Falcons say farewell to Matt Ryan and hello to Marcus Mariota
Last week, Matt Ryan’s 14-season reign as the Falcons quarterback came to an unceremonious end. Say hello to Marcus Mariota, who could be burdened with all our hopes, dreams and frustrations.
Driving the news: The Falcons last week signed the Hawaii native to a two-year deal after trading Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a third-round draft pick. Another signing could follow.
Details: In 2015, the Tennessee Titans picked Mariota as the second overall pick in the NFL draft. The year before, Mariota became the first University of Oregon player and first Hawaii-born person to win the Heisman.
- Oregon fans picked Mariota two years ago to join other notable athletic alumni on a Mount Rushmore of the school’s sports legends. In 2015, Urban Meyer called Mariota “one of the finest that’s ever played the game.”
After five seasons with the Titans, Mariota headed to the Las Vegas Raiders as a free agent, where he served in a backup role.
Of note: Joining the Falcons reunites Mariota with Falcons coach Arthur Smith, who was the Titans’ offensive coordinator during the QB's final season in Tennessee.
What he's saying: “That doesn't necessarily mean I'm the starter," Mariota said Friday during his first media appearance as a Falcon. "I can very well be the backup and do those types of things, and that's what I've learned. But I know that with Art, he's always going to be honest with me and I can really put forth my best foot forward and see what I can do."
Yes, but: Smith and general manager Terry Fontenot made visits to Pittsburgh, Virginia, Mississippi and Cincinnati to scout top quarterback prospects, the AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter reports.
Intrigue: The weekend before the Mariota announcement, Falcons fans held their breath over speculation that the team would sign DeShaun Watson. Days earlier, a second grand jury declined to indict the Texans QB on allegations of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
- Watson, who denies the accusations and still faces an NFL investigation and more than 20 civil lawsuits, ended up signing with the Browns.
The bottom line: Team officials don’t want to say they’re rebuilding. But they are rebuilding.
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