Dave Reardon: Mariota skills match Eagles, even if it's as a backup

Mar. 26—Some have called it the best job in football, or even all of pro sports. The No. 2 quarterback doesn't get hit and he doesn't get booed.

Some have called it the best job in football, or even all of pro sports.

The No. 2 quarterback doesn't get hit and he doesn't get booed.

But he still gets paid—usually, quite a bit.

In the case of Saint Louis School alum Marcus Mariota, it's been reported as $5 million this upcoming season, from the Philadelphia Eagles. He recently signed as a free agent with the NFC champions, who lost 38-35 to the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

If that seems like a lot to get paid for standing on the sideline watching, you might be thinking of decades ago, when it would be with a clipboard rather than a computer tablet. Five million is actually pretty close to the going rate for an NFL QB2 these days.

Last October—when Mariota was still starting for the Atlanta Falcons—the 10 highest-paid reserve quarterbacks averaged around $5.6 million in annual salary.

The reason is backups become starters at some point during the season—more often than not.

Only 10 quarterbacks started all 17 regular-season games last year. In case you're curious, they were : Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Justin Herbert, Trevor Lawrence, Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Geno Smith.

Among the conspicuously absent ? Jalen Hurts.

When it came to Super Bowl 57 quarterback injuries, Mahomes' high-ankle sprain got the most attention. But Hurts—who was second in the regular-season MVP voting to Mahomes—had led his team there despite some lingering pain, too.

Hurts suffered a severe sprain to his throwing shoulder late in the regular season. It forced him to miss two of the last three games, and play with pain throughout the postseason.

His replacement, Gardner Minshew, passed for three touchdowns but was also intercepted three times in losses to the Cowboys and Saints. Minshew was sacked six times by New Orleans.

Philadelphia had lost just once with Hurts at quarterback in the regular season.

He returned for the regular-season finale and a win over the Giants that gave the Eagles a bye for the first week of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Mariota—who was signed by the Falcons before last season—was benched for rookie Desmond Ridder after Atlanta fell to 5-8 with the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon starting.

He was released by Atlanta on Feb. 28, but then signed by the Eagles two weeks ago.

Minshew, now with the Colts, is also a former starter. But one difference between him and Mariota is Mariota is a dual threat. In addition to passing for 2, 219 yards, 15 TDs and nine interceptions, he rushed for 438 yards on 85 carries with four touchdowns last season.

The mobility makes him a better fit as Hurts' backup with the Eagles.

"I'm excited with Philadelphia, " Mariota said Friday, during an, helping to promote girls sports. "I think going into that quarterback room with Jalen provides me an opportunity to help him hopefully get better. And also for me ... it's a scheme that I feel just fits me."

At age 28, he joined the Falcons as a bridge quarterback, from Matt Ryan to whoever the franchise's next big hope might be—Ridder or someone else.

Now just a year later, for Mariota the bridge appears to have led to a new phase of his career as a backup on his fourth NFL team.

His hair is speckled with some gray, he's a new father and he's now part of a squad with three coaches who used to be his teammates.

But, the bridge has also taken him from a rebuilding project to a franchise that nearly won the Super Bowl—and where he is one play away from being back behind center, leading an offense that suits his skill set.

"I think at the end of the day, I love the game, " Mariota said. "I'll keep doing it as long as I can, but what's most important to me is being a part of things like (visiting Hawaii schools ). Because football ... only lasts for so long. To make an impact and change people's lives, I think, is so much more beneficial."