If you have heard any of the Atlanta Falcons pressers since the end of last Sunday's game one word will stand out to you, variables. Arthur Smith has been asked in every way imaginable what the reasoning is for Ridder's benching and what the position looks like moving forward.
In typical Arthur Smith style, the head coach dances around every direct question. Smith has the sarcasm of Nick Saban and the annoyed attitude of Bill Belichick just you know, without all of the winning. To be fair to Smith, this is year three and in both of his first two seasons Atlanta was buried by the cap and unable to put together decent rosters.
Smith led two bad rosters to 7 win seasons and had both teams competing for a playoff spot deep into the year. The problem for Smith and the Falcons is after an off-season of spending the results are the same. Smith's play calling and pass play design are both hurting the team and the head coach is yet to adjust.
Desmond Ridder is a far more talented player than Heinicke but as we watched last Sunday talent isn't everything. Heinicke came out and made decisive decisions and clearly was the better option for the Falcons. So why is Arthur Smith refusing to answer any of the questions being asked directly?
The answer is simple the "variables" are Ridder's health, turnover issues, struggles making quick decisions, and the Vikings blitz blitz-happy defense. Desmond could quickly fold and put up a multi-turnover game against a team that is going to force the quarterback into quick decisions.
Everything about this defense sets up Taylor Heinicke to have a great day or a mistake-prone one. How Heinicke responds and if he can take advantage of the continual one-on-one chances he is given will determine what the quarterback position looks like moving forward.
This is a bad matchup for Desmond and Arthur Smith knows it letting the quarterback sit for a week and refusing to answer questions is best best-case scenario for Smith. Either Heinicke lights it up and takes the choice out of Smith's hands or the quarterback makes the same mistakes against an aggressive defense.
Either way, Smith can view it as a win either Heinicke takes the choice out of his hands or the veteran struggles and he can turn back to Ridder pretending this never happened. If you never say your starting quarterback is benched simply saying the word "variables" anytime anyone questions your decision you have less room to be criticized.
This is what this week and this move has been all about Arthur Smith is not yet willing to own his own mistakes in play call or play design. Smith is also unwilling to fully buy into his backup quarterback wanting to leave the door completely open for Ridder.
Desmond is still the "starter" if Heinicke struggles on Sunday and prepare yourself for sarcastic answers if anyone suggests otherwise. Perhaps Taylor continues to be the player we watched on Sunday against the Titans or maybe it will be obvious the team needs to turn back to Ridder.
Regardless of the answer, the problem is and will continue to be Arthur Smith's lack of adjustments, answers, and accountability. This system isn't built for a young quarterback to learn and thrive and until the Falcons head coach adjusts or brings in a new coordinator the struggles or "variables" will remain the same.