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NFL Notes: Two weeks later, Falcons move still makes little sense

Almost two weeks after Atlanta took Michael Penix Jr. the move continues to baffle many NFL watchers.

Atlanta Falcons first round draft choice quarterback Michael Penix Jr., holds a Falcons jersey during a news conference.
Atlanta Falcons first round draft choice quarterback Michael Penix Jr., holds a Falcons jersey during a news conference.

It's been almost two weeks since Atlanta stunned the draft world by taking Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick and the move doesn't make much more sense today than it did at the time.

Some have applauded the Falcons for their bold approach, keeping an eye toward the future while also aggressively spending on the present with veteran Kirk Cousins signing a big-money deal in free agency. Those defenders point to Green Bay's impressive quarterback lineage that saw the team successfully transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers and now seemingly hitting once again with Jordan Love.

The Packers drafted Rodgers while Favre was still a viable option, and then did the same thing again almost two decades later with Love. That strategy allowed Green Bay to maintain a level of performance with solid quarterback play going back to the early-1990s.

On the surface it appears to be brilliant, but there's an argument to be made on the other side, particularly with the selection of Love while Rodgers was still dominant. Favre had already started to talk about retirement when Rodgers fell into Green Bay's lap with an unexpected fall in the 2005 first round. The talent was too good to pass up, and even though Favre hung around for three seasons he had noticeably begun to struggle (25-23 over those final three campaigns in Green Bay).

But Rodgers was still playing at a high level (back-to-back MVPs during Love's first two seasons) and the Packers won 13 games each season. Might a different first-round pick in 2020 have put Green Bay over the top and helped Rodgers win a second Super Bowl? Obviously impossible to know, but having a rookie backup quarterback did nothing to help those teams, which were obviously talented enough to contend, yet fell just short.

The question is, would you rather have another title or two in Rodgers' twilight years in Green Bay or a potential successor at quarterback? Personally, I'd rather have the front office do everything it can to give a talented team as much as possible to get over the hump, but an argument could be made either way.

Which brings us to Atlanta.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins speaks during a news conference.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins speaks during a news conference.

After signing the 35-year-old Cousins, who is coming off a torn Achilles, the Falcons decided to find the next guy instead of adding a piece that could help immediately. Atlanta could have taken the top defensive player available considering the first seven picks were spent on offense (eventually that number rose to 14). Instead, Atlanta opted for the future.

This move is even more questionable than what Green Bay did in 2020. The Packers were already perennial playoff participants and didn't necessarily need a rookie to step in immediately to get them to the postseason. Atlanta has been mired as a seven-win team, and the arrival of Cousins was supposed to help bump the Falcons into the postseason. Adding a solid pass rusher or cornerback may have been the type of missing piece that could have made a difference.

But Atlanta chose to worry about 2026 (at the earliest) rather than doing everything it could to win now. Not to mention Penix' age (24) and lengthy injury history (knee, shoulder), which make him a bit riskier than most quarterback prospects.

The idea of worrying about Cousins' age makes sense, and finding a successor is something that absolutely should have been on the Falcons radar. But using such a high pick to do so seemed like an unnecessary risk, as well as a lost opportunity to best position the team for success in the short term.

Eye in the sky

Interesting tidbit from Jerod Mayo's appearance on "The Rich Eisen Show" last week. Mayo explained how he will lean on Evan Rothstein to serve as an aid with game management, much in the way that Bill Belichick once relied on the expertise of Ernie Adams in that regard. Rothstein came to New England in 2021 with Matt Patricia after the pair worked together in Detroit. He has served as a research analyst, offensive assistant as well as assistant quarterbacks coach over the past three seasons.

"Situational football is always huge," Mayo said. "Evan is already training me up on the different situations, and he's learning my philosophy so once we get into the game it's a smooth operation."

Then there were four

When the Patriots made a somewhat surprising move to draft Joe Milton in the sixth round it seemed to indicate that an ensuing quarterback transaction would be forthcoming. A week later the QB room went from five to four as the Patriots released Nathan Rourke.

Rourke was picked up late last season and was active for the finale against the Jets, but with Drake Maye, Jacoby Brissett, Bailey Zappe and Milton on the roster the need for an additional developmental prospect seemed minimal.

It will be interesting to watch Zappe to see if another move may be in the works. Initial reports after the draft pointed toward a potential trade for the third-year quarterback, but it might make more sense to keep him as a player with some starting experience who could step in if Brissett were unavailable, and the coaches felt Maye needed additional time.

The more likely scenario would be Zappe moving on while Brissett and Maye handle the job, but time will tell.

Scheduling conflicts?

The NFL is due to release the schedule later this week and there will be a couple of items worth noting for the Patriots. New England is set to travel to Jacksonville and Chicago, and both are set to play "home" games in London this season, making a third trip across the pond for the Patriots a possibility.

The Patriots traveled to London to face the Bucs back in 2009 (35-7 victory) and then again three years later when they dismantled the Rams (45-7) in 2012. The Patriots also took part in games in Mexico against the Raiders in 2017 (33-8 win) and of course last season served as the host team in a 10-6 loss to the Colts in Germany.

The other item of note comes from ESPN's Mike Reiss, who wrote over the weekend that the Patriots have requested to pair up their games at Arizona and San Francisco in an effort to remain out west for the week. The NFL doesn't have to honor the various requests the teams make but the Patriots have had some luck in doing so over the years. We will find out soon enough.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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