FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The move that felt imminent has now become official. Arthur Smith has named Desmond Ridder the starting quarterback in Atlanta. The head coach made the move concrete with an announcement that began his Monday press conference. The news was first reported during the Falcons bye week by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Since the moment the Falcons drafted Ridder the question has always been: How long would it be before he made his way onto the playing field during the regular season? When - many asked - would we see Ridder?
You now have that answer.
Marcus Mariota was named the starter prior to the start of the season, thanks in part to his league experience as well as his familiarity with Smith's scheme as the two had spent a handful of years together in Tennessee. As the second quarterback taken off the board in the 2022 NFL Draft, though, many wondered when Ridder would make an appearance.
As expected, Ridder played a much bigger role in the Falcons preseason games than that of Mariota and the first-team offense. Ridder excited a fanbase when the Falcons traveled to Detroit to face the Lions during their first preseason game in August.
Though Ridder was 10-for-22 through the air in that game, the rookie quarterback mounted a two-minute drive that ultimately won the game for the Falcons.
Since the preseason, though, Ridder has been in the background as Mariota led the Falcons offense into the regular season.
The Falcons as an offense kept defenses on their toes early in the 2022 season.
With Matt Ryan in Indianapolis, no one knew what the identity of the Falcons offensive attack would be with Mariota at the helm. Early reviews were promising, though.
After starting the season 0-2, the Falcons won four of their next six games. In Week 6, Mariota was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week after his near-perfect performance in the Falcons 28-14 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
However, Mariota's role as the Falcons starting quarterback came into question in the weeks that have followed.
The Falcons have lost four of their last five games ahead of their Week 14 bye week. So, when Smith was asked after the Falcons most recent loss to the Steelers if the Falcons were planning on making a change at the quarterback position, his answer was very different than it was when he was asked a similar question in the Falcons Week 10 loss to Carolina.
"Every option is on the table," Smith said after the Falcons loss to the Steelers.
In his final press conference before the Falcons bye week commenced, Smith said if there was going to be a personnel change - at any position, not just the quarterback position - that he would disclose that information when the bye week ended.
The head coach did exactly that, making the announcement a week later that Ridder would be the starter in Week 15.
In his official Falcons regular season debut, Ridder will have a tall test to face head on against the New Orleans Saints. Playing in New Orleans is a major challenge anyways. Playing in New Orleans in your first regular season start as a rookie quarterback? Well, that has all of the makings of a true 'Welcome to the NFL' moment.
This is the move that many on the outside looking in called for, though. The main notion being that the Falcons needed to start thinking about the future sooner rather than later.
Mariota only signed a two-year deal with the Falcons after they traded Ryan in the offseason. So, it goes without saying that Mariota always felt like a bridge between the Ryan era in Atlanta and whoever came next as a franchise-level quarterback. When the Falcons drafted Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, there were rumblings that the next chapter in the franchise's history could include him.
However, it's difficult to get a real sense of this option when you've never seen Ridder in a true, live, regular season NFL game.
With Smith's Monday announcement, it's official, though: The Falcons will finally begin to piece things together, working to find out what they truly have in Desmond Ridder.
They'll start that process in New Orleans.
We take a monochrome look at the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 4, 2022.