The Marcus Mariota saga in Atlanta was one that flew under the national media’s radar. It’s crazy how little traction him basically quitting on the Falcons has gotten around the league.
The former Heisman Trophy winner signed a two-year deal that was really one year to be the stopgap option while the Falcons searched for the franchise quarterback. Mariota had a tumultuous 2022 campaign.
During his 13 starts, Mariota threw for 2,219 yards and 15 touchdowns against just nine interceptions on 61.3% passing. Ultimately, he fell out of favor with the coaching staff and was benched for the rookie Desmond Ridder, which came much too late if you ask me.
But that’s where things get weird.
After learning about his demotion, the veteran seemingly stepped away from the Falcons; a phantom injury ended his season despite never appearing on any injury report. From where I sit, it looks like Marcus Mariota quit, taking his ball and going home.
According to reports, the team informed him of the decision on a Thursday morning; by Friday, they learned Mariota planned to step away. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith even went as far as to say the injury wasn’t an issue all season and that it was his own prerogative.
When Marcus Mariota signed with the Falcons, he was heralded for his professionalism and sterling reputation, highly touted for his attitude and leadership, but he acted very uncharacteristically and left Desmond Ridder high and dry. There’s surely more to the story, but for what’s available to the public, it sheds a terrible light on Mariota.
What’s even crazier about this entire saga is the lack of attention. Thankfully, Matt Lombardo of Heavy on Sports shed some light on it. In a piece of the six most surprising things this offseason, an NFL agent told Lombardo how surprised he was when the Eagles signed Mariota after quitting on the Falcons.
The Eagles will likely sign Jalen Hurts to a massive extension at some point this offseason, but inked Mariota to a one-year deal worth $5 million during the first week of free agency.
Mariota provides steady experience as a starter, having made 74 career starts as a 62.6% passer with 92 touchdowns to 54 interceptions since being chosen No. 1 overall by the Tennessee Titans back in 2015. However, Mariota left the Falcons after suffering a knee injury last season, rather than finishing out the season in the quarterbacks room helping rookie Desmond Ridder develop. Now, he’ll back up Hurts, as a clear upgrade from Gardner Minshew in Philadelphia.
It doesn’t make sense on any level. Interestingly, Mariota will be one of the signal callers featured on Netflix’s new series ‘Quarterback,’ which followed a handful of quarterbacks around this season on and off the field. Hopefully, it gives more perspective on how things actually developed.
Photographer: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
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