The Atlanta Falcons pushed all chips to the middle of the table this year. Head Coach Arthur Smith and General Manager Terry Fontenot brought in veterans, selected Bijan Robinson 8th overall to add to the most run heavy offense in the NFL, and gave Desmond Ridder the keys to the franchise. The Ridder experience was a true roller coaster. Even though Falcons were winning, 4-2 at one point, Ridder's play was questioned every step of the way, and key in the losses, bringing the team to 4-4.
Ridder found himself being pulled at the end of the first game versus Tennessee, in a very odd turn of events. The coaches, not the third party evaluators, placed Ridder into concussion protocol. Ridder also cleared this protocol extremely quickly. However, even after clearing, Ridder remained sidelined, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
This smells fishy, considering the fact that Bijan Robinson recently had an injury go unreported, leaving the Atlanta Falcons under investigation by the NFL.
This has only added to the track record that Head Coach Arthur Smith has provided for himself this season. There has been the ongoing hatred of the fantasy football community, (rightly asking to give Kyle Pitts the ball), the prickly nature of handling criticism at his scheme, and QB play of Desmond Ridder. The week prior to benching Ridder, Smith cited 'toxic groupthink' as to why Ridder was more criticized than other young QB's for his play, even though he was winning. To quickly turnaround and bench Ridder following those comments was embarrassing. It's as if Smith does not believe that the public watches film, and pays attention to what's going on with the team, (even if it's at a lesser degree than he does).
Smith as a coach has rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way, a lot of media as well. Even if he succeeds in the back half of this season (which he should), it is not certain that he will be the Head Coach of the Falcons in 2024.
The squad will have to prepare for life with Heinicke at quarterback, and a defense without its heart and soul Grady Jarrett. The Falcons defense currently ranks 9th in the NFL in total defense grade, per PFF. The side should currently remain near that mark, although Jarrett's impact in the pass rush and run defense will be a large determining factor in how the side performs.
However saddening the benching and injury to Jarrett are, things still point up for the Falcons in the second half of the season. The Falcons will play Minnesota, Arizona, New Orleans, New York Jets, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Indy, Chicago, and New Orleans to close. Heinicke and Jessie Bates can definitely lead this team to the playoffs.