The Atlanta Falcons are in uncharted waters. For the first time since 2008, Matthew Thomas Ryan is no longer the team’s quarterback. After losing out on the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, the Falcons traded Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts on March 21st 2022 for a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Subsequently, that turned into rookie EDGE DeAngelo Malone.
Every Falcons fans has their own opinions about the decision to move on from the veteran signal caller. But now, the question is: what’s next for the Falcons?
New Sheriff in Town: Marcus Mariota
In the aftermath, the Falcons turned around and signed veteran journeyman quarterback and former first round pick Marcus Mariota. Mariota, a former Raider and Titan was one of the bigger names on the quarterback market this offseason. Falcons head coach Arthur Smith has familiarity with Mariota, who went on to lose his starting job to current Titans starter Ryan Tannehill in 2019 while Smith was the offensive coordinator.
After leaving the Titans in 2020, Mariota then became the backup quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders under Derek Carr. There, he seemed to re-establish himself as the quarterback he wants to be. Mariota has previously stated “I know that I have an opportunity to get better and work with a really awesome offensive staff. I’ll be able to grow in that sense. So at the end of the day, my goal is always to be a starter and to be successful at it. I’m working towards that.”
Mariota, the former Heisman winner, is bringing that mindset of always wanting to get better and be successful to a roster in Atlanta that is in the midst of a rebuild. The franchise’s direction is changing after trading the franchise’s top two players in consecutive years.
But what does Mariota bring to the new look Falcons roster as their newest starting quarterback? Outside of Mariota’s familiarity with Smith and his offense, he brings a skillset that is very different from Ryan’s. Mariota is much more of the modern mold of quarterback that teams are looking for.
Mariota’s Dual-Threat Capabilities are Intriguing
In this play above, Marcus Mariota keeps the read option himself for a large gain on the ground. That is something the Falcons haven’t been able to do since Mike Vick was the quarterback. In today’s NFL, teams are using quarterbacks as more than just pocket passers; Mariota lets the play calling get more creative and gives Arthur Smith the freedom to call the offense he wants.
Here is another play of the Raiders relying on Mariota’s legs to make a play with another read option. Against Dallas, he breaks around the edge to scamper in for the touchdown. The way that Vegas factored in Mariota’s legs into the game plan is a way that the Falcons might choose to mimic.
Even looking at this play above from current Titans starter, Ryan Tannehill, Smith as a play caller likes to incorporate concepts that let a quarterback show off his legs if he has the ability.
But Mariota isn’t strictly a running quarterback; the former Heisman winner has the ability to sling it as a passer.
In this play above, Mariota does a great job of maintaining his poise in the pocket under pressure from the Chargers defense and delivers a bomb to Waller in stride for the touchdown.
Here, Mariota goes again hitting Pitts in stride in a similar fashion during training camp, leading the target down the sideline for what would have been a big gain if it were live.
What is Mariota’s Ceiling for the Atlanta Falcons?
As a pure player, Marcus Mariota is bringing a skillset that will bring a new energy to the team. Furthermore, it gives Arthur Smith the ability to open up the play calling to introduce some new creativity. Creativity that the team was lacking last season.
But one of the biggest things that the Falcons should expect to see? A tough player who is respected by his teammates and viewed as a leader during this rebuild. An example of that is above; Mariota throws his body on the line against the Chargers to tie the game late.
Mariota feels like the type of guy who will embrace this team and embrace this fanbase. He is one of the most notable “nice guys” of the NFL and has always been loved and respected by his fans and his teammates. In the clip above you see Mariota take time to just hang out with a fan before the game. It isn’t long, it isn’t anything major but you know an interaction like that will leave a lasting impression. And that is what being a fan favorite is about.
He isn’t Matt Ryan, he will never be Matt Ryan, but Mariota is a guy who is going to be great for the team and for the locker room. He brings a different skillset and demeanor to the fold, and that isn’t a bad thing for the rebuilding Falcons.
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