Wings of Victory: The Atlanta Falcons' Journey to Glory
NFL: Franchise Overview of The Atlanta Falcons
Welcome to The Sporting Blog franchise overview series. In this series, we will review each National Football League franchise and give you an in-depth history of who they are and how they came to be.
Matt Lively is on the case and in today’s edition, we are talking about the Atlanta Falcons!
History of the Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons became the 15th National Football League franchise in 1965. Atlanta was vowing for an NFL franchise for years and it was finally awarded to owner Rankin M. Smith for the small price of $8.5 million. At that time, it was the highest paid price for an NFL franchise.
The Falcons got their name from a local radio station and held a "name-the-team" contest to drum up interest and generate a new moniker. Over 500 unique names were submitted including Vibrants, Confederates, Firebirds, and Peaches.
The Falcons were not a successful franchise during their first 12 seasons. In their inaugural season in 1966, they lost their first nine games. They finally got their first win with head coach Norb Hecker. There were just two winning seasons during the first 12.
Stadium - The Mercedes-Benz Stadium
The Falcons played in the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium from their inaugural season until 1991, from 1992 through the 2016 season. In 2017, the Falcons opened up the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The stadium cost over $1.5 billion and was a major upgrade over the Georgia Dome.
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium has a retractable roof, which features a "pinwheel" consisting of eight translucent, triangular panels. Each of the eight panels operates on two straight, parallel rails; one rail is responsible for moving the panel while the other rail stabilizes the panel.
Playoffs and Championships
The Atlanta Falcons have played in a total of 24 games and have a record of 10-14. The Falcons have gone to four Conference Championships and have a record of 2-2. In the Super Bowl, they are winless with a record of 0-2.
The first Super Bowl that the Falcons played in was in 1999 against the Denver Broncos in Miami. The Falcons didn’t put up much of a fight, losing 34-19. The Falcons went 14-2 in that regular season but John Elway proved too much to handle. The Falcons came in as seven-point underdogs. They were held to just six points through the third quarter. When they finally got on the board again in the fourth quarter, it was too late. The Broncos kept their foot on the pedal and outscored them 17-13.
It was to be another 17 years until the Falcons would reach the Super Bowl again. This time in Super Bowl 51, the Falcons were facing the New England Patriots. Quarterback Matt Ryan was coming off of an MVP season but the Falcons were still considered underdogs. Despite holding a 28-3 lead at halftime, the Falcons blew the biggest lead in what is considered the greatest Super Bowl ever played. The Patriots stormed back, forced the first overtime in Super Bowl history and won the game.
The Best Coach in Falcons History
Dan Quinn has brought so much success to the Atlanta Falcons including the second-ever visit to the Super Bowl. He has a 43-37 record with the Falcons and has brought the team into a new era. But Dan Quinn isn’t the greatest coach in team history.
That honour goes to Mike Smith.
Smith took over after the Mike Vick era in Atlanta and put the Falcons back on the map. He brought the team to the playoffs four times. He won the division twice. He got the #1 seed in the NFC twice He made it to the conference championship game once. He won three Sporting News Coach of the Year awards (’08, ’10, and ’12. He has the second-best (behind Quinn) won-loss percentage in Falcon’s history.
Three Best Players in Falcons History
Matt Ryan - Quarterback
Matt Ryan is the best quarterback that the Falcons have ever had. He overtook most of Michael Vick’s records and has been tremendous for Atlanta. He has never played for another team and led the Falcons to Super Bowl 51.
In 2016, Ryan was a first-team All-Pro selection and was awarded the NFL MVP when he threw for 4,944 yards, an NFL record 9.3 passing yards per attempt, 38 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions. He is the Falcons' leader in quarterback wins, completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns and passer rating.
Julio Jones - Wide Receiver
Julio Jones will go down as one of the top wide receivers in National Football League history. Since the time he entered the league in 2011, no one has had more receiving yards than Jones. He was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and in nine seasons, he is a seven-time Pro Bowler, two-time first-team All-Pro, and three-time second-team All-Pro selection.
In 2015, Jones led the league with 136 receptions and 1,871 yards. He also led the NFL with 1,677 receiving yards in 2018, and his 96.2 receiving yards per game average for his career is the best in league history.
Tommy Nobis - Linebacker
Known as “Mr. Falcon” Nobis was the number one overall pick in the 1966 NFL Draft and the first in Falcons history. Nobis spent 11 years in Atlanta, the only place he ever played. He won Rookie of the Year, went to five Pro Bowls and was selected to First-Team All-Pro Honors once.
He once had 294 combined tackles, which is the team's all-time single-season record, and it's unofficially the most tackles credited to one player in NFL history. From 1994 to 2001 tackles were statistically recorded, but it didn't become an official stat until 2001.
Greatest Draft Pick in Falcons History
This player only spent five seasons in Atlanta, but he was brilliant for the Falcons and was one of the most fun players to ever watch suit up. We are talking about Deion Sanders, the two-sport athlete who did things most humans could never dream of.
Sanders informed the New York Giants that he would not be playing for them so the Falcons took him with the fifth overall pick. Altogether, in his five years in Atlanta, the electric cornerback notched 24 interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. Along with his defensive touchdowns, Sanders scored another seven touchdowns with Atlanta (five return touchdowns, two receiving). Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011
Best Free Agent Signing or Trade in Team History
The best trade in Falcons history is actually a draft pick. That’s right, in 2001, the Falcons sent the fifth overall pick, second and third-rounders in 2001, a second-rounder in 2002, and wide receiver Tim Dwight to San Diego for the first overall pick. In exchange, the Falcons drafted one of the most electric players to ever play in the NFL. This is when the legend of Michael Vick began in the NFL.
Vick became the starter in 2002, and led the Falcons to a playoff victory on his way to a Pro Bowl selection.
The Team’s Greatest Moment
The greatest moment in Falcon’s history was in 2016 when they sent the Georgia Dome out in style. Just a game away from the Super Bowl, the Falcons hosted the Green Bay Packers. A 44-21 drubbing of Green Bay, where both Matt Ryan and Julio Jones went bananas against a torn-up Packers secondary that was much maligned and lacking any sort of shutdown back-end options.
The win sent them to their second Super Bowl in franchise history.