Gil Pound: Pound for Sorry, Falcons fans

Apr. 30—In my best Jim Nantz voice: Hello friends.

It's time for a tradition unlike any other — the annual post-draft roast of the hapless Atlanta Falcons franchise. Last year, they failed to satisfy a significant portion of their fanbase when they went with a running back over former Georgia Bulldog defensive lineman Jalen Carter. This year, the Falcons not only made their own fans mad, but also shocked the entire football world when they selected University of Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. eighth overall Thursday night.

This most recent draft day decision is sending some seriously mixed signals. It came less than two months after Atlanta signed 35-year-old veteran QB Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million dollar deal with up to $100 million guaranteed. Usually, when you're spending that type of money, you're telling everyone 'This is our guy.'

Problem is, when you spend a top-10 draft pick on a quarterback, that message also tends to be 'This is our guy.'

So which is it? Members of team brass — namely head coach Raheem Morris and GM Terry Fontenot — are saying Cousins has the starting job in the short term. Penix was someone they saw as a rare talent and would like to see take on the role in the future if his development is on track.

"Nothing would make me feel better than watching Kirk Cousins play the next four years," Morris has reportedly said. "That means there are some good things going on."

All right. So let's say Cousins plays out the entirety of his contract, which will almost take him to his 40th birthday. You want Penix to sit that whole time without having played a meaningful down?

Sure, there's precedent. Just last season we watched Jordan Love become Green Bay's starter after three years backing up Aaron Rodgers. The two situations differ wildly though when you add in the context of draft positioning. Love went late in the first round at 26th, which is a far cry from Penix at No. 8.

Kirk Cousins needs help now, with a capital N-O-W. The defense needs help now. An eighth overall pick could have gone a long way in helping your major investment in Cousins reach the full four years.

Instead, Falcons fans are left to endure another embarrassing chapter. There will be a GM search in the near future, and yet another head coach firing-then-hiring likely not far behind. All of this will play out in half-empty stadiums as apathy reaches levels seen multiple times throughout the franchise's lackluster history.

As optimistic as Fontenot and Morris are, they'll probably see the stadium as half-full.