The Atlanta Falcons have started the season off to a 2-2 start (should probably be 3-1, but who’s counting?). This has surprised many fans and media members who expected the Falcons to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. It’s been a different look for the Falcons this season as they have been carried from a powerful rushing attack lead by journeyman running back Cordarrelle Patterson who has quickly become a fan favorite in Atlanta.
As much as there is to talk about in terms of the running game, that hasn’t been the talking point of most Falcons Twitter pundits. The biggest point of conversation for the Falcons has been the lackluster quarterback play. Many expected drop off in the quarterback position when the Falcons chose to move on from Falcons legend Matt Ryan.
Under Matt Ryan’s leadership at the quarterback position the Falcons were consistently one of the top passing attacks ranked in the top 10 in passing yards almost every season. But that era has come in gone and many people were hesitant about the Falcons quarterback plans moving forward.
The Falcons went and signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year, $18.5 million deal to be a bridge quarterback while the Falcons looked for the heir to the throne. Mariota has been pretty average according to some metrics; per ESPN and PlayerProfiler, Mariota is:
- Passer Rating of 91.5 (ESPN)
- Adjusted QB Rating of 49.6 for 15th in the league (ESPN)
- RAW QB Rating of 48.6 for 17th in the league (ESPN)
- Completion Percentage of 58.2% (ESPN)
- PAA is -0.4 for 17th in the league(ESPN)
- EPA is 12.2 for 20th in the league (ESPN)
- He’s thrown five “interceptable” passes for 23rd in the league (PlayerProfiler)
- True Completion Percentage of 63.3% for 29th in the league (PlayerProfiler)
- Clean Pocket Completion Percentage of 65.7 for 23rd in the league (PlayerProfiler)
That’s not even counting his seven turnovers this season which is good for second in the league only behind former Falcon Matt Ryan. None of these stats are acceptable for a long-term plan at the quarterback position in today’s NFL when elite quarterbacks are what bring you championships.
The Falcons don’t have to purely rely on Marcus Mariota though, they do have another quarterback on roster who some are calling for to be named the starter. And that is rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, the Falcons third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
What are the traits that would make a third round rookie better than an experienced starter? The advocates for Ridder argue that he’s just as, if not better than, the level of play that the Falcons are currently receiving from Marcus Mariota. Some point to Ridder’s collegiate production which is one of the best collegiate careers of recent history.
In Ridder’s collegiate career he went above and beyond to help put Cincinnati on the map. Furthermore, he led the Bearcats to the College Football playoff as the first ever Group of Five school. During that time, Ridder also established himself as a perennial winner at Cincinnati with a 44-6 record ( 26-0 at home).
His senior year stat line? 3,334 yards 30 TD’s and eight interceptions with another 355 yards and six scores on the ground. Ridder showed in college that he has skillset that works and wins in similar ways to Mariota. So why isn’t Ridder starting? Coming into the draft, it seemed that Ridder struggled with some mechanical aspects, but the preseason showed some improvement. Alas, it seems the Falcons are in no rush to bring in the rookie, meticulously planning his development.
But what is that plan that the Falcons have for their quarterback position? Should they keep rolling out Mariota for the rest of the season while in the middle of a potential playoff push even with below average quarterback play? Do they risk throwing the team out of rhythm with a rookie? These are the questions that are being asked and leads me to ask:
Do the Atlanta Falcons have a quarterback dilemma?