Choosing between Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke depends on Falcons goals

NFL: AUG 05 Atlanta Falcons Training Camp

The Falcons officially have a quarterback controversy on their hands, and Arthur Smith will have to make a choice of rolling with Desmond Ridder or Taylor Heinicke, but there are several layers to this decision.

Ridder had a typical first-half performance against the Titans, mustering only three points and coughing up another costly fumble. It’s become the norm for the Falcons offense to play only one-half of football.

When Heinicke came in during the second half, it seemed like a completely new offense. Atlanta scored on four of six second-half possessions, putting up 20 points. The veteran seemed poised to lead the Falcons down the field for a game-winning drive, but a Van Jefferson drop negated any hope of a comeback.

It honestly was the worst-case scenario for Falcons fans. In a lot of people’s eyes, Heinicke was going to lead the offense down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. He’d been moving the ball consistently in the second half, but the reality is that Heinicke is just as liable to throw a back breaking interception as Ridder.

Instead of having a result one way or the other, we are just left wondering what Heinicke would’ve done as the vultures swarm around Flowery Branch wondering if Arthur Smtih is going to make a quarterback change.

After just one half, it seems obvious that Taylor Heinicke is the more effective quarterback, right? Well, it’s not that simple. The Falcons’ decision will reflect their goals. They must ask themselves a few questions.

“Who gives us the best chance of winning tomorrow?”

“What is Desmond Ridder’s ceiling?”

“Do we care more about winning today or figuring out the long-term answer at quarterback?”

I think most people would say Taylor Heinicke is the answer to the first question, but one-half of football is a tiny sample size, and Heinicke isn’t some proven model of consistency.

If Desmond Ridder realizes his full potential, is that good enough to win a Super Bowl? Or even be better than his counterpart? If not, the experiment should’ve ended Sunday.

There’s no arguing that Ridder has improved over recent weeks; he’s getting the ball out quicker and throwing with more anticipation and accuracy, but he also has seven turnovers in the last two and a half games. He leads the league with 12 turnovers — six interceptions and six fumbles.

2023 was supposed to be the year that the Falcons started winning. Instead, they sit in the same spot as they did a year ago with a much more talented roster, and it’s clear the quarterback position is holding them back.

So, the decision comes down to whether Arthur Smith is prioritizing winning right now, which he did last year when he rolled with Marcus Mariota over Ridder, or seeing it through with the potential long-term answer at quarterback.

Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire

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