Falcons screwed up Kirk Cousins and the NFL Draft even worse than you realize

What are the Falcons doing?
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

The Atlanta Falcons gave Kirk Cousins $180 million this offseason, with $100 million guaranteed. He is the QB fans have waited ages for since Matt Ryan left — a proven starter capable of helming a postseason-level offense. Cousins is coming off the first major knee injury of his career, but all the same, he is one of the most efficient and effective passers in the sport.

That is why the Falcons' first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft left so many in awe. Rather than boosting the defense under new head coach Raheem Morris or adding another weapon for Cousins to throw to, the Falcons drafted Cousins' successor — 23-year-old Washington QB Michael Penix Jr., who finished second in Heisman voting in his sixth college season.

Penix was pure magic as a senior. He led the Huskies to the CFP Championship Game, completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 4,903 yards, 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The southpaw is famed for his long-range bombs, having orchestrated countless explosive plays under new former Huskies OC and new Seahawks play-caller Ryan Grubb.

Now Penix will get the unique opportunity to develop slowly under the mentorship of Kirk Cousins, a four-time Pro Bowl QB. On paper, there are clear similarities. Both Penix and Cousins operate primarily in the pocket, standing tall under pressure and delivering impressive throws into tight windows. Penix needs to develop his intermediate game, but the raw arm talent and winning mentality are undeniable.

The only issue? The Falcons really didn't need a quarterback, and Cousins was not thrilled with the selection.

Cousins was "a bit stunned," per The Athletic's Dianna Russini. The Falcons only told him moments before the pick.

Falcons didn't tell Kirk Cousins about controversial Michael Penix Jr. pick ahead of time

Look, there's not much Cousins can do about this. He's under a guaranteed contract for at least two more years and, at this stage of his career, he doesn't have enough leverage to really pressure the Falcons' front office. Cousins can show up to training camp and pout about it like Aaron Rodgers once did in Green Bay, but Cousins generally carries himself like a pro and doesn't stew on his grievances in a darkness retreat. So, that approach is unlikely.

Cousins is not the only person who is "a bit stunned." Every Falcons fan — every NFL fan — feels the same way. It makes no sense at all. Even if Cousins only lasts two years as the Falcons' starter, Penix is an older prospect with a more compressed developmental timeline than J.J. McCarthy, who was on the board if Atlanta really wanted a QB.

Penix will spend at least half his rookie contract as a backup. Ideally, if Cousins doesn't get hurt, he will never touch the field for meaningful reps. The Packers waited two years to unveil Jordan Love, but Penix is older and has far more injury baggage on his ledger.

The Falcons clearly believe in Penix's talent enough to eschew logic in favor of vibes, so more power to them. It's a great moment for Penix, who battled through a lot of adversity to reach this point. As for Atlanta, however, this pick will probably go down as an all-time blunder.