Former Vikings QB Gets Another Shot at the Big Job

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The Minnesota Vikings have a 2023 quarterback carousel, and so do the Atlanta Falcons.

Arthur Smith’s team has played hopscotch between second-year passer Desmond Ridder and former Vikings signal-caller Taylor Heinicke this season.

Former Vikings QB Gets Another Shot at the Big Job

And after a lousy showing from Ridder — a despicable loss to the 2-12 Carolina Panthers — Smith had evidently seen enough, at least for now, from Ridder and is turning back to Heinicke as QB1.

QB Gets Another Shot
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The Athletic’s Josh Kendall tweeted Tuesday morning, “The Atlanta Falcons will start Taylor Heinicke at quarterback against Indianapolis, benching second-year QB Desmond Ridder a second time and perhaps ending his tenure as starter in Atlanta.”

Heinicke played against the Vikings in November, a losing effort during “The Joshua Dobbs Game” when Minnesota used Dobbs’ heroics, after studying the playbook for just five days, to defeat Atlanta 31-28 in Week 9.

Tennessee Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (2) pressures Atlanta Falcons quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) during the fourth quarter of their game at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023.

The ex-Viking has started two games for the Falcons in 2023 while his team tabulated an 0-2 record. Heinicke will hope to right the ship and get off the schneid at home against the Indianapolis Colts on Christmas Eve.

Per the Kendall tweet, this could be the end of the road for Ridder. Back-to-back benchings in a single season don’t bode well for future trajectory. If the 2024 NFL Draft were held tonight, Atlanta would choose 10th, in prime territory to draft a quarterback like Michael Penix Jr. (Washington) or Bo Nix (Oregon). The Falcons could also explore free agency for a quarterback like Kirk Cousins in 2024 or explore a trade for someone like Justin Fields if the Chicago Bears use their first draft pick on Caleb Williams (USC) or Drake Maye (North Carolina).

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Heinicke has started 27 games in seven NFL seasons while his teams have tabulated a 12-14-1 (.463) record along the way. Here’s his career resume to date:

  • Minnesota Vikings (2015–2016)
  • New England Patriots (2017)
  • Houston Texans (2017)
  • Carolina Panthers (2018)
  • St. Louis BattleHawks, XFL (2020)
  • Washington Commanders (2020–2022)
  • Atlanta Falcons (2023–present)

The veteran passer was rising within the Vikings organization seven years ago and might’ve started some games in purple when Teddy Bridgewater was hurt in 2016. But he reportedly kicked in a window of a friend’s apartment, tearing a tendon in his foot and stunting his career development. Now 30 years old, Heinicke is on tap for another starter’s stint.

Heads to Falcons
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The Vikings saw Heinicke in 2022, too, defeating the Washington Commanders in Landover by a score of 20-17 on November 6th.

As a starter this season, Heinicke ranks 30th per EPA+CPOE among all 51 qualifying quarterbacks. In his career, he owns a 37-TD to 25-INT split.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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