Terry Fontenot: Matt Ryan is the right leader of this team

USA TODAY Sports

As the Falcons begin the 2021 season, they’re kind of tweeners when it comes to being competitive.

They have a new General Manager and a new coach. They just traded one of the faces of the franchise. They’ve had three consecutive losing seasons, bottoming out at 4-12 last year.

But they also still have a franchise quarterback — one they’re tied to contractually and financially for likely at least the next two seasons.

Matt Ryan hasn’t really been the problem for Atlanta, and should still have good years left at the age of 36. But more than how he’s capable of performing, G.M. Terry Fontenot feels like Ryan is still the right man to be the Falcons’ QB1.

“On the outside, you just have the game tape,” Fontenot told Scott Bair of the Falcons’ website. “Being inside the building, you also see the practice tape and the human element. Being around Matt, you see who he is as the leader, the worker, where his mindset is and how he feels he has a chip on his shoulder and that he has something to prove. Knowing not just that he has the physical talent to do it, but that he has the right mindset to be the same leader of men. That passion you see on the sidelines — when you’re in the building with him you see it 24/7. It doesn’t stop. It really doesn’t stop.

“The film evaluation, whether it’s in a game or in practice, shows where he is. So does the mindset, the passion, the intensity that makes him the man that he is. It checks all the boxes. He’s the right leader of this team.”

Fontenot has maintained that Atlanta won’t be shy about looking for options at quarterback, knowing that Ryan is likely on the back nine of his career. He reiterated that stance, but with the caveat that the Falcons’ current quarterback is still capable of playing at a high level.

“We like our quarterback room, but we’re always going to be looking,” Fontenot said. “Whether it’s this year or next year, in the draft or through trades, we’re always going to be looking to bring in quarterbacks. That doesn’t change at all. Just because you don’t take one in the first round doesn’t mean you can’t find the right future guy.

“But, with all that being said, we hope that future is way down the road. If you’re talking to Matt, he’s going to say, ‘Slow down. I’ve got lots of time left.'”

Ryan led the league in passing attempts and completions in 2020. He threw for 4,581 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.