NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons
Brett Davis / USA TODAY Sports

Falcons coach Arthur Smith left the door open for a potential quarterback change after Atlanta's Week 13 loss to the Steelers. Now, he's pulled the trigger on just that, benching Marcus Mariota for rookie Desmond Ridder ahead of the team's Week 14 bye, according to NFL Media. A third-round draft pick this April, Ridder will make his debut in Week 15 against the rival Saints.

"We've got to get over this hump here, and there are a lot things at stake," Smith told reporters after Sunday's loss, which dropped Atlanta to 5-8 on the season. "(Any changes are) going to be what's best for this team short term and long term."

"If you think it's the best thing for you in that moment, yeah, we're going to do that," he added later, regarding a potential QB change. "That's what you're paid to do. Our circumstances are very different today than they were a couple of weeks ago."

The Falcons are technically still in the NFC playoff picture, and have just one less win than the NFC South-leading Buccaneers. But they've lost two straight and four of their last five while struggling offensively. In each of their last four losses, the Falcons have failed to eclipse 17 total points. While injuries to big names like tight end Kyle Pitts have impacted that side of the ball, Mariota has been erratic as a passer all season, mostly finding success as a runner.

Signed this offseason to replace Matt Ryan, Mariota exits the starting gig having thrown 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions, while rushing for 438 yards and four scores. Ridder, 23, has yet to take his first NFL snap. The Cincinnati product impressed teams coming out of college with his smarts and leadership, per NFL Media, but is obviously unpolished as a pro-level passer. Theoretically, he'll open up Atlanta's aerial attack a bit more than Mariota, who's often leaned more on his legs.

Ridder will have the bye week to prepare as the Falcons' starter before taking on New Orleans on Dec. 18.