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Mark BradleyMark Bradley

ESPN survey: Matt Ryan is a second-tier quarterback

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He wears No. 2, and he's ranked in Tier 2. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

He wears No. 2, and he’s ranked in Tier 2. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

In the effort to rank the NFL’s quarterbacks, Mike Sando of ESPN Insider has conducted a survey of 26 front-office types. For the Atlanta Falcons, the good news is that Matt Ryan ranks No. 8 overall. (Though he’s tied with three others for the eighth spot.) The sobering news is that some of those FO types are quoted, albeit anonymously, as feeling chilly toward Matty Ice.

Sando’s ranking groups five quarterbacks into the top tier: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck. The second tier begins with Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger. Thence cometh the Iceman. Tied with Ryan at No. 8 are Tony Romo, Russell Wilson and Eli Manning. Joe Flacco ranks 12th. Cam Newton, who heads Tier 3, is 16th.

Of Ryan, Sando writes:

I was surprised to see Ryan command zero Tier 1 votes and six Tier 3 votes. Nearly everyone said Ryan needed to prove himself in the playoffs. There was a feeling Ryan would never be able to carry his team the way the very best QBs have.

The comments aren’t laudatory. One “personnel evaluator” called Ryan “the most disappointing guy to me.” A “former GM” characterized him as “a guy that is a little bit hesitant and cannot pull the trigger.” Another “evaluator” deemed him “a solid starter who will never be a top five quarterback.”

Another “former GM” offered this not-exactly-ringing defense: “If you told me I’m getting a guy who can win 10 games and get you to the championship game and lose, I’d take it in a heartbeat.”

After six seasons, that’s the consensus — outside the Flowery Branch complex if not within it — regarding the Falcons’ highest-paid and best-known player: He’s very good but not quite great. Still, if you see that as proof the Falcons will never win a Super Bowl with Ryan, go back to Sando’s survey. Six of the past nine Super Bowl champs have had Tier 2 quarterbacks.

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