When the Falcons traded Matt Ryan this offseason, it signaled the official start of the rebuild in Atlanta. Terry Fontenot quickly went out and signed Marcus Mariota to be the stopgap quarterback until Desmond Ridder, who he drafted a short time afterward, was ready to take the reins. Through five games of the 2022 season, fans are already prepared to see the rookie. And they might have a point because Mariota has certainly fallen short of the few expectations the fanbase had for the veteran.
He’s one of the worst passers in the league. The former No. 2 overall pick has a career-low 57.7% completion percentage, career-low quarterback rating, and career-high interception percentage. He ranks 30th in completion percentage, 24th in passing yards, 26th in passing touchdowns, tied for the ninth-most interceptions, and 27th in quarterback rating.
Again, expectations weren’t high to begin with, but Mariota is undoubtedly underperforming. The more he plays, the more apparent he is a backup-caliber quarterback in this league, and there’s value in that, just not when you’re trying to win games. Despite that, he’s still getting the utmost support from his head coach. In a recent article from Josh Kendall of The Athletic, Arthur Smith’s comments all but silenced calls for a Falcons quarterback change.
“I think he’s doing a nice job, quarterback rating and completion (percentage) be damned,” Smith said.
“The completion percentage, eh, whatever,” Smith said. “I worry more about situational football, turnover margin, making sure we are clean in the red zone. There are a lot of ways to look at it, but I do have an appreciation for guys who won’t take negative plays regardless of their stats.”
“[Mariota’s play is] not perfect at all,” Smith said, but “he gets us out of a lot of jams.”
“There’s no flinch in Marcus’ game,” Smith said.
If you have Arthur Smith in your corner, you’ve got to feel comfortable. There are no signs of a quarterback change in Atlanta, and there’s probably a good reason for that. Mariota has a better grasp of the offense and understanding of NFL defenses, given his experience in the league and Smith’s system. Fans also aren’t at practice. There’s no telling what Ridder looks like in those situations. He could look horrendous, and Falcons fans would have no idea.
Mariota has had head-scratching moments — turning the ball over in the red zone late in games, missing open receivers, etc. But he’s also had hat-tipping moments. I understand the calls for Ridder, especially from an outside perspective. But we aren’t inside Flowery Branch every day; there’s no telling where the rookie’s progression currently stands.
Photographer: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire