Given the offensive weapons and comments made throughout the organization before the season, I don’t think many believed we would be having conversations about benching Desmond Ridder after just four weeks, but they have arrived, and it’s not just the fan base concerned with the Falcons quarterback play.
Across the national media, everyone is talking about how much longer the Falcons can afford to play Ridder. They have a defense that is capable of leading them to the postseason in a weak division and a backup quarterback with experience leading a team to the playoffs.
Dan Pompei, Jeff Howe, and Ted Nguyen of The Athletic went around the league discussing their takeaways from the major matchups in Week 4, and one of the highlights of the piece was focused on Desmond Ridder and how much longer the Falcons can continue trotting him out there on Sundays. All of them agreed a decision must be made sooner rather than later.
Howe: This is a winnable division for the Falcons, and Ridder has held them back through four games. I know the Falcons are optimistic about Ridder’s potential and there’s certainly some long-term value in getting him this type of experience, but it could come at the expense of a playoff berth this season. Taylor Heinicke could get them there.
Pompei: It might be unfair to Ridder to pull him after just four games. But it might be unfair to the other 52 to keep him in there when the Falcons have a legitimate chance to win the division. Whether or not the Falcons will be contenders for the NFC South will be determined over their next six games — every one of which is winnable.
Howe and Pompei essentially said the same thing. Heinicke isn’t going to lead the Falcons to a Super Bowl, but it’s not wild to consider this team the favorite to win the NFC South if the move is made today. The Falcons might have lost to the Lions and Jaguars no matter who they started, but this next stretch of games could be determined by who is under center, which is why Arthur Smith and company can’t wait much longer to make a decision.
Nguyen: I think they need to make a change. Ridder is struggling mightily and made some catastrophic mistakes against the Jaguars. On his first pick, he misread a simple slant/flat concept and on his second, he stared down his receiver instead of looking deep and medium like most quarterbacks do on a “Yankee” concept. Taylor Heinicke isn’t the sexiest choice but he’s won games in this league and he can make some of the gimme plays Ridder has been missing. The downside is you lose some athleticism, but Ridder hasn’t made a lot of plays with his legs anyway and it’s hard to go back to Ridder once you decide to move on from him. There’s too much talent on the Falcons going to waste and their defense has looked like a much-improved unit.
Nguyen is much more firm on his stance, stating it is time to make a change, but he also recognizes the biggest issue with making the move after just eight starts. If the Falcons turn to Heinicke, they are essentially admitting defeat on Desmond Ridder, who they proclaimed their starting quarterback before the preseason even began.
It’s obvious the Falcons have a lot of faith in what Ridder can become, whether it’s misguided or not. Admitting that they were wrong after just four starts is not an easy pill to swallow. Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith hitched their wagon to Ridder, and if they give up now, it won’t go over well with the rest of the higher ups. But if they don’t wave the white flag, and Ridder continues to lose games, their tenure in Atlanta could be cut even shorter.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire