PHOENIX -- No one in the NFL knows Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder better than Bengals coach Zac Taylor.
Taylor was the offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati in 2016 when he first noticed Ridder as a high school player in Louisville. The journey for both has taken several turns in the seven years since, but Taylor fondly remembered the Falcons’ presumptive starting quarterback during the NFL owners meeting Monday.
“I’ve always really liked Des,” Taylor said. “The traits you saw in a high school senior were competitive, leadership.”
Taylor moved on to the NFL in 2017, Ridder began his four-year career with the Cincinnati Bearcats in 2018 and Taylor saw Ridder’s last three collegiate seasons up close after becoming the Bengals head coach in 2019. Taylor recalled Ridder’s leadership qualities on display during a workout with the high schooler on a ‘special’ weekend.
“When I showed at 6 in the morning to work out Des, he had about 8 to 10 receivers there that he got to show up at 6 in the morning the day before the Kentucky Derby, which is a big deal in Louisville,” Taylor said. “He ran all of the drills. He told them what routes. The coach didn’t have to say a word. I was just really impressed by his leadership skills.”
Will those leadership traits help secure NFL success for Ridder, who started the final four games of his rookie season in 2022 and will likely begin the 2023 season as the starter?
“So, the intangible stuff is off the charts with Des,” Taylor said. “How it all translates to the NFL, that’s not my problem. I will always be following Des career in the NFL to see how it goes.”
After a 44-6 record and more than 10,000 passing yards with the Bearcats, Ridder was selected in the third round by the Falcons in the 2022 NFL draft. Chiefs coach Andy Reid, also speaking to the media on Monday, believes a quarterback has to have a strong foundation in place to succeed in the league -- and that success isn’t necessarily linked to a player’s draft position.
“First-round picks, it’s stupid of how many first-round guys really don’t make it,” said Reid, whose Chiefs have won two and appeared in the three Super Bowls in the last four years. “But it’s easier now with quarterbacks because you get to see them throw in these offenses than it was a few years back.”
The coaching situation, the talent of the quarterback and how the quarterback sees the field are keys for Reid.
“You can see them throw in college,” Reid said. “The throw-game has started when they are little kids now. The RPOs and so they guys are throwing the football. Before guys were…..Brett Favre ran the option in college. So, you’re taking him on and going we’ll maybe? He’s a pretty good example of this too because his first stop in Atlanta didn’t work out.”
Favre was drafted by the Falcons in the second-round of the 1991 draft.
“Some of it was on him, not doing the right things,” Reid said. “Some of it was the way the coach perceived him. The general manager liked him, but did the coach like him? Who knows.”
Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf traded with the Falcons for Favre.
“Then we get him at Green Bay and comes in with Mike Holmgren and he’s a throw-guy and was willing to teach him,” Reid said. “He brought into it and the rest was history.”
They turned Favre into a hall of famer.
“Mike Holmgren was smart,” Reid said. “He was demanding. It was almost like a good cop, bad cop. He was tough on Brett. Now, Brett knew that he was good with him, but he pushed him and pushed him hard.”
Reid got to play good cop.
“Then Steve Mariucci and myself, we were the buffer when we were coaching him,” Reid said. “We did the teaching part and Mike kind of came in with the heavy hand.”
Ridder will have to produce with perhaps coach Arthur Smith and Ragone playing the good-cop/bad-cop developmental routine.
“Production has to be there, that is what you’re graded on,” Reid said. “Then all of the small things that lead up to that. How you teach, patience, protecting the quarterback.”
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
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