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A Look at Matt Ryan in Comparison to Top Quarterbacks' First Seven Years

Updated on November 17, 2015

November 2008


Top NFL Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan was named the Atlanta Falcons' starting quarterback from day one, when he was drafted as the third overall pick in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. He started his career in amazing form, as his first pass as a NFL quarterback was a 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins. That year he won the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week three times and was voted Rookie of the Year by Sporting News. He has played seven full seasons in the NFL and is halfway through number eight. There are always questions about whether Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback or not. So what better way to judge his progress than to look at his numbers side by side with others? How does his performance in the beginning years compare to elite quarterbacks' first seven years in the league? Let's examine how he measures up to Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees's standards.

Brady 2005


Tom Brady

Tom Brady is currently in his 16th year as a Patriots' quarterback after joining the team in 2000. His first year, he played in one game, but was not the starting QB. In 2001, he started in 14 of 15 games, then he became the Patriots' permanent starter in 2002. Over 96 total games in seven seasons, Brady completed 1,896 passes of 3,064 attempts at a rate of 57.4%. Total yards were 21,564 at an average of 7 yards per attempt. He was intercepted 78 times compared to his 147 touchdowns. Brady was allowed to be sacked 182 times. His passer rating for his first seven years was 81.9. Through those years he rushed for 435 yards in 239 attempts at an average of 1.8 yards per attempt and 3 rushing touchdowns. He lost 25 of his 59 fumbles.



Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning started with the Indianapolis Colts from 1998 to 2010. Although he was on the Colts' roster in 2011, he did not play due to injury. He was signed by the Denver Broncos in 2012 and remains their starting quarterback; however, there is recent news that he is injured and it is rumored that he might be sidelined. From 1998-2010, he played in 112 games for the Colts. During that time, he completed 2,464 of 3,880 attempts (63.5% completed). He totaled 29,442 yards at a rate of 7.6 yards per attempt. He racked up 216 touchdowns, 120 interceptions, and 139 sacks. His passer rating over those years was 92.8. He had 213 rushing attempts for 620 yards at an average of 2.9 yards per attempt and 9 rushing touchdowns. He lost 13 of 38 fumbles.

Rodgers 2008


Aaron Rodgers

Aaron Rodgers became a Green Bay Packers' quarterback in 2005. Over his first three years, he played in 7 games total. He was promoted to starting quarterback in 2008. He played in 69 games (62 as a starter) in his first seven years. He completed 61.4% of his passes during that time with 1,381 completed of 2,113 attempts. Rodgers passed for 17,366 over that time period at an approximate 8.2 yards per attempt. He threw 132 touchdowns, was intercepted 38 times, and sacked 160 times. His passer rating for his first seven years was 87.8. He attempted to rush 249 times for 1,183 yards and an average of 4.8 yards per attempt. He rushed for 16 touchdowns. He fumbled 31 times and lost the ball 11 times by fumble.

Brees 2008


Drew Brees

Drew Brees played one game in his first year as a San Diego Chargers' quarterback (2001). He became the Chargers' starting quarterback in 2002. In 2003, he started in 11 games and in 2004, he started in 15 games. He left the Chargers organization after the 2005 season and in 2006, he became the New Orleans Saints' starting quarterback and made an instant impact, leading the Saints to a Super Bowl victory and earning the MVP title. From 2001 to 2007, Brees completed 1,921 of 3,015 attempts at a rate of 62.3% of his passes in 91 total games. His total yards attempted over that time were 21,189, with an average of 7.2 yards per attempt. He passed for 134 touchdowns, with 82 interceptions and was sacked 126 times. Over those seven years, he received an 88.4 passer rating. He attempted to rush 200 times for 450 yards and an average of 3.3 yards per attempt. He scored 5 rushing touchdowns. Through seven seasons, he fumbled 41 times and lost 17 of his fumbles.


Matt Ryan

As previously mentioned, Matt Ryan has been the starting quarterback for the Falcons since 2008. He has started in every game for 7 years (110) except two because of injury. He has 2,508 completions (64%) for 3,916 attempts and 38,166 yards. He averages 7.2 yards per attempt. Ryan has thrown for 181 touchdowns and 91 interceptions. He was sacked 188 times. His passer rating over his first seven seasons was 91.1. Ryan attempted 248 rushes for 700 yards at an average of 2.8 yards per attempt and 5 touchdowns. He has lost 17 of 33 fumbles.

Stats Comparison First Seven Years

Comp/Attempts (%)
Yds (Avg Yds/Attempt)
Passing Touchdowns
Passer Rating
Rushing Attempts
Rushing Yds (Avg)
Rushing TD
Fumbles Lost
Matt Ryan
2508/3916 (64%)
28,166 (7.2)
700 (2.8)
Tom Brady
1,896/3,064 (57.4%)
21,564 (7.0)
435 (1.8)
Peyton Manning
2,464/3,880 (63.5%)
29,442 (7.6)
620 (2.9)
Aaron Rodgers
1,381/2,113 (61.4%)
17,366 (8.2)
1,183 (4.8)
Drew Brees
1,921/3,015 (62.3%)
21,189 (7.2)
450 (3.3)

A look at all statistics side by side for Matt Ryan, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees for their first seven years in the NFL.

What it Means

The point of the review was to see how Matt Ryan, who is relatively young in the field, compares to well-known, elite quarterbacks during their first seven years. It would be unfair to compare him to how they are now, as it is apparent that quarterbacks mature and improve over time and also depending on the team that surrounds them.

Compared to each quarterbacks' performance in their early years, Ryan is progressing nicely. His completion percentage is higher in his first seven years than the elites. He has the 2nd highest amount of total yards, as well as passing touchdowns; only Peyton Manning's were higher. His passer rating, rushing attempts, and rushing yards are also the second highest over seven seasons, falling only to Aaron Rodgers. Matt Ryan's fumbles were the second least among the elites; however, he was tied at second highest for the most fumbles lost. He recorded the 2nd most interceptions and the highest amount of sacks.

Ryan has many years left to play, barring a significant injury, and has the potential to rise up to be the elite quarterback of the future if he continues down the path he is now headed. The Falcons need to put a strong team around Ryan, provide more protection, get the problems with the new schemes worked out, and his successes will be boundless.

In what category do consider QB Matt Ryan?

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