As the Falcons move on from the Matt Ryan era, former No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota looks to be the next starter in Atlanta. The Falcons signed Mariota to a two-year deal on Monday, reuniting him with his old offensive coordinator Arthur Smith from his time with the Tennessee Titans.
The 2022 season is an opportunity for Mariota, 28, to rejuvenate his career. He was benched in 2019 in favor of Ryan Tannehill and has been a backup since, spending the last two years with the Las Vegas Raiders behind Derek Carr.
For the Falcons, Mariota could blossom into a long-term starter as Tannehill did in Tennessee, or he could be a bridge to the Falcons' next quarterback.
General manager Terry Fontenot said the Falcons would continue to build the quarterback room through free agency and the draft, which makes sense considering that Feleipe Franks, who served in special teams mostly in 2021 and is the only other quarterback on the roster.
"Marcus had some terrific runs with us in Tennessee," Smith said. "He obviously was a starter who won a playoff game with us in the 2017 season. He's at a different point of his career from where he was at then. I'm at a different point in my career. A lot of lessons learned, and we're excited to work together again. He's an exciting player, a smart football player, and he's excited about the opportunity to get to Atlanta to prove himself."
In that 2018 playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs, Mariota threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns in the 22-21 win. Mariota led the Titans back from a 21-3 deficit in the first half and even threw a touchdown to himself after a pass was batted directly into his hands, and he ran it in the end zone for a score.
Performances like that are a reminder of how talented Mariota is and what he could potentially bring to the Falcons. Now that he'll be reunited with Smith and in a system he is comfortable with, he has an opportunity to show teams that he can be a legitimate starter in this league.
"I trust Marcus," Smith said. "... He's going to come in here, and he's going to give us everything he's got. He's got high-end talent, and he understands what's happened in the past. He's learned from them, I've learned from them, and we feel excited about the opportunity."