The Atlanta Falcons made the most stunning pick of the 2024 NFL Draft when they selected Michael Penix Jr. at eight overall even though they had just signed Kirk Cousins to a hefty free agency contract in March. 

The Falcons plan this year is to keep Penix on the bench, which is interesting, because that's a plan that has almost never worked in NFL history. As a matter of fact, since the first Super Bowl was played back in January 1967, there has only been one instance where a quarterback drafted in the first-round ended up sitting out his entire rookie year before eventually winning a Super Bowl with the team that drafted him and that QB was Aaron Rodgers

The Packers famously drafted Rodgers in 2005 after he slid down the board all the way to Green Bay at 24th overall. Of course, the Packers already had Brett Favre at quarterback, so Rodgers ended up sitting out three full years before getting his first start in 2008. 

Green Bay's decision to keep Rodgers on the bench paid off almost instantly, though, with the QB leading the Packers to a Super Bowl win in 2010. Patrick Mahomes would be on this list, but he didn't end up sitting out his entire rookie year. The Chiefs let him start their regular-season finale in 2017, which means he got a taste of the NFL during his first year in the league. 

Over the past 25 years, there have been a handful of first-round quarterbacks who sat on the bench during their rookie year -- ranging from Carson Palmer to Philip Rivers to Brady Quinn to Tim Tebow to Jake Locker -- but none of them even made it to a Super Bowl, so they definitely didn't win one. 

Despite what NFL history has shown, the Falcons selected Penix knowing that he would almost certainly be on the bench during his rookie year, and apparently, they're fine keeping him on the bench for "four or five" years if that means Cousins is playing well. 

"If you believe in a quarterback, you have to take him," general manager Terry Fontenot told reporters after the draft. "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."

This strategy hasn't really worked in the NFL, but that doesn't mean it can't work for the Falcons. One thing working in Atlanta's favor is that there have been plenty of instances where a first-rounder has started the season on the bench before becoming the starter as a rookie and eventually leading his team to the Super Bowl. Not only has Mahomes done it three times, but Eli Manning did it with the Giants and Ben Roethlisberger did it with Steelers (The Giants didn't technically draft Eli, but we're lumping him in here). None of those three were expected to make a start during their rookie year, but they did, and in each instance, they ended up winning a Super Bowl down the road. 

It also happened with Jared Goff, who didn't go into his rookie season with the Rams as the starter. However, he did end up starting seven games during his first-year and he eventually led Los Angeles to a Super Bowl, although he didn't win a Lombardi Trophy with the Rams. 

Basically, if you have a first-round QB who starts the season on the bench, that isn't always a bad thing as long as they eventually become the starter during their rookie year, but if you make them sit out their entire rookie season, that's been the kiss of death in the NFL... unless you have Aaron Rodgers. 

We recently covered the pros and cons of the Falcons' decision to select Penix and you can check that out here.