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ESPN’s Ron Jaworski Ranks Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan Ahead of New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees in QB Countdown

July 19th, 2013 at 1:27 PM
By Graham Waldrop

It's been a see saw battle between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South.  Since 2010, the two teams have taken turns winning the division.  Much of that is due to the play of their exceptional quarterbacks: Atlanta's Matt Ryan and New Orleans' Drew Brees.

'Drew Brees' photo (c) 2007, Ed Schipul - license:

ESPN's Ron Jaworski, who is one of the more analytical anchors ESPN employs, has been breaking down the top 32 quarterbacks in the NFL over the summer.  Now the list is reaching its end, as Jaworski is now breaking down the top five quarterbacks (in his opinion) in the NFL.

A couple of days ago, Jaworski revealed that he has pegged Drew Brees as the number six quarterback overall, and yesterday it was revealed that he has slated Matt Ryan as the number five quarterback overall.  

In his analysis of Ryan, Jaworski said:

Ryan has been terrific in pressure situations throughout his five-year career. Twenty-three game-winning drives, 16 fourth quarter comebacks. The difference in 2012? Under first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the offense was restructured to feature Matt Ryan.

Ryan threw the ball far more on first down than he had in any previous season. In fact, only two quarterbacks threw for more first down yardage than Ryan. Despite a running game than ranked 29th in the league, Ryan was outstanding off play-action with a quarterback rating of 118. Twenty-two of Ryan’s 46 completions of 20 yards or more came off play-action.


Matt Ryan Drew Brees
Passing Yards: 4,718Passing Yards: 5,1777
TD: 32TD: 43
INT: 14INT:19
QBR: 74.5QBR: 67.9


Ryan beat Brees in terms of QBR, and throwing fewer INTs.  Stats don't tell the entire story, however.  The Falcons had a better season than the Saints, winning the division and going to the NFC Championship game, while the Saints missed the playoffs.  This can't all be put on Brees, as the Saints had one of the worst defenses in the history of the league.  Brees also threw the ball a lot more than Ryan.  He had 55 more passing attempts at 670 to Ryan's 615, which explains the higher passing yards that Brees accumulated.  

In terms of overall success, one could also point to Brees' overall playoff success being much better than Ryan's.  Brees has claimed a Super Bowl, and has a 5-4 record in the postseason.  Ryan has not won a Super Bowl and right now, has a 1-4 record in the postseason.

It's clear looking at these statistics that both of these quarterbacks deserve to be mentioned among football's best.  Despite 19 interceptions, Brees put up another impressive season, even though his team failed to meet expectations.

Ryan put up his best statistical season last year, and he will have a better grasp of Dirk Koetter's playbook with this being his second year working with the highly vaunted offensive coordinator.  There's no reason as to why he can't improve this season.  While it may be premature to rank Ryan ahead of Brees given both quarterbacks' body of work, it's not unfair of Jaworski to award Ryan with a high ranking on his list.

At this point, it's hard to compare either quarterback to each other in terms of an overall comparison.  Brees has had a much longer career in the NFL and has accomplished more than Ryan has at this point.

Brees didn't win his first Super Bowl until his ninth season in the NFL.  This is only Ryan's sixth season.  In terms of overall body of work, Brees has had the more accomplished career.  But he's had a lot longer to accomplish what he has than Ryan.  There's no reason to think that Ryan can't have as good a career as Brees, if not better. In terms of the here and now, this one is a toss up.  Both quarterbacks are at the top of their game, and many teams who don't have a reliable quarterback would love to have either one of these guys under center. 

Regardless of who's better, this will only amplify the rivalry come the first game of the season.  The Falcons will head to the Super Dome to take on the Saints on September 8th.  

Who would you take?  Matt Ryan or Drew Brees?

Photo: Mark Runyon | Football Schedule


Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Falcons, Drew Brees, Football, Matt Ryan, New Orleans Saints, NFL, Ron Jaworski

One Response to “ESPN’s Ron Jaworski Ranks Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan Ahead of New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees in QB Countdown”

  1.  williams says:

    As you say, Brees has had a longer career in which to put up his impressive numbers. Time will tell who is the greater of the two; however, I agree with Jaws, Ryan had a far better season than Brees in 2012 and deserves to be ranked higher.

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