I posted some early notes on the Falcon message board about this weekend's game between Atlanta and Philadelphia. I mentioned offhand that Ryan's performance against Chicago put him on a pace to rack up 3,000 passing yards. That remark got a good bit of response, so I thought I'd hit it a little more here.
3,000 passing yards would be quite a feat for a rookie QB in a run-oriented offense. It's certainly a possibility. In a 16 game season, it would require an average of 187.5 yards per game. So far, Ryan has reached that mark in three games out of six. It's also worth noting that his season low of 158 yards (which he had twice, on the road against both Tampa and Carolina) equates to a 2500 yard season.
But just for kicks, I decided to see how Ryan's rookie season stacks up with the first seasons played by other well known quarterbacks. I know it really doesn't mean anything, but it seemed like something fun to try.
So I picked the names of 10 quarterbacks. I chose Ryan, both Mannings, Brady, Romo, Favre, McNabb (since the Falcons are up against Philly this weekend), Marino, Elway, and Aikman. With Favre and Brady, their first seasons played were actually their second seasons in the league. That gives them an edge over the rest, but I figured what the heck, I'll keep them on the list.
But Romo didn't start until his fourth year. That's not a fair comparison for the guys who started games as rookies, so I replaced him with Steve Young. That's a monster list of Pro Bowl and Hall of Fame QBs, plus the Falcon rookie.
I figured that was a pretty strong list, and I started looking up some numbers. So how does Ryan's performance so far stack up against the first years of these greats?
After six games, Ryan has a QB rating of 82.9. That ranks fourth out of the ten QBs - or possibly third. Marino is first by a mile with a 96.0 rating in 1983. The two second-year QBs, Brady in 2001 and Favre in 1992, were the others ahead of Ryan.
Favre is the questionable one. He didn't start until his arrival in Green Bay, but he did throw four attempts in token appearances for Atlanta in 1991. If those are included with his 1992 stats, his rating drops below Ryan's. Also, if you take the combined stats of the other nine QBs, their first seasons come out with a QB rating of 72.4. Ryan's 82.9 stacks up well with these greats.
Moving on to other measures, Ryan has completed 57.76% of his passes. Again, that ranks fourth on the list behind the trio of Marino, Favre, and Brady. (This time Favre tops the list at 64.1%, ahead of 63.9% for Brady. Marino's 1983 season is barely ahead of Ryan at 58.4%.) The other nine quarterbacks combined to complete 56.5% of their passes in their first seasons, so Ryan is slightly ahead of the pack.
Ryan has averaged 7.23 yards per pass attempt. That would rank second on the list, behind only Marino's 7.47 average in 1983. The other nine QBs combined to average 6.42 yards per attempt.
To date, Ryan has averaged 192 yards per game. This is a dicey statistic to use, because not all of the QBs on the list started every game in their first season. I might go back some time and use the box scores to knock out the stats where those guys didn't start. But for now, Ryan ranks fourth out of the ten QBs. Peyton tops the list at 233 yards per game. (That shouldn't be a surprise, considering he threw 575 pass attempts in his rookie year.)
Ryan comes in sixth out of ten for percentage of pass attempts that have gone for touchdowns. That shouldn't be surprising given Atlanta's run-oriented offense. But the gem is that Ryan has had only 1.8% of his pass attempts intercepted. That's the best mark out of the ten QBs on the list. Marino is second at 2.0%. The other nine QBs combined had 4.0% of their passes intercepted, so Ryan has been absolutely fabulous at maintaining possession.
Best of all, he's 4-2 as a starter. Brace yourself for this one, folks - in the 38 years since the NFL and AFL merged, no quarterback had started and won 4 out of his first 6 games in the league. (Most don't start their first six games as professionals, let alone win.) Ryan is the first to achieve that mark.
Clearly, Ryan has accounted for himself quite well in his first six games as a pro.