The most shocking moment of night one of the 2024 NFL Draft came when the Atlanta Falcons, fresh off lavishing Kirk Cousins with a four-year, $180 million contract that contains $90 million fully guaranteed, selected University of Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 8 overall pick. There had recently been a lot of smoke around Penix coming off the board in the top half of the first round, and even some that he would land in Atlanta, but the latter seemed like too outlandish a result for it to actually happen. 

Alas, it did happen. During the draft broadcast, cameras appeared to catch general manager Terry Fontenot explaining the selection to owner Arthur Blank. 

And in his post-draft press conference, Fontenot explained it to the media and Falcons fans. 

"If you believe in a quarterback, you have to take him," Fontenot said. "And if he sits for four or five years, that's a great problem to have because we're doing so well at that position. So, it's as simple as, if you see a guy you believe in at that position, you have to take him."

He'll also have to explain it to Cousins, who apparently was not alerted about the pick and was both "shocked" and "disappointed." His agent told NFL Network, "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."

According to ESPN, the Falcons "had conviction on Penix from wire-to-wire," and sent eight coaches and front office executives to Seattle for a meeting with him following his Pro Day. The contingent included Fontenot, assistant GM Kyle Smith, head coach Raheem Morris, offensive coordinator Zac Robinson, and quarterbacks coach T.J. Yates.

If that were the case, it's especially odd that they signed Cousins to such a massive deal, and that they didn't let him know they were thinking about going in this direction. Fontenot's assertion that it's a good problem to have if your highly-drafted QB has to sit for four or five years behind a veteran falls apart when you realize that the quarterback in question will be 29 years old by the time his rookie deal expires, and that the team will then have to pay him to stick around without having seen him on the field by then. The regime that drafted him might not even be around by that time, considering that the Falcons are 21-30 with three consecutive 7-10 seasons under Fontenot's leadership. 

Atlanta obviously has its own spin on the pick, and if Cousins plays well for a few years and then retires and then Penix becomes a star, perhaps the Falcons will get to look back and laugh at all the people who questioned their plan. But in the moment, it was almost surely not good process to go about things this way, and anyone looking back on it in the future will at least have to recognize that.