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QB Marcus Mariota set to have surgery, lands on injured reserve

The 13 game starter will be out for the rest of the season.

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Atlanta Falcons v Washington Commanders Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Marcus Mariota’s season has been a roller coaster in so many ways. The veteran stepped in as the unquestioned starting quarterback for the Falcons, got off to a pretty hot start to the season, regressed mightily, and then lost his starting job over the bye. Now, his season ends with a trip to injured reserve.

Arthur Smith told reporters Wednesday that Mariota is gearing up for surgery, presumably on the chronic knee condition the team referenced earlier this week, and will hit IR today. The Falcons will have an open roster spot to work with, and will roll ahead with Desmond Ridder, Logan Woodside, and Feleipe Franks at quarterback.

That will end the season for Mariota, given that this is the final four games of the season, and the veteran will likely be looking toward 2023 and an opportunity to compete for a starting job elsewhere. The Falcons can save over $12 million in cap space by cutting Mariota, and it seems likely given the way his tenure is ending that the team will do that and seek a new backup and/or competitor for Ridder.

Mariota, who also welcomed a new baby last week, has found himself the center of significant controversy the past couple of days, with fans and pundits debating the timing of the quarterback needing knee surgery for something we hadn’t heard about before now after being benched. Smith’s Monday presser featured the head coach heavily implying that the knee injury was not something that had been troubling the quarterback during the season, as The Athletic’s Josh Kendall chronicled:

The knee “is nothing that has been an issue this season, but that’s (Mariota’s) prerogative so … ” Smith said. “Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but guys have to make decisions. It’s part of professional sports. You have to have contingency plans.”

We don’t know what was said between Mariota and Smith, how long Mariota has been dealing with his knee issue, and so forth, but the upshot is that Mariota’s season is certainly over and his time with Atlanta with it, especially if that friction is as real as it seems. The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz noted earlier that Mariota never appeared on the injury report this season, which doesn’t mean the knee wasn’t bothering him all season, but does lend credence to the idea that it wasn’t something that would have kept Mariota from playing if he were still playing.

He finished the year as one of the least-productive passers in the NFL in terms of raw output, but he led the entire league in intended air yards on his passes, was extremely efficient early in the year and earned an NFC Offensive Player of the Week award, and was a dangerous player on the move both throwing and scrambling. For a player the Falcons signed to be a bridge quarterback, Mariota was solid enough and made this offense interesting until his play dipped over the last few weeks, so we tip our cap to him for that work. This is a frustrating way to end the season, though.

Now it’s Ridder time, and the hope is that the rookie will cement himself as the long-term starter for the Falcons. We wish Mariota well for his surgery and recovery and look forward to Sunday.