Falcons Hall of Famer Makes Marcus Mariota Super Bowl Prediction

Marcus Mariota

Getty A Falcons Hall of Famer has made a prediction about Marcus Mariota's Super Bowl chances.

Marcus Mariota is responsible for making the Atlanta Falcons a Super Bowl contender again in the post-Matt Ryan era. It’s a tall order for a quarterback who lost his starting job with the Tennessee Titans, despite being drafted second overall in 2015, then spent the last two years as Derek Carr’s backup with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Mariota is trying to revive his career in Atlanta, where he’s playing for his former Titans offensive coordinator, now Falcons head coach, Arthur Smith. Returning the Falcons to the playoffs for the first time since 2017 is the only tangible way for Mariota to show progress.

One member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who was named an All-Pro and went to four Pro Bowls as a member of the Falcons believes there’s enough playoff-level talent around Mariota. This NFL great has given his verdict on whether the team’s QB1 can make the difference and eventually inspire an improving roster to win a championship.

Mariota Super Bowl Verdict Has Falcons Planning for Future

Tony Gonzalez sat down with Kelly Price of Fox 5 Sports and assessed the Falcons’ playoff chances. While the all-time great tight end had praise for Smith and a developing defense, Gonzalez sounded a note of caution about Mariota: “I love Marcus Mariota, he’s a good quarterback, but if you’re talking Super Bowl, you just look at the names who have played in the Super Bowl over the last 20 years. It’s last name Manning, Brady, Mahomes, Wilson. Drew Brees, Rodgers. It’s those type of quarterbacks that you gotta have at the helm if you ever want to be a Super Bowl-caliber team.”

The Falcons are “eventually going to have to bring in that type of quarterback, that franchise quarterback,” according to Gonzalez.

In a sense there’s nothing new here in what Gonzalez is saying. It’s likely the same view many observers of the rebuilding Falcons have about Mariota and the team’s broader QB situation.

While it may seem ultra-premature to even be talking Super Bowl for a team that went 7-10 last season and opened the new campaign by losing to the New Orleans Saints, a championship is the ultimate goal for any franchise.

To that end, what Gonzalez says has a lot of merit. The Falcons do need a bluechip signal-caller capable of elevating every other unit on the team.

What’s intriguing about that statement is how Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot might go about acquiring one. There’s no shortage of exciting options.

Draft Route Too Tempting for Falcons QB Search

The easiest route to a potential marquee passer, at least financially, is to use a first-round pick on a premium prospect in next year’s draft. It’s the route Josh Edwards of CBS Sports has the Falcons going, with the team taking Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud first overall: “By no means do I think Stroud has the No. 1 overall selection locked up, but I do believe he is a strong contender. Atlanta may have hope for Desmond Ridder but realistically, it is not going to see enough to warrant bypassing a quarterback at No. 1 overall.”

What’s telling about Edwards’ prediction is how it accounts for Desmond Ridder. This year’s third-round pick is widely expected to replace Mariota as the starter at some point during the 2022 season and prove himself the quarterback of the Falcons’ future.

Edwards obviously doesn’t believe Ridder will live up to the billing. He also wisely points to how tempting selecting a first-round passer will be if the Falcons again find themselves picking at the front end of another draft next April.

That’s something Walter Football’s Walter Cherepinsky believes will happen and he has the Falcons taking Kentucy’s Will Levis with the fifth pick. Levis has been showing off his arm strength against tough SEC opposition already this season:

Few teams will pass on the chance to take a gifted quarterback in the first round, even if it means stacking talent at football’s most important position. The Falcons may not have the latter luxury and nor will they be likely to make a splash in free agency.

Lamar Jackson is set to headline the veteran class of available QBs in 2023 as things stand. He’d be a dream fit for the Falcons, especially after a season spent incorporating Mariota’s mobility into the offense.

The problem is the cost of signing Jackson would be considerable and probably prohibitive to the Falcons making a play for 2019’s NFL MVP. Fontenot has worked hard to ease the Falcons’ salary cap woes, creating $9,108,969 worth of space, per Spotrac.com, with the same source estimating the team will be $48,482,706 under the cap for 2023.

Maybe the Falcons could clear the decks for Jackson, but it seems more likely the Baltimore Ravens will eventually reach a compromise over a new contract with their franchise QB.

The Falcons may be looking for one of those in a few months, but it’s still possible Mariota rebounds in style or Ridder takes the reins and belies his draft status. If nothing else, Smith and Fontenot have a lot of methods for solving every team’s biggest dilemma.

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