The best I can tell, the quarterback position in Atlanta has been hotly contested by fans since the franchise was formed back in 1966. If there was a starter, someone wanted the other guy, and it seems like just yesterday some were clamoring for Mike Vick to start over Chris Chandler. Then Matt Schaub over Mike Vick. Then waiting for Byron Leftwich to get healthy enough to start over Joey Harrington. Or just calling Matt Ryan a noodle-armed stat-padder and eyeing whoever happened to be on the roster.
It is perhaps the most consistent thing about this franchise, or at least its fans.
The Desmond Ridder hype train has picked up steam as fans, have seen some frustrating limitations for now-starter—and, it should be noted, recent NFC Offensive Player of the Week—Marcus Mariota.
We understand it from a fan perspective. Mariota is the veteran who excels with his legs and can get hot as a passer, but can’t drive the ball down the field. Ridder was thought to be the most pro-ready quarterback in this class, and one who may be the future. What about the non-fans out there, though, who don’t come into this with extreme pro-or-anti Mariota bias?
Film gurus Nate Tice and Ted Nguyen from The Athletic looked at precisely this question. They agreed: start Ridder now.
Nate Tice expects Ridder to be a quick study.
Ridder was my QB1 in this past draft class and his preseason performance did nothing to dissuade me from still feeling that way. And one of the things I liked about Ridder was that he seemed like a football junkie with a mature play style and work ethic.... To put it simply: my heart says Ridder and my head is starting to say Ridder, too.
Tice points out that Mariota’s costly mistakes, frequently at important parts of games, makes him an unreliable option.
For Ted Nguyen, it appears to boil down to Ridder being (potentially) the better player.
The Mariota experiment has been fun and, sure, they can win the division, but they aren’t going to win the Super Bowl, so they need to find out what they have in Desmond Ridder. He’s athletic enough to keep running the Smith’s option attack, and I think he can be a better passer than Mariota.
Nguyen sees switching to Ridder as a no-lose situation. The Falcons are limited under Mariota. The team would likely want to know what it has in Ridder before the next offseason. After all, the Falcons should do due diligence on any potential free agents or trade opportunities, as well as some of the top quarterbacks available outside of the top 5 of the draft. It may well be that Ridder isn’t any better than Mariota and isn’t any kind of a solution, but game action would likely help clarify that.
Ridder was generally believed to be the most polished of the quarterbacks entering the draft, as I noted above. Now with the likes of Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, and even Bailey Zappe seeing playing time this year, the wait on Ridder sticks out even further. Unless Mariota can bounce back and play the kind of football that parks Ridder on the bench the rest of the year, these calls from fans and analysts alike aren’t going away.