The Atlanta Falcons are still in the playoff hunt due to the Panthers and Saints both being a bit more terrible than Atlanta and the Tampa Bay Bucs continuing to collapse in winnable games. This season has been the opposite of everything we are used to watching from a Tom Brady team. It is an offense and a team as a whole that is consistently playing close games and unable to come through in the clutch.
This version of Tom Brady’s Bucs is going to keep the Falcons in the division race despite Atlanta’s consistent failures. Arthur Smith is clearly the best coach in the NFC South and will keep the Falcons relevant enough to have a chance to win the division.
Despite losing Kyle Pitts the Falcons’ rush offense is talented enough to keep the team afloat against bad Steelers and Saints teams that are up next on the schedule. However, if the Falcons want any hope of making the playoffs or having a chance to steal a first-round win the move they have to make is beyond obvious.
Marcus Mariota isn’t a starting quarterback on an NFL team at this point in his career, he is a top-tier backup who can make plays as a wildcat quarterback. His limitations in the passing game are far too limiting to give the Falcons any chance of catching the Bucs or winning a game at home in the wildcard round.
Arthur Smith’s stubborn loyalty to Mariota is hurting the Falcons and wasting a year of Desmond Ridder’s rookie contract. The rookie quarterback simply has to be a capable passer to be a big upgrade over Mariota. The expectations for the position are at an all-time low after a poor season from Matt Ryan in 2021 and Mariota taking over this season making far too many plays for the wrong team and far too often missing wide-open targets.
If the Falcons are serious about winning this season and attempting to win the division it is far past time to put the rookie into the starting lineup. Smith owes it to his team, the fanbase, and Ridder himself to give this team the best chance to break their playoff drought and that clearly starts with benching Marcus Mariota.