After a surprisingly strong start to the 2022 season, what is the best path for the rebuild in Atlanta? Will the Falcons give Desmond Ridder a shot to start at quarterback or will they continue on with Marcus Mariota?
The Atlanta Falcons could soon find themselves in the position of deciding between a franchise cornerstone on defense (Will Anderson, Jalen Carter) or a centerpiece at the quarterback position (CJ Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Levis). While it would be a tough call to make, this is quite the enviable position to be in nonetheless.
Before this decision is placed at the feet of the Falcons’ front office, the organization owes 2022 third-round pick, Desmond Ridder, a fair shot to see if he has potential as the starting quarterback for the franchise going forward. There is little pressure to win games this season, which presents an inviting situation to step into for a rookie.
The team didn’t invest a premium pick into Ridder, but they liked him enough to take him in the third round so there’s reason to believe he gets a chance soon. There’s only one way to know what you’ve got with Ridder and that is on-field experience.
Veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota has performed admirably, keeping his squad in every single game they’ve played in 2022. He is making the most of another opportunity to start in the NFL, but this is not the best path for head coach Arthur Smith and Atlanta to take.
The Falcons are setting the tone for the foundation of their build this season, so why not see if your rookie quarterback will be a part of it? After all, if Desmond Ridder proves to be capable behind center, the team can look to improve elsewhere around him without feeling forced to take a specific position.
Nearly a year removed from trading franchise icon, Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons may already have their long-term replacement at quarterback on the roster. Like Ryan, Desmond Ridder entered the NFL with droves of starting experience in college. In fact, Ridder won a whopping 44 games for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
He entered the Atlanta organization with a chip on his shoulder, feeling as though he was disrespected by the league for allowing him to fall as far as he did. The former Bearcat signal-caller showed up hungry to prove himself, and he did just that in offseason workouts and preseason action.
Ridder looked the part of a consummate professional as he led his team into battle during the preseason. He started shakily when the games began, but soon thereafter settled in, even leading a game-winning drive against the Detroit Lions. It was merely a minor glimpse at what could be, but Falcons fans haven’t forgotten about it.
What if, in a weak NFC, Desmond Ridder is exactly what the Falcons need to spark a shocking playoff run? Some may scoff at this idea, but the only way to truly know is to throw Ridder into the fire and see what happens.
I am not advocating for the team to tank, but being mediocre is not an optimal result for a franchise in the early stages of a rebuild. Limping to a seven-win season wouldn’t feel the same as being a competitive squad with a rookie quarterback at the helm.
It cannot be denied that the team is competitive at the moment, but one could argue that finding out whether or not rookie Desmond Ridder has starter potential is more beneficial long term than hoping to pull a rabbit out of the hat with Marcus Mariota somehow leading the team to the NFL playoffs in January.