Falcons Coach Arthur Smith Implies Marcus Mariota Faking Injury Following Benching

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Unbelievably, the 5-8 Atlanta Falcons sit just one game back in the NFC South and thus are right in the thick of the playoff race. But 5-8 teams make changes, and head coach Arthur Smith decided to make the ultimate adjustment and replace veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota with third-round rookie Desmond Ridder.

He announced last week that Ridder would be the starter moving forward and cited both “short-term” and “long-term” reasons.

The Marcus Mariota era is over and the Desmond Ridder era is about to begin for the Atlanta Falcons according to Arthur Smith.
The Marcus Mariota era is over and the Desmond Ridder era is about to begin for the Atlanta Falcons according to Arthur Smith. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Seemingly out of nowhere, Marcus Mariota revealed he has an ankle injury that will land him on IR. That would end his season.

When Smith spoke to reporters, though, he wanted to make it clear that the injury had no bearing on his decision to bench Mariota.

“That had nothing to do with the move [to start Ridder],” Smith said.

Then, he delivered a very interesting line about the injury.

“Like a lot of athletes [he’s got] something chronic. Nothing that’s been an issue this season, but that’s their prerogative.”

Whoa. That seems like a pretty clear indicator that Smith does not believe Mariota’s injury should be sending him to IR. He seems to be implying that Mariota just doesn’t want to play for the team if he’s not starting.

More than likely, Marcus Mariota is done being a starter in the NFL. He got a final chance in Atlanta after flaming out in Tennessee and spending two seasons as a Raiders backup.

But his opportunity to be a backup might be done, as well. If he’s not willing to be second-string, where does he fit in the league?

One thing is for sure: Atlanta isn’t the place where he fits anymore.


Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ

Written by Dan Zaksheske

Dan began his sports media career at ESPN, where he survived for nearly a decade. Once the Stockholm Syndrome cleared, he made his way to Outkick. He is secure enough in his masculinity to admit he is a cat-enthusiast with three cats, one of which is named “Brady” because his wife wishes she were married to Tom instead of him.

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