Who Should Start at QB for Atlanta Falcons?

One or The Other?

By: Colin Lacy

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

As the 2024 NFL Draft ran through the first round, many would say that the biggest surprise wasn’t the “who” of the pick, but the “why”.

When the Atlanta Falcons selected quarterback Michael Penix Jr. from Washington with the 8th pick overall in the 2024 Draft, there were skeptics in Atlanta and around the football world as to the “why” for that pick considering the Falcons signed veteran QB Kirk Cousins to a 4-year deal worth $180 million back in March.

At the end of the day, do I think it was the right move? No, I don’t agree with it, but there are much smarter and better equipped folks that made the call.

I do though think that while some see this as possibly the perfect storm, I think it could turn out to be a great long-term move for the Falcons organization. Why? Let’s dive into it.

In other situations, two different quarterbacks has turned into a toxic situation for everyone involved. However, there are a lot of fans that have conceded the fact that Kirk Cousin’s personality could make this work with and take Penix under his wing. That said, it takes both sides to make that dynamic work, and I genuinely believe that is exactly what the Dirty Birds have in play.

Cousin’s personality and demeanor has been well documented in the media and in the Netflix Documentary “Quarterback” that followed Cousins, Marcus Mariota (coincidentally in the 2022 season as a Falcon), and the Chiefs standout Patrick Mahomes.

While it’s the general understanding that Cousins, who is still expected to be the starting QB for the at least foreseeable future, would be one of the best mentors for a (relatively) young player entering the NFL. That being said, both sides of this equation must be on the same page and have a certain demeanor for this to work.

The portion of this equation that I don’t believe gets nearly enough light is the person and the personality of Michael Penix Jr.

Penix really burst onto the scene when he arrived in Washington in December of 2021 after transferring from Indiana. Penix went on to lead the country in passing yards in his initial season in Seattle in 2022, then led the Huskies to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game this past season where he finished as the runner up in the Heisman Trophy voting.

While the left arm is undeniably special, and I think will be an impact the NFL in a big way at some point, Penix is not your typical rookie coming out of college and is much more mature and has had to overcome so much.

Penix began his collegiate career at Indiana and was a member of the Hoosiers for his first four seasons before his final two seasons with Washington. He was part of college football for six seasons because of an injury riddled first three seasons in Bloomington.

The 24-year-old, now Falcon, began in 2018 but suffered a torn ACL after three games and was redshirted.

Expectations were high in 2019 and was named the starter entering the season, but only played six games due to a separate injury to the joint that connects the collar bone and sternum.

The COVID-shortened 2020 season came around after vigorous rehab to be ready to be the Hoosier QB1 again, but at the end of November, Penix again was sidelined with another torn ACL in a game against Maryland.

Now, yes that may raise red flags to Falcon fans with an injury history, but I write that not for the injuries, but the determination to return from the injuries, and still continue to grow as a quarterback into the 8th overall NFL Draft pick.

I’ve had the pleasure (and I truly mean pleasure) to talk with Penix briefly twice. Once in his time at Indiana, and once in the midst of the Washington skyrocketing, and this is an extremely mature rookie in the NFL and has the perfect combination of passion and levelheadedness to make this work in Atlanta for however long he is under the wing of Kirk Cousins.

At the end of the day, again, there are much smarter executives that made these decisions to bring in two quarterbacks to Atlanta. As much as it’s not the move I would have made, I think this could really turn out rosy for the Falcons for a while.

How I believe this plays out is that for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, Penix serves as one of the best second-string players in the NFL. At some point, barring something unforeseen, Penix will be a starting quarterback in the NFL, hopefully for the Falcons and he becomes the starter of the future that it’s believed at this point.

When that happens is unclear, but it provides Penix to be able to acclimate to the NFL and doesn’t have to be thrown into the fire out of the gate AND gets to learn from one of the more cerebral quarterbacks in the league and will turn into a great future in Atlanta.