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NFL

Falcons: former Raider Mariota ready to replace Colts-bound Ryan

Marcus Mariota is optimistic about having the chance to start again after the free agent QB was snapped up by the Falcons.

Update:
Falcons: former Raider Mariota ready to replace Colts-bound Ryan
Chris Unger/Getty Images

New Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota acknowledges he has "big shoes to fill" with the team after stepping in to replace Matt Ryan.

Former NFL MVP Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts this week, with Mariota – who spent the last two seasons with the Las Vegas Raiders – then brought in on a two-year, $18.75million deal.

Mariota, the number two overall pick in the draft for the Tennessee Titans back in 2015, is relishing the opportunity to compete for a starting job again after backing up Derek Carr in Las Vegas.

But he is aware his task to make the job his own and replace four-time Pro Bowler Ryan, whose contract had hindered Atlanta's attempts to build for the future, is a big one.

Mariota: Ryan "big shoes to fill"

"Those are big shoes to fill, no doubt," Mariota about Ryan. "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. For me, I just have to kind of carve my own path. I appreciate what he's done, what he's been for this organisation, 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.

"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.

"It really came down to the opportunity. Obviously, there's a chance for you to play, a chance for you to start right away.

"Really, for me, at this point in time of my career, that's what I was looking for. No matter what the situation is, I have to my best to lead these guys and help these guys become the best of their abilities.

"That doesn't necessarily mean I'm the starter, but I know that with Art [Smith], he's always going to be honest with me and I can really put forth my best foot forward and see what I can do."

Falcons head coach Smith was Offensive Coordinator with the Titans when Mariota lost his starting job in 2019, being benched for Ryan Tannehill.

Mariota, 28, explained he had learned a lot since then, having felt physically and mentally drained at the time.

He added: "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.

"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.

"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.

"Art always honest. Even to the point where in 2019 when things weren't going well for me, he always shot me straight. As a player, I truly appreciate that. 

"He's always been focused on making sure I can get better, he is somebody that's always been there for me.

"I knew what I was getting into, what kind of culture he's building here, so that's why I'm excited to be here because I really do believe in Art and what he's doing.

"I've learned a lot over the course of the last, even really three years going back to that season in 2019. 

"I was both mentally and physically beat up. I think this is a great opportunity for me to kind of showcase what I've learned over the course of the last couple years. 

"I have been around guys like Ryan Tannehill and Derek Carr – guys that have played at a really high level. I'm excited for this opportunity."

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