Desmond Ridder Atlanta Falcons quarterback
Atlanta Falcons News

Desmond Ridder to Get ‘Lengthy Run’ to Prove He’s Franchise QB

Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith answered in late March who will be the team’s starting quarterback this fall. That will be second-year signal caller Desmond Ridder.

Then this week, Smith tried to answer how long Ridder will remain the team’s starter if he struggles.

Smith made it clear to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that the 2023 Falcons is his team.

“Smith told me that quarterback Desmond Ridder has shown ‘constant improvement’ in training camp and will ‘keep taking steps’ in his development as the starter,” Fowler wrote. “The Falcons got significant reps for backups Taylor Heinicke and Logan Woodside — and it’s noteworthy that Heinicke was doing his normal Heinicke thing where he finds creative ways to move the offense downfield.

“But the Falcons’ offense is very much Ridder’s. He’ll get a lengthy run to show he’s the guy long term.”

It will be interesting to see if Smith sticks with that plan if Ridder struggles early in September. The philosophy to stay with Ridder will be in sharp contrast to what Smith did at quarterback a year ago.

While Smith did stay with his starting quarterback last season, it wasn’t for audition reasons. Marcus Mariota continued to start in 2022 because Smith preached that he gave the team its best chance to win.

Veteran Taylor Heinicke is not a future franchise quarterback for the Falcons. But he has played well for stretches during his career. Atlanta fans saw that firsthand when he led Washington to two touchdowns in the final four minutes against the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the 2021 season. Washington came back to win that contest, 34-30.

Heinicke is 12-12-1 in his career as a starter. He went 5-3-1 last season, throwing for 12 touchdowns versus 6 interceptions while averaging a career-high 7.2 yards per pass.

If Ridder and the Falcons stumble out of the gate, Smith could make an argument that Heinicke gives the team a better chance to win. The temptation to switch quarterbacks will only be higher if chatter grows about Smith’s job security.

The correct move, though, will be for Smith to do exactly what he says he will — stay with Ridder.

If the Falcons don’t compete for a playoff spot this season, they need to determine the team’s future at quarterback. If Ridder continues to struggle after a long sample, then it will be back to the drawing board behind center.

Of course, Ridder can help his coach avoid the possibility of switching to Heinicke by doing one simple task. He and the Falcons need to get off to a good start in Week 1.