Marcus Mariota Details Decision To Leave Atlanta Falcons in New Netflix Show

Ex-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota was benched by head coach Arthur Smith, then left the team. Netflix's 'Quarterback' revealed why.

Last year, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota was benched for rookie Desmond Ridder. The same day Ridder was announced as the starter, the team announced that Mariota was no longer with them. Netflix’s documentary series, ‘Quarterback,’ covered the event.

After his departure from the team had been announced, Mariota was criticized by the public and the media for abandoning the Falcons. With more details on the decision, the public may come to a different conclusion.

Marcus Mariota and Arthur Smith Talked About More Than the Benching

On Netflix’s show, the producers asked Mariota why he chose to leave the team. He revealed that his conversation with head coach Arthur Smith spanned more than just a simple dialogue about who would start the next week. The conversation occurred a day after his daughter, Makaia Kai Mariota, was born.

According to Mariota, that discussion also included analysis of the Falcons’ odds of making the playoffs — a longshot, according to his accounting of Smith’s words — and also a longer private conversation about Mariota’s future. At the time, the Falcons were one game behind the division leader, Tampa Bay.

Marcus Mariota Talked About His Knee Injury

While neither Smith nor Mariota revealed the full extent of that conversation, we did get more detail on what the “chronic” condition was that Mariota was suffering that required surgical intervention and his placement on injured reserve.

Mariota’s meniscus — a circular ligament that cushions the bones inside the knee — had torn and had “flapped out,” according to the QB. He said that “we” had decided that it was better to get that knee fixed.

The Details Marcus Mariota Shared Don’t Necessarily Add Up

If Mariota is referring to him and the team, then he left the team with their blessing — though most players rehabbing from injury will do so in the team’s facility and with team doctors, even if not all of them do. Mariota rehabbed in Las Vegas with private trainers. “I have a lot of friends and family that live here,” according to Mariota. “It kind of just fit well for us.”

While somewhat unusual, Mariota recovering in Las Vegas isn’t unprecedented for players whose seasons have been shut down. On the other hand, Smith, at the time, seemingly indicated that it was Mariota’s decision.

When the quarterback was placed on IR, Smith said, “It’s nothing that has been an issue this season, but that’s his prerogative.”

That aligns with Jonathan Jones’ report at CBS that Mariota’s representation informed the team that he would undergo surgery the day after he was benched. That forced the team’s hand when it came to finding a backup late in the season. They signed Logan Woodside the next day.

Arthur Smith Defended Marcus Mariota

Nevertheless, Smith defended Mariota in the documentary series by pointing out that the expectations for NFL players, “modern-day gladiators,” are too high — that they’re human. Mariota “gave us everything he had,” according to the Falcons head coach.

This also gave Mariota more time to be with his newborn daughter, an opportunity many NFL players do not have. It very much seemed like this played a role in his decision to leave the team and rehabilitate at home.

“He can hold her and spend time with her,” said Mariota’s wife, Kiyomi. “That bonding time, it’s special.”

Mariota was certainly frustrated with the conversation surrounding his departure from the team. Whether that frustration was fair is difficult to break down fully.

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