FanHouse Talks to Matt Ryan
Ryan Wilson: Hey, Matt, thanks for taking time out to talk. First of all, congratulations on Rookie of the Year.
Matt Ryan: I appreciate that, thank you.
RW: Let's just go through a few things here because I know you're busy down there in Tampa, because I guess Axe Hair doesn't sell itself.
RW: But (laughing) ... just going back to what you've been through the last year and a half. As you finished up your college season and you were preparing for the combine and all that comes with working towards the draft, Mike Mayock was the first guy to say that Matt Ryan was going to be a legitimate NFL quarterback and there were some people who were skeptical about it early on. Is that a thing with most college guys -- maybe the guys you interacted with while you were training? Do they listen to Mayock and Todd McShay and Mel Kiper? Do they have a sense of who's up, who's down and where their stock might be headed going into the draft?
MR: No question about it. As much as you might try to distance yourself from it to try and keep some perspective, you hear it because it's on all the time. You hear about Mike Mayock's mock drafts and all the different stuff he does for the NFL Network. And you kind of have an understanding of where he thinks you'll fall and, you know, he's pretty good. You take a look at what he did last year, he's got a good feel for how things are going to shake out. I've been impressed with his knowledge of ... the college scouting and development into the NFL. Guys are definitely aware of where they stand with that, some more so than others.
RW: You were drafted third overall into a situation in Atlanta where they had fallen on hard times both on the field and off the field. Do you think going into that situation where the expectations were kind of low worked better for you than, say, if you were Aaron Rodgers, who had the unenviable task of trying to follow Brett Favre?
MR: You know, I guess so. And I only say that because I really don't know anything else. I think it ended up being a great situation. Not because I shy away from high expectations or anything like that, because I certainly think I set expectations for myself that are extremely high. But it ended up being the right situation because I've got great people around me. In the front office, the head coach, our offensive coordinator, and then my teammates. So I think I landed in a great situation and am happy to be a part of getting this organization going back in the right direction.
RW: Right. I mean, what you were able to accomplish your first year -- not just you, but the entire organization -- was just ... no one on the outside saw that coming. To follow up on that, was there a specific play, or a specific moment where you said, "you know what, I kind of get what's going on." I understand that's it's always a learning process, and for a rookie quarterback especially, sometimes everything's a blur. But for a lot of fans and media, that play that made people say "this guy really gets it," was the pass to Mike Jenkins against the Bears with six seconds to go. Greg Cosell of NFL Films called it the best pass of the season.
MR: Wow. That's high praise. That was one of the moments for me, personally, and I think for our team, being a young team, that was a moment for me that proved that we could go into a tough game, play a close game, and make the play when we needed to make the play to win the game. It's definitely a confidence-builder. I wouldn't say that I felt totally comfortable after that play or as a result of that play. But it certainly was a confidence booster. And I think, likewise, it was for our team. We proved that even though the situation was tough late in the game, we can make the plays that we needed to make in terms of completing a pass and also nailing a deep kick.
RW: In 2004, when Ben Roethlisberger took over the starting job in Week 2, rumor had it that as a rookie he didn't have the entire playbook. He was doing half-field reads, he wasn't making any of the line calls, or doing any audible-ing, It seems like from very early on for you, maybe even Week 1, you were doing all of those things. Was that the case? Did you have the full playbook from the start? Because it certainly looked like it.
MR: To my knowledge at this point, we had the full offense in. They could break something out this offseason that I haven't seen (laughs). From the start, we had a bunch of different things in, and I had a good amount of responsibility at the line of scrimmage to do some different things. I think as the season went on, we found what we were as an offense. Because there were a bunch of new people working together and trying to find the rhythm of our offense.
RW: You guys faced the Cardinals in the wild card. From the offense's point of view, what weaknesses were you guys trying to attack in Arizona's defense?
MR: We felt like they were a pretty good defense. Like any week, we wanted to set the tempo with the run and we wanted to get out and try and run the ball effectively. It didn't end up happening. Their front seven played really well. I think one of the things that we did successfully against them was the no-huddle. And we kind of got them out of the rhythm they were in and we were able to move the ball and score some point with that. I wouldn't be surprised if Pittsburgh goes to a little bit of that to try and catch them off guard.
RW: You obviously didn't play the Steelers this year, but how do you prepare for that type of defense if you're Kurt Warner or even if you're Matt Ryan?
MR: The first thing with any defense -- and especially a defense that gets pressure -- you gotta be on top of your protections. And that's the first thing in terms of your game plan. You've got to be rock solid there, understand what's going to make your hot [read], understand when you're going to be protected. The 3-4 scheme adds to it, adds to some of the things you have to prepare for in terms of your protections. With that said, after that it's about understanding what you're looking at and knowing when you have time to hold onto it, and when you have to get the ball out of your hand. And I think if he does that against their pressure defense he'll be fine.
RW: Going back to the draft, and even as you came into the league, was there a Boston College alum -- like Hasselbeck, for example -- or another NFL quarterback, former or current, who you may have leaned on for advice, or what to expect, or how to deal with certain situations that might come up football-related?
MR: You know what, I actually had a chance to talk to Rich Gannon, who had been an MVP in the NFL before at the position, prior to the season and just got some different things off of him. He was very helpful in terms of your routine week to week, and getting a feel for how to set up your weeks. That was big for me. I also talked to Matt Hasselbeck a couple different times prior to the draft, got to know him a little bit. You know, just try to pick their brains about some different things and try and use it to create my routine. But ultimately -- and both guys said this -- you have to find something that works for you. Each person is unique in the way that they prepare and what works for them. The trick is to figure that out as fast as you can.
RW: What do you do to get better next year?
MR: The biggest thing I think you have to do is self-scout. And you've got to take a look at what you've done this past year. Maybe some of the keys other teams are reading on ...
RW: Like Bertrand Berry saying that you were giving away the snap count?
MR: Yeah -- all those kind of things. You've got to look at and as a rookie, you've got so much on your plate just making the transition in your first year that stuff you don't often think about. So you've got to take a look at those things and you've got to make some changes. That's what my focus is this offseason.
RW: You came into a situation with a new everything -- new general manager, new head coach and you were the new face of the franchise, the new quarterback. The word on the street three months out from the draft are that the Lions are interested in Matthew Stafford. That could obviously change a million times between now and then. But what advice would you give Stafford going into a situation where the Lions have been pretty bad recently and they've just hired a new coach and have a new GM in place?
MR: My advice to him would be to focus on the things that are important to being successful. There are a lot of responsibilities that come with it and that's part of your job and you have to take care of it. But at the end of the day, you're drafted to play the position and to play it well. So tailor every decision that you make professionally towards that -- towards being successful when it comes to playing the position. Don't worry about being the face of the franchise, don't worry about resurrecting an organization. Don't worry about those things, just do your job.
RW: Finally, you're in Tampa with Axe Hair. And you're doing something called "100 Girls Stamp of Approval." How does that work?
MR: Axe Hair has it set up online that you can upload a picture and 100 girls will either give you their stamp of approval or give you the denial. Hopefully they're getting the stamp of approval. But if they're getting the denial, it's OK. They can pick up some of the Axe Hair products and take care of that.
RW: Right. So it's a win-win.
MR: It's a win-win, either way. Don't be discouraged if you don't get the stamp of approval. You can get some Axe Hair to give you the stamp of approval.
RW: That's all I got, Matt. I really appreciate you taking time out. I know you're busy down there. Best of luck.