The Atlanta Falcons are reportedly using their Week 14 bye to usher in a quarterback change.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Falcons will bench Marcus Mariota and turn the offense over to rookie Desmond Ridder ahead of their Week 15 matchup with the rival New Orleans Saints.
Asking a rookie to make his first career start at the Superdome is a daunting proposition, but the Saints are just 4-9 on the season and largely playing out the string at this point.
The 5-8 Falcons may be doing the same, which is surely one reason they made this move. While Mariota has been a solid quarterback at times, he is not the future in Atlanta and is scheduled for free agency in 2024 with a potential out on his deal in 2023.
Ridder, whom the Falcons selected with a third-round pick in this year's draft, may be that future, and this is the beginning of the team's process toward figuring out whether that is the case.
While he slipped in the draft, the rookie helped the Cincinnati Bearcats become the first-ever Group of Five conference team to reach the College Football Playoff last season. He completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his final collegiate season.
Ridder also appeared in all three of the Falcons' preseason games and threw for a combined 331 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
It is easy to wonder about Ridder's upside and where Atlanta may be in the standings if it made this move earlier given the nature of the NFC South. The 6-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in first place, and the Falcons are technically still within striking distance considering their final game is a head-to-head matchup with Tom Brady and Co.
Mariota completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions while adding 438 yards and four scores on the ground.
The team's offense was largely conservative with him under center in an effort to avoid key mistakes, and it remains to be seen whether it will have the same approach with a rookie signal-caller.
But the future is now for the Falcons.