Being an NFL QB is one of the most challenging things in sports. Not only are teams dependent on the physical aspect of the position, but they’re also counting on signal callers bringing the intangibles to the table as well. The Falcons are entering uncharted territory in 2022 — the first season without Matt Ryan in more than a decade. The Boston College product long commanded Atlanta as one of the more respected QBs in football. Now, Marcus Mariota will take the reins and do his best to carry the mantle.
It’s never easy to take over a franchise after someone like Ryan, who is widely considered one of the best players in the organization’s history. Mariota also isn’t some established starter in this league; he’s had a roller coaster of a career to arrive at this point, filled with ups and downs over eight seasons.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and 2nd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft entered the league with the Titans and took Tennessee to the divisional round of the playoffs in his third season. Mariota went 29-32 over 61 career starts with an 89.5 passer rating.
Fast forward three years and the Oregon product appeared in one game for the Raiders during the 2020 season. Last year, Mariota was strictly used as a change-of-pace quarterback and only stepped on the field to throw off opposing defenses.
However, Mariota is set to be the Falcons’ starter, given how familiar he is with Arthur Smith’s offense. Working with Smith in Tennessee, Mariota was eventually replaced by Ryan Tannehill during his last season with the Titans.
The one fundamental difference between Matt Ryan and Mariota is his mobility. The latter is able to create plays off-script with his legs. Mariota’s most recent start came in 2020, where he completed 17 of 28 passes (60.7% completion) for 226 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He can still function as a starter in this league, and he’ll get his chance in Atlanta.
Falcons fans shouldn’t expect Mariota to be Matt Ryan, but they can expect Mariota to be himself. Commanding the Falcons’ offense is the main objective; winning over his teammates as its leader should be the next most important task, which Mariota has reportedly been successful in doing.
“Each guy is kind of different, but you have to figure out how each guy does it,” Falcons QB coach Charles London said. “Matt had his way of getting people’s attention, and Marcus has his own way of doing it. I think each guy has got to be himself, got to be authentic, has to be genuine, but Marcus has that about him where guys will follow him.”
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