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Super Bowl 2017: Matt Ryan is first QB to wear No. 2 in title game and it’s scary

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Matt Ryan is doing something unheard of and violating the unwritten laws of the universe.

Atlanta Falcons Media Availability Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Matt Ryan is on the verge of blasphemy. He’s a game away from disturbing the balance of the universe. From ruining the most sanctimonious aspect of organized sports: the rule of the numbers. That an athlete, in any position, should wear the numbers that are specific and reserved for their position and that quarterbacks should never wear No. 2.

It may be unwritten but it’s an essential pillar in our society’s foundation, and the universe punishes those who don’t adhere to it. Plainly put, a quarterback should not be wearing No. 2. Not in the biggest game of the NFL season. Not if he wants to succeed.

This is as it goes: running backs and defensive backs wear numbers between 20-49. Centers, 50-59, sometimes 60-79, which are for guards and tackles. Wide receivers range from 81-89, with 81 and 88 being two of the most famous clubs. Some rogue receivers go for numbers between 10-19, but they too should be shunned. Tight ends follow the same suit as the receivers, especially in the modern game when they practically are in the same class. Defensive linemen mirror the guards and tackles, while also wearing 90-99, which you’ll also often see on the back of linebackers, who might also dip into the 50-59 range.

Now, it is true that quarterbacks are technically allowed to wear numbers from 1-19, along with kickers and punters. There has been a total of 114 players to ever wear the No. 2 in the sport. Out of that group, 29 have been quarterbacks — Terrelle Pryor doesn’t count. Four have been wide receivers — now Pryor counts. Three have been running backs. And there has been one specific safety and one general defensive back. The rest are punters and kickers, as it should be.

The most famous individual to wear that number, at least at the professional level, is David Akers. He’s a placekicker who made his name with the Eagles and holds several NFL records: most points in a single decade (1,169); points in Pro Bowl history (57); most points in a season, no touchdowns (166); field goals made in a season (44); and a few more.

Still, he’s a kicker and that’s the standard for the number. Doug Flutie, generally more famous, wore No. 2 as well, but his fame came in college. At the pro level, his biggest achievement was winning titles and awards in the CFL before making the NFL Pro Bowl in 1998 and winning the comeback player of the year in that same season. Akers had six Pro Bowls, two first-team All-Pro appearances, four second-team, and was part of the 2000s all-decade team. He tops Flutie.

Ryan wears that number because Tim Couch, one of those 29 quarterbacks, is his hero. Couch’s best times came in college, just like Flutie’s. After breaking and setting all sorts of records and becoming a legend at Kentucky, Couch was drafted first overall in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He signed a $48 million contract. Five seasons later, he was done in Cleveland. After a few tryouts, shoulder injuries, and training camps between the years 2004-2007, including one preseason game for the Jaguars, he was out of the game completely.

Ryan will be the first quarterback in the NFL to wear the No. 2 in the Super Bowl. But beyond that, he’s easily the most successful of them all. Quarterbacks are allowed to wear that number, but it usually doesn’t turn out well for them. A superstitious man might even say that the number is cursed. Or that these people who violate the sacred law of numbers are justly punished for their transgressions.

These are Matt Ryan’s people. These are the players he represents by wearing that number: Flutie, Couch, Brian Hoyer, Josh Johnson, Blaine Gabbert, Johnny Manziel, Colt McCoy, JaMarcus Russell, Tyrod Taylor (OK, an exception), Chris Simms, Brian St. Pierre, Dennis Dixon, Zac Dysert, B.J. Daniels, Will Furrer, Nate Sudfeld, Dylan Thompson, Charley Trippi, Anthony Wright, Michael Vick with the Steelers, Dameyune Craig, Tom Clements, Jimmy Clausen, Ed Chlebek, Richard Bartel, Trevone Boykin, Aaron Brooks, and Jason Campbell.

You couldn’t find a better list of misfit toys if you followed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer into exile.

Now, not only is Ryan on the verge of winning the MVP, which is an unprecedented level of success for a No. 2, but he’s going to be throwing, running, and generally being present at the Super Bowl as an active participant. That’s madness. Add in the fact that he’s doing so as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, a team that hasn’t been to the Super Bowl since 1999 and has been all smoke and no fire since that time, and we’re through the looking glass here.

There are a few ways to look at this situation. On one hand, it can be seen as a testament to Ryan’s ability. That he not only led the Falcons to the big game, with an MVP-caliber season, but that he has also done it while breaking the norms of the universe.

He’s doing the supposedly impossible on the physical realm that sees the Falcons as a joke team in the playoffs, while breaking the standards of the spiritual world, where the laws have long restricted the successes of NFL professionals wearing No. 2. You’re either a successful kicker or punter or you’re a Flutie or Couch. Ryan is ripping apart the narrative.

The fear now is in what happens in the Super Bowl. As far as the Falcons go, we have a reference from their previous trip that saw them leave as losers. But that’s when things made sense. That’s before Ryan, wearing a number reserved for kickers and punters, decided to change things up.

Now we’re in uncharted territory. Anything can happen. A quarterback wearing the two can possibly win a ring. The Falcons could become a legitimate NFL power. It’s a new world that’s against everything that’s come before it. As fun as that would be for Falcons fans and neutrals who detest the Patriots, every dramatic change like this brings on heavy consequences.

If Ryan, a two, is successful, we could enter into a new world where the surreal and absurd becomes the normal. Up would be down, left would be right. The Falcons would become America’s team and Migos would be better than the Beatles. It’s a daunting prospect.