Was Michael Penix Jr. actually the safe pick for the Falcons?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 08 CFP National Championship Michigan vs Washington

If you’re like me, you’re still scrambling to pick up your jaw after Roger Goodell took the stage and announced the Falcons are picking Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the 8th overall pick.

It was an unprecedented move by the Falcons, one the league has never seen before. No team has ever handed a quarterback $180 million and then turned around and drafted his successor before he even takes a snap. Hopefully, we can all look back on last week and laugh in 10 years because Penix goes on to have a Hall of Fame career, but as the dust settles, there is one aspect in all of this I find particularly intriguing.

Was Michael Penix Jr. actually the safe pick for Raheem Morris and Terry Fontenot?

I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. Like most people, when I first heard this, I thought, “This is workplace suicide. Everyone is going to be fired if this doesn’t work out rather immediately.”

However, the more I think about it, the more I believe all this does is give the new regime even more room to maneuver. Both Morris and Fontenot have been in situations before where they haven’t had a quarterback. They know that, with no quarterback, it’s only a matter of time before you get the axe. Morris was the head coach in Tampa Bay with Josh Freeman, who eventually cost him his job, and Fontenot has been with the Falcons for the last three seasons, two of which they trotted out Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder as starters.

There’s no question the Falcons significantly hindered their chances of winning a Super Bowl in the foreseeable future by signing Kirk Cousins and subsequently drafting Michael Penix Jr. Cousins’ tenure as the starter will be directly impacted by the fact that the team spent their highest draft pick on a backup quarterback, and Penix’s tenure as a starter will be negatively impacted because the Falcons will waste most of his rookie contract instead of building a roster around him with the money they paid Cousins.

However, because they went in the direction they did, expectations will be tempered for the immediate future.

If Kirk Cousins has a good season for the Falcons next year, helping them to the postseason but not quite getting them over the hump, nobody is going to bat an eye, which is very possible in such a weak division. There’s definitely pressure for the Falcons to get back to the playoffs, but by spending the 8th pick on Penix, there’s no real pressure to compete for a Super Bowl. Morris and Smith can just point to the Falcons’ future with Penix, and Arthur Blank won’t really have a leg to stand on because how Penix performs in the future is a constant unknown.

It’s the same one-foot-in, one-foot-out philosophy the Falcons have had ever since they hired Arthur Smith. With Cousins and Penix in the mix, there’s a possibility the Falcons don’t have to endure quarterback purgatory again for the next 15 years. That’s a positive, but instead of going all in on one or the other, they hedged their bets. It will be nearly impossible for them to build a Super Bowl caliber roster in the near future, but they’ll likely be able to stay just relevant enough to hold onto their jobs.

Photo: David Buono/Icon Sportswire



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