While fans have been arguing aggressively about Desmond Ridder’s future in Atlanta, the Falcons’ longtime franchise quarterback hasn’t seen enough to know where things will land. Matt Ryan may have spent his time as a quarterback guarded at press conferences, but he was surprisingly open in an interview with Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. In fact, the most interesting thing may be that Matt Ryan gave some interesting quotes.
Ryan weighed in on the most important question facing the Falcons today: Is Desmond Ridder good? The back and forth has been consistent since Atlanta’s first loss in Week 3. It ultimately boils down into whether Ridder is currently doing enough as a young quarterback. Young quarterbacks usually encounter hurdles making the transition to the pros, but it is tough this early to identify if those are career-defining problems or simply growing pains.
Before getting into Ridder’s future, Ryan echoes a sentiment many fans had last year: things would be clearer if Ridder had more opportunity last year. Arthur Smith hung onto Marcus Mariota weeks, if not months, after it was clear he wasn’t able to play the position at a high level. Perhaps it was in part to give Ridder more time to develop on the bench. However, there is no way to effectively evaluate a rookie quarterback after only four games. That decision, as well as not playing meaningful snaps during preseason, certainly impacted where Ridder is today.
For the positive, Ryan doesn’t see a lot of physical limitations with Ridder.
“[Ridder] can make all the throws. He can throw the ball down the field. He can throw the ball intermediate. Honestly, where he needs to clean things up are the shortest ones. That comes with knowing how to throw with a little bit of touch. Not every throw needs to be a fastball.”
This is actually somewhat common for quarterbacks with strong arms, as the slightly older fans may recall Mike Vick launching the football downfield with the same kind of velocity he deployed on checkdowns. For Ridder, that’s a good spot to look for progress.
Outside of the physical, Ryan discussed more of the mental aspects of playing quarterback. He went into a few specifics where Ridder can improve, such as, at times, Ridder seems sped up. From a higher level, Ryan is really just looking to see improvements from Ridder.
The biggest thing is to not make the same mistakes over and over. Towards the end of that year, I was still making mistakes but they were new mistakes — that’s what you’re looking for.
While it has been mentioned here recently, despite Ryan’s eventual growth into the franchise’s best quarterback, he had a rocky start. There were plenty of bad plays, interceptions, and a particularly rocky sophomore season. Ryan was questioned as the franchise quarterback up to, and even after, his first record-breaking contract extension. Expect the ups and downs from any quarterback, especially the younger ones.
Perhaps most importantly, Ryan thinks we should have an answer on Ridder soon. Ryan is looking to see that improvement — or the new mistakes — in around the next six weeks. While moving to the team’s fourth starting quarterback in four years isn’t a usual path of success in the NFL, Ryan astutely points out that the front office needs to worry about their own jobs. If the front office and coaching staff isn’t comfortable betting their jobs on Ridder’s continued improvement, they’ll need to find a replacement... and fast.
That doesn’t give Ridder much time, and is a bit more of a sign of the times. Trey Lance barely suited up for San Francisco. Zach Wilson, who replaced another top-drafted quarterback in Sam Darnold, was replaced after only two seasons. The era of quarterbacks getting 3-5 years to prove they’ve got what it takes is long gone.
Going through this new quarterback carousel is a fresh reminder why quarterback is the toughest position to find in the NFL. Fans should hope to be off of the carousel by the time December rolls around.