Last week, it was reported that the Atlanta Falcons would be benching quarterback Marcus Mariota for rookie Desmond Ridder when the team returned from their Week 14 bye week. On Monday, head coach Arthur Smith confirmed the report, but Mariota will not serve as Ridder's backup. In fact, it appears he's headed to injured reserve.
Smith told reporters that the Falcons "anticipate" placing the former No. 2 overall pick on injured reserve due to a chronic knee injury, per the Falcons' official website. Smith said the decision to bench Mariota was made before there was any discussion about his injury or injured reserve. Specifically, Smith said this QB change was a "performance-based" decision.
The former Tennessee Titan went 5-8 as the starter for Atlanta, completed 61.3% of his passes for 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions while averaging just 170.7 passing yards per game. Under Mariota, the Falcons offense averaged 314.6 yards of total offense per game, which ranks fifth-worst in the NFL. The 155.7 passing yards Atlanta averages per game this season ranks second-worst in the league.
Ridder was the second quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Falcons grabbed the Cincinnati product in the third round, and he had an impressive preseason. The rookie completed 60.8% of his passes for 431 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions with an 87.7 rating. The Falcons recently signed Logan Woodside off of the Tennessee Titans' practice squad to serve as Ridder's backup.
The 5-8 Falcons are not out of the playoff race just yet, currently sitting in third place in the NFC South behind the 5-8 Carolina Panthers and 6-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ridder will make his first-career start Sunday in New Orleans against the rival Saints.