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Michael Penix To Falcons: A Genius Pick Amidst Controversy


Atlanta Falcons first round draft pick quarterback Michael Penix Jr talks to the media at a press conference introducing him at the Falcons training complex
© Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons selected Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. The pick immediately became one of the most criticized, primarily because Atlanta signed former Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract in the offseason. This is a great pick by Atlanta and the hate needs to stop now! Let's take a look at why so many experts are looking at this pick the wrong way!


The NFL Is a Quarterback League


In the last 25 Super Bowls, quarterbacks have won the MVP award 16 times, and most of the winning quarterbacks, such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers, are likely future Pro Football Hall of Famers. Exceptions exist, like Trent Dilfer with the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV. Nevertheless, high-level play from this crucial position is essential for NFL teams to make the playoffs and succeed in January and February.




For further evidence, consider the five NFL teams with the longest droughts since winning a title as shown below. Now reflect on the quarterbacks who have played for these teams. The difficulty in recalling standout names underscores why these teams have long championship droughts. Like the Vikings, the Falcons are among the 12 NFL teams that have never won a Super Bowl.

NFL Team

Last NFL Title

Arizona Cardinals

1947

Detroit Lions

1957

Philadelphia Eagles

1960

Minnesota Vikings

Never

Tennessee Titans

1961 (as Houston Oilers)

Michael Penix Talent Level


Are there concerns with Michael Penix Jr. as an NFL prospect? Certainly, his age and injury history are significant factors. Penix, who is currently 23, will turn 24 on May 8. He suffered four season-ending injuries affecting his knees and shoulders from 2018 through 2021. Despite these setbacks, his talent level is undeniable, as demonstrated in Washington's semifinal playoff victory over Texas in the Sugar Bowl.



Penix completed 29 of 38 passes for 430 yards and threw two touchdowns. His ability to navigate pressure within the pocket, keep his eyes downfield, and deliver precise passes was evident in that game. This performance came against a formidable Texas defense, which finished the season ranked 12th nationally, allowing only 18.9 points per game. The Longhorns' defensive line featured top-level talent like Byron Murphy II, who was the second defensive player selected in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft, going 16th overall to Seattle.


Packers QB Approach Works


The Green Bay Packers exemplify the strategy of drafting a quarterback in the first round to develop behind an established starter. In 2005, the Packers selected Aaron Rodgers from the University of California with the 24th pick of the first round, despite having future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre. Fifteen years later, in 2020, they traded up to select Jordan Love from Utah State with the 26th pick of the first round, even though Rodgers was still quarterback.


Green Bay Packers quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers (12) and Jordan Love (10) run out onto the field.
© Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rodgers sat for three seasons behind Favre before becoming the starting quarterback in the 2008 season. He ended his Packers career with more than 59,000 passing yards, 475 touchdowns, and four MVP awards. Following a similar path, Love sat for three seasons behind Rodgers and took over as the starting quarterback last season. He finished the year with 4,159 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, and led the Packers to a road playoff victory over Dallas in the first round.


What is the lesson here? Pick your QB of the future before you need him!


Why Michael Penix Is a Genuis Pick for the Falcons


The Falcons' front office recognized the need to address their quarterback position for immediate and future success. Kirk Cousins, a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback, significantly upgrades an offense that ranked 26th in the league last season with an average of 18.9 points scored per game. While Cousins addresses the current needs, selecting Michael Penix Jr. ensures the Falcons have a future quarterback without the pressure to rush his debut. Many young quarterbacks have been prematurely thrust into starting roles, often hindering their development. For every immediate success like C.J. Stroud, there are numerous examples like David Carr, where early struggles derailed potential impactful careers.


Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes against the San Francisco 49ers.
© Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Age should not be a concern even if Penix sits behind Cousins for two to three seasons, potentially starting around age 27. Given the NFL's emphasis on protecting quarterbacks, players can extend their careers into their late 30s and early 40s. Penix could easily have a successful 10- to 12-year run starting at 27. Regarding his injury history, while concerns are valid, the Falcons' medical team would have vetted this selection thoroughly, and their expertise in this area should be trusted.


Successful NFL franchises often take calculated risks for potentially transformative players. Only time will tell if this draft pick proves fruitful, but investing in the right quarterback for now and the future is a strategy I will back every time!



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