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'We're going to do everything we can to improve that position': T.J. Yates on the future of the quarterback in Atlanta

Yates was retained by head coach Raheem Morris in 2024, making the move from coaching Falcons wide receivers last year to the quarterbacks this season. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson and quarterbacks coach T.J. Yates go way back.

The two first met in 2008, as college quarterbacks working as camp counselors at the Manning Passing Academy (or "Manning Camp" as Yates referred to it). In the years that followed, they both made their way to the NFL. Yates was a backup quarterback for Houston and Atlanta; Robinson for New England and Detroit.

When their playing careers came to a close, they both joined the coaching ranks in 2019 (Yates with the Texans and Robinson with the Rams). Since then, they've worked their way up, while keeping in touch as their career paths continued to run parallel with each other.

"Me and Zac," Yates said, "we see the game through the same lens."

It's why -- when Robinson became offensive coordinator on Raheem Morris' staff in Atlanta -- he knew who his quarterbacks coach had to be. Yates officially made the move from coaching the Falcons wide receivers in 2023 to coaching quarterbacks this upcoming season. He returns to his roots, something he's greatly looking forward to.

"It's the thing I'm most comfortable with," Yates said, "being able to teach and coach those things and relate to those guys from past experiences that I've had playing the game. It's going to be a fun transition getting back into it."

It's also going to be a lot of work, and Yates knows that.


The Falcons are at a major crossroads when it comes to the future of the quarterback position in Atlanta. The Falcons have Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke on the roster, both started games for Atlanta in 2023. However, Falcons leadership has made it no secret that they're on the hunt to find QB1. They're prepared to look anywhere and everywhere for him, and that's something Yates hammered home in his first media availability as the Falcons quarterbacks coach on Thursday.

"We're going to look at every option that we have," he said.

So, what are the Falcons looking for? Obviously, they can't give you a name right now. There isn't a name right now. They can give you qualities they like in a signal caller, though. That's been the go-to, question-and-answer combo in recent weeks.

For Yates, he said there are certain qualities that are never going to change in your evaluations of quarterbacks across the market, whether it be in free agency, the draft or a trade.

"First and foremost, you have to have a tough, competitive guy. A leader who is going to come into the room – come into the team – and be able to bring guys with them," Yates explained. "As far as physical traits, you have to, obviously, be able to throw it on all levels. You've got to have accuracy. You've got to have decision-making. All of those buzzwords that you want with a quarterback."

Yates added, though, that there are a few intangibles of the quarterback position that are difficult to quantify.

"You never know how a guy is going to be able to process information and how high of a rate he's going to be able to process information until you really get your hands on him when they're running your offense when they're doing things that you're telling him to do," he said. "With the quarterback process, you see guys trying to scout QBs and it's one of the hardest things to quantify those certain 'it' factors. … There's not a true metric in some of that stuff."

Evaluating and grading quarterbacks is a numbers game, sure. It's scientific, even. Let's be honest, though: It's also a little bit of luck. Case in point? How many people would have guessed that Mr. Irrelevant would lead his team to a Super Bowl appearance two seasons later? Here's looking at you, Brock Purdy.

No matter how you look at it, the Falcons have to have science and luck on their side as they hunt for QB1.

As owner Arthur Blank said in his pre-Super Bowl media availability, the Falcons don't have a year to strategize the best route to take at quarterback. They need answers and a plan now. It's one they are actively working towards.

"Obviously, we all know that position for this football team has to improve," Yates said, "and we're going to do everything we can to improve that position."

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