This is the second part of our look at the Atlanta Falcons all-decade teams, leading up to our final all-time Falcons team. Yesterday we covered the all-decade team from the 1960’s – 1970’s. The early years for Atlanta were a bit on the sparse side for both wins, and great players, so it was fairly easy to pick some of the standouts from that era. But in the 1980’s the Falcons began to taste some success, and the quality of the players on the teams reflected that.
This made picking some of the all-decade players from this time of the franchise history all the more difficult. As it is anytime you do a list like this, some names had to be left off.
As I said in part one of this series, more than just compiled statistics went into this pantheon of players. I looked at what they contributed to the team, and to the community in Atlanta. How crucial they might have been to team chemistry. How sad (or glad) fans were to see them leave town for another team. All these factors and more were taken into account. We’ll name starers and reserve players for all the skill positions, and then two defensive players, two offensive lineman, a tight end, a kick/punt returner, a kicker, a punter, and a head coach.
Without further adieu, I give you the Atlanta Falcons all-decade team from the 1980’s.
QB: Starting – Steve Bartkowski (1975-1985), Reserve – Dave Archer (1984-1987) Bartkowski was the Atlanta Falcons in the 80’s. He led the team to their first ever playoff game, and victory. He also still holds multiple team passing records. Archer, who was Bartkowski’s backup for a time, took over as the starter when Bartkowski left the team.
RB: Starting – William Andrews (1979-1983, 1986), Reserve – Gerald Riggs (1982-1988): It was hard to decide who was the starter and who was the reserve between these two great backs. But I felt Andrews meant more to the success of the team while he played, not to mention leading the team in both rushing and receiving in 1982. Riggs is still the Falcons all-time rushing leader.
WR: Starting – Stacey Bailey (1982-1990), Reserve – Alfred Jackson (1978-1984): Stacey Bailey is often the forgotten Falcon. When you look at his stats, it’s unbelievable how good and consistent he was for such a long time. Jackson (the “other Alfred”) was known for his big play ability, and always seemed to get open when the Falcons needed it most.
TE: Junior Miller (1980-1983): Although his time with the Falcons was brief, Miller was a huge target for QB Steve Bartkowski. When lined up with Wallace Francis, Alfred Jenkins, and Alfred Jackson, he made the Falcons receiving corps extraordinarily dangerous. He also had the size and great footwork to be an exceptional blocker at the line. The prototype for the modern-day receiving/blocking tight end.
OL: Jeff Van Note (1969-1986), Mike Kenn (1078-1994): Van Note and Kenn were a duo of devastating and dominating offensive linemen, who were revered throughout the league by opponents. Both men played their entire long careers with Atlanta, and both are members of the Falcons Ring of Honor.
DEF: Bobby Butler (1981-1992), Scott Case (1984-1994): It seems odd that during the time of the famed “Grits Blitz” defense, two men from the defensive secondary be the defensive stars of the 1980’s, but these two guys were tops at their positions. Butler finished his career with 27 interceptions, and was one of the top shut down corners in the league. Case led the league in interceptions in 1988 with ten, and had a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the league.
KR/PR: Billy “White Shoes” Johnson (1982-1987): Johnson was the innovator of nicknames, fancy moves, and touchdown celebrations. He was always a dangerous return man, and always seemed to be at his best when it counted the most. One of the most well-loved players in Falcons history.
K: Mick Luckhurst (1981-1987): How can you not select a kicker for an all-decade team who not only was money when it came to making kicks, but also had the nerve to taunt New York Jets defensive lineman Mark Gastineau. Luckhurst mocked Gastineau’s celebratory “sack dance” after kicking a go-ahead field goal against the Jets in 1983.
P: Rick Donnelly (1985-1989): The Falcons went through several punters in the 80’s. Donnelly gets the nod because he actually had to kick a PAT in 1986.
Coach: Leeman Bennett (1977-1982): Leeman’s Demons, you heard the word? That’s how the song went. Although Bennett only coached for a few years in the 80’s, they were (up to that point) the most successful years the Falcons had ever had.
So there you have it. The Atlanta Falcons 1980′s all-decade team. On Sunday we’ll present our 1990′s team.
Is there someone you think was left off, or shouldn’t be on this list? Feel free to comment below!