The Atlanta Falcons shocked the NFL world on Thursday night when they selected quarterback Michael Penix Jr. with the No. 8 overall pick after signing Kirk Cousins.

Penix will likely start the season as Cousins’ backup. The former Minnesota Vikings star signed a four-year contract with the Falcons in March, reportedly worth $180 million. The Penix pick on top of the deal made many fans and analysts confused.

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Atlanta Falcons first round draft choice quarterback Michael Penix Jr. holds a Falcons jersey during a news conference on Friday, April 26, 2024 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

On Monday, former Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden appeared on OutKick’s “Don’t @ Me with Dan Dakich” and gave his expert opinion on what the Falcons did. Gruden was in a similar situation in 2012, when Washington took Robert Griffin III No. 2 overall and later selected Cousins in the fourth round. 

Gruden was forced to navigate that tricky situation. The difference for the Falcons is that Cousins is exiting the prime of his career, and Penix could be the quarterback of the future.

“I think this way, what the Falcons did this year, is a little bit odd to me, especially with all the needs they had on defense,” Gruden told Dakich. “They had the pick of the litter on defense as far as pass rush is concerned.

“But it just shows the desperation teams have for finding the quarterback of the future. You gotta find him. You gotta continue to hunt for them. If you feel like you got one there and you can get him in your building, you gotta take a chance. And that’s what Atlanta did.”

Kirk Cousins vs Falcons

Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Kirk Cousins, #8, takes the field during a game between the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 8, 2019 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. (Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Penix said on Friday he heard from Cousins after the selection was made. He said he would be prepared if given the opportunity to play.

“I know I’m going to put in a ton of work to make sure whenever I do step on that field it’s not going to be a beat missed,” he said.

Penix’s former Washington Huskies teammate, Rome Odunze, vouched for the quarterback in an interview with Fox News Digital before the draft.

“I think everything on the field, that’s my QB1 in this draft,” the former Huskies wide receiver star said. “I think he’s a tremendous talent. From what he’s been able to do on the field, I don’t think that there’s anything that he really lacks. He’s going to improve on all aspects of his game, just like he has in the past two years.”

Photo shows Kirk Cousins and Michael Penix Jr

Kirk Cousins, left, and Michael Penix Jr. are now teammates with the Atlanta Falcons. (Getty Images/IMAGN)

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Penix led Washington to the national title game against Michigan last season. He threw for 4,903 yards and 36 touchdown passes. In 2022, he had 4,641 passing yards and 31 touchdown passes. It was during those two seasons that he showcased what he’s capable of when he is healthy.

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