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Falcons QB Marcus Mariota leaves team due to demotion

Dec 4, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) throws against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota has reportedly left the club after being demoted as the team’s starter due to performance-based reasons.

Mariota is dealing with a knee injury that will likely lead him to being placed on injured reserve. But he was not happy to learn he was being replaced as the team’s starter by rookie Desmond Ridder.

The move came during the bye week for the Falcons and Ridder will make his NFL debut this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.

“Those (conversations) are never easy,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “You try to be truthful, whether they agree or not, those are the conversations you have to have.”

According to The Athletic, Smith informed Mariota on Thursday morning that he was being replaced by Ridder. The following day, Mariota said he planned to leave the team.

Smith said the move is Mariota’s prerogative but it was easy to see the head coach was disappointed after lobbying for the Falcons to sign Mariota in the offseason.

Smith was on the offensive staff of the Tennessee Titans for five seasons — including offensive coordinator in 2019 — while Mariota was with that team. Mariota lost this starting job to Ryan Tannehill during the 2019 season.

“Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but guys have to make decisions,” Smith said. “It’s part of professional sports. You have to have contingency plans.”

Mariota has passed for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. But he has failed to reach 200 passing yards 10 times, including the past five contests.

Overall, the former No. 2 overall pick in 2015 has passed for 15,656 yards, 92 touchdowns and 54 interceptions in 87 career games (74 starts) with the Titans (2015-19), Las Vegas Raiders (2020-21) and Falcons.

He signed a two-year, $18.75 million deal with Atlanta in the offseason.

Mariota won the Heisman Trophy in 2014 to cap a strong college career at Oregon.

Ridder was Atlanta’s third-round selection (74th overall) in this year’s draft out of Cincinnati.

–Field Level Media