In our look at the Atlanta Falcons greatest players, we’ve broken it down by decade, and picked the best players from each era.
Now it’s time for the unveiling of our all-time Falcons team. While some of these picks were no-brainers, some difficult decisions had to be made. But all of the players who represent this team, as well as our four all-decade teams are important and beloved part of Atlanta Falcons history.
On each list in this series, I consider more than just compiled statistics to decide who makes the cut. 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 our all-time Atlanta Falcons team:
The All-Time Atlanta Falcons:
QB: Starting – Steve Bartkowski (1975-1985), Reserve – Matt Ryan (2008-present) Bartkowski is still the quarterback in the eyes of many long-time Falcons fans. Still the holder of multiple team passing records, he’s a tough one to top. But if anyone will do it, it’s his reserve on this list. Ryan is on his way to some of those team records already.
RB: Starting – William Andrews (1979-1983, 1986), Reserve – Warrick Dunn (2002-2007): How’s this for a “thunder and lightning” running combo. One of the most punishing runners in the history of the team, along with one of the quickest and most elusive runners. Andrews and Dunn would be a lethal combination in any era.
WR: Starting – Terance Mathis (1994-2001), Reserve – Roddy White (2005-present): Again, we team up some old with some new at this position. Both men were little known, but made themselves household names. White will most likely break all the Falcons receiving records, including the ones still held by Mathis.
TE: Jim Mitchell (1969-1979): This was a really tough one to decide. How can you leave off a future Hall of Fame player like Gonzalez? But in the end, I felt like Mitchell’s longevity and contributions to the team got him the nod over Gonzalez. Either one would be a great choice though.
OL: Jeff Van Note (1969-1986), George Kunz (1969-1974): Between these two linemen, you have 28 years of NFL service, and 13 Pro Bowls. Any quarterback would feel safe with a center and tackle the likes of these guys in front of them. Pure. Grit.
DEF: Tommy Nobis (1966-1976), Jessie Tuggle (1987-2000): Can we just say that if these two guys were on the field at the same time, not many receivers or backs would want to run a crossing route for the rest of their careers. Punishing tacklers, and motors that just didn’t quit. Not only two of the best linebackers the Falcons ever had, but two of the best ever in the NFL.
KR/PR: Deion Sanders (1989-1993): “Prime Time” 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. You just never knew what could happen when Deion got his hands on the ball.
K: Morton Andersen (1995-2000, 2006-2007): This one was one of the easier picks. Andersen is one of the NFL’s ageless wonders. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him out there kicking for someone this season (he actually did show up at the Falcons mini-camp this year). Andersen still holds the Falcons’ record for field goals made (139).
P: John James (1972-1981): James was probably one of the most consistent punters in the NFL during his years in Atlanta, but unfortunately he was in the league at the same time as Oakland Raiders legend Ray Guy, so he was often overlooked.
Coach: Mike Smith (2008-present): Again, this was a hard decision. Do you go with the coach that helped return the team to respectability and took them to their first Super Bowl (Dan Reeves), or the coach who is already (in terms of win percentage) the most successful coach in team history? I had to go with Smith because of the consistency of the team’s run under his leadership, and the potential they have moving forward under him.
So there you have it. The Atlanta Falcons all-time greatest players.
Is there someone you think was left off, or shouldn’t be on this list? Feel free to comment below!