Whether Arthur Smith likes it or not, the Falcons have a quarterback controversy on their hands.
On Sunday against the Titans, Ridder’s first half performance netted three points and a costly fumble. When Heinicke came in during the second half, it looked like a completely new offense. the Falcons scored on four of six second-half possessions, putting up 20 points. The veteran seemed poised to lead the offense down the field for a game-winning drive, but a Van Jefferson drop negated any hope of a comeback.
Even without the comeback, the cat was out of the bag. The genie was out of the bottle. Pandora’s box had been opened. Arthur Smith saw what every Falcons fan saw — the offense looked much better with Heinicke than it did with Ridder.
Not only did fans and Arthur Smith see what transpired on Sunday, but Ridder’s teammates also saw it. There’s no doubt in my mind that some Falcons players are thinking the same thing, “Why are we starting that guy?” Now, the Falcons have made it official, naming the veteran the starting quarterback.
Desmond Ridder might have some of the tools to be a successful quarterback, which is probably why the Falcons have been dragging this on for so long. But the fact of the matter is that he hasn’t developed quickly enough to be the long-term answer. He’s effectively a zero-sum game for the Falcons offense.
He turns the ball over way too much, doesn’t get Kyle Pitts and Drake London the ball enough, and doesn’t have any redeeming physical attributes. The offense has no identity after becoming one of the most feared rushing teams in football a year ago, which becomes even more of a joke considering the Falcons just spent a first round pick on Bijan Robinson.
Atlanta could hang on to Ridder, but at what cost? Depending on the Falcons’ goals, it’s fairly obvious what the decision should be. Arthur Smith has made decisions with no thought about the long-term impacts; that’s why Marcus Mariota started 13 games too many last season (which never should’ve happened to begin with). That’s why he took a tight end, wide receiver, and running back with three straight top 10 draft picks.
There’s been no significant decision made with the thought of tomorrow. It’s about winning now for Arthur Smith, which is why it was perplexing that he chose to stick with Ridder while he took lumps as Heinicke waited in the wings.
The offense has been spinning its wheels all season while the defense consistently bails the team out. The only reason the Falcons are winning games is because of Ryan Nielsn’s defense, and you’re telling me those guys aren’t having second thoughts about Ridder?
All of this is a long-winded way of saying NFL players are human beings. They have doubts just like you and me. Even though Jessie Bates, Calais Campbell, Grady Jarrett, and the rest of the veterans will give members of the media the standard “We support Desmond Ridder” coach speak, there has to be some level of doubt creeping into their minds after watching Taylor Heinicke nearly lead a comeback.
I’m not saying Ridder has completely lost the respect of his peers in the locker room. I’m merely presenting the idea that it seems highly unlikely that all 53 players are fully committed to Desmond Ridder like Arthur Smtih seems to be. Regardless of what Taylor Heinicke does on Sunday against the Vikings, Ridder might as well kiss the locker room and his starting job goodbye.
Photographer: John Adams/Icon Sportswire