The 5-8 Atlanta Falcons, led by head coach Arthur Smith, made a huge decision with the playoffs still within plausible reach. Instead of rolling with Marcus Mariota, their starting quarterback since Week 1, they decided to hand the keys to the offense to rookie Desmond Ridder, who hasn’t even touched the grass in the NFL. And now, Mariota may have played his last game as a Falcon following his demotion.
Shortly after being put in the injured reserve list after deciding to step away from the Falcons, Mariota has decided to have surgery, perhaps to remedy his chronic knee issues, according to Tori McElhaney.
Marcus Mariota would have missed the next four games anyway following his inclusion in the injured reserve list. Nonetheless, Arthur Smith asserted that the decision to elevate Ridder into the starting role was purely “performance-based” and had nothing to do with Mariota’s injury. Smith also added that it is Mariota’s prerogative to look after himself and his own physical well-being.
Still, it surely did not help matters that Mariota was now relegated to a bench role after trying to revive his career as a starting-caliber quarterback. After all, he is only 29-years old, and seven years removed from being the second overall pick of the NFL Draft. Alas, it just hasn’t worked out for him in Atlanta, with him only throwing for more than 200 years just once in his past 10 games.
Time will tell whether the Falcons made the right decision. They are only one game behind division leaders Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so these next few games will be crucial in determining their fate for this season. It will be in Desmond Ridder’s shoulders now, and for the Falcons’ sake, hopefully the rookie sets the league ablaze.