For the past few days we’ve been taking a look at the Atlanta Falcons all-decade teams, leading up to our final all-time Falcons team. If you missed parts one and two, here they are:
Now it’s time to look into one of the more interesting periods of Falcons franchise history, the 1990′s. New coaches, new uniforms, and a new hip-hop attitude complete with celebrity sideline guests such as M.C. Hammer and Evander Holyfield.
Much like the 1980′s, this decade had a few blips of success on the radar, but was mostly met with disappointment. However, despite the lack of consistent winning, some of the greatest names in Falcons history did come out of this decade, and if nothing else, they were an entertaining bunch to watch at times. And, in 1998, the team brought it’s one and only NFC Championship to Atlanta to date.
Once again, in looking at who was chosen for this list, 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.
So let’s get going with the “Too Legit To Quit” decade for the guys in black:
QB: Starting – Chris Chandler (1997-2001), Reserve – Chris Miller (1987-1993) Chandler, who guided Atlanta to their first and only Super Bowl appearance, may not have been the most talented quarterback in the league, but he knew how to win, and he knew how to play within himself. Choosing a reserve QB was difficult at best, being as the Falcons really lacked at that position for most of the decade. Miller had great tools, but unfortunately never got surrounded by a great supporting cast, although his name could have been easily interchanged with Bobby Hebert or Jeff George on this list.
RB: Starting – Jamal Anderson (1994-2001), Reserve – Craig “Ironhead” Heyward (1994-1996): Jamal Anderson is one of those great “coulda been” stories. Well on his way to becoming a record-breaking back, injuries forced him into early retirement. Heyward came to Atlanta towards the end of his career. After punishing the Falcons D-line as a member of the New Orleans Saints for many years, he gave Atlanta a few years of exciting running, and even was named to the Pro Bowl in 1995
WR: Starting – Terance Mathis (1994-2001), Reserve – Andre Rison (1990-1994): When Mathis came over from the New York Jets in 1994, most Falcon fans said “who?”. By the time his Atlanta career was over, they knew who very well. Mathis still holds the Falcons record for career receptions. Andre Rison was one of those guys who would make your jaw drop one week with this amazing athleticism, and then make you throw things at the T.V. the next week from his antics.
TE: O.J. Santiago (1997-1999): Another tight end who only spent a short time with the Falcons, Santiago made the most of it. One of the co-inventors of the famed “Dirty Bird” dance, Santiago was a crucial part of the 1998 NFC Championship team, and a favorite target of all-decade QB Chris Chandler.
OL: Bob Whitfield (1992-2003), Jamie Dukes (1986-1993): “Big” Bob Whitfield, as he was called, was a staple at the left tackle position for over a decade, and was known throughout the league as one of the meanest linemen around. Dukes had the unenviable position of following long time center Jeff Van Note, but did an exceptional job for years in Atlanta.
DEF: Jessie Tuggle (1987-2000), Chuck Smith (1992-1999): It’s not often during the modern free-agent era that you see a player – particularly a great one – remain with one team his entire career. But that’s exactly what Jessie “The Hammer” Tuggle did. Smith was extremely versatile on defense, with the ability to play any linebacker position, or defensive end. Three different times in his Atlanta career Smith surpassed double-digit sacks, ending up with a total of 58.5
KR/PR: Deion Sanders (1989-1993): “Neon Deion” “Prime Time” “Prime” etc etc (I think he had more nicknames than he did years in Atlanta) did dual duty in Atlanta, playing as the Falcons premier shut-down corner, and also as one of the best kick returners in the league. But let’s face it, we all wanted to see him running back kicks for touchdowns regardless of how well he played on a lot of poor defenses.
K: Morton Andersen (1995-2000, 2006-2007): Andersen is one of the NFL’s ageless wonders. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him out there kicking for someone this season. Andersen still holds the Falcons’ record for field goals made (139). Honorable mention in this category goes to former Minnesota Vikings kicker Gary Anderson. Thanks for the miss, Gary!
P: Dan Stryzinski (1995-2000): Stryzinski was known for amazing hang time on his punts, and brought some stability to a position which had changed hands every season prior to his arrival between 1992-1995.
Coach: Dan Reeves (1997-2003): This category was actually a tough choice between Reeves, June Jones, and Jerry Glanville. Had Glanville been half as successful as he was eccentric, he would have won hands down. Jones got points for actually having to put up with Jeff George. But in the end, I had to go with Reeves because of his class, and unparalleled (at the time) success as a head coach for Atlanta.
So there you have it. The Atlanta Falcons 1990′s all-decade team. Next we’ll do our last all-decade team with the 2000′s (including 2010-2011)
Is there someone you think was left off, or shouldn’t be on this list? Feel free to comment below!