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Falcons know picking QB Michael Penix Jr. became 'the story of the draft'

The talk of the town has been the Falcons' quarterback situation, signing Kirk Cousins and drafting Michael Penix Jr. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — "We did draft a Georgia Bulldog last, guys. So, if somebody wants to acknowledge that, let's go."

Raheem Morris made that comment jokingly, knowing he could appeal to the local media, but was also likely serious.

The Atlanta Falcons head coach's attempted diversion came after more than 10 minutes of him and general manager Terry Fontenot defending their decision to draft quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at the No. 8 overall – for the third day in a row. It was Saturday. The first round was Thursday — seven Falcons picks ago.

Alas, no one asked about sixth-round defensive tackle Zion Logue, the Bulldog. Instead, another four-plus minutes of quarterback talk followed.

"I hate for it to be the story of the draft, but I know it will be," Morris said. "That's just how our world is based and is driven. But I can't say it's annoying, no, because it's what people want to see, it's piqued more interest."

It certainly has.

From the moment NFL commissioner Roger Goodell read Penix's name aloud in Detroit, opinions have swirled about the Falcons' choice. Understandably so, considering the Falcons signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to a four-year $180 million contract back in March. Picking up another passer, especially in the top 10, sparked controversy.

Some folks love the selection. Others hate it.

"I won't ride the emotional roller coaster, and I won't let our organization ride the emotional roller coaster," Morris said. "When you make those decisions, you can't be off of what everybody else thinks and what they say. Those reactions are going to happen. Some of the most bold decisions in anything we've ever done, not just football, they always happen when it comes with a little bit of rift. We're not going to run away from those things and those rifts if we believe in it.

"And we certainly believe in it. We won't waver on it."

Neither Morris nor Fontenot have.

"If our goal was to get instant gratification, then we'd be doing different things," Fontenot said. "That's not our goal. Our goal is to build a sustained winner."

As the two Falcons heads have explained multiple times now – and probably will many more – that's essentially the plan. Cousins is their starter as the team enters win-now mode with the 2024 season looming. Penix will be able to learn and develop behind Cousins. Then, when the time does come for a personnel change, Penix can seamlessly step into the role of QB1.

That's putting it simply and ideally, too. There are multitude of ways the Cousins-Penix dynamic can go in Atlanta once what's basically a four-year timeline hits its end. But at least now the Falcons have two strong options to place behind center. That was not the case back in January.

"If you would have told me at that time that we would have Kirk Cousins for right now and Michael Penix for the future," Fontenot said, "I would have told you it was a pipe dream."

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