quarterback has played at an elite level over the last two seasons, completing just under 62 percent of passes with 57 touchdowns against 21 interceptions for a passer rating of 91.6. During that span, the Falcons are 23-9 and won the NFC South in 2010, the same season Ryan went to his one and only Pro Bowl. Ryan's offensive output could increase even more as the Falcons are moving to a more vertical passing attack under new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
After four seasons, however, the one blemish on Ryan's resume is a lack of personal and team success in the postseason.
In his playoff debut, Ryan completed 26 of 40 pass attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals to cap off his rookie season. Ryan also was intercepted twice and took a fourth-quarter safety that gave the Cardinals an 11-point lead. Against the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in 2010, Ryan was 20 of 29 for 186 yards and a touchdown, but he was intercepted twice by Tramon Williams in the final 2:30 of the first half, with Williams returning the second interception 70 yards for a touchdown. This past January, Ryan was 24 of 41 for 199 yards in Atlanta's 24-2 loss to the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Overall, Ryan has completed a high percentage of his passes (63.6) but averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt and has more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3), dropping his passer rating to a paltry 71.2. The Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs over Ryan's four seasons in Atlanta.
Football remains the ultimate team sport, so it would be silly to suggest that Ryan, and Ryan alone, is the reason why the Falcons haven't won a postseason game in the Mike Smith era. Pinning it all on Ryan also would add insult to injury, as he has missed out on $1.5 million in performance bonuses tied to "playoff wins" over the last three seasons.