Matt Ryan, Arthur Blank, and Mike Smith could fix the economy


If you can take the unholy mess of scandal, incompetence and decay that was the 2007 Atlanta Falcons, and in just a few short months, turn it into a 4-2 team with a great running game, a solid defense, and the NFL's most promising rookie quarterback, I believe that you can fix anything.

We'll start with Matt Ryan. If schools were closed today to observe Matt Ryan Day, and the next letter you mailed featured a postage stamp with Matt Ryan's face on it, I'm not sure that would be excessive praise. If everyone spoke of Matt Ryan like Tony Kornheiser speaks of Brett Favre, it would feel appropriate and slightly understated.

The Falcons are 4-2. Ryan was brilliant yesterday against a tough Chicago defense. He made a clutch throw to get the Falcons in field goal position; a throw that not too many other quarterbacks make.

All of that puts Matt Ryan well ahead of the curve for a rookie quarterback. It justifies any Falcons fan being excited about the next 10 years of Matt Ryan's career. It justifies glowing columns like this one comparing Matt Ryan to Tom Brady.

But I think there's even more room for Matt Ryan adulation. To really appreciate where he is now, you have to look back at where the Falcons were a year ago. When they drafted him, I wrote of Ryan, "I can't think of an NFL rookie who has ever been in a tougher or more unique situation." In almost every possible way, he was set up to fail.

He inherited a team that went 4-12 last year, and really, their record was the least of their problems. Michael Vick did his best to bring down the franchise, and any damage that Vick left undone, Bobby Petrino happily stepped in to do himself. The Falcons were in about as bad a shape as a franchise not owned by Al Davis can be.

And now, it's like none of that ever happened. Arthur Blank moved past everything, and just looked forward. He made a great hire in Mike Smith, they made a great decision to draft Matt Ryan, and today, they're tied for the lead in what is probably football's 2nd-toughest division.

It's amazing, the turnaround that's happened in Atlanta. The franchise is not only perfectly stable and respectable, but they're winning football games. Against good teams, even. It's remarkable. I'd like to see the three of them put in charge of something more important.