Zac Robinson once touted Patrick Mahomes; can he find Falcons’ next QB?

The Falcons’ offensive coordinator previously wrote for Pro Football Focus.
Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson at the Atlanta Falcons Practice Facility, Wednesday, February 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Falcons offensive coordinator Zac Robinson at the Atlanta Falcons Practice Facility, Wednesday, February 14, 2024, in Flowery Branch, Ga. (Jason Getz /

The words might have been manna to a Falcons fan’s ears, particularly those with a preference for mixed metaphors.

On a Pro Football Focus podcast released Jan. 30, host Steve Palazzolo offered a memory of former PFF analyst Zac Robinson — you may know him better as the Falcons’ new offensive coordinator — regarding his pre-draft assessment of a certain three-time Super Bowl MVP.

“He loved (Patrick) Mahomes and his playmaking,” Palazzolo said of Robinson. “He was higher on Mahomes than any of us that particular year because he said he just feels the game and (is) a natural, instinctive playmaker.”

Robinson’s blurb for PFF after the Chiefs selected Mahomes with the 10th overall pick of the 2017 draft: “Mahomes has the highest upside of any QB in the draft, and the ability to carry a franchise years down the road.”

Given that Mahomes was the subject of mixed reviews before the draft — he was said to be high on talent but short on discipline — Robinson’s championing the eventual superstar has stirred hope that the Falcons can rely on that intuition as they attempt to identify their franchise quarterback, probably through the draft. Weeks into coach Raheem Morris’ tenure, the Falcons desperately need to nail this selection, lest they continue to amass losing seasons like compounding interest in owner Arthur Blank’s savings account.

Robinson’s apparent knack for seeing what others don’t could be especially useful, because, unless they trade up, top quarterback prospects such as Caleb Williams and Jayden Daniels figure to be gone by the time the Falcons draft at No. 8.

And it wasn’t just Mahomes. In December 2018, when he and Palazzolo ranked bowl-bound quarterbacks by pro potential, the top two passers were Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (then a freshman) and Oregon’s Justin Herbert. Lawrence wasn’t a daring choice — his status as a future top overall pick seemed ordained even then — but Herbert didn’t even make All-Pac 12 honorable mention that season. A year later, he became the sixth overall pick and has developed into a franchise-type quarterback with the Chargers.

Robinson crowed about his size and arm. Herbert didn’t have the touch that Lawrence did.

“He is a window thrower, and he’s going to zip it into windows,” Robinson said in a video. “But he does have the downfield stuff. Great up the seams.”

Two more assessments were even more prescient. Duke quarterback Daniel Jones was months from being the sixth overall pick before setting off on a Giants career that has yet to match those expectations. Robinson warned about his lack of consistency and his ineffectiveness when forced to throw on the move.

“He flashes some talent, but definitely has his concerns,” Robinson said.

But there was an unheralded quarterback that he liked — a Utah State sophomore named Jordan Love, who this past season led the Packers to the playoffs in his first year as a starter.

“He’s still a young guy developing, but you look at the size, arm talent, athleticism — he’s got a lot of things to work with,” Robinson said. “And he plays decisive. He’s a very good recognizer of coverage pre-snap, and I think that’s the biggest thing that stood out watching him, is he knows where to go with the football.”

So just put the first-round pick in Robinson’s hands and call it a day, right?

Maybe hold off for a moment because Robinson did have some misses. Even as he touted Mahomes, Robinson also really liked the first quarterback taken in that year’s draft, Mitchell Trubisky, who is on his third team and hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2019.

“Accurate to all levels, he’s instinctive and disciplined in the pocket, sees the game well, is athletic for move-the-pocket plays, and can extend the play to throw,” Robinson wrote of the second overall pick of the 2017 draft. “Trubisky is a great fit for what the Bears do offensively.”

He also wasn’t especially keen on a quarterback after watching every one of his throws in the 2018 regular season. This player could throw accurately and find the open man, Robinson said, but his arm strength was a question mark.

“The motion’s OK, it’s just not a smooth whip like we’ve seen some of these guys, like a Baker (Mayfield) or Patrick Mahomes,” Robinson said. “These guys can really zip it and really play at a high NFL level. That’s kind of what we’re lacking here with (this player).”

Somehow, Tua Tagovailoa overcame his zip-challenged arm to lead the NFL in passer rating in 2022 and passing yards in 2023.

In that same video, Robinson was high on Stanford’s K.J. Costello, saying he could be a first-round pick if he were to turn professional after the 2018 season. Costello threw accurately under pressure, worked through his progressions and played with consistency.

“He’s got a lot of tools to work with,” said Robinson, going so far as to agree with the premise that he could be the first overall pick of the 2020 draft if he came back to school.

It did not quite work out as envisioned. After transferring to Mississippi State, Costello was undrafted in 2021 and has been a preseason cut in each of the past two seasons.

Robinson undoubtedly will have some say on who the Falcons’ next quarterback will be. And he presumably is better at picking potential NFL quarterbacks now than he was in 2018, his last year at Pro Football Focus. He left the job to join the Rams as an assistant quarterbacks coach and was elevated to quarterbacks coach/passing-game coordinator in 2022.

But his work at PFF stands as evidence once again of the unpredictability involved in identifying quarterbacks. Those charged with making this choice know it too well. Last offseason, GM Terry Fontenot signed off on Desmond Ridder before his unsuccessful venture as the Falcons’ No. 1 QB. When he was coach of the Buccaneers, Morris used the 17th pick of the 2009 draft on quarterback Josh Freeman, a wager that came up empty.

Perhaps the fates will send them their Jordan Love.

Or, if they dare to dream that wildly, their Patrick Mahomes.