Arthur Smith must be watching a different game than me every week because his assessment of Desmond Ridder is wildly nerfed.
I’ve never seen the Falcons head coach protect a player like he has with Ridder. Smith is a no-nonsense type of coach; one who doesn’t sugarcoat his thoughts and demands the absolute best. Yet, Smith continues to assess his quarterback through rose-colored glasses.
The Falcons are winning games because of Ryan Nielsen’s defense. Make no mistake about it. Ridder has committed six turnovers in the last two weeks, leads the NFL in turnover-worthy plays and ranks second in TWP rate.
Protecting the ball is critical in this league. The Falcons defense gave Ridder, Smith, and the offense multiple chances to tie or pull ahead of the Commanders in Week 6 but fell short because of three interceptions, including a back-breaking one in the endzone.
The club was luckier in Week 7. Ridder once again notched a trio of turnovers that all came in the redzone. To say Atlanta’s victory was improbable would be an understatement; in fact, the Falcons became the first team to win a game while losing three redzone fumbles since the 2004 Cardinals.
Now, we must give credit where credit is due around here. Desmond Ridder led a game-winning drive to set up the go-ahead field goal to give the Falcons sole possession of the NFC South.
In the last three weeks, we’ve seen wildly different performances from Atlanta’s quarterback. He had his best game to date against the Texans in which he set career marks across the board but followed it up with a turnover-filled performance against the Commanders.
And then on Sunday, I could argue it was the best passing performance of his young career. Ridder had a 91% adjusted completion percentage (minus drops) with an 8.2-yard average depth of target and 10 yards per attempt, but he still turned the ball over three times in the redzone. That cannot be overlooked.
Multiple things can be true at once, which fans and apparently Arthur Smith can’t comprehend.
Ridder looked in control of the offense, never played out of the system, and took what Todd Bowles’ defense gave him on Sunday. He was poised under pressure and never flinched in the face of adversity, leading the Falcons offense down the field for a game-winning field goal.
Ridder is still being way too careless with the football, though. The margin for error dramatically shrinks when you turn the ball over. Turnovers have held the offense back, but Ridder’s development is undeniable.
Assessing quarterback play in the NFL is never black and white; Ridder is doing good things coupled with inexcusable mistakes, but that’s not how Arthur Smith sees it. When asked why he thinks there’s been so much criticism surrounding Desmond Ridder, the Falcons head coach resorted to gaslighting.
Falcons HC Arthur Smith on why he thinks there's been so much criticism on Desmond Ridder (answer in part): "Toxic group think."
— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) October 25, 2023
Now, I wasn’t in person, so maybe there’s more to this comment, but this is laughable from where I sit. We can acknowledge the good that Desmond Ridder has done while still criticizing the obvious shortcomings. Ridder is turning the ball over at an unsustainable rate in this league. Pretending that the positives make up for the negatives is going to cost Arthur Smith his job eventually.
Photographer: Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire