Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted his team wasn’t tough enough last year.
But the toughest part for him might have been watching the beating his quarterback was taking.
“It wasn’t easy,’’ Blank said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “I think it wasn’t easy for his teammates, I know that. I saw the stress that it put on them. They were trying to protect him. They weren’t always able to do it consistently. That’s not to say they didn’t do it at all. They just weren’t able to do it at the level that they would like to do it.’’
The protection problem became a self-perpetuating cycle, as the Falcons trailed so much they had to throw more, putting their $100 million quarterback in harm’s way. Ryan was sacked 44 times, the most of his career.
But Blank said the protection issues caused more than physical duress (though Ryan didn’t have any major injuries), leading his quarterback to make mistakes of his own, also setting new career highs with 17 interceptions and four fumbles lost.
“Matt had a fair number of turnovers this year,” Blank said. “He would be the first to say in some games, he probably pressed more than he probably would have liked feeling the weight of this team on his own back which, in a sense, is to his credit. But in a sense, it’s not a good thing, because you end up making some decisions that are not always the best decisions. So it was a difficult year, I think, for all of us, including Matt, and certainly the folks that tried to protect him.’’
The Falcons don’t have enough draft picks to fix all the line problems at once, as the defensive side needs to be addressed as well.
But it’s clear he feels an obligation to protect his biggest investment.