White, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver with 10,863 yards on 808 receptions, played with Ryan from 2008 until White’s final NFL season in 2015. Over that span, Ryan completed 643 passes to White for 8,422 yards and 52 touchdowns.
White wasn’t the least bit surprised when Ryan became the first player to reach the $30 million-per-year mark in signing a five-year extension that includes $100 million guaranteed.
“Matt deserves all the money he’s going to get, man,” White told ESPN. “He’s worked hard. He’s gotten his teams to multiple playoff appearances. He won the MVP. They had a Super Bowl run. When you have all the accolades that he’s accomplished — he’s the fastest quarterback to throw for 40,000 yards — there’s just so many things. And him just playing at a high level each and every year, it commands big dollars when you put out his résumé.
“The only thing left is winning the Super Bowl. Everything else speaks volumes of how consistent he’s been year in and year out in the NFL.”
Critics still point to Ryan’s 4-6 career playoff record and how he was part of a Falcons team that blew a 28-3 lead in a 34-28 overtime loss to New England in Super Bowl LI. White believes the criticism is unwarranted.
“Football is such a team sport, and you have to have so many ducks line up, so it takes more than a quarterback to win it,” White said. “You’re going to get criticized when you make as much money as he has over the last 10 years. But that doesn’t have anything to do with his play. It’s been consistent. You just have to find a way to win the big one.”
White thinks the opportunity exists now for Ryan to bring home that coveted Super Bowl trophy, something fellow top quarterbacks Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger have accomplished already. The Super Bowl is at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season, giving Ryan and the Falcons an opportunity to become the first team to play a Super Bowl in its own stadium.
“I think the window for us is wide open for the next couple years,” White said. “We have all our skill positions under contract. You’ve got Matt under contract. We have a very young defense that’s very, very speedy and very, very good at this point. I think it’s the best defense we’ve probably had around there since I was around there. We just have to find a way to win enough games to have playoff games at home to get back to the Super Bowl and win it this time.”
Having Ryan playing at an MVP level certainly would help the cause. He admitted missing opportunities to make plays last season, when the Falcons fell 15-10 to the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional playoff matchup. Now Ryan enters the 2018 season armed with a weapon in rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley opposite five-time Pro Bowler Julio Jones. The Falcons will again rely on the running back tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. They hope Ryan and the backs will benefit from better blocking with the additions of guard Brandon Fusco and tight end Logan Paulsen. And the expectation is for more success and variety in Year 2 with Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator.
Health always factors into the equation, and Ryan has avoided missing significant time due to injury.
“His best trait? His hard work and his toughness,” White said of Ryan. “That man, his preparation for games, he doesn’t leave no stone unturned. He gives us the best chance to win every Sunday. And then him just being tough. He’s been around a long time. I don’t know how many games he’s missed, maybe just a couple when he hurt his toe [two in 2009]. I recall him being hit a lot, but I just don’t recall him missing games. For a guy to be that durable tells you a lot about him. He loves to play this game. He loves to go out there and compete.”
Source : ESPN