Do the Falcons have a coaching problem, a QB problem or both?

NFL: OCT 22 Falcons at Buccaneers

Somehow, the Falcons enter a Week 14 contest against the 1-12 Panthers in a must-win situation.

Atlanta is only field goal favorites against a Carolina club that has virtually no talent, no coach, and for all intents and purposes, no life. Falcons fans should feel supremely confident, especially after the lowly Saints just demolished the Panthers on Sunday. I can’t speak for all fans, but I certainly don’t feel confident in Arthur Smith’s squad.

How in the hell did we even get here? Where, we as fans aren’t confident in the Falcons against a club destined to end up with the worst record in the league?

There’s no identity of this team because there’s been no consistency. Coming into the 2023 campaign, it seemed obvious who the Atlanta Falcons would be after drafting Bijan Robinson with the 8th overall pick, Matthew Bergeron in the second round, and spending gobs of cash on the defensive side of the ball — a smash-mouth football team that ran the football and played tough defense.

Through 13 games, it’s been only flashes. Ryan Nielsen’s defense looked like it was ready to enter the conversation as an elite unit, but a Grady Jarrett injury has severely impacted that side of the ball. It’s still been one of the better groups in the league; however, it hasn’t been consistent.

Losses against the Titans, Vikings, and Cardinals can be blamed on the defense. Three quarterbacks making debuts in some capacity thrashed Atlanta. Will Levis made his NFL debut; Josh Dobbs made his Minnesota debut with less than a week’s notice, and Kyler Murray made his 2023 debut.

Granted, Nielsen and the defense have been the answer far more often than the problem. That honor goes to Arthur Smith and the offense. It’s been the most inconsistent unit of the team, and I’m not quite sure who deserves most of the blame.

Do they have a coaching problem, a quarterback problem, or a combination of both?

Like most things in life, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Desmond Ridder and Arthur Smith are the problem, but who deserves more of the share? I’d go with Ridder.

Smith isn’t Kyle Shanahan, but he’s not Matt Canada. He deserves a fair share of criticism for the usage of his first-round picks in Bijan Robinson, Drake London, and Kyle Pitts. Atlanta’s run game is still effective, but Smith regularly goes away from it and to a predictable pass game.

It’s a system that is good enough to get the Falcons where they want to go, but not with Ridder.

The third-round pick just hasn’t developed as many, including myself, had expected. He’s making progress in some areas, but Ridder is still consistently putting the ball in harm’s way. Fans have come to expect Ridder to make at least four of five turnover-worthy plays every single week.

Moreover, he’s not making up for those TWP. It would be fine if he was driving the ball down the field, consistently putting his team in a position to score points, but that isn’t the case. His redeeming qualities are strictly intangible, and last time I checked, they don’t put points on the board.

The Falcons need more out of Arthur Smith, and that might come in the form of hiring a passing game coordinator, but the root of their shortcomings lie at the quarterback position. They have to be in the market for one this offseason.

Photographer: Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire


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