#1 a must-win environment for many teams. Programs are motivat von dasg234 07.10.2019 02:33

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Matt Ryan tried not to dwell on it. You know: Out of sight, out of mind.By chance, the dreadful memories of a 28-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFC Championship Game resurfaced for the Atlanta Falcons quarterback. Ryan hadnt watched the game in its entirety since before training camp of 2014. But in October, a Showtime documentary about former teammate Tony Gonzalez incorporated clips from the gut-wrenching defeat.I saw a little bit of it, Ryan said. Obviously, yeah, theres disappointment that goes along with that.Ryan no doubt wondered what might have been had he found an open Gonzalez on a fourth-and-4 from San Franciscos 10-yard line late in regulation, or what might have been had the Falcons sustained the momentum of a 17-0 start.Its like any game, right? Its not just one thing, Ryan said. There are a handful of opportunities that come up throughout a game. Certainly, we had our chances when we were in the tight red zone. I think we had four opportunities from inside the [20]. Youd like to have any one of those back where you could make that play. But thats the nature of the game when you fall short, right? You wish you did some things differently.Critics might have viewed Ryan differently had he guided the Falcons to the Super Bowl that year. Instead, the skeptics see a player with a 1-4 playoff record and no Super Bowl appearances?entering a crucial ninth year. The talk of Matty Ice being among the elite quarterbacks has cooled, at least outside of the Falcons organization.A recent ESPN survey conducted with 42 league insiders?placed Ryan?in the bottom half of 13?second-tier of quarterbacks behind first-tier quarterbacks Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger.I believe Matt is an elite quarterback, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. Matt was the third pick in the draft [in 2008]. Hes played a lot of good football. But being an elite quarterback also has to do with the people around you. Nobody is elite on their own.Ryan, 31, isnt consumed with outside perception. Its been his motto to block out the noise. However, hes not totally immune to it. It annoys him, to a degree.I think a lot of times, maybe it affects some of the people around you more than it affects you, and that part of it isnt fun, the typically reserved Ryan said. Obviously, when your wife is pissed off about something, that part of it isnt fun.Criticism has mounted, in large part, as a result of Ryans financial status. He enters the 2016 season as one of 11 quarterbacks averaging $20 million-plus per season.?Eight of the?11 -- Cam Newton, Joe Flacco, Brady,?Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Rodgers and Roethlisberger?-- have made it to the Super Bowl, with the latter seven winning titles. And two of the others?--?Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck --?have four and three playoffs wins, respectively, so more than Ryan.When a quarterback is set to make more than $100 million over a five-year period and eats up more than $20 million in cap space each of the next three seasons, the standards are raised.Its kind of the going rate, Ryan said of the $100 million plateau. Thats not to be funny or anything. As you see now, we play our position and we go out and compete, and this is what Ive done since 13 -- played quarterback. Its never been about [money]. Im not complaining. [Money] is just one of the things that come along with it. With that comes added criticism, and theres a certain expectation.What I need to do is do my job as best I can and not worry about what everyone else thinks about what youre getting paid. This is something that comes up for every quarterback. It doesnt matter. It doesnt affect the outcome of games. For me, the things that are important are the things that affect the outcome of games. Thats what I focus on.Ryan signed his contract in July 2013, well before the Falcons experienced a dramatic freefall. Theyve missed the playoffs the past three seasons while compiling an 18-30 mark. Ryan surpassing 4,500 passing yards in each of those seasons didnt really matter in the grand scheme.Ryan points the finger at himself often, and the team admires his candor. Regardless, its hard to fathom how the Falcons imploded so suddenly.There are a lot of reasons you dont win, Ryan said. Theres been a lot of turnover; theres been a lot of change. Three years ago, it was a four-win season. The year after, it was not a very good season [6-10]. Last season was a little bit improved from those two. We just need to keep improving, keep getting better. And I like the team that we have now.Only four NFC title game starters remain -- Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who just returned after a one-year stop in Arizona. The franchises all-time leading receiver, Roddy White,?was released.?There is a new coach in second-year man Dan Quinn, who replaced Mike Smith. Shanahan is Ryans third offensive coordinator since 2011.The relationship between Ryan and Shanahan is, undoubtedly, the key component for the offense moving forward and arguably the most crucial element for the teams success.?Ryan freely admitted the offense was overwhelming at times last season after playing in similar-style offenses under coordinators Mike Mularkey and Dirk Koetter.For seven years, youre on autopilot out there, Ryan said. Youre not thinking about all those things. And then it takes time away during the offseason of trying to get things down pat so when you get out on the field, you can teach and help from that capacity. That change is difficult.Ryan continues to emphasize how much more comfortable he feels in Year 2 of Shanahans scheme. The Falcons aided his cause by adding a three-time Pro Bowl center in Alex Mack, complementary receivers to Jones in Mohamed Sanu and rookie tight end Austin Hooper, and a new voice to bounce ideas off of in veteran quarterback Matt Schaub. None of those enhancements will matter if Ryan and Shanahan dont remain on the same page.Much has been made about the rollouts and bootlegs expected of Ryan in Shanahans offense. The general consensus is such plays neglect Ryans primary strength as an accurate pocket passer.When you look at our outside-the-pocket stuff last year, we were really, really efficient, Ryan said. I know that was a question I had to answer a lot about, Do you like this? Do you not like this? It helped us. And at the end of the day, if it helps us, I love it. And its actually something I do pretty well. I throw it really well on the run.Ive also learned a lot about myself too, as Ive gotten older in my career, morphing some of the things that I like into his scheme. I thought Kyle did a great job of adjusting to that and taking some of what I did, taking some of what he did, and making it our offense moving forward.Ryan took it upon himself this offseason to fine-tune aspects totally under his control, such as footwork and improving deep-ball accuracy. Both have been noticeable throughout training camp.Just the way hes improved, his arm has gotten a lot stronger, Jones said of Ryan. Hes more aggressive now. Last year, I think he wasnt as aggressive. But this year, hes just so much more aggressive. Sometimes youve got to do that while making sure everybodys on the same page with the communication.Now, Ryan has to elevate his play once the action goes live. The?coaches want him to show the same composure?through four quarters that hes displayed in 27 career game-winning drives.Reflecting on last season takes?Ryan back to his 21 total turnovers, including four red-zone interceptions. He strongly denied suffering any type of injury that affected his accuracy. He freely admitted he simply made some poor decisions, ones he vows to correct.?And he refused to call out his receivers although they contributed to the downfall by combining for 30 drops, second-most in the league.I think quarterback play comes down to third-down conversions and youve got to score points, Ryan said. You dont want to turn the football over, but you have to play aggressive. ... I think where we need to improve the most is the red zone. We have to be more efficient in the red zone. We have to score more touchdowns.Obviously Ryans ultimate goal is the Super Bowl. Hes talked to a number of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks about their process in winning a title, although Ryan wouldnt reveal which ones he spoke to or the specifics of those conversations.Winning a Super Bowl might not happen immediately, with the roster still going through a transformation, the defense?still trying to find its footing,?and Carolina still the team to catch in the NFC South. But those factors wont deter Ryans aspirations.He wants someday to reflect on highlights from a Super Bowl victory, not a near miss.I think [the Super Bowl] is the reason that you prepare and do all the things that you need to do in order to get ready to play, Ryan said. You want to pull your weight within the team, and you want to give your team an opportunity to win one. I think thats everybodys motivation.Were not going after one team. Were not trying to be [Carolina] or be better than them or any of that. Weve been in that position, too, where weve won the division. Its not about that. 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"It just felt like it was my time to move on," she said in a phone interview from her hometown of Burlington, Ont.When University of Washington womens basketball coach Mike Neighbors finds himself watching a lopsided high school or AAU game, he tries to think outside the box.He seeks out athletic directors or ticket takers to measure intangibles, off-the-court qualities that dont show up in player rankings or box scores.Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff takes his recruiting reconnaissance one step further.You talk to the people who sweep the floors and the people who clean the bathrooms and all that, McGuff said. You see how they treat them.In todays girls basketball world, where there is increasing competition to earn a scholarship, college coaches are paying attention to the small details, even if the score is 68-10. Recruits on top-flight teams signing this week navigated their recruitments through a handful of blowout games. That means their suitors found other ways to evaluate talent.Players say they often tell coaches which games on their schedule will be the most competitive. That way, recruits get the chance to show their stuff, and coaches can maximize their 112 evaluation days.Every time I talk to a college coach, they even tell me [to] pick [games] out for them because they know that we will usually beat teams by a large margin, said Aquira DeCosta, the No. 6 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Super 60 for the 2018 class. She plays for St. Marys (Stockton, California), which went 28-1 last year. Just four of their games were decided by 10 points or fewer.Even with a heads up, coaches can still find themselves at lopsided games. With the team on cruise control and the recruit on the bench, coaches shift their focus away from layups or defense.Theyll take notes on how a recruit acts around her teammates or how she responds in huddles.Neighbors looks at a handful of things.How do they respond to officials? Neighbors said. How do they respond to being in a blowout? Do they react the way we hope they would act?Before arriving on campus, coaches typically have seen a player in another venue, such as an AAU game or showcase. Neighbors acknowledged that it is certainly hard to evaluate on-court talent in a blowout. Coaches want to see how future players respond in tight games.Its hard when you see recruits and theyre not playing against any competition, McGuff said. You just want to see how they react in those environments.Coaches try to get a sense of a recruits character on the front end, before visiting a game. Blowout games, however, offer a rare look at personality that iisnt visible over the phone or by text message.ddddddddddddLouisville coach Jeff Walz enjoys seeing recruits on the bench. Walz can remember games that have lasted just 45 minutes with a running clock.If youre not playing because your team is up big, are you there cheering for your teammates? Walz said. Are you getting them water when a timeout comes?We like to look for all those intangibles. Its not just about how many points can you score. Its what type of person you are.DeCosta frequently hears from coaches who tell her to play up to potential even in an uneven game.They look for how your courage is, she said.Ayanna Clark, the No. 17 in the class of 2017 and a USC commit, said many of her games at Long Beach Poly are blowouts.Last year, the Jackrabbits went 27-5, winning their league games by a 55-point average margin. Clark generally advises college coaches to see her play during the playoffs instead.But no matter what, Clark finds other ways to get involved.Im always the person whos there to cheer on my team and pick them up, Clark said. I do it either way. It doesnt just have to be a one-way thing when its non-competitive.Clark said its common for college coaches to show up early, perhaps during the junior varsity game, to catch warmups.Walz and his staff try to pick the most competitive games, but he has also found value in evaluating a recruit at practice.I get just as much, if not more, from watching a potential student-athlete practice than I do playing a game, Walz said. I want to find the ones that love to practice.Coaches agree that the EYBL circuit and AAU ranks have created a must-win environment for many teams. Programs are motivated to reach nationals, which makes games more competitive. Blowout games can happen anywhere, though.Ive seen 68-10 AAU games, Walz said. You just have to go and watch and see when theyre up 50, are they still trying to compete and play the hardest? Or do they slack off.Recruits on top-flight programs generally know which games on their schedule will feature the best competition. If a player is not a junior, high school coaches relay vital information about the matchup so that college coaches arent surprised.I can tell them ahead what kind of game it is depending on which team it is, DeCosta said. When you do have those competitive, elite games, just play your best and let it all out there. ' ' '

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