The Atlanta Falcons officially made a quarterback switch.
Third-round rookie Desmond Ridder will replace Marcus Mariota as the starting quarterback for the Falcons' Week 15 game against the New Orleans Saints, head coach Arthur Smith announced Monday. Smith called the decision "performance-based" but also added that Mariota is likely headed to injured reserve with a knee injury.
Mariota, who joined the Falcons this offseason after Atlanta traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, has been up and down in 2022. His passing yards, passing touchdowns and competition percentage all rank in the bottom half of the league, while his nine interceptions are tied for seventh.
After 13 games, though, it only makes sense for the Falcons to turn to their rookie signal-caller after Mariota led Atlanta to a 5-8 record. While still not out of playoff contention, the Falcons likely need to win at least their remaining two divisional games to keep pace with the 6-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and, oddly enough, the 508 Carolina Panthers.
As Yahoo Sports' Charles McDonald wrote in his weekly Four Verts column last week, the Falcons needed to explore what they have in Ridder before the season ended, rather than ride it out with the veteran Mariota. Ridder had a solid preseason, too. He completed 60.1% of his passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns in three games, though he also threw two interceptions. Ridder was prolific in college as well, with 3,334 passing yards and 30 touchdowns in the University of Cincinnati's 13-1 season that ended in the College Football Playoff semifinal.
Ridder might not save the Falcons' season, but starting him at least gives Atlanta a glimpse of his potential while the organization evaluates the roster before the 2023 offseason.