Former XFL star Taylor Heinicke has been named the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons‘ Week 9 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, coach Arthur Smith announced on Wednesday.

The Falcons selected quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round of last year’s draft. Ridder was elevated to the starting position for the final four games of the 2022 season and started for the first eight games of this season. 

He was pulled from last Sunday’s contest at halftime and Heinicke handled the quarterback duties for the remainder of the game.

“Just for this week, just with all the variables, just kind of considering everything in the last 72 hours and what we feel is best for this week against Minnesota, Taylor will play this week,” Smith said on Wednesday.


Ridder was evaluated for a concussion during last week’s loss to Tennessee Titans. He was medically cleared, but ultimately did not return to the game. Smith later said he did not take Ridder out of the game because of any performance-related issues.


Heinicke, 30, finished last week’s game with 175 yards and one touchdown. He led the Falcons to 20 points in the second half.

Ridder has struggled with ball security, losing four fumbles in the last three games. He has also thrown three interceptions over the last handful of games. Ridder has a total of six lost fumbles this season, which is the most by a Falcons player since Michael Vick in 2004.

Heinicke has appeared in 34 games, starting 25, in his NFL career. Prior to signing with his hometown team, Heinicke had stints with the Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers and Washington Commanders.

Heinicke has thrown for 5,920 yards in his career, with 35 touchdowns against 24 interceptions. He has been largely viewed as a high-end backup quarterback instead of a franchise quarterback due to his uneven play.

Heinicke has a 12-12-1 record as a starter.

Ridder has completed 64.8% of his passes for 2,409 yards, with eight touchdowns against six interceptions over his 12 career starts.

The Vikings will travel to Atlanta this weekend, but veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins will not be in uniform. The four-time Pro Bowler suffered a season-ending Achilles tear during last week’s win over the Green Bay Packers.

Minnesota acquired veteran quarterback Joshua Dobbs in a trade earlier this week, but rookie Jaren Hall is still expected to start against the Falcons.