Eagles analysis

See where Mariota lands on list of most important Eagles

Eagles backup quarterback Marcus Mariota takes a solid spot on most important list

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Over the next few weeks leading up to training camp, we’ll be counting down the top 25 most important Eagles for the 2023 season.

25. Nolan Smith
24. Quez Watkins
23. Kenny Gainwell
22. Marcus Mariota

The Eagles are hoping the only time Marcus Mariota gets a chance to play this season will be late in the fourth quarter of blowout wins.

That just seems unlikely.

Backup quarterbacks are important in the NFL, especially with a 17-game schedule. And we simply can’t ignore the fact that Jalen Hurts has dealt with December injuries in each of the last two years. Winning a game or two in December without your starter could mean the difference between winning the division or even earning a No. 1 seed.

Last year, the Eagles lost Hurts for two games against the Cowboys and Saints in Weeks 16 and 17 of the season. They lost both of those with Gardner Minshew at quarterback, forcing Hurts back into the lineup in Week 18 to clinch the No. 1 spot in the NFC. Things worked out fine for the Eagles obviously, as they got to the Super Bowl. But it wasn’t ideal.

In the first game against the Cowboys, Minshew played pretty well, throwing for 355 yards and 2 touchdowns. But he struggled against the Saints. And it’s very hard to imagine the Eagles would have lost either of those games with Hurts back there.

This year, Minshew moved on to join Shane Steichen in Indianapolis and the Eagles signed Mariota to be the backup behind Hurts. Because of Mariota’s ability as a runner, he has a more similar play style to Hurts than Minshew did. That wasn’t the only reason the Eagles signed him but it doesn’t hurt. In fact, it’s nice to be able to run a similar offense with the backup.

Last year, Mariota began the season as the Falcons’ starter. He had a 5-8 record, competing 61.3% of his passes with 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions before the Falcons decided to move on. There were some questions about how Mariota handled the situation but the Eagles have plenty of people on staff who know him well.

And coming to Philly, it’s very clear to everyone that Mariota is the backup behind an MVP candidate quarterback.

“My role is just to provide information and just share experiences,” Mariota said this spring. “I think as a guy that’s played in the league now for eight years, I’ve been cut, I’ve been a starter, we’ve won playoff games, I’ve been benched, so I just really believe I can relate with a lot of guys and to be able to just continue to build that chemistry in the locker room and just be a voice and make an impact any way I can.

“But specifically for the quarterback position, ups and downs, you’re going to face those throughout your career and just being a guy for Jalen and just being a resource any way that I can to hopefully make him better and make the team better.”

While the Eagles certainly hope Mariota simply gets a good seat to watch the entire 2023 season, that’s not very realistic. The Eagles’ opening day quarterback has started every game in a season just once since 2005; Carson Wentz did it in 2016.

Even after Minshew lost his last three starts, Eagles backup quarterbacks have an impressive 45-38 record since the Year 2000. The Eagles know, more than most teams, how important the backup is. That’s why Mariota takes a spot on this list.

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