The Atlanta Falcons are benching starting quarterback Marcus Mariota after 13 games for rookie third-round pick Desmond Ridder, NFL Media reported on Thursday.
Atlanta is on its bye this week, so Ridder’s first start will come against the New Orleans Saints in Week 15.
Following Atlanta’s Week 14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, coach Arthur Smith said, “every job is open” when asked if he would switch quarterbacks after previously saying he wouldn’t bench Mariota anytime soon.
“We just finished the game, obviously. I have some private thoughts, but we need to decompress, we need to meet as a staff,” Smith said after Sunday’s game. “There’s a lot of things, sure, we’ve been close, but we’ve got to evaluate everything. We’ve got to get back over the hump, get back into the winning category, so there’s a lot that needs to be evaluated, talked about and discussed.”
Although the Falcons are still in contention for the NFC South title, Mariota led the Falcons to just a 5-8 record. The team has lost four of its last five games, with three straight losses coming by less than one score.
Mariota has struggled to produce an effective passing game this season. He’s thrown for more than 200 yards in a game just twice and has just 15 passing touchdowns. Mariota finished 26th in The 33rd Team analyst Matt Cassel’s Week 14 quarterback power rankings.
Ridder had a successful career at the University of Cincinnati before Atlanta selected him 74th overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. In his senior season, Ridder led the Bearcats to the first Group of Five’s first College Football Appearance. He finished his career with 87 passing touchdowns and 29 rushing touchdowns to go along with 10,239 passing yards.
The Falcons hope Ridder can step up and prove he is the team’s long-term answer at the quarterback position, lest they find themselves hopping right back onto the NFL’s yearly quarterback carousel.