Falcons Were Oh So Close to Ruining Everything for the Vikings

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports.

It could’ve all been for nil.

Falcons Were Oh So Close to Ruining Everything for the Vikings

Minnesota Vikings fans spent a few months deciding a binary choice between North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy as the club’s quarterback of the future. And without a serendipitous draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota probably would’ve been well on its way to the Michael Penix Jr. era.

falcons
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That may not have been horrible, but the team’s faithful had settled on Maye or McCarthy. It was close to an either-or selection per fan sentiment.

On Thursday night, six weeks after handing Kirk Cousins — a man incredibly familiar to the Vikings — a ginormous contract, Atlanta stunned everybody by drafting Penix Jr. with the eighth overall pick. The selection was mind-boggling for two primary reasons: a) Cousins is paid handsomely over the next four years, and most believed Atlanta would draft an EDGE rusher like Dallas Turner or cornerback like Quinyon Mitchell b) Penix Jr. will turn 24 this month, making him one of the oldest rookie quarterbacks in the draft.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports.

As a side note, “old” rookie quarterbacks rarely pan out. It’s an odd NFL fact.

Still, Atlanta easily could’ve chosen J.J. McCarthy with no warning whatsoever to Minnesota’s front office. In fact, to effectuate “the Green Bay Packers plan,” as Atlanta’s leadership has described it, it would’ve been wiser to draft McCarthy, who is three years younger than Penix Jr.

Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said after the draft, “We’re very excited about Kirk, very excited about this team. With Michael Penix, we’re talking about the future. The draft is you look at the future and you look at big picture … The Green Bay model was something that we talked about. It’s been proven to be right, last year. Hopefully, we’ll be right with them.”

mock draft
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) warms up before Ohio State game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

In defense of the Packers’ plan — this website rarely supports Packers anything — the Green Bay plan is enjoying a quarterback for 12+ years, drafting his successor, and letting it rip with the new guy when Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers talk themselves out of town. The Atlanta rendition is a piecemeal version. The Falcons are basically calling it “the Packers model” while not really embracing its spirit.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s brass didn’t inform Cousins of the plot twist until moments before the Penix Jr. pick. Cousins’ agent, Mike McCartney, revealed via text message last Thursday night: “It was a big surprise. We had no idea this was coming. The truth is the whole league had no idea this was coming. We got no heads up. Kirk got a call from the Falcons when they were on the clock. That was the first we heard. It never came up in any conversation.”

Kirk Cousins
Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports.

If you’re keeping score at home, the Falcons did this:

  1. Signed Cousins for megabucks
  2. Didn’t tell him about the plan to draft his successor
  3. Picked the oldest quarterback in the draft
  4. Called it the Packers model
  5. Ignored the youngest quarterback in the draft while implementing the plan

The Vikings were the butterfly effect away from Penix Jr. as QB1 or Bo Nix — or no quarterback at all.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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