Questioning whether or not the Atlanta Falcons made the right decision benching Desmond Ridder for the majority of the preseason is more than fair. When you look across the league and see veteran coaches like Mike Tomlin, Andy Reid, and Sean Payton playing their starters far more than Arthur Smith played Desmond Ridder there is an obvious debate to be had.
When Andy Reid is playing Patrick Mahomes in the preseason after winning it all the value the team puts on the reps is obvious. Even for a quarterback who is universally regarded as the best active player in the league the reps are important.
The value of preseason reps varies not only according to the viewer but even NFL coaches can't seem to agree on how important they are. Tomlin used boxing as an example talking about it being difficult to fight if one isn't sparring beforehand.
This is a mentality that is easy to understand but on the flip side, you have Arthur Smith who made it perfectly clear how he viewed the final preseason game. Atlanta didn't play a single proven starter in the final game protecting Desmond Ridder as if it were Matt Ryan sitting on the sideline.
Whether Tomlin or Smith are taking the correct approach is up to interpretation with an argument that both are doing the right thing for their own rosters. Smith has talked about the difficult practices Atlanta has had and the need to get healthy heading into the games that count.
This makes perfect sense when considering your veterans or proven starters who aren't going to get a lot of out a step up from practice. However, Desmond Ridder has only played four career games after spending most of the season behind Marcus Mariota in his rookie year.
Despite a full off-season and camp full of reps, it would have been reassuring to see the quarterback play a bit more. Even if it were simply to build chemistry with his new targets only having live game experience with Drake London out of Atlanta's primary options.
Questioning this decision is absolutely fair for a team that is in a pivotal season with an unproven quarterback. We have watched more than one team come out flat last year as more teams began to sit their starters. More than one blamed the struggles on a lack of reps including a great Bengals team that gave the eventual champs all they could handle in the playoffs.
Whether or not the right decision was made is impossible to know but seeing so little of Ridder and ending the preseason in such an ugly fashion has done little to ease concerns about the quarterback heading into the season.