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Matt Ryan on Kyle Pitts and Debate about a New Quarterback

Heading in to the NFL Draft, there was a lot of speculation surrounding the No. 4 pick of the Atlanta Falcons. One of those options was to take quarterback Justin Fields as a potential successor to the 36 year old Matt Ryan.

The Falcons opted to take tight end Kyle Pitts out of Florida, a move that should provide more immediate help to the Falcons offense.

When did Ryan know who the Falcons were going to take?

“Those are not my calls and not under my job description” Ryan answered with a wry smile. “I leave that to the folks upstairs. I was just excited, found out at pick four that he was coming here,” Ryan said of Pitts. “He’s worked really hard the first couple of weeks. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him, but I was excited that night as well.”

A quarterback coming in and taking Ryan’s job in 2021 was never really a factor, and he acknowledged as much when asked if taking Pitts instead of a quarterback made him feel more confident about his place in Atlanta heading into the season.

“It didn’t really change my confidence level or my approach in any way. I always prepare every year as hard as I possibly can to give myself the best chance to be successful. I’ve always felt the people inside the building have a great amount of belief in me, and I have a great amount of belief in myself.”

“You never know how these things are going to shake out in the draft. You never know what players are there, what players are high on their board. You can’t worry about it,” Ryan said with a shrug. “You just have to stay focused and keep your mindset on the things that are actually gonna help you play well in the Fall.”

Ryan obviously is aware of the public debate that surrounded the Draft. In fact, we were very vocal from the outset that Fields should be the pick at No. 4, not because of any doubts about Ryan’s ability, but simply because he’s 36 years old. The 2021 draft could have been the best chance for a while to get a franchise quarterback without going the route of the 49ers who spent three first round picks to get Trey Lance at No. 3.

“In one respect you understand that if you play well long enough, these are the types of conversations that are going to come up. I understand that I’m not going to play forever. But I also have the mindset that I’m still playing really well and have a lot of good football in front of me.”

“But the most important thing to me is it comes from the belief in the building, the people who are actually making decisions. The people who are with you day to day. That’s where I try and keep it. It’s harder now than ever to avoid the noise. It was certainly easier earlier in my career.”

“If you’re going to search for it to try and get positive reviews on you, it’s going to affect you in a certain way. And same thing if you’re going to search for it in negative ways. I try and just stay down the middle, keep my mindset on day to day, daily improvement, try and be the best that I can be. And not really worrying about what other people say.”

Matt Ryan on Draft Night and Pitts at 4
Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy is an Atlanta native and 20 year media veteran including time as Director of Scouting at, Managing Editor at 247Sports, VP Content Operations at Sports Illustrated and more. Scott has appeared as a recruiting and NFL Draft analyst on dozens of media including ESPN, NFL Network, USA Today, NY Times, and more.