ATLANTA – As the Los Angeles Rams represent the NFC in Super Bowl LIII, Atlanta Falcons fans and the team’s owner are looking ahead to next year and hoping for a big rebound.
The Falcons struggled throughout the year with injuries and poor play on the field. The team lost five in a row in the middle of the season before winning their last three. Even without some of his key playmakers, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 4,653 yards, 36 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions on the year. Ryan led Atlanta’s offense to rank fourth in the league in passing yards, third in passing touchdowns, and second in number of interceptions thrown.
Ryan’s performance in the face of adversity is giving Falcons owner Arthur Blank hope heading into the 2019 season.
“It’s hard to win in this league without a franchise quarterback,” Blank told ESPN.com. “We think we have one of the best. We couldn’t be more excited about that. I love that for 11 years, he’s been incredibly consistent. He’s a great leader on the field, off the field. He works hard, harder than anybody else. He understands his responsibilities and has developed wonderful leadership skills. And he has all the talent to take us where we want to be.”
The question though is, can most teams win Super Bowls with a franchise quarterback on a franchise contract. Looking at Ryan’s salary, he’s the second highest paid player in the National Football League by total value; and second highest paid by average salary per year, per overthecap.com.
Looking at the highest paid players by average salary per year, nine of the top 10 are quarterbacks. But, to find one of the quarterbacks playing in Super Bowl LIII, you must go to the 18th highest paid player in the NFL by average salary per year, which is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
The trend carries through in previous years as well:
- 2017: highest paid QB by average salary: Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford ($27 million); followed by Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr ($25 million)
- Super Bowl QBs: Tom Brady (15th highest paid quarterback by average salary at $20.5 million) Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz at
- (Note: QB Nick Foles was paid $5.5 million good for 29th in the league
- 2016: Highest paid QB was Andrew Luck at $24.59 million followed by quarterback Carson Palmer at $24.35 million
- Super Bowl QBs: Tom Brady (12th highest paid at $20.5 million) and Matt Ryan (7th highest paid QB at $20.7 million
- 2015: Highest Paid QB – QB Aaron Rodgers ($22 million); 2nd highest paid: Russell Wilson ($21.9 million)
- Super Bowl QBs – Peyton Manning (15th highest paid QB at $17 million); and Tom Brady (21st highest paid QB at $9 million)
- 2014: Highest Paid QB – QB Aaron Rodgers ($22 million); 2nd highest paid: Matt Ryan ($20.7 million)
- Super Bowl QBs: Tom Brady (17th highest paid QB at $9 million); Russell Wilson (59th highest paid QB at $749,176)
- 2013: Highest Paid QB – Aaron Rodgers ($22 million); 2nd highest paid Matt Ryan ($20.75 million)
- Super Bowl QBs: Peyton Manning (5th highest paid at $19.2 million) and Russell Wilson (61st highest paid at $749,176)
While there are other ways to measure the actual salaries, in recent years, only one quarterback ranked in the top five of highest annual salary has made the Super Bowl and that was Peyton Manning in 2003. Other than that, the quarterbacks in the Super Bowl have been ranked much lower with Russell Wilson still on his rookie contract when he played in back-to-back Super Bowls.
Looking ahead to next season, Aaron Rodgers tops the QB pay list at $33.5 million followed by Ryan at $30 million, Kirk Cousins at $28 million, Jimmy Garoppolo at $27.5 million, and Derek Carr at $25 million. Combined, those quarterbacks have won a total of one Super Bowl.
As of Super Bowl LIII, Tom Brady’s contract is set to pay him $15 million, the 20th highest in 2019. Of the top 10 highest paid quarterbacks next season, only one has won a Super Bowl (Drew Brees).
While a franchise quarterback is a great luxury for teams that are lucky enough to draft them, it may be more prudent to build a balanced team around the quarterback position and then look to fill that position. The Rams’ window may close quickly as they have to give their starting quarterback a new contract in a few seasons.