Bradley’s Buzz: The Falcons draw closer to Ridder time

Don’t think of the Falcons as being 0-2, though they are. Think of them as being two games closer to giving Desmond Ridder a look, which should be the most important part of this season.

Marcus Mariota hasn’t been bad. Nor has he been especially good. He’s 26th in passer rating. (Better than Joe Burrow! Better than Matt Ryan!) Mariota is 15th in yards per pass. He’s 18th in completion percentage. His longest completion is for 39 yards. None of this is a surprise.

He’s not a deep thrower, and the Falcons don’t want him throwing all the time. They want to run the ball. They want him to do much of the running. And that’s OK. He’s doing what he can do. He has done enough that the Falcons have had two chances to win. That they’ve lost twice isn’t, in the cosmic scheme of things, a terrible development. A winning team is duty-bound to try to keep winning. A losing team has options.

If the Falcons are 2-6 at their bye, they could turn to the rookie Ridder, a Round 3 draftee, and nobody would bat an eye. Mariota isn’t the future of this franchise. (Hence his walkaway contract.) Ridder mightn’t be, either, but better to find out sooner than later. The Falcons are apt to be picking higher in this draft than in the last one. This draft has quarterbacks worth taking in Round 1.

The Falcons haven’t admitted that this is their plan for 2022, but they’re not foolish and we’re not fools. Winning seven one-score games last season muddied the waters. Lest we forget, their offseason commenced with them apparently content to give Ryan, who’s 37, another year. Then Deshaun Watson became available and everything changed. Now they’ve lost two one-score games. Who saw that coming? Only everybody.

Even in two not-awful performances, Mariota has erred enough to remind us why he was available in March on a moment’s notice. Against New Orleans, he fumbled in the red zone and bobbled the game’s biggest snap. Against the Rams, he was undone by Jalen Ramsey’s soaring interception on the goal line. Mariota was falling away as he delivered. Aaron Donald drove Cordarrelle Patterson into the quarterback. Donald does such stuff.

The Falcons haven’t looked terrible. They’re just limited in what they can do. Two weeks running, the gifted Kyle Pitts has caught two passes for 19 yards. His longest reception this season: 13 yards. A better quarterback would find ways to get him the ball. The Rams feed Cooper Kupp, do they not?

This isn’t meant as a screed. Mariota is doing what he was brought here to do – give the underwhelming Falcons a chance to win a few games by being a seasoned professional. The idea was never for him to win games by himself. If the Falcons lose four of their next six, there won’t be much need for a seasoned professional. It’ll be Ridder time. If turns out not to be Ridder’s time, there’s Bryce Young and/or C.J. Stroud.

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The above is part of a regular exercise, written and collated by yours truly, available to all those who register on for our sports newsletter. The full Bradley’s Buzz, which includes more opinions and feature items like the weekly poll and results, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays. (We plan to add a Wednesday version.) We’d be obliged if you’d give it a try.