The move decision was made during Atlanta’s bye week in Week 14 following a poor performance from veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota.
In addition to the QB switch, head coach Arthur Smith made the media aware of Marcus Mariota’s “chronic” knee injury, which could send him to injured reserve.
Smith emphasized that his knee injury is new and possibly hinted that Mariota quit on the team.
“(The knee) is nothing that has been an issue this season, but that’s (Mariota’s) prerogative so … Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but guys have to make decisions. It’s part of professional sports,” Smith said, via Josh Kendall of The Athletic.
Adding that he “doesn’t know if Mariota will be back.”
Despite Mariota’s knee injury, Smith made it clear that the decision to bench him for Ridder was strictly “performance-based.”
Fans React to Mariota Quitting on His Team
Fans and critics took to Twitter to express how they feel about Mariota essentially ditching his teammates.
“Marcus Mariota has seemingly left the Falcons and quit the team because he was benched and won’t be there to help coach up Desmond Ridder. Good riddance,” Georgia sports analyst Kevin Keenley wrote.
“Sometimes the trash takes itself out 😂,” a fan tweeted.
“Why is my boy Marcus Mariota acting like a baby and quitting the team?” – another fan wrote.
It was also reported that Mariota may be stepping away to be with his newborn, which some fans are happy about.
“Marcus Mariota going to hang out with his baby for a month after getting demoted might be the healthiest thing an NFL player has ever done,” a fan wrote.
“Marcus Mariota said “I’m not playing? Cool. I’m taking paternity leave.” Good for him,” a fan added.
With Mariota “quitting” the team, the Falcons signed some quarterback help over the weekend in former Tennessee Titans backup, Logan Woodside.
The Falcons have four matchups left against the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’ll now be up to the rookie and Woodside’s guidance to help lead Atlanta to a playoff re-birth.
Mariota Quitting Doesn’t Match His Personality
If Mariota did end up leaving the team high and dry over being benched, it doesn’t add up to what he said prior to the start of the 2022 season.
“If it’s not me, it’s okay too,” Mariota told Falcons’ top insider Steve Wyche back in April before officially being named QB1. “I’ve been in this situation before. It’s a ‘control what I can control,’ mindset. I have no ego. I can be an ear and listen. Teams are going to do what they’re going to do. If they do draft someone, I’ll give as much advice and knowledge as I can. If not, I’m ready to roll.”
Mariota emphasized a few months later, once again, that he was a strong advocate for mentoring young players.
“If you can help guys — especially the younger guys — out, it’s ultimately going to make your team better,” Mariota said on Aug. 18, via ESPN.com. “So, I do whatever I can. I pass along as much information as I can to him, whatever he wants to absorb.”
Not to mention that his teammates had his back all season long.
We should get more intel from Arthur Smith during Wednesday’s press conference on Dec. 14.