Marcus Mariota willing to mentor teammates, talks reuniting with Arthur Smith

Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) practices during OTA at the Falcons Practice Facility, May 26, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. Also pictured is rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder (4). (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

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Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) practices during OTA at the Falcons Practice Facility, May 26, 2022, in Flowery Branch, Ga. Also pictured is rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder (4). (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Marcus Mariota doesn’t view competition and mentorship as mutually exclusive. In fact, he’s excited for both in his first season with the Falcons.

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Speaking with the media after the Falcons’ voluntary OTA practice Thursday, Mariota said he is working to be the best player that he can be, but also said that teaching younger players has been a part of his approach to the game, dating to his stints in Tennessee and Las Vegas.

“I think that’s what’s fun,” Mariota said. “You get to be part of their molding and get to kind of help them shape what their professional careers are going to be. I look forward to that. I think it’s pretty cool to be a part of that, to have a little bit of influence.”

The 28-year-old Mariota is the senior member of a quarterbacks group that includes incoming fourth-round pick Desmond Ridder and second-year pro Feleipe Franks and is tasked with replacing longtime quarterback Matt Ryan. Weeks after the quarterback who succeeded Mariota in Tennessee, Ryan Tannehill, stirred controversy with his comments on whether his role included mentoring Titans rookie Malik Willis, Mariota was quick to touch on both sides, from his love of competition to the importance of genuine relationships between quarterbacks.

Coach Arthur Smith also chimed in on the topic, praising Mariota as a teammate but saying that NFL football is all about competition at every position.

“My experience in the National Football League is that most of these guys are great teammates, and they also know they’re trying to get ready for their jobs, too,” Smith said. “In our (quarterback meeting) room, Marcus is here competing for a job. He’s a good teammate, and you have to have the right people in the room so it’s not toxic.”

Quarterbacks coach Charles London already has seen Mariota’s enthusiasm for the game make an impact on the young quarterbacks in the Falcons’ practices and said the approach comes naturally to the former No. 2 overall pick.

“It’s just the type of guy Marcus is,” London said. “He’s a great teammate and willing to do whatever he can to help the team, and guys follow his lead.”

Mariota also said that he has enjoyed reuniting with Smith, who was his offensive coordinator in Tennessee in 2019. He added that Smith’s system has evolved in the years since the two led the Titans’ offense, necessitated by the rapid pace of change in the NFL, and said that the current system fits the skill sets of the Falcons’ offensive players well.

“I’ve kind of bounced around the past couple years of my career,” Mariota said. “So to be around people that you know, that respect and love the game as much as you do, it makes coming out here that much more enjoyable.”

Even with the system’s evolution, London said that the similarities have helped Mariota’s acclimation to the offense and that he’s seen Mariota give pointers to the other quarterbacks on its nuances.

“Marcus does have a lot of familiarity with the system from being with coach Smith at Tennessee, so he’s got a bit of a head start there,” London said. “He’s been great working with Desmond and Feleipe about some of the adjustments, some of the things he’s learned over his career.”