New Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota has been pegged by James Palmer of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football as a favorite to be the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Palmer acknowledges that Mariota isn’t coming off an injury, which is typical for comeback-award winners, but he sees a second chance for Mariota with head coach Arthur Smith and the Falcons.
“How about Marcus ‘Super’ Mariota,” said James Palmer on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football.
“I know that they love what Matt Ryan did in his last year in Atlanta with that coaching staff, but at the same time, talking with people down there, they do know with some of the things they wanted to do with the quarterback position… the mobility, the other types of things where maybe Matt Ryan comes up a little short… they couldn’t do.”
“They feel like they can do that with Marcus behind center, and they do really like how creative they can be. With those two big-bodied receivers in Kyle Pitts and Drake London, he’s going to have some weapons.”
“It would be awesome to see him take off. I actually think that coaching staff did a really great job last year. They should not have won as many games as they did with the roster they had.”
“That is a good coaching staff that Arthur Smith has down there.”
The Falcons were 7-2 in one-score games last season and improved their record to 7-10 from 4-12 the previous season despite getting worse in points scored, points allowed, and turnover margin.
Each of those three metrics typically point to a worse record, but Palmer’s point is valid, 2021 was a terrific coaching job from Smith and his staff to get three more wins despite seemingly being worse on the field… considerably worse.
While no one is going to confuse Mariota’s passing resume with Matt Ryan, there’s no question who is the better runner. Mariota rushed for over 250 yards his first-four seasons in the NFL, and Smith will put him in position to attack the defense with his legs in 2022.
The Falcons should be able to be more creative offensively, but will that translate to more production and efficiency?
If the answer to that questions turns out to be ‘yes’, Mariota may very well find himself as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the year in 2022.