Kyle Pitts, Drake London at severe disadvantage with Marcus Mariota at QB

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The hottest topic around Falcons circles is the quarterback controversy or lack thereof. In recent weeks, Marcus Mariota‘s play has been dreadful, and it’s becoming increasingly evident he’s a backup-caliber signal caller in this league. It came to a head against the Panthers on Thursday Night Football; on national television, the veteran was taking some of the most unnecessary risks I’ve ever seen. Throughout the contest, Falcons fans and every other football fan voiced their frustrations, questioning why Arthur Smith hadn’t turned to Desmond Ridder.

Following the loss, the narrative gained significant steam. Analysts, Kyle Pitts‘ fantasy owners, and fans alike were all clamoring that Ridder had to be nearing his NFL debut. Well, Monday rolled around, and the Falcons’ head coach confirmed he’d be sticking with Mariota, noting the team being in the “middle” of a playoff race.

Without arguing that the rookie is better, the eye test confirms Mariota is not working. The Falcons’ offense is reliant on one way to win — an extensive run game with a supplemented play action passing game. And when the team can’t run the ball, everything else breaks down because Mariota is incapable of dropping back and moving the ball down the field himself. Mariota is inconsistent with his anticipation and timing. That’s without even noting the offensive line isn’t exactly stonewalling pass rushes. Even when all the other facets are working, his accuracy continues to fail the team.

More than the eye test, the numbers confirm said inaccuracies. He’s fourth-to-last in bad throw percentage (20.6%), with the third-lowest rate of passes dropped (2.7%). Essentially, that means there are only three quarterbacks — Carson Wentz, Zach Wilson, and Cooper Rush — who have a higher percentage of their throws categorized as ‘bad’ according to Pro Football Reference. And of all the passes thrown, only two throwers — Dak Prescott and Kenny Pickett — have had fewer of their balls dropped. That isn’t ideal.

Moreover, Kyle Pitts and Drake London, the top two pass catchers on the Falcons, are among the top ten pass catchers with the highest off-target rates — Pitts being the highest… by a significant margin.

30% of the targets coming to Pitts are considered off-target, which is wild considering the former No. 4 overall pick is 6-foot-6 with a record-breaking wingspan. Pitts is a freak of nature, and Mariota continuously misses him. On national television, it reached what everyone thought would be the final straw.

To make matters even worse, Drake London is an absolute stud. Of all those on the list, the Falcons rookie is one of three players — Amari Cooper and Darnell Mooney — with a higher catch rate than 60%. The Falcons have two Ferraris and have a 16-year-old trying to drive them. Smith is sticking with Mariota because he and the staff believe the veteran gives the team the best chance to win games right now, and that’s his prerogative.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire
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