Atlanta Sports Franchises: Atlanta Falcons
February 16, 2011 Leave a comment
NFL Titles: None
Retired Numbers: #10 Steve Bartkowski, #31 William Andrews, #57 Jeff Van Note, #60 Tommy Nobis
Rivals: New Orleans Saints
The Falcons joined the NFL in 1965 as an expansion team, after the NFL offered the ownership at the team a franchise to keep them from joining the rival AFL. The Falcons began their inaugural season in 1966. It was rough going at the start, as the team finished the 60’s with only 12 wins as a team. Their first winning season came in 1971.
After winning the Wild Card game in 1978 for the first time in franchise history but losing to the Cowboys in the Divisional Playoffs, the Falcons came back strongly in 1980, capturing their first NFC West title. However, their championship dreams came to an abrupt halt as they were dealt a home loss once again to the Cowboys.
After a relatively lackluster latter half of the 80’s, things appeared to be turning around in Atlanta, as the Falcons drafted CB Deion Sanders in 1989 in the first round. Sanders’ presence was seen big-time over the next 4 years, as he set many franchise records, and had a flashy and contagious persona that helped to establish a new, young fan base for the 90’s, as Sanders’ was also grabbing media attention for simultaneously playing in the MLB while still playing football.
In 1991, the Falcons drafted Brett Favre as the 33rd overall pick, but unfortunately their season ended in a loss to the Redskins, once again in the divisionals. The 1992 season saw a new home for Falcons football, the Georgia Dome.
The 1998 season was a storied one for the franchise, as they acquired head coach Dan Reeves, QB Chris Chandler, and RB Jamal Anderson all at the opening of what is questionably their greatest season to date. Finishing with a 14-2 regular season record, the Falcons clinched the NFC West Divisional Championship and bested the Vikings in overtime in the NFC Championship Game before falling 34-19 to the defending champ Denver in Super Bowl XXXIII.
In 2001, Michael Vick joined the ranks after being acquired as the fifth overall pick in the Draft. Although he saw minimal playing time while learning the system under starter Chandler in 2001, he was named starting quarterback for the beginning of the 2002 season. After a record-setting regular season, Vick helped to lead the Falcons to the playoffs, becoming the first team in history to claim a playoff victory over the Packers in Lambeau Field. However, their season ended with a loss to the Eagles in the divisional playoffs.
During the 2003 season, Vick broke his leg and missed the first 12 games of the season. Additionally, the decision was made to release head coach Reeves after 7 straight losses. Wade Phillips acted as interim coach for the final 3 games in a season that ended 5-11. The 2004 season seemed to have all the pieces falling into place, as Vick was back, and along with head coach Jim Mora, the Falcons went 11-5, won their third division title, and earned a first-round bye into the playoffs. After ousting the Rams in the divisional playoffs, the proverbial buck stopped at the NFC Championship, as the Falcons fell to the Eagles yet again.
Things in Atlanta turned into NOT-lanta in the 2007 season, which began with Vick’s indefinite suspension and eventual release from the NFL after pleading guilty to charges involving dog fighting, forcing Atlanta to start QB Joey Harrington. Additionally, 13 games into his first NFL season as head coach, Bobby Patrino resigned without notice, by way of a note left in the locker room. Secondary coach Emmitt Smith was named interim coach for the final 3 games of the season.
In 2008, Mike Smith was named new head coach, and Matt Ryan was drafter third overall to play quarterback. He started all 16 games in his rookie season, and was named the AP offensive Rookie of the Year. The Falcons finished the 2008 regular season 11-5, clinched a wild card spot, but lost to the Cardinals in the wild card round of the playoffs.
Although the Falcons failed to make the playoffs in 2009, the 2010 was a significant one, as they finished the season with a regular season of 13-3, their best regular season record since the 1998 Super Bowl season. Atlanta landed the top overall season in the NFC playoffs; however, they fell to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs. More on the hangover from a surprisingly successful season tomorrow, as we cover the pulse in recent Atlanta sports action tomorrow!