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Marcus Mariota to have season-ending knee surgery

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 head coach Arthur Smith said Wednesday that erstwhile starting quarterback Marcus Mariota will undergo knee surgery next week.

Mariota, 29, will be placed on injured reserve, ending his season.

The announcement caps a bizarre few days for Mariota and the team.

Smith announced Thursday that Desmond Ridder would take over at starting quarterback when the Falcons came out of their bye to play New Orleans in Week 15.

On Monday, it was revealed that Mariota was expected to be placed on IR with a knee injury, but Smith noted that the injury had nothing to do with his decision to promote Ridder, calling it a performance-based decision.

On Tuesday came the news that Mariota left the team after being informed of the demotion, with Smith painting Mariota as a quitter and implying that Mariota used the guise of injury to leave the team.

The knee “is nothing that has been an issue this season, but that’s (Mariota’s) prerogative so …” Smith said. “Of course, you want all your guys to be here, but guys have to make decisions. It’s part of professional sports. You have to have contingency plans.”

But then also Wednesday came the news that Mariota was apparently away from the team for the birth of his baby. However, that didn’t come from Smith or the Falcons. Instead, it was posted by a Falcons fan social media account.

Smith reinforced Wednesday that he was moving to Ridder as starter, regardless of Mariota’s injury.

“I’m not a medical expert, I’m just telling you that it had nothing to do with the decision,” Smith said.

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.

The Falcons signed former Tennessee Titans practice squad quarterback Logan Woodside to the active 53-man roster. Woodside will be active and serve as the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday and the rest of the season.

–Field Level Media