Following another late-game collapse on Sunday afternoon, this time to the 1-12 Panthers, the job security for Arthur Smith and his coaching staff appears to be in serious question.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported last week that it would take some sort of “late-season collapse” for Arthur Blank to move on from his head coach after his third season. What qualifies as a “late-season collapse” remains to be seen, but losing back-to-back games in horrid fashion to two divisional opponents — one being a 1-12 Panthers team — seems like it might just do the trick, especially if the Falcons finish poorly over their final three games.
Firing Arthur Smith after the season feels more realistic than it ever has before during his tenure, but Arthur Blank has never been an owner with a quick trigger. He usually hangs on for too long rather than firing a coach too quickly, and this was really the first season under Arthur Smith in which the Falcons had any expectations of a playoff berth coming into the season. Blank may want to see what Smith can do with this roster and a competent signal caller of his choice next year, which brings us to the most glaring issue on the Falcons currently.
Desmond Ridder is not the guy.
This has been clear for quite some time, but Ridder’s fate had to be cemented with his game-changing interception in the red zone on Sunday. The Falcons were leading 7-6 with an opportunity to put the game away, but as Ridder rolled out to his left, he fired a hopeless ball into triple coverage that resulted in yet another costly turnover. The Panthers would then respond with a game-winning drive in which they drained the entire clock and kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.
The loss drops the Falcons to 6-8 on the season and virtually ends their chances at the postseason. They’ll likely be picking in the top 10 of the draft again, and their top priority has to be finding a new starting quarterback.
Desmond Ridder has had his moments this season, especially in the fourth quarter. However, his turnovers are the reason this Falcons team is not going to make the postseason for the sixth year in a row, and he’s shown no signs of improving his protection of the football. Arthur Smith may do enough to save his job over the final three weeks, but Desmond Ridder’s fate is sealed. He cannot be the starting quarterback heading into the 2024 campaign.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire