Revealed : The problem behind Atlanta Falcons QB Instability

This Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, Taylor Heinicke, the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons under head coach Arthur Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot, will make his debut.

Do you recall when it was all but certain that Matt Ryan would surpass 4,000 passing yards in a single season?

Ryan, a fixture as the quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, reached that milestone for ten years. For fourteen years, he was dependable and steady. It has been anything but since he was traded in March 2022.

Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith opted to start Taylor Heinicke at quarterback over Desmond Ridder for this Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.
In all honesty, general manager Terry Fontenot and coach Arthur Smith of the Falcons are only to blame for their own actions.

All of it began with a botched attempt to sign quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is currently with the Cleveland Browns, which damaged Ryan’s relationship and caused the team’s all-time leading passer to abruptly leave.

Watson has had a very difficult time in Cleveland. The Falcons seem to have avoided that bullet, but Ryan’s departure—which occurred during a decline but indicates a lack of a backup plan—resembles a boomerang’s arc, and Atlanta is currently suffering the most consequences of its decision made that spring.

The Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to serve as a bridge quarterback on the same day that they traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. The quality of signal callers in the draft was among the lowest in recent memory. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ pick, Kenny Pickett, was the only player selected out of the first two rounds.

In the third round, Atlanta selected Desmond Ridder, a University of Cincinnati graduate who was praised for his intangibles.

Drafting a starting quarterback in the third round is just plain stupid. Choosing to take the risk and select one in the first round has resulted in many success stories.

Mariota started all 13 of the Falcons’ games in the previous campaign. It was said to be too lengthy by some. The counterargument is that Atlanta desired a representative sample because they didn’t think Ridder was ready. That portion makes logic.

There was a reason why Ridder was selected in the third round, and the Falcons decided to support his growth as Mariota faltered in the latter stages, dropping four of his final five starts.

Under Smith, the Falcons have frequently attempted to gradually develop their non-first round picks; however, Ridder did not, and Mariota brought Atlanta’s season to an end along with him in a time when so many quarterbacks play early.

There are, of course, multiple positions, and in the end, Ryan’s run at franchis.

Despite the fact that Ridder’s four-game tryout at the end of the season gave Smith and Fontenot hope that he could be a long-term solution, it appears that the sample size was insufficient.

The Falcons are starting veteran backup Taylor Heinicke this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, after playing eight games with Ridder at quarterback.

After being evaluated for a concussion at halftime of Sunday’s 28-23 loss to the Titans, Atlanta was down 14-3 and had only managed 89 yards of total offense when Ridder left the game.

With Heinicke starting at quarterback in the second half, the Falcons scored 20 points and amassed 253 yards in total.

In the third quarter, Ridder was released from the concussion protocol, but Smith continued to work with Heinicke. Heinicke is still chosen even though Ridder was kept under observation all week and was given the all-clear to play on Sunday.

“Many factors exist,” Smith remarked. “Going with Taylor is kind of where we’re at heading into this week, taking into account the last 72 hours. He’s here at this moment for that reason. Des underwent each of those examinations. He’s exempt. Although he will be available, Taylor will be playing this Sunday in the near future.

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In just the press conference on Wednesday, Smith used the term “short-term” three times. He also stated that the decision “isn’t some grand statement for forever.”

Before his challenging first half in Tennessee, Ridder was in the middle of his most productive run as a professional, leading the NFL with 12 giveaways. He had the second-highest passing average in the league in the three games played before last Sunday, at 297.3 yards per game.

Atlanta put up over 400 total yards of offense in each of those three games, but it struggled to convert in the red zone, scoring only 17.7 points on average.

Last season with the Washington Commanders, Heinicke took over for an injured Carson Wentz and showed promise, winning five of his six starts. However, he faltered towards the end of the season, allowing Wentz and rookie Sam Howell to see playing time.

Heinicke gave Atlanta’s offense its most productive half of the season against the Titans, but will the spark last?

More importantly, even if it does, is there any way the Falcons can go into the upcoming season with Heinicke at the head of the team?

In Heinicke’s 24 career starts, not much has indicated that the answer to either of these questions is “yes.” As a result, Atlanta will face another quarterback-related offseason for the third time in a row.

Heinicke will be the third signal caller to start for Atlanta in the last 14 games when he takes the field for the first offensive snap shortly after 1 p.m. on Sunday.

And from all accounts, that speaks volumes about Smith, Fontenot, and the other Falcons decision-makers.


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