The Falcons are in a strange state. We aren’t quite sure about the direction of the organization at the quarterback position. It may have been the worst thing for Arthur Smith to see Taylor Heinicke come into the second half of Atlanta’s Week 8 contest against the Titans and light up Tennessee’s defense after watching Desmond Ridder flounder in the first half.
There’s just no way he could trot Ridder back out there as the starter for Week 9; Heinicke looked poised and in control, while getting the ball out much quicker and avoiding turnovers. The Falcons put up three points with Ridder under center and 20 with his counterpart. Not only did Arthur Smith see the difference, but his players did as well. How could he possibly tell his team that he was going to start the lesser of the two? He couldn’t.
That’s why the Falcons head coach announced on Wednesday that Taylor Heinicke will be the starting quarterback for Atlanta in their Week 9 tilt against Minnesota. But make no mistake about it, Smith is still biding time to potentially turn back to his third-round project. During the press conference, he emphatically stated this was a short-term decision.
Arthur Smith said the decision to go with Taylor Heinicke is one they made in the short-term, specifically for Minnesota. Desmond Ridder will be the No. 2 QB: "He is cleared and will be available."
— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) November 1, 2023
Arthur Smith could be protecting Desmond Ridder because it seems rather obvious that Atlanta is waiving the white flag on the Cincinnati product. Taylor Heinicke would have to look like a tomato can, and the Falcons would have to lose to the Vikings for Smith to even consider going back to Ridder.
How often does a young quarterback get benched and then come back to be a capable starter in this league? The list is very short, and the list of third-round picks who have done so is nonexistent. The odds were stacked against Ridder to begin with, and now they’re insurmountable.
Taylor Heinicke would have to piss down his leg in order for Arthur Smith to reasonably turn back to Desmond Ridder. He’s leaving the door open, but for all intents and purposes, it’s closed.
Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire