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“Those are big shoes to fill, no doubt,” Mariota said Friday, per ESPN. “I think, for me, something I definitely learned over the course of my career is that you can’t compare yourself to other people. What Matt did here, what he’s accomplished here, is truly greatness, and for me, I just have to kind of carve my own path.
“I appreciate what he’s done, appreciate what he’s been for this organization, and the best thing that I can do is try to put my best foot forward and be the best player that I can be.”
While the 28-year-old hasn’t been promised the starting role, he is likely walking into a starting job for the first time since the 2019 season. Back then, he was the quarterback for the Tennessee Titans and their then-offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who is now the Falcons’ coach.
The former Oregon QB was benched in favor of Ryan Tannehill that season and went on to back up Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr for two years.
He played in 11 games over the past two seasons, completing 60% of his passes for 230 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
ESPN reports the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NFL draft spent five years with the Titans, playing in 63 games with 61 starts and completing 62.9% of his passes for 13,207 yards and 76 touchdowns with 44 interceptions.
In his final season with the Titans, he completed 59.4% of his passes for 1,203 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions in seven games. ESPN reports that by the end of his time with the team, Mariota said he was “mentally and physically beat up,” and said he has learned a lot over the past three seasons.
“During my time in Tennessee, we went through a lot of different things. I went through coaching changes, went through a broken ankle, some of these things that people would call adversity,” Mariota said. “At that point in time in my career in 2019, I was tired. I was just kind of tired of all the turnover, was tired of being beat up, and I wasn’t playing well, and at the end of the day, this is a performance-based business, and when you’re not playing well, things happen, and I understood that.
“These last couple of years for me was a great reset. I got a chance to take a step back, learn, and I feel like I have and these experiences have created a lot of value for me.”
Mariota said he was attracted to the Falcons because of Smith, who he believes will always be honest with him. The QB said he wasn’t previously communicating to Smith enough and was just “trying to do whatever I could to please the coach” during his time in Tennessee.
Mariota said he expects the communication will be better in Atlanta because of the things he learned with the Raiders. Smith said part of what contributed to why he wanted to bring Mariota in was because of the trust they had with each other, ESPN reports.
“There’s been a lot of growth from him and myself. Ironically, they’re completely different players, but Ryan Tannehill was in this situation when we got Ryan,” Smith said Wednesday. “So Marcus is a high-end talent just like Ryan was. He was a first-round pick. He’s in a different spot in his career, and I trust Marcus, and Marcus, he’s going to come in here and he’s going to give us everything he’s got.”
Mariota said that at the end of the day, he’s excited about the opportunity to be in Atlanta and playing for Smith.