How Falcons coaches are boosting the minds of Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder

“Our job as a coach, you really are a teacher,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, they are the ones on the pitch, so we try to educate them and understand so that we are in sync.”

Smith also doesn’t want to make this teaching easy for Mariota or Ridder. There are many ways to settle to the point of comfort, but Smith said the ultimate goal is to challenge them so they understand the “why” behind the play call.

You push them every day to figure that out, Smith said. This is one of the things Mariota said he likes the most about this staff.

“I think they are challenging us,” Mariota said. “They want us to understand why we apply certain concepts, what covers we come up against. For us, it’s mentally stimulating because it’s hard to look at it from a different angle.”

“I think what’s really cool about Art and this staff is that they try to stimulate your mind all the time. There’s always brand new ideas. There’s always something we’re always talking about. So , for me, I enjoy that part.”

It’s good that there’s mental stimulation and enjoyment from Mariota’s perspective because doing that, understanding the deeper meaning behind a play call, often involves repeating it to the point of being comfortable doing it on the fly. The repetition of this can sometimes be trivial.

It is doing the same things over and over again until there is no more thinking, just doing. There is no question about what comes next, there is only the answer.

And the time to do that comes during off-season programs and training camp.

“Now we’re putting in what we’re going to call a control system with our offense. We want plays designed in plays,” Ridder said. “…For us as quarterbacks – mentally – it’s adding new checks every day and then going out (to practice) and rep them against the looks we want to see.”

He does this until the wheels fall off, because one day the wheels will fall off. Headphones turn off. Communication breaks down. The wounds are piling up. Tusks change appearance. And someone – whether it’s Mariota or Ridder or both – will have to put all 11 players up front.

They will have to save themselves and the team. This offseason, they’re training to do just that.

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