FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Arthur Smith said last week that he doesn't want to play "musical chairs" at the quarterback position, planning to name a more permanent starting quarterback coming out of the bye.
The Falcons head coach did exactly that. Desmond Ridder will be QB1 moving forward, Smith announced in his Monday press conference. It's the job Ridder held until Week 8, when Taylor Heinicke entered in the second half of a loss at Tennessee. He has now reclaimed it.
"We have a lot of confidence in Des," Smith said. "Over the last couple weeks, he has handled it really well. There were a lot of things going on. I think the time (as a backup) was very beneficial for him."
Heinicke played in relief against the Titans was the Falcons starter against Minnesota and Arizona, but left a Week 10 loss to the Cardinals after a fourth-quarter hamstring strain. Smith said Heinicke is still dealing with the impact of that injury and won't participate in early portions of the practice week. If Heinicke can't go, Logan Woodside will be the primary backup on Sunday against New Orleans.
Smith emphasized that Ridder will be the starter during a seven-game stretch that will decide the Falcons fate this season. The Falcons are currently 4-6, in need of a winning streak to achieve their goal of winning the NFC South. They'll need consistent quarterback play to finish first in the division for the first time since 2016.
Ridder has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,740 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions over eight starts this season. He also has 32 rushes for 150 yards and four touchdowns as a rusher. In total, he has seven fumbles on the season.
"Des did a lot of good things (during his time as a reserve," Smith said. "In Arizona, you could see how prepared he was. He was confident and clearly wanted the ball in his hands. We had confidence in Des then and we have confidence in him moving forward."