Matt Ryan threw more touchdowns during the 2016 regular season than he did in any other regular season of his NFL career. He also had the highest completion percentage of his career and quarterback rating of his career (no. 1 in the entire league, in fact) and threw for more yards than he’d ever thrown for while also throwing fewer interceptions. And still, Matt Ryan does not yet glow.
It sounds like a romantic football idea or a silly football idea or even a fake football idea, I will gladly admit. But some quarterbacks glow, and I’m sure you will admit that just the same. They stand there and they glow. They throw the ball and the ball glows. They come jogging out toward the huddle at the beginning of an offensive series and the field feels like it tilts toward them, toward their glow. (As a matter of context-building, someone like, say, Brock Osweiler — he reverse-glows. His presence absorbs light, then turns it into incomplete passes and interceptions. He’s a glow garbage compactor.) Tom Brady glows. Aaron Rodgers glows. Ben Roethlisberger glows (although, to be clear, he glows the way Sho’nuff glowed, not the way Bruce Leroy glowed). And it’s not a thing that comes with winning a Super Bowl (Dak Prescott appears to already glow, though I’m not all-the-way convinced yet). It comes with … I’m not sure. It just comes. It’s just there.
With 3:40 left in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks, Ryan threw a 4-yard touchdown to Mohamed Sanu, putting the Falcons up 35–13 with an extra point to follow and putting himself at three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and well over 300 yards for the day.
As he jogged toward the sideline, he raised both of his arms, but it felt less like a boast, less like a triumphant declaration, and more like relief. Right then, right in that moment, his career playoff record was 1–4; a 60-pound bag of disappointment sand tied to his belt wherever he went. The camera cut away to Pete Carroll, then quickly back to Ryan, and when it got to him this time he was shouting and yelling and woo-ing, his eyes moving from fire to exultation to fire and then back again. The Falcons thumped the Seahawks, 36–20.
Matt Ryan has never glowed. But he’s closer than he’s ever been. He almost glows right now. I don’t think he needs to win a Super Bowl to glow. But he’s gotta get close.