Five years after blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the Falcons have struggled to stay in the NFL’s elite class.
They have made the playoffs just once since, and that lone subsequent postseason appearance came the following year.
It seems that Atlanta is doing nothing more than taking a flyer on Mariota, as his new deal will last just two seasons, with the second season being an option year.
Some are wondering whether the Falcons are starting a true rebuild, or if they’re simply retooling and hoping to soon return to the playoffs.
Atlanta Has Little To Lose With Mariota
The Hawaii native was the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and came into the pros amidst high expectations, especially after he was such a stud at the University of Oregon.
In his very first NFL regular season game, he threw four touchdowns and no interceptions in an easy 42-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and many were drooling with anticipation about what lay ahead for him.
— 2nd & Victory (@2ndandVictory) July 16, 2018
But things haven’t panned out the way people thought they may for Mariota.
Now, he has a chance to prove himself anew, while playing for a team that will have small expectations for the 2021 season.
If he fails to excel once again, there probably won’t be as much noise about it, especially since few are expecting him to lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl any time soon.
On the other hand, there are enough people who still believe in Mariota and his skill sets.
Marcus Mariota talent is still there! Arm talent, mobility, creativity, and playbook expansion.
Give my guy another shot! pic.twitter.com/Jpqe5L5WcI
— Damian Parson (@DP_NFL) March 13, 2022
The Falcons Need Much More Than An Elite QB
Even if Mariota becomes the best version of himself, it would only be half the battle for Atlanta.
The team has one of the NFL’s worst collections of wide receivers.
Yes, tight end Kyle Pitts showed promise as a rookie, but he’s the only reliable playmaker the Falcons have as of now.
Atlanta’s running game may be even worse.
The team finished next-to-last in rushing yards and 27th in rushing touchdowns last season, and those numbers seem unlikely to improve much.
Don’t expect the Falcons’ defense to create opportunities either, as they were 29th in points allowed this past season.
Clearly, they’re starting near the bottom, but there’s hope beyond the horizon.
Not only will they have the eighth pick in next month’s draft, but next offseason they could have as much as $136 million in cap space, which would be a league-high.
Plus, if Atlanta is as bad as some think it will be this season, they could have an even higher pick in next year’s draft, which could be a strong draft class.
Make no mistake, this is a long-term rebuilding project for the Falcons, and as has been the case with other former Super Bowl teams, this could take a while.