Desmond Ridder will start his first game Sunday with a little bit less of a safety net.
A week after the Atlanta Falcons decided to bench Marcus Mariota in favor of their rookie quarterback down the stretch, Mariota was placed on injured reserve due to a chronic knee injury.
Mariota is slated to have surgery on his knee next week, coach Arthur Smith told reporters Wednesday.
The decision to look into surgery came after Mariota learned on Thursday during the team's bye week that he would be relegated to the sideline, and the injury had no impact on Smith's decision at the QB position.
"I'm not a medical expert," Smith said regarding the issue that sprang up with Mariota's knee, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm just telling you that it had nothing to do with the decision and we'll just see how the week plays out."
Smith also admitted that it is not a given Mariota returns to the team this season. Atlanta signed QB Logan Woodside, who played under Smith when the coach was the Titans offensive coordinator in 2020, to the roster as a backup in the interim.
"That's why we've signed Logan here on Saturday to make sure that we had depth there," Smith said. "Once that decision has been made I'll update you, but [Mariota] is not here right now for full transparency."
Mariota signed a two-year deal with the Falcons over the offseason after spending two years as Derek Carr's understudy in Las Vegas. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Mariota was expected to be a bridge starter in Atlanta at the very least after the franchise traded Matt Ryan -- with an opportunity to be more than that if he showed growth from his original time as a starter in Tennessee from 2015-2019.
Instead, the Falcons saw more of the same from Mariota this season. He threw for 2,219 yards, 15 TDs and nine picks with a 61.3 completion percentage in 13 starts. His 88.2 passer rating in 2022 was lower than in all but one season as a Titan.
His ineffectiveness led Atlanta to turn the keys over to its potential QB of the future with the Falcons still in the NFC South mix despite a 5-8 record.
In turn, Mariota's benching led him to opt for surgery, and it's unknown whether or not he will return to the team this season.