Pat McAfee Michael Lombardi Screengrab: The Pat McAfee Show

This offseason saw the Atlanta Falcons elect not to hire Bill Belichick, and even sort of rake him over the coals in an ESPN feature. And that may be part of why Michael Lombardi, who worked with Belichick in Cleveland from 1991-95 and New England from 2014-16, doesn’t exactly have a fond view of the team.

Lombardi’s critical view continued over into The Pat McAfee Show on Friday, as the longtime NFL executive took aim at the Falcons for drafting Michael Penix Jr., despite having signed Kirk Cousins to a nine-figure contract with nearly $100 million guaranteed just last month.

“I was the only one quoted in the ESPN article because I was the only one willing to say it on the record,” began Lombardi. “Everybody else hid behind themselves and we all know who was doing the talking there. But let’s go to the concept here.

“Look, Michael Penix is a good player, but that’s not the conversation here. Michael Penix is a good player, but the job of a general manager is to marry the free agency system into the draft. And if you’re Terry ‘Super Bowl-winning GM’ Fontenot, who’s won 21 games in the three years since he’s been in charge, and if you’re in that job, you know in October, November, having watched Desmond Ridder play, watching Taylor Heinicke play, you need a quarterback. And so, you’re going through all these quarterbacks.

“Remember, Brett Veach went to Andy Reid and said, ‘We gotta get this Patrick Mahomes kid; he’s great.’ He did that in October…Your job as the general manager is to look over your team and say these are the needs, and we gotta marry the free agency system to the draft. You’re picking eighth overall.

“This is the second year in a row the Atlanta Falcons have used a luxury pick at the eighth pick overall. Last year, they took Bijan Robinson — really good player…They didn’t need another back; they needed a defensive three-technique. This team finished 27th in forcing turnovers. They couldn’t get off the field when they needed to. They have no pass rush…”

Lombardi ripped into the Falcons’ decision. He argued that drafting Penix after signing Cousins raises serious questions about the front office’s strategy. It’s like they’re changing course mid-stream without a clear reason.

“Don’t come out there at the press conference and say, ‘Hey, if Michael has to sit four or five years, we’d be happy because we’re winning.’ Well, I hate to break the news to you, Terry, but if he’s sitting four years, you still gotta pick up the fifth-year option,” said Lombardi. “And if he hasn’t played, are you gonna do that?”

Lombardi pointed out top defensive tackles like Alabama’s Dallas Turner and Texas’s Byron Murphy II were on the board, while the Falcons elected to make a luxury pick they just couldn’t afford.

“This is two years in a row the great Atlanta Falcons franchise has turned down a three-technique,” Lombardi said. “Now, I can tell you this. You go put Chuck Pagano on. You go tell me how hard it is to find three-techniques. They don’t show up every day. And you turned them down two years in a row and you call yourself an architect in team building.

“It’s beyond my own comprehension. You got (Dan Orlovsky) on your side, and he’s gonna come out with another chart to tell you…Of course, he’s putting out stuff that makes no sense at all. At some point, you have to understand the art of team building.”

In Lombardi’s eyes, neither Fontenot nor Orlovsky have a clue about team building in the slightest.

[The Pat McAfee Show on X]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.