The top concern facing the Falcons for yet another week isn’t it’s competition, it is who is starting at quarterback. There isn’t much new to the argument. The Falcons technically still in the playoff race. But on the other hand, the team is much farther from a playoff berth thanks to Marcus Mariota’s recent play.
Could Desmond Ridder save the season? Per the latest report by NFL reporter Ian Rapoport, the answer is a resounding no. Mariota is to remain the starter, at least until the Falcons are out of the playoffs.
The belief is, while the Falcons still have all their goals in front of them, benching Mariota would be counterproductive while also sending the wrong message to the locker room. It might feel like saying goodbye to the season.
Rapoport perhaps put together better messaging than Arthur Smith in this week’s press conference, but both together align in that Mariota is the starter. The Falcons apparently believe the team may still remain competitive even with Mariota. If true, Atlanta may need a further modified game plan that better allows Mariota to play to his strengths... or at least keeps him from doing what he can’t.
The Falcons are technically still in the playoff race, but the path there looks tricky. Arthur Smith needs a bit of luck outside of Atlanta and a lot more consistency from Mariota to make it there. Most oddsmakers have Atlanta’s chances of making the playoffs at below 20%.
The most interesting news is actually backup quarterback Desmond Ridder. The Falcons have kept a tight lid on Ridder’s development, whether good or bad. Is he struggling? Are there good signs for the future? We aren’t really certain.
Per Rapoport, the Falcons sound happy with where he’s at.
The Falcons, sources say, do love the development of the third-rounder from Cincinnati. In the preseason, he flashed poise and accuracy. It was enough to allow the Falcons to have him be their backup, rather than sign a veteran in case Mariota was injured. That is faith in their rookie.
A cynical view would say the team didn’t have cap space for a good veteran quarterback and didn’t expect to be competitive this year, meaning a third-round rookie at backup isn’t a big problem. Still, positive news on Ridder is notable, and is obviously better than the alternative.
It sounds like the plan is to give Ridder a shot once the playoffs are clearly out of reach. With the poor play in the NFC South, that time may not come for at least a few more weeks.