Amid reporters that Marcus Mariota left the Atlanta Falcons upon learning Desmond Ridder would be the starting quarterback for the rest of the season, head coach Arthur Smith addressed his status.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Smith said Mariota's decision to have knee surgery "had nothing to do with" the decision to play Ridder.
Josh Kendall of The Athletic reported the Falcons learned on Friday, one day after it was reported Ridder would take over at quarterback, that Mariota was going to step away from the team.
Smith confirmed the quarterback change on Monday, and told reporters the decision was "performance-based" due to Mariota's struggles.
During the same press conference, Smith said Mariota's knee was "nothing that has been an issue this season," but it was Mariota's "prerogative" to do what he felt was in his best interest.
Ridder was the second quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL draft. He was selected by the Falcons with the 74th overall pick. The 23-year-old was a two-time AAC Offensive Player of the Year winner at Cincinnati. He has yet to appear in a game this season.
The Falcons signed Mariota to a two-year contract as a free agent in March. He was named the team's starter early in training camp and has played each of the first 13 games this season.
Mariota has played okay in Smith's offense with 2,219 passing yards, 438 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns (15 passing, four rushing).
After scoring at least 23 points in each of their first four games, the Falcons have been held to fewer than 20 points in six of their past nine games.
Despite having a 5-8 record, the Falcons are only one game behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for first place in the NFC South. They will play the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on Sunday.