In some corners of South Florida, the Jake Long-vs.-Matt Ryan debate rages on, five years after the Dolphins took the former over the latter with the No. 1 overall pick.
But take solace in this, those of you still stewing: The offensive lineman and franchise quarterback have the same number of playoff wins.
For all Ryan’s excellence — a résumé that includes a 33-5 home record and 127 career touchdowns — he never has gotten it done when it matters the most.
Ryan is 0-3 in the playoffs, including a 24-2 road embarrassment against the Giants in last year’s wild card round. In his three losses, Ryan has thrown three touchdown passes and four interceptions, and hasn’t gone over 200 passing yards once.
He has yet another chance to shake the “little-game player” reputation Sunday, when his top-seeded Falcons play host to the Seahawks and their swarming defense.
“You learn a lot about your preparation going into them,” Ryan said this week when asked what he has taken from his three postseason disappointments. “At the same time, I think you learn you have to be on top of opportunities that present itself during the game.
“Each game comes down to four or five different plays and it comes down to who makes those plays. Hopefully, we’ll be able to go out there and make the plays when we need to.”
Atlanta’s past two playoff losses haven’t been nearly as close as Ryan is letting on. As is the case this season, the Falcons were the NFC’s top seed in the 2010 season. But a week off did nothing to prevent the 48-21 thumping from the Packers back then.
And that history should be more than a little scary for the Falcons. Those Packers, with Joe Philbin as their offensive coordinator, slipped into the playoffs as a wild card team and rode a hot streak to a world championship.
Many believe this season’s Seahawks have the same look. Seattle has won six consecutive games, outscoring those opponents by an average of 24 points. In Washington on Sunday, the Seahawks scored the game’s final 24 points to rally past the Redskins and the ailing Robert Griffin III in the wild card round.
Remarkably, Russell Wilson is the only quarterback still standing from the heralded 2012 rookie class, and cornerback Richard Sherman does more than swat away performance-enhancing drug allegations. He’s the face of the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom, a secondary that surrenders just 203 passing yards per game.
“Some of the bigger corners that we’ve seen the entire year,” Ryan said. “[Marshall] is playing at a high level.”
Between Ryan’s playoff history and the defense he will have to crack, there isn’t a ton of confidence in Atlanta nationally.
Oddsmakers have made the Falcons a slight favorite, based solely on the game being held at the Georgia Dome. 1 One seeds usually get more respect; on On the AFC side, rested Denver is favored by double digits over visiting Baltimore.
That only ratchets up the pressure more on Ryan and Mike Smith, his coach for all five seasons. Like Ryan, Smith has yet to win in the postseason.
“When you start talking about the markers of success, the first thing everybody talks about as a coach is you want to be focused,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere not only for the players, but the fans. When the National Football League comes out and shows its best is when you get in the playoffs.”
Unfortunately for Ryan, the same hasn’t been said about him. And if nothing else, Dolphins fans can smile about that.