NFL insider reveals Falcons process that led to Michael Penix Jr.

dal220301 nfl combine1075

The Falcons shocked the world when they drafted Michael Penix Jr. 8th overall less than two months after signing Kirk Cousins to a $180 million free agent deal.

So, what the hell kind of a process would lead to that outcome? Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated has revealed much.

“We’re all products of our own history, and Fontenot’s included an 18-year run in the Saints’ personnel department. Toward the end of that time, in 2017, he witnessed New Orleans getting a quarterback swiped from right underneath its feet. Picking 11th that year, Payton and GM Mickey Loomis had a huge grade on Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. They tried to keep it quiet, and they thought they’d succeeded, but they hadn’t done quite enough,” Breer said of Fontenot.

The Chiefs infamously jumped the Saints during the 2017 NFL Draft to select Patrick Mahomes. Fontenot refused to comment on the matter, but it clearly left an impression on Atlanta’s GM.

“It’s unconventional because no one expected it, right?,” Fontenot told Breer Sunday. “It’s unconventional because that’s human nature, to say we expect something. And we say, This is going to happen, and when someone does something different and more uncommon in terms of what we expect, you say it’s unconventional.”

To a certain extent, Fontenot is right except that Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, and Aaron Rodgers hadn’t just signed new deals with their respective franchises like Kirk Cousins just did.

The process began with Raheem Morris building out a quarterback-centric coaching staff. Zac Robinson, a former NFL quarterbacks coach, followed Morris from Los Angeles to Atlanta to be the Falcons offensive coordinator.

Morris moved T.J. Yates, a former NFL quarterback, from receivers coach, which is what his role was under Arthur Smith, to quarterbacks coach. Morris also brought in long-time guru Ken Zampese as a senior assistant and D.J. Williams, son of Super Bowl champion Doug Williams, as assistant quarterbacks coach.

Those five coaches “enhanced” how the Falcons viewed Michael Penix.

“Long story short, the Falcons’ new staff saw it in Penix’s deep-ball accuracy, his ability to anticipate throws, and how quickly and naturally he processed what was in front of him,” Breer added.

It wasn’t just the physical skills either. Apparently, Penix blew the Falcons away with his knowledge of the game and his position.

“Where some quarterbacks tensed up when Atlanta drilled down on the tough football questions, Penix almost seemed to get more comfortable, as if his poise in the pocket carried over,” the SI pundit said.

Another contributing factor was Atlanta’s situation with Cousins. Drake Maye’s camp refused to do a workout with the Falcons because they didn’t think he’d be there and J.J. McCarthy’s team canceled their workout because it was less than ideal to sit behind Cousins. That wasn’t the case with Penix.

“So Penix’s openness to the idea of playing there—Nix and Spencer Rattler also did private workouts for the Falcons—was music to the staff’s ears,” Breer stated.

And finally, Raheem Morris and Terry Fontenot explained to the Falcons owner that Penix wouldn’t be a popular pick but also explained how difficult it might be to find a successor if they’re picking the in the back half of the first round with Kirk Cousins playing.

“If we don’t do a quarterback this year, then what’s going to be there next year? The year after?” Fontenot said to Blank. “When are we going to be able to do it? Are we gonna win for a couple seasons and then not be able to win anymore to pull that off?”

The Falcons are traveling a very narrow path now. It could work out for them, but the possibility of a total catastrophe is just as likely.

Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: