It Usually Takes A Little Longer Than This To Realize You Don’t Want Kirk Cousins

Here was the situation when the Atlanta Falcons were on on the clock to make the eighth overall pick in last night’s NFL draft: After going 7-10 in three consecutive seasons while shuffling through a sparse deck of subpar quarterbacks, the team had decided to bite the bullet and sign franchise-lite quarterback Kirk Cousins to a $100 million deal in the offseason. Rome Odunze, an elite member of one of the highest-rated wide receiver classes to ever enter the draft, was available for the taking. Here was the situation after the Atlanta Falcons decided to draft quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with their pick: Everyone’s laughing! They won’t stop laughing!

It is one thing to draft a quarterback in the first round when you already have an ensconced starter—front offices love to talk up their succession plans—but it is another thing entirely to draft a quarterback in the first round when 1) the current starter, whom you spent a lot of money on, has yet to take a single snap and 2) the heir apparent in question is a 23-year-old who has had two ACL surgeries. Cousins is still too young and too new to be shoving out the door, and Penix is too old and bruised to stash. What exactly is the plan here?

That’s a question that Cousins himself seems to want an answer to. Almost as soon as the pick was announced, Cousins’s agent got busy letting NFL reporters know that the quarterback was “stunned” by the Falcons’ pick and wasn’t even told that it was happening until Atlanta was on the clock. When Falcons head coach Raheem Morris and GM Terry Fontenot spoke to reporters after the draft, they didn’t do much to restore anyone’s faith in their organization’s ability to effectively plan and communicate.

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“His agent’s kind of been telling us that they were shocked and dismayed that they were informed on the clock,” said one reporter. Fontenot and Morris just nodded politely for a few excruciating seconds before Morris said, “Yes.”

When asked to explain how he hopes the next few years will play out with both Penix and Cousins on the roster, Fontenot dusted off the “this is a good problem to have” explanation. “If you believe in a quarterback, you have to take him,” he said. “And if he sits for four or five years, that’s a great problem to have because we’re doing so well at that position.”

The tricky thing about saddling yourself with a “good problem” is that it’s still a problem. There are some organizations that you might inherently trust to navigate a tricky situation like this. I’m not sure if the one that signed a free-agent quarterback to a big contract, started to think, Hmmmm are we sure we actually like this guy? just a few months later, and then drafted his replacement in the first round without warning him is the one worth putting your faith in.

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