ESPN analyst ready to see Falcons turn to Desmond Ridder

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The Falcons are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Panthers, led by interim Steve Wilks and backup quarterback P.J. Walker, on national television. The box score — 19-of-31 passing for 186 yards, two touchdowns and an interception — might not reflect it, but it was the worst performance from Marcus Mariota since taking over as signal caller. He made several egregious throws that rookies don’t even attempt. The anticipation wasn’t consistent, and the accuracy didn’t get off the plane with him.

Naturally, Falcons fans expected Arthur Smith to turn to Desmond Ridder at some point, whether it be during the game or sometime during the team’s mini bye week before the contest against the Bears. However, Smith has stuck by the veteran and essentially scoffed at the notion of turning to the rookie. To be fair, it wasn’t just Mariota’s fault.

The entire team was terrible. The Falcons lost in every facet of the game — dominated in the trenches, dreadful in the third phase of the game, and even the tackling was atrocious. Still, quarterback is where the buck stops. In some moments, Mariota was just throwing up the ball and praying.

Smith is sticking with who he believes gives the team the best shot of winning football games. And until someone says, “Arthur Smith’s Falcons have officially been eliminated from postseason contention,” we won’t see Ridder, even if the fan base sharpens their pitchforks. 

Moreover, a new wrinkle is the Falcons’ head coach is no longer just getting pressure from local media and fans. Now, members of the national media are questioning the decision to stick with Mariota. Mina Kimes of ESPN gives Mariota his due, saying he’s had successful moments keeping the offense on track. But Kimes also addresses the elephant in the room, Mariota’s inconsistencies throwing down the field and his appalling recklessness.

Kimes is right. A large part of the reason Mariota is the starter is he’s a veteran that is supposed to keep the ball safe. Throwing it into triple coverage, across your body, and sometimes without even looking down the field isn’t exactly responsible. Whether it’s right or wrong, I kind of love Smith’s stubbornness and commitment to Mariota. He’s had his bright moments, but there’s been just as many dark ones. It’s going to be a tumultuous ending to the season with Mariota under center; buckle up.

Photographer: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire

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