The Atlanta Falcons benched Marcus Mariota on Monday, and now his season is likely over. Mariota will undergo knee surgery and be placed on Injured Reserve, Falcons coach Arthur Smith said Wednesday.
Smith mentioned that possibility Monday, telling reporters Mariota might be placed on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. Smith said the injury did not contribute to his decision to bench Mariota for rookie Desmond Ridder. Smith called the decision "performance-based." Upon hearing the news, Mariota apparently decided to get his knee checked out.
As a result, he'll undergo surgery in December.
#Falcons QB Marcus Mariota is sent to have knee surgery next week and he'll go on IR today, coach Arthur Smith said.— D. Orlando Ledbetter (@DOrlandoAJC) December 14, 2022
Smith appeared to question Mariota's timing, telling The Athletic on Tuesday that Mariota's knee "is nothing that has been an issue this season, but that's [his] prerogative." Smith also spoke about the importance of having guys stick with the team, saying, "Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but guys have to make decisions." That could also be interpreted as a critique of Mariota.
It's the second time in his career Mariota has been benched by Smith. The first came in 2019, when Smith benched Mariota for Ryan Tannehill. Smith was the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans at the time. The Titans went 7-3 down the stretch with Tannehill, eventually reaching the playoffs. The Titans won two playoff games before falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
Marcus Mariota faces uncertain future with Falcons after benching
The surgery could mark the end of Mariota's run with the Falcons. Getting placed on Injured Reserve will effectively end Mariota's season. He's under contract with the Falcons for another year, but doesn't carry an expensive cap hit in the offseason. The Falcons can cut him and find another option to either compete with, or sit behind, Ridder next season.
If Mariota hits the free-agent market, he would be looking for his fourth team since being the No. 2 overall selection in the 2015 NFL draft.
Mariota has experienced positive stretches over his career, but has thrown for 20+ touchdowns in a season just once. He's now lost a starting job twice in the past four years and spent the other two seasons primarily as a backup.
In 13 games with the Falcons, Mariota completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He also ran for 438 yards and 4 scores.
Those numbers should result in Mariota getting some interest if he hits the free-agent market, though most likely as a backup.