“We are all Falcons. And what do Falcons do? Rise up.” – Samuel L. Jackson
|Nuts and Bolts
Prestige: 3 stars
1 Super Bowl appearance
3 NFC Championship Appearances
5 Division titles
12 playoff appearances
Established in 1965, tied for oldest NFL team in the Deep South
Owner: Arthur Blank
Head Coach: Dan Quinn
Play in the National Football Conference – South Division
Play at the Georgia Dome
Missed playoffs at 6-10, finished 3rd in NFC South
Expectations this year:
If new head coach Dan Quinn can turn the team’s defense around, the team’s record could follow and put the Falcons back in the mix.
Falcons Primer – the ‘Dirty Birds’
The Atlanta Falcons joined the NFL in 1966. In the almost 50 years since then, the team has never won the Super Bowl, though it has come tantalizingly close. In 1998, the ‘Dirty Birds’ made it to the Super Bowl only to get beat down by the Denver Broncos. In 2008, the team brought in head coach Mike Smith and franchise quarterback Matt Ryan (aka “Matty Ice”) which sparked a run of five straight seasons with a winning record, culminating in a 13-4 2012 season that ended with a heartbreaking loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game (the Super Bowl’s semifinal)
The Falcons have struggled since, and fired Smith last season before hiring former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who may or may not be Mr. Clean with a beard. The Falcons have been known for their potent offense the past few seasons, but the team is hoping that Quinn can turn the defense around. With Ryan turning 30 this year, the clock is ticking on the team’s window of opportunity for a championship.
|The latest news from Primer
Note this section would be whatever news we have most recently covered on Primer that has been tagged #Panthers.
STORYLINES TO KNOW
Can new faces fix the D?
The Falcons have always had a high-flying passing attack, but have focused this offseason on bolstering the defense. Known in past seasons for their high-powered offense, the Falcons have been lacking on the defensive end for several seasons as well. The past few offseasons have been geared towards fixing that issue, however. 2013 first round selection Desmond Trufant (#21) is turning into one of the better young cornerbacks in the game. This year’s first round pick Vic Beasley (#44) is expected to improve a lackluster Falcons pass rush. The outside linebacker from Clemson is a little bit undersized, but blazing fast to run down some of the athletic quarterbacks he’ll face.
The Falcons also added several other players in free agency to bolster their defense, but the biggest addition is new head coach Dan Quinn. The former Seahawks defensive coordinator coached them to back-to-back finishes as the #1 defense in the league. Because he doesn’t have the talent available in Atlanta yet that he did in Seattle, improvement might take some time at first. But with Quinn’s resume, it seems inevitable.
Ultimately, Quinn is the most important person to the Falcon’s season. If he can improve the defense and cut down on coaching mistakes that plagued his predecessor (which with Quinn as a first time head coach is something to watch), the team is still dangerous enough offensively to make some noise. With the rest of the NFC South coming off a terrible season, the Falcons have as good a shot as anyone to come out of the division on top. Once they’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.
Alien Spaceship or New Stadium?
When the Falcons’ current stadium, the Georgia Dome, was built in 1992, it was the largest domed structure in the world. However, time has passed it by, and the team is building a new stadium scheduled to open in 2017. The new stadium is intended to be state of the art and be as cutting edge in stadium design as the old Georgia Dome. Most of the stadium will be built with transparent or translucent material like glass and will have features like a 100-yard-long bar. But by far the coolest part of the new stadium is the retractable roof. It opens in eight sections, like the lens of a camera, or the bottom of an alien spaceship.
PLAYERS TO KNOW
In 2008, the Falcons were reeling. Former quarterback Michael Vick had been suspended for a year for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, while head coach Bobby Petrino left the team in the middle of a 4-12 season. Ryan stepped in as a rookie from Boston College and led the team to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth while playing with maturity beyond his years. His cool, calm demeanor earned him the nickname “Matty Ice.” Compared to the other quarterbacks in the division like Cam Newton or Jameis Winston, Ryan is quiet and unassuming. But his play on the field speaks volumes on its own.
Killer Wideouts, led by Juuuliooooooo
When healthy, the combo of Julio Jones (#11) and Roddy White (#84) are possibly the best receiving duo in the NFL. Both Pro Bowl wide receivers are capable of doing a lot of damage and have multiple 1,000 yard seasons to their credit. Combined with Ryan, they form a lethal aerial attack when healthy.
The catch is that the two aren’t often healthy together. The two only played a complete 16 game season together in 2012. Both have dealt with injuries of major and minor varieties. Jones has had health issues since college, while White is 33 and starting to show signs of age. He’s still a solid #2 receiver, but the team likely needs to find a replacement soon. They’re hoping rookie receiver Justin Hardy (#16) from ECU will eventually step up to fill that role.
The Dirty Bird– The Dirty Bird was a dance popularized by Falcons running back Jamal Anderson during the team’s run of success in the late 1990s. It involved exaggerated stomping motions, pumping arms, and, of course, flapping wings. The dance became wildly popular among fans and still makes appearances from time to time.
Deion Sanders – Nicknamed “Prime Time” for his flashy style of play, Sanders was a cornerback drafted by the Falcons in 1989. While he only played five of his 14 seasons with the Falcons, Sanders established himself as one of the most electric players to ever step on to a football field. Blazing fast, Sanders scored 19 non-offensive touchdowns, the second most in NFL history. Sanders was a known trash talker, and his high stepping dance into the endzone became a trademark.
Michael Vick – While not necessarily a legend in the traditional sense of the word, Vick is probably one of the most well-known Falcons of the last 20 years. The Falcons traded up to take Vick #1 overall in 2001. He played six seasons for the team, confounding opponents with his unique skillset as a blazing fast runner with a cannon for an arm. Vick is the only quarterback to ever rush for 1,000 yards, but that’s not what he’s most known for. In 2007, Vick was arrested for running a dog fighting ring out of his home. He was convicted and sentenced to 23 months in jail, ending his time as a Falcon.