Atlanta Falcons

Last updated

Atlanta Falcons
AmericanFootball current event.svg Current season
Established June 30, 1965;58 years ago (June 30, 1965) [1]
First season: 1966
Play in Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Atlanta, Georgia
Headquartered in Flowery Branch, Georgia [2]
Atlanta Falcons logo Atlanta Falcons logo.svg
Atlanta Falcons logo
Atlanta Falcons wordmark Atlanta Falcons wordmark.svg
Atlanta Falcons wordmark
LogoWordmark
League/conference affiliations

National Football League (1966 present)

Current uniform
Atlanta falcons unif20.png
Team colorsBlack, red, silver, white [3] [4] [5]
    
Mascot Freddie Falcon
Personnel
Owner(s) Arthur Blank
CEO Rich McKay
PresidentRich McKay
General manager Terry Fontenot
Head coach Raheem Morris
Team history
  • Atlanta Falcons (1966present)
Team nicknames
  • The Dirty Birds
  • Grits Blitz (1977 defense)
Championships
League championships (0)
Conference championships (2)
Division championships (6)
Playoff appearances (14)
Home fields

The Atlanta Falcons is a professional American football team based in Atlanta. The Falcons compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) South division. The Falcons were founded on June 30, 1965, and joined the NFL in 1966 [6] as an expansion team, after the NFL offered then-owner Rankin Smith a franchise to keep him from joining the rival American Football League (AFL).

Contents

In their 57 years of existence, the Falcons have compiled a record of 390–503–6 (380–489–6 in the regular season and 10–14 in the playoffs), winning division championships in 1980, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2012, and 2016. The Falcons have appeared in two Super Bowls, the first during the 1998 season in Super Bowl XXXIII, where they lost to the Denver Broncos 34–19, [7] and the second 18 years later, a 34–28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. They are the oldest major professional sports team in America with no championships. [8]

The Falcons' current home field is Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened for the 2017 season; the team's headquarters and practice facilities are located at a 50-acre (20 ha) site in Flowery Branch, [9] northeast of Atlanta in Hall County.

Franchise history

Professional football comes to Atlanta (1962)

Professional football first came to Atlanta in 1962, when the American Football League (AFL) staged two preseason contests, with one featuring the Denver Broncos vs. the Houston Oilers and the second pitting the Dallas Texans against the Oakland Raiders. Two years later, the AFL held another exhibition, this time with the New York Jets taking on the San Diego Chargers.

In 1965, after the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium (then known simply as Atlanta Stadium) was built, the city of Atlanta felt the time was right to start pursuing professional football. [10] One independent group which had been active in NFL exhibition promotions in Atlanta applied for franchises in both the AFL and NFL, acting entirely on its own with no guarantee of stadium rights. Another group reported it had deposited earnest money for a team in the AFL. [11]

With everyone running in different directions, some local businessmen (Cox Broadcasting) worked out a deal and were awarded an AFL franchise on June 8, contingent upon acquiring exclusive stadium rights from city officials. [12] [13] NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who had been moving slowly in Atlanta matters, was spurred by the AFL interest and headed on the next plane down to Atlanta to block the rival league's claim on the city of Atlanta. [6] [10] [13] He forced the city to make a choice between the two leagues; [14] by June 30, the city picked Rankin Smith and the NFL. [10] [15]

The AFL's original expansion plans in June 1965 were for two new teams in 1966, [16] [17] in Atlanta and Philadelphia. [18] It later evolved into the Miami Dolphins in 1966 and the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968. The NFL had planned to add two teams in 1967; the competition with the AFL for Atlanta forced the first to be added a year early in 1966. The odd number of teams (15) resulted in one idle team (bye) each week, with each team playing 14 games over 15 weeks (similar to 1960: 12 games over 13 weeks). The second expansion team, the New Orleans Saints, joined the NFL as planned in 1967 as its sixteenth franchise.

The Atlanta Falcons franchise began when it was approved to begin play in 1966 by a unanimous vote of the NFL club owners on June 21, 1965. [19] Rozelle granted ownership nine days later on June 30 to 40-year-old Rankin Smith Sr., an executive vice president of Life Insurance Company of Georgia. He paid $8.5 million, the highest price in NFL history at the time for a franchise. [6] Rozelle and Smith made the deal in about five minutes and the Atlanta Falcons brought the largest and most popular sport to the city of Atlanta. The Atlanta expansion team became the 15th NFL franchise, and they were awarded the first overall pick in the 1966 NFL Draft as well as the final pick in each of the first five rounds. [20] They selected consensus All-American linebacker Tommy Nobis from the University of Texas, making him the first-ever Falcon. The league also held the expansion draft six weeks later in which Atlanta selected unprotected players from the 14 existing franchises. Although the Falcons selected many good players in those drafts, they still were not able to win right away. [6]

The Atlanta team received its nickname on August 29, 1965. Miss Julia Elliott, a school teacher from Griffin, was singled out from many people who suggested "Falcons" as the nickname for the new franchise. She wrote: "the Falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops its prey. It is deadly and has a great sporting tradition." [21] [22]

Smith family era (1966–2001)

The Falcons' inaugural season was in 1966, and their first preseason game was on August 1, a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Under head coach Norb Hecker, Atlanta lost their first nine regular-season games in 1966; their first victory came on the road against the struggling New York Giants on November 20 in Yankee Stadium. Two weeks later, Atlanta won at Minnesota, and beat St. Louis in Atlanta the next week for their first home win. The team finished the 1960s with 12 wins in four seasons.

The Falcons had their first Monday Night Football game in Atlanta during the 1970 season, a 20–7 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The only two winning seasons in their first 12 years were 1971 (7–6–1) and 1973 (9–5).

The Falcons' defense taking on Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway during a 1985 game. 1987 Atlanta Falcons Pocket Schedule.jpg
The Falcons' defense taking on Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway during a 1985 game.

In the 1978 season, the Falcons qualified for the playoffs for the first time and won the Wild Card game against the Eagles 14–13. The following week, they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 27–20 in the Divisional Playoffs.

In the 1980 season, after a nine-game winning streak, the Falcons posted a franchise then-best record of 12–4 and captured their first NFC West division title. The next week, their dream season ended at home with a loss to the Cowboys 30–27 in the divisional playoffs. In the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Falcons made the playoffs but lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 30–24. Falcons coach Leeman Bennett was fired after the loss. The team then had losing seasons for the next eight years.

In the 1989 NFL Draft, the Falcons selected cornerback Deion Sanders in the first round, who helped them for the next four years, setting many records for the franchise. "Neon Deion" (a.k.a. "Prime Time") had a flashy appeal and helped bring media attention to one of the league's most anonymous franchises. Sanders was also famous for playing on major league baseball teams (New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves) while simultaneously playing in the NFL.

The Falcons playing against the Los Angeles Rams during a 1991 away game. Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams 1991-12-08 - 01 (Atlanta Falcons crop).jpg
The Falcons playing against the Los Angeles Rams during a 1991 away game.

After defeating the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card game, the Falcons' 1991 season ended in a divisional playoff loss to the Washington Redskins. In the 1991 NFL Draft, the Falcons selected quarterback Brett Favre as the 33rd overall pick. During his rookie season, he played in two games where he amassed a record of four passing attempts with no receptions and two interceptions. The following February, Favre was traded to the Green Bay Packers.

In 1992, the Atlanta Falcons opened a new chapter in their history moving into the newly constructed Georgia Dome, where the team has defeated all 31 other NFL teams at least once during its time there.

Dan Reeves years (1997–2003)

In 1998, under recently acquired head coach Dan Reeves, quarterback Chris Chandler and running back Jamal Anderson the "Dirty Bird" Falcons had their greatest season to date. On November 8, they beat the New England Patriots 41–10, ending a streak of 22 losses at cold-weather sites. The team finished with a franchise-best 14–2 regular-season record and the NFC West division championship. On January 17, 1999, the Falcons upset the top-seeded Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in the NFC Championship Game 30–27, in an exciting overtime victory. However, in their first-ever Super Bowl appearance, they lost 34–19 to the defending champion Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.

In the second game of the Falcons 1999 season, running back Jamal Anderson, who had been a key player in the Falcons' 1998 success, suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Falcons finished the season with a very disappointing 5–11 regular-season record. [6] In 2000, the Falcons suffered through another horrendous season finishing 4–12 and once again missing the playoffs.

In the 2001 NFL draft, the Falcons orchestrated a trade with the San Diego Chargers, acquiring the first overall pick (which was used on quarterback Michael Vick) in exchange for wide receiver-return specialist Tim Dwight and the fifth overall pick (used on running back LaDainian Tomlinson).

The Falcons finished the 2001 season with a record of 7–9 and missed the playoffs. Jessie Tuggle retired following 14 seasons in Atlanta.

Arthur Blank era (2002–present)

On December 6, 2001, Arthur M. Blank reached a preliminary agreement with the Falcons' Taylor Smith to purchase the team. In a special meeting prior to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans on February 2, 2002, NFL owners voted unanimously to approve the purchase. [23]

The 2002 season saw the Falcons return to the playoffs with a regular-season record of 9–6–1, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was Vick's first year as the starter, and the team, with newly acquired running back Warrick Dunn, delivered the Green Bay Packers their first home playoff loss ever. A 20–6 loss to the Donovan McNabb-led Philadelphia Eagles the following week, however, ended the Falcons' season.

On March 19, 2003, the Falcons presented their new logo. [24] [6] During the 2003 preseason Vick broke his leg and missed the first 12 games of the season. After losing 7 straight games, the decision was made to release head coach Dan Reeves. Wade Phillips acted as interim coach for the final 3 games. Although the Falcons won 3 of their last 4 games after the return of Vick, they ended up with a 5–11 record that year. In 2004, a new head coach, Jim L. Mora, was hired and Vick returned for the full season. The Falcons went 11–5, winning their third division title and earning a first-round bye into the playoffs. In the divisional playoffs, the Falcons defeated the St. Louis Rams, 47–17, in the Georgia Dome, advancing to the NFC Championship Game, which they lost to the Eagles, 27–10.

The Falcons again fell short of achieving back-to-back winning seasons in 2005, going 8–8. In 2006, Michael Vick became the first quarterback in league history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, with 1,039. After finishing the season 7–9, however, coach Jim Mora was dismissed and Bobby Petrino, the University of Louisville's football coach, replaced him. Before the 2007 season began, Vick was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after pleading guilty to charges involving dog fighting in the state of Virginia. On December 10, 2007, Vick received a 23-month prison sentence and was officially cut from the Atlanta roster.

For the 2007 season, the Falcons were forced to start Joey Harrington at quarterback. On December 11, 13 games into his first NFL season as head coach, Bobby Petrino resigned without notice to coach at the University of Arkansas, leaving the beleaguered players only a note in the locker room. Secondary Coach Emmitt Thomas was named interim coach for the final three games of the season on December 12. The Falcons ended the year with a dismal 4–12 record.

After the tumultuous and disappointing 2007 season, the Falcons made a number of moves, hiring a new general manager and head coach, drafting a new starting quarterback, and signing a starting running back.

On January 13, 2008, the Falcons named former Patriots director of college football scouting Thomas Dimitroff General Manager. [25] On January 23, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coach and former linebackers coach for the 2000 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens Mike Smith was named the Falcons' new head coach. [26] Chargers back-up running back Michael Turner agreed to a 6-year, $30 million deal on March 2. [27] On April 26, Matt Ryan (quarterback from Boston College) was drafted third overall in the 2008 NFL draft by the Falcons. [28]

The Falcons finished the 2008 regular season with a record of 11–5, and the #5 seed in the playoffs. [29] On December 21, 2008, Atlanta beat the Minnesota Vikings 24–17 to clinch a wild card spot, earning a trip to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Falcons would go on to lose in the wild-card round of the 2008 NFL playoffs to the eventual NFC champion Arizona Cardinals, 30–24.

Matt Ryan started all 16 games in his rookie season and was named the Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. [30] First-year head coach Mike Smith was named 2008 NFL Coach of the Year.

Although they failed to make the playoffs in 2009 the team rallied to win their final three regular-season games to record back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. The Falcons defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20–10 in the final game of the season to improve their record to 9–7. [7]

In 2010, with a regular-season record of 13–3, the Falcons secured a third straight winning season, their fourth overall divisional title, and the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs; however, the Falcons were overpowered by the eventual Super Bowl XLV champion Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs 48–21. The Falcons scored 414 points – the fifth-most in franchise history. [7] The team sent an NFL-high and franchise-best nine players to the 2011 Pro Bowl. [31]

The Falcons made a surprise trade up with the Cleveland Browns in the 2011 NFL draft to select Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones sixth overall. In exchange, the Falcons gave up their first-, second- and fourth-round draft picks in 2011, and their first and fourth draft picks in 2012. Jones, along with teammates Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White, have since been dubbed Atlanta's "Big Three" (based on their total number of reception yards). [32] On August 30, 2011, Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King, who correctly predicted the 2011 Super Bowl, made his predictions for the 2011 season and picked the Falcons to defeat the San Diego Chargers in the 2012 Super Bowl. [33] The Falcons finished the season at 10–6, securing the fifth seed after a Week 17 beatdown of Tampa Bay in which the Falcons pulled their starters after leading 42–0 just 23 minutes into the game.

The Falcons then went on to play the New York Giants in a 2011 NFC Wild Card Game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The first half was a defensive struggle, with the first points coming off of a safety by the Falcons, giving Atlanta a 2–0 lead. In the second quarter, though, Eli Manning connected with Hakeem Nicks for a short touchdown pass to make it 7–2 Giants heading into the second half. Then the Giants took control, as Manning threw for two more touchdown passes to Mario Manningham and Nicks and the defense completed its shutout of the Falcons to give the New York Giants the win, 24–2, and the Falcons their third straight playoff loss with Matt Ryan and Mike Smith. [34] After the season, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder accepted a coaching job at Auburn University, and the offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey took the head coaching job in Jacksonville.

Atlanta exploded out of the gate, going a franchise-best 8–0 and remaining the last unbeaten team in the NFL that year. Their hopes to get an undefeated season came to an end with a 27–31 loss to the division rival Saints. Julio Jones had a remarkable second year, grabbing 10 touchdowns and 1,198 yards. The Falcons finished the season 13–3, and clinched the number one seed in the NFC playoffs.

The Falcons played the Seattle Seahawks in their first playoff game. Although they went down 28–27 with only 31 seconds left on the clock, Matt Ryan led the team to their first playoff victory, 30–28. It was the only playoff victory in the Mike Smith era.

The Atlanta Falcons then advanced to face the San Francisco 49ers. The Falcons seized control of the game early with a Matt Bryant field goal, a trio of Matt Ryan touchdown passes caught by Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez coupled with outstanding defensive play. By the end of the half, the score was 24–14. The tides of the game began to shift in the second half as the 49ers rallied back with a pair of Frank Gore touchdown runs. Atlanta's offense attempted to reply but were ultimately shut down by the 49er defense. A few series later, late in the 4th quarter with little time remaining, Atlanta found themselves in a 4th and 4 situation at the 10-yard line. The Falcons needed just 10 more yards to secure victory and advance to their first Super Bowl berth in 14 years. Matt Ryan fired a pass to Roddy White which was ultimately broken up by inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman, resulting in a 28–24 defeat.

Following the success of the previous season, the Falcons were an expected Super Bowl contender. However, injuries hampered the team's performance and the team finished the season 4–12. With that, the streak of consecutive winning seasons came to an end and Mike Smith had his first losing season as a head coach. Tony Gonzalez, in his final season in the NFL, was selected to the 2014 Pro Bowl as a starter representing Team Rice. Following the conclusion of the 2012 season, director of player personnel Les Snead departed the team to join the St. Louis Rams and Dave Caldwell, assistant to general manager Thomas Dimitroff, left the team to join the Jacksonville Jaguars. Scott Pioli, former GM of the Kansas City Chiefs, was announced as the Falcons' new assistant GM. Mike Smith was given a one-year extension on his contract as head coach. The Falcons had the 6th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft with which they selected Jake Matthews, who played as offensive tackle for Texas A&M.

Despite having another rough season, the Falcons still had an opportunity to qualify for the playoffs at the end of the regular season. The Falcons hosted the Carolina Panthers in their regular season finale, with the winners clinching the NFC South division. Unfortunately, the Falcons lost in a 34–3 blowout as Matt Ryan threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns and got sacked six times. The Falcons finished the season 6–10, marking the second consecutive losing season for the team. [35] The following day, Mike Smith was fired after seven seasons as head coach. [36] The Falcons would soon hire Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as the team's 16th head coach. [37] The Falcons had the 8th overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft with which they selected Vic Beasley, a defensive end from Clemson University. [38]

Dan Quinn years (2015–2020)

Dan Quinn Dan Quinn 2015 intro press conference.jpg
Dan Quinn

In February 2015, the team was investigated by the NFL for alleged use of artificial crowd noise in the Georgia Dome. [39] The Falcons lost a 2016 NFL Draft selection as a result of the league's investigation. [40]

Dan Quinn's first season saw a 5–0 start, the team's best start in four years. They would then struggle throughout the rest of the season by losing 8 of their last 11 games, resulting in an 8–8 record. They did, however, give the Panthers their only regular-season loss. The Falcons used their first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft on safety Keanu Neal from the University of Florida.

In the Falcons' 25th and final season in the Georgia Dome, Atlanta lost their week 1 game to the Buccaneers 24–31. The Falcons would then win their next four including one over the Panthers, when the franchise set new records: Matt Ryan threw for 503 yards, and Julio Jones caught 12 passes for 300 yards. Beating the San Francisco 49ers 41–13 in Week 15, the Falcons improved to 9–5 and secured their first winning season since 2012. One week later, the Falcons defeated the Panthers in Charlotte, North Carolina, and clinched their first NFC South division title since 2012. In their last regular-season game at the Georgia Dome, the Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints, and secured an 11–5 record and a first-round bye.

In the divisional round of the playoffs, Atlanta defeated the Seahawks 36–20 in the Georgia Dome, and hosted their last game at the Dome against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game on January 22, 2017. The Falcons defeated the Packers 44–21 to advance to Super Bowl LI as the NFC champions. Atlanta was up 28–3 late in the third quarter, and the New England Patriots scored 31 unanswered points, with the last 6 in the first-ever overtime in the Super Bowl. The Patriots' 25-point comeback was the largest in Super Bowl history. [41]

In 2016, the Falcons scored 540 points in the regular season, the seventh-most in NFL history, tied with the Greatest Show on Turf (the 2000 St. Louis Rams). [42] However, the Falcons defense gave up 406 points, 27th in the league. [43]

The Falcons moved into their new home, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this season. Their first game ever played at the new stadium was a preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The first regular-season game at the new stadium was a rematch of the 2016–17 NFC Championship, with Atlanta defeating Green Bay 34–23. Their first loss of the season was a 23–17 home defeat to the Buffalo Bills in week 4. [44] The team returned to the playoffs with a 10–6 record (albeit with a third-place finish in the NFC South). The Falcons defeated the Los Angeles Rams 26–13 in the Wild Card round, but their 2017 season came to an end a week later in the Divisional Playoff round at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles 15–10.

In their first game with new uniforms, the Falcons lost to the Seattle Seahawks at home 38–25. The Falcons then suffered comebacks made by both the Cowboys on the road (39–40) and then back in Atlanta against the Bears (26–30). On October 11, after the team suffered a 23–16 loss at home against the Carolina Panthers and fell to 0–5, the Falcons announced the firings of Quinn and Dimitroff. [45] Defensive coordinator Raheem Morris took over for the rest of the season, leading the team to a 4–12 record. Morris was not retained after the season, and soon joined the Los Angeles Rams as their defensive coordinator.

Arthur Smith years (2021–2024)

On January 15, 2021, the Falcons announced that Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith had been named the 18th head coach in franchise history. [46] Four days later, New Orleans Saints executive Terry Fontenot was named the Falcons' new general manager. [47] Tight end Kyle Pitts was selected with the 4th pick of the 2021 draft, and longtime star receiver Julio Jones was traded to the Titans, after publicly requesting a trade from Atlanta. [48] [49] The Falcons improved on their record from the prior year, finishing the season with a 7–10 record.

On March 21, 2022, the Falcons traded longtime star quarterback Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts. [50] During the 2022 season, the team finished last place in the NFC South with a 7–10 record.

The Falcons entered the 2023 seasons with heightened expectations after drafting Texas running back Bijan Robinson with the eighth overall pick of the 2023 draft and making significant improvements in free agency, including signing Jessie Bates and Calais Campbell to improve their defense. [51] However, the team finished with a 7–10 record for the third consecutive season, although they had been in contention for a playoff spot until the final day of the season before a 48–17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on January 7, 2024. [52] The following day, Smith was fired after three years as head coach. [53]

Raheem Morris years (2024-present)

On January 25, 2024, the Falcons announced Raheem Morris's return to the organization, this time as the 19th head coach in Falcons history. [54]

Stadiums

The Falcons have called three stadiums home in their 51 years of existence, and its third home in their history opened in the late summer of 2017. The first was the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, sharing with the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team until 1991. In 1992, the Georgia Dome was built, and the Falcons played there from its opening to the 2016 season. The Dome has been frequently used for college football, including Georgia State football and college bowl games such as the Peach Bowl.

In an effort to replace the aging Georgia Dome and potentially host a future Super Bowl, team owner Arthur Blank proposed a deal with the city of Atlanta to build a new state-of-the-art stadium not far from where the Georgia Dome is located. Blank will contribute $800 million and the city of Atlanta will contribute an additional $200 million via bonds backed by the city's hotel/motel tax towards the construction of a retractable roof stadium. Blank will contribute additional money for cost overruns if it is needed. The team will provide up to $50 million towards infrastructure costs that weren't included in the construction budget and to retire the remaining debt on the Georgia Dome. In addition, Blank's foundation and the city will each provide $15 million for development in surrounding neighborhoods. Though the total cost of the stadium was initially estimated to be around $1 billion, [55] the total cost was revised to $1.5 billion according to Blank. [56] In March 2013, the Atlanta City Council voted 11–4 in favor of building the stadium. [57] The retractable roof Mercedes-Benz Stadium broke ground in May 2014, and became the third home stadium for the Falcons and the first for the new Atlanta United FC Major League Soccer club upon opening in 2017.

Logo and uniforms

Falcons uniform: 1971-1989 NFC-Throwback2-Uniform-ATL.PNG
Falcons uniform: 1971–1989
Falcons uniform: 1997-2002 NFC-Throwback-Uniform-ATL.PNG
Falcons uniform: 1997–2002
Falcons uniform: 2016-19, including the throwback edition Atlanta falcons unif 16.png
Falcons uniform: 2016–19, including the throwback edition

The Atlanta Falcons' colors are black, red, silver and white. [58] When the team began play in 1966, the Falcons wore red helmets with a black falcon crest logo. In the center of the helmet was a center black stripe surrounded by two gold stripes and two white stripes. These colors represented the two college rival schools in the state of Georgia; rival schools Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (white and gold) and the Georgia Bulldogs (red and black). Although the gold was removed after several seasons, the white remains to this day. They wore white pants and either black or white jerseys. At first, the falcon crest logo was also put on the jersey sleeves, but it was replaced by a red and white stripe pattern four years later. They switched from black to red jerseys in 1971, and the club began to wear silver pants in 1978. The facemasks on the helmets were initially gray, becoming white in 1978, and then black in 1984; the team wore black face masks until its 2020 redesign.

A prototype white helmet was developed for the team prior to the 1974 season, but was never worn.

In 1990, the uniform design changed to black helmets, silver pants, and either black or white jerseys. The numbers on the white jerseys were black, but were changed to red in 1997. (The red numerals could be seen on the away jerseys briefly in 1990.)

Both the logo and uniforms changed in 2003. The logo was redesigned with red and silver accents to depict a more powerful, aggressive falcon, which now more closely resembles the capital letter F. [24] [59]

Although the Falcons still wore black helmets, the new uniforms featured jerseys and pants with red trim down the sides. The uniform design consisted of either black or white jerseys, and either black or white pants. During that same year, a red alternate jersey with black trim was also introduced. The Falcons also started wearing black cleats with these uniforms. [60]

In 2004, the red jerseys became the primary jerseys, and the black ones became the alternate, both worn with white pants. In select road games, the Falcons wear black pants with white jerseys. The Falcons wore an all-black combination for home games against their archrivals, the New Orleans Saints, winning the first two contests (24–21 in 2004 and 36–17 in 2005), but losing 31–13 in 2006. The Falcons wore the all-black combination against the New Orleans Saints for four straight seasons starting in 2004, With the last time being in 2007, losing 34–14. They wore the combination again in 2006, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2. The Falcons won that game, 14–3. The Falcons also wore their all-black uniform in 2007 against the New York Giants, and in 2008 against the Carolina Panthers and against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (for the second time). After that, the black pants and uniforms were retired and the white pants were now used full-time with the regular uniforms.

In the 1980s, the Falcons wore their white uniforms at home most of the time because of the heat. When the Falcons started playing in a dome, the team switched to their dark uniforms for home games but have worn their white uniforms at home a few times since switching to the dome. It was announced at the 2009 state of the franchise meeting that the Falcons would wear 1966 throwback uniforms for a couple games during the 2009 season. The Atlanta Falcons wore 1966 throwback jerseys for two home games in 2009 – against the Carolina Panthers on September 20 and against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 29. The Falcons won both of those games. They donned the throwbacks again for 2 games in 2010, against Baltimore and San Francisco, winning both of those games as well. The throwbacks were used twice in 2011 and 2012; both times were against the Panthers and Saints. However, the throwbacks were retired following a 2013 NFL rule requiring only one helmet shell per team.

The Falcons unveiled an all-red Color Rush uniform on September 13, 2016; however, due to the fact that the Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had similar all-red Color Rush uniforms, the Falcons were unable to wear their Color Rush uniform until the 2017 season. [61] [62]

Also in 2016, the Falcons unveiled a mixed throwback uniform set. The uniform tops, pants and socks closely resembled their 1960s kits. From 2016 to 2021, due to the NFL's one-shell rule, the Falcons wore the black helmets with the original logo decal similar to the design they wore in the 1990s. However, starting in 2022, with the NFL now reinstating the use of alternate helmets, the Falcons brought back the original red helmets to pair with their throwback uniforms. [63]

It was revealed in January 2020 that the Falcons will change uniforms for the 2020 NFL season. [64] The ensuing design featured the return to black as the primary home uniform color for the first time since 2003. Both the primary home and road uniforms featured the "ATL" abbreviation in red above either white or black numbers with red drop shadows. The white and black tops are usually paired with either white or black pants. The alternate uniform featured a red/black gradient design and also featured the "ATL" abbreviation in white above white numbers with black drop shadows. Black pants are only used with this uniform. All three uniforms feature red side stripes. The current throwback uniform was also retained. In addition, the Falcons switched to matte helmets with the enlarged falcon logo and gray facemasks. [65]

Rivalries

New Orleans Saints

The Falcons have shared a heated divisional rivalry with the New Orleans Saints (first the NFC West, and now the NFC South). The two teams were often basement-dwellers in the division; but the rivalry grew as a means of pride between the two cities, as they were the only two NFL teams in the Deep South for multiple decades. The series is the oldest and most iconic rivalry in the NFC South as the two teams have long harbored bad blood against one another. [66] The series is currently tied at 55–55, including the most recent loss to the Saints on January 7, 2024, when the Falcons lost 48–17.

Carolina Panthers

In addition, the Falcons share a similar, rivalry with the Carolina Panthers, with both teams having been in the NFC West from the Panthers' founding in 1995 to the NFL realignment in 2002. Similar to their rivalry with the Saints, the Falcons have often endured several competitive divisional battles with the Panthers for lead of the NFC South, though the two have yet to meet in the postseason. The series is also known as the "I-85 Rivalry" [67] due to Atlanta and Charlotte being only four hours apart on Interstate 85. [68] [69] The Falcons lead the series 27–17.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Falcons share a less-intense divisional rivalry with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the NFL realignment in 2002. The two had been regional opponents but very little had linked any further animosity towards the two as the Buccaneers played in the former NFC Central before the realignment. [70] [71] [72] The two teams would find themselves competing over staff and players alike, particularly during the 2000s after the Falcons had lured general manager Rich McKay after winning Super Bowl XXXVII the season prior. McKay's ties with Tampa extend into his family as his father John McKay was head coach of the Buccaneers for nine seasons. [73] [74] [75] [76]

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles lead the Falcons 21–15–1, with a 3–1 lead in playoff games. The rivalry first emerged after the Falcons upset the Eagles in the 1978 Wild Card Round, and only intensified further in the 2000s thanks to the rivalry between prominent dual-threat quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick. Recently, the Falcons lost to the Eagles in the 2017 divisional round. [77] [78]

Green Bay Packers

The Falcons have also shared a playoff rivalry with the Green Bay Packers as much of the connections between the two teams stems from Atlanta trading future hall-of-fame quarterback Brett Favre to the Green Bay on February 11, 1992, in exchange for a first-round pick. [79] [80] The two teams have met four times in the postseason, most recently during the 2016–17 NFC Championship as it would also be the final game played at the Georgia Dome. [81] [82] [83] The Packers lead the all-time series 19–16, while both teams are tied in the postseason 2–2.

Statistics

Season-by-season records

Record vs. opponents

Includes postseason records [84]

Source: [85] Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties

TeamWLTPercentLast resultLast dateLast localePostseason
St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals 16160.500W 20-19January 1, 2023 Mercedes-Benz Stadium 0–1 postseason
Baltimore Ravens 240.333L 16–26December 2, 2018 Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Buffalo Bills 760.538L 15–29January 2, 2022 Highmark Stadium
Carolina Panthers 37200.649W 24–10September 10, 2023 Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Chicago Bears 14150.483W 27–24November 20, 2022Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Cincinnati Bengals 590.357L 36–37September 30, 2018Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Cleveland Browns 4120.250W 23–20November 11, 2022Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Dallas Cowboys 11170.393L 3–43November 14, 2021 AT&T Stadium 0–2 postseason
Denver Broncos 780.467W 34–27November 8, 2020Mercedes-Benz Stadium0–1 postseason
Detroit Lions 14250.359W 20–16December 26, 2021Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Green Bay Packers 15170.469W 25–24September 17, 2023 Mercedes-Benz Stadium 2–2 postseason
Houston Texans 230.400L 32–53October 6, 2019 NRG Stadium
Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts 2150.118L 24–27September 22, 2019 Lucas Oil Stadium
Jacksonville Jaguars 530.625W 21–14November 28, 2021 TIAA Bank Field
Kansas City Chiefs 370.300L 14–17December 27, 2020 Arrowhead Stadium
San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers 830.727L 17–20December 13, 2020 SoFi Stadium
St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams 28482.372L 10–37October 20, 2019Mercedes-Benz Stadium2–0 postseason
Miami Dolphins 590.357W 30–28October 24, 2021Hard Rock Stadium
Minnesota Vikings 11190.367W 40–23October 18, 2020 US Bank Stadium 1–1 postseason
New England Patriots 690.400L 0–25November 18, 2021Mercedes-Benz Stadium0–1 postseason
New Orleans Saints 54520.509W 24–15November 26, 2023Mercedes-Benz Stadium1–0 postseason
New York Giants 14110.560W 17–14September 26, 2021 MetLife Stadium 0–1 postseason
New York Jets 950.643W 13–8December 3, 2023 MetLife Stadium
Las Vegas/Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders 870.533W 43–6November 29, 2020Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Philadelphia Eagles 14181.439L 6–32September 12, 2021Mercedes-Benz Stadium1–3 postseason
Pittsburgh Steelers 2141.147L 17–41October 7, 2018 Heinz Field
San Francisco 49ers 32471.406W 28–14October 16, 2022Mercedes-Benz Stadium1–1 postseason
Seattle Seahawks 7120.368W 25–38September 25, 2022Lumen Field2–0 postseason
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 28290.491L 17–30December 5, 2021Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers 780.467L 10–24September 29, 2019Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Washington Commanders 10151.404L 30–34October 3, 2021Mercedes-Benz Stadium0–1 postseason
Total3854556.45910–14 (.417)

Single game records

Single season records

Career records

Players

Current roster

Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen

Linebackers

Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Unrestricted FAs

Restricted FAs

Exclusive-Rights FAs

Rookies in italics

Roster updated February 23, 2024

43 active, 16 inactive, 22 free agent(s)

AFC rostersNFC rosters

Pro Football Hall of Famers

Atlanta Falcons Hall of Famers
Players
No.NamePositionTenureYear inducted
8 Tommy McDonald WR 19671998
29 Eric Dickerson RB 19931999
21 Deion Sanders CB 1989–19932011
56 Chris Doleman DE 1994–19952012
87 Claude Humphrey DE 1968–19782014
4 Brett Favre QB 19912016
5 Morten Andersen K 1995–2000
2006–2007
2017
88 Tony Gonzalez TE 2009–20132019
93 Dwight Freeney DE 20162024
17 Devin Hester KR/WR 2014–20152024

Humphrey is the only player in the Hall of Fame who spent the majority of his career with the Falcons.

Ring of Honor

Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor
No.PlayerPositionTenureInducted
10 Steve Bartkowski QB 1975–19852004 [87] [88] [89] [90]
21 Deion Sanders CB 1989–19932010
28 Warrick Dunn RB 2002–20072017
31 William Andrews RB 1979–1983, 19862004
42 Gerald Riggs RB 1982–19882013
57 Jeff Van Note C 1969–19862006
58 Jessie Tuggle LB 1987–20002004
60 Tommy Nobis LB 1966–19762004
62 Todd McClure C 1999–20122022
78 Mike Kenn T 1978–19942008
84 Roddy White WR 2005–20152019 [91]
87 Claude Humphrey DE 1968–19782008

Georgia Sports Hall of Fame

Starting quarterbacks

Draft history

Coaching staff

Head coaches

Arthur Smith (pictured in 2019), is the most recent Atlanta Falcons head coach. Arthur Smith 2019 12-22.jpg
Arthur Smith (pictured in 2019), is the most recent Atlanta Falcons head coach.

In their history, the Atlanta Falcons have had 18 head coaches. [92]

CoachYearsRecordNotes
Norb Hecker 1966–19684–26–1 (.145)Fired after three games in 1968.
Norm Van Brocklin 1968–197439–48–3 (.450)Fired after eight games in 1974.
Marion Campbell 1974–19766–19 (.240)Fired after five games in 1976.
Pat Peppler 19763–6 (.333)Interim head coach.
Leeman Bennett 1977–198246–41 (.529)
Dan Henning 1983–198622–41–1 (.352)
Marion Campbell1987–198911–36 (.234)Retired after 12 games in 1989.
Jim Hanifan 19890–4 (.000)Interim head coach.
Jerry Glanville 1990–199327–37 (.422)
June Jones 1994–199619–29 (.396)
Dan Reeves 1997–200349–59–1 (.454)
Wade Phillips 20032–1 (.667)Interim head coach.
Jim Mora 2004–200626–22 (.542)
Bobby Petrino 20073–10 (.231)Resigned after 13 games to take over the head coaching job at Arkansas.
Emmitt Thomas 20071–2 (.333)Interim head coach.
Mike Smith 2008–201466–46 (.589)
Dan Quinn 2015–202043–42 (.506)Fired after 5 games in 2020.
Raheem Morris 20204–7 (.364)Interim head coach.
Arthur Smith 2021–202321–30 (.412)

Current staff

Front office
  • Owner/chairman – Arthur Blank
  • CEO – Rich McKay
  • President – Greg Beadles
  • General manager – Terry Fontenot
  • Assistant general manager – Kyle Smith
  • Director of player personnel – Ryan Pace
  • Director of coaching operations – Brian Griffin
  • Assistant director of college scouting – Duwane Jones
  • Senior director of football administration – Chris Olsen
  • Senior personnel executive – Ruston Webster
Head coaches
Offensive coaches
  • Offensive coordinator – Zac Robinson
  • Quarterbacks – T. J. Yates
  • Running backs – Michael Pitre
  • Wide receivers – Ike Hilliard
  • Tight ends – Kevin Koger
  • Run game coordinator/offensive line – Dwayne Ledford
  • Assistant offensive line – Shawn Flaherty
  • Assistant offensive line – Nick Jones
  • Senior offensive assistant – Ken Zampese
  • Offensive assistant – K.J. Black
  • Offensive assistant – Patrick Kramer
  • Offensive assistant/assistant quarterbacks – D.J. Williams
  • Pass game specialist/game management – Tim Berbenich
  • Pass game specialist – Chandler Whitmer
Defensive coaches
Special teams coaches
  • Special teams coordinator – Marquice Williams
  • Assistant special teams – Steven King
Support staff
  • Chief of staff/coaching operations – Steve Scarnecchia
  • Manager of coaching operations – Rob Dadona
  • Coordinator of coaching operations – Madison McDoulett
  • Coaching operations assistant – Donovan Ellison
Strength and conditioning
  • Director of Player Performance – John Griffin
  • Assistant director of strength & conditioning – Paul Constantine
  • Assistant director of strength & conditioning – Erik Jernstrom
  • Assistant director of strength & conditioning – Josh Nelson

Coaching staff
Management
More NFL staffs

Radio and television

The Falcons' flagship radio station is WZGC 92.9 The Game. [93] Wes Durham, son of longtime North Carolina Tar Heels voice Woody Durham, is the Falcons' play-by-play announcer, with former Atlanta Falcons QB and pro football veteran, Dave Archer serving as color commentator.

In 2014, The CW affiliate WUPA became the official television station of the Falcons, gaining rights to its preseason games, which are produced by CBS Sports. [94]

In the regular season, the team's games are seen on Fox's O&O affiliate WAGA. When the Falcons challenge an AFC team, CBS affiliate WANF will air those games while Sunday night games are televised on WXIA, the local NBC affiliate.

Radio affiliates

Map of radio affiliates. Atlanta Falcons radio affiliates.png
Map of radio affiliates.

Source: [95]

Georgia

CityCall signFrequency
Albany WSRA-AM1250 AM
Athens WRFC-AM960 AM
Atlanta WZGC-FM (Flagship)92.9 FM
Brunswick WSFN-AM790 AM
Clarkesville WDUN-FM 102.9 FM
Columbus WDAK-AM540 AM
WBOJ 1270 AM
Dalton WBLJ-AM1230 AM
Douglas WDMG-AM860 AM
Gainesville WDUN 550 AM
Griffin WKEU-AM1450 AM
WKEU-FM 88.9 FM
Hogansville WGST-AM720 AM
Jesup WLOP-AM1370 AM
WIFO-FM 105.5 FM
LaGrange WMGP-FM98.1 FM
Louisville WPEH-AM1420 AM
WPEH-FM92.1 FM
Macon WXKO-AM1150 AM
Milledgeville WMVG-AM1450 AM
Newnan WRZX 1400 AM
Sandersville WJFL-FM101.9 FM
Savannah WSEG-AM1400 AM
WSEG-FM104.3 FM
Statesboro WPTB-AM850 AM
Swainsboro WJAT-AM800 AM
Thomaston WTGA-FM 101.1 FM
Toccoa WNEG-AM630 AM
Valdosta WVGA 105.9 FM
Vidalia WVOP-AM970 AM
Waycross WFNS-AM1350 AM

Alabama

CityCall signFrequency
Foley WHEP-AM1310 AM

Mississippi

CityCall signFrequency
Jackson WYAB-FM103.9 FM

South Carolina

CityCall signFrequency
Clemson WCCP-FM 104.9 FM

Tennessee

CityCall signFrequency
Chattanooga WALV-FM 95.3 FM [96]

Notes and references

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The Philadelphia Eagles are a professional American football team based in Philadelphia. The Eagles compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) East division. The team plays its home games at Lincoln Financial Field in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tampa Bay Buccaneers</span> National Football League franchise in Tampa, Florida

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a professional American football team based in Tampa, Florida. The Buccaneers compete in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the league's National Football Conference (NFC) South division. The club joined the NFL in 1976 as an expansion team, along with the Seattle Seahawks, and played its first season in the American Football Conference (AFC) West division. Prior to the 1977 season, Tampa Bay switched conferences and divisions with Seattle, becoming a member of the NFC Central division. The Seahawks eventually rejoined the NFC in 2002, leaving the Buccaneers as the only NFL team not to play in their original conference. As a result of the league's realignment prior to the 2002 season, the Buccaneers joined three former NFC West teams to form the NFC South. The club is owned by the Glazer family and plays its home games at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mike Smith (American football coach)</span> American football coach (born 1959)

Mike Smith is a former American football coach. He is a former head coach of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, a position he held from 2008 to 2014. He previously served as the defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars between 2003 and 2007. During his tenure as the head coach of the Falcons, Smith became the franchise's winningest head coach by number of wins in addition to being the recipient of the 2008 NFL Coach of the Year Award by the Associated Press and was also voted NFL Coach of the Year Award by the Sporting News in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Matt Ryan (American football)</span> American football player (born 1985)

Matthew Thomas Ryan is an American football quarterback who is a free agent. Nicknamed "Matty Ice", Ryan spent his first 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and holds the franchise records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, attempts, completions, passer rating, and wins. He played college football for the Boston College Eagles, winning the Manning and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Awards as a senior. He was selected by the Falcons with the third overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. He is also an analyst for CBS Sports.

This article details the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American football franchise.

The Carolina Panthers' history formally dates back to 1993, when the NFL awarded the franchise to Charlotte, North Carolina. The Panthers, along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, began play in the 1995 NFL season as expansion teams. They have played in Charlotte since 1996, winning six division titles and two NFC Championships. The Panthers were the first NFL franchise based in the Carolinas and the second professional sports team based in Charlotte, the first being the NBA's Charlotte Hornets.

The American football team Atlanta Falcons was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1965 and joined the NFL Eastern Conference, with Norb Hecker as coach. They soon moved to the NFC West division, and in 2002 to NFC South. Their home stadiums have been the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium (1966–1991), the Georgia Dome (1992–2016), and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Julio Jones</span> American football player (born 1989)

Quintorris Lopez "Julio" Jones Jr. is an American football wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Alabama, and was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He is regarded as one of the greatest receivers of the 2010s.

The 2008 Atlanta Falcons season was the 43rd season for the team in the National Football League (NFL). Overcoming a disappointing 4–12 record, quarterback Michael Vick's dog fighting scandal and head coach Bobby Petrino's abrupt resignation in 2007, the Falcons, who were expected to be in a rebuilding phase, completed the regular season with a surprising 11–5 record and earned the #5 seed in the NFC playoffs under first-year head coach Mike Smith; however, the team fell to the eventual NFC champion Arizona Cardinals in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Falcons–Panthers rivalry</span> National Football League rivalry

The I-85 Rivalry is a rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers of the National Football League. The rivalry began in 1995 when the Panthers joined as an expansion team. The two teams have played each other twice a year since then, having competed in the NFC West from 1995–2001 and would reach new heights in the early 2000s with the NFC South in 2002. Atlanta holds a 36–22 lead in the series. The two teams have not met in the playoffs.

As with all sports leagues, there are several significant rivalries between teams and notable players in the National Football League (NFL). Rivalries are occasionally created due to a particular event that causes bad blood between teams, players, coaches, or owners, but for the most part, they arise simply due to the frequency with which some teams play each other and sometimes exist for geographic reasons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season</span> NFL team season

The 2010 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season was the franchise's 35th season in the National Football League (NFL) and the second under head coach Raheem Morris. The Buccaneers entered the season attempting to improve on their 3–13 record and last place finish in the NFC South in 2009, a feat they accomplished after only six games. The Buccaneers achieved the best turnaround in franchise history and became the first team since the NFL merger in 1970 to start 10 rookies and achieve a winning season. Raheem Morris spent his second season as head coach. The Buccaneers had the third overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, with which they selected Gerald McCoy.

The Falcons–Saints rivalry is an NFL rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season</span> NFL team season

The 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers season was the franchise's 36th season in the National Football League (NFL) and the third and final under head coach Raheem Morris. The team competed in the NFC South. Both of their preseason home games, and seven of their regular season home games were played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. One regular season home game was played at Wembley Stadium in London as part of the NFL International Series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2015 Carolina Panthers season</span> NFL team season record

The 2015 season was the Carolina Panthers' 21st in the National Football League (NFL) and their fifth under head coach Ron Rivera. This season marked the first time in team history they played on Thanksgiving. The Panthers had their best single-season turnaround in team history, going from 7–8–1 to 15–1.

The Eagles–Falcons rivalry is a National Football League (NFL) rivalry between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons. The rivalry first emerged when the Falcons rallied in the fourth quarter against the Eagles in the 1978 Wild Card Round, and only intensified further in the 2000s with the emergence of star dual-threat quarterbacks in Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick.