Top 5 Candidates For the Next Inductee in the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor
Who's Next For The Falcons Ring of Honor
The Atlanta Falcons don't officially retire jerseys or jersey numbers, but what they do is give the players who have had the greatest contribution to the team over their career a special place hanging from the rafters of the Georgia Dome.
You can find the greatest players in franchise history in the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor.
Currently, there are eight members who are inducted in to the Ring of Honor; RB William Andrews, QB Steve Bartkowski, LB Tommy Nobis, and LB Jessie Tuggle were all inducted in the inaugural class of 2004. Center Jeff Van Note was added in 2006, and OT Mike Kenn and DE Claude Humphrey were inducted in 2008.
The last time the Ring of Honor had an addition was in 2010, when CB/PR/KR Deion Sanders (pictured above at the ceremony) was brought into the Falcons' group of honorees.
While it's certain that a number of current players--Matt Ryan, Roddy White, etc--will have a place reserved for them in the Ring once they have finished smashing team records, there are still a few former players and coaches who might be considered in the meantime.
Being in the Falcons' place of honor doesn't necessitate being a lifelong member of the franchise (as demonstrated by Deion's admittance), but it does require a player to have had significant contributions to the team while a part of it--players who had a special place in the Atlanta Falcons family and who were beloved by teammates and fans.
So who could be next to enter this special place of honor in the Falcons' franchise? Here are some names to consider.
Bobby Petrino - Head Coach (2007)
Ok, just kidding. Gotcha didn't I?
No, seriously. Bobby Petrino will never have a banner hanging in the Georgia Dome, but Falcons fans can be grateful to the two-faced former head coach for scuffling off in the middle of the night like a bandit. Had Petrino not slithered off the way he did, Atlanta wouldn't have made some of the wholesale changes in the way they do business, and might not have hired Mike Smith, who has been the greatest coach the team has yet to see. So for that, Petrino gets an honorable mention.
Now, on to the real list...
#5: Leeman Bennett - Head Coach (1977-1982)
As of this moment, there are no coaches in the Falcons Ring of Honor, and why not start with the guy who led the team to it's first ever playoff appearance and victory. Until Smith's current tenure, Leeman Bennett was the only Falcons head coach with more than 5 years service with a winning overall record, at 46-41.
Bennett's contributions to the team and into building a successful franchise during the late 1970s and early 1980s laid the groundwork for a lot of good things that came later. A seemingly forgotten coach who should be honored.
#4: Morten Andersen - Kicker (1995–2000, 2006–2007)
Morten Andersen could probably still kick field goals today if an NFL team gave him a call. In his two stints with the Falcons, Andersen set numerous team records and still holds franchise records for field goals made (184), points (806) and field goal attempts (224).
The only thing that might keep Andersen's name from being added is that he's already a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. That might not go over too well with either side.
#3: Keith Brooking - Linebacker (1998-2008)
Keith Brooking might have been a sure thing to enter the Ring of Honor until his departure from the team in 2008. After leaving and joining the Dallas Cowboys, Brooking had some not so nice things to say about the franchise where he made his name as one of the great NFL linebackers.
Despite any ill will, time heals all wounds, and I can't see Brooking not eventually being added to the Ring, but it might take a few years after his retirement (and possibly an apology to owner Arthur Blank) until the call comes.
#2: Terance Mathis - Wide Receiver (1994-2001)
This is one that should have already happened in my opinion. Terance Mathis put up some unreal receiving numbers on some unbelievably bad Falcons teams. He also was one of the only bright spots in Atlanta's one and only Super Bowl embarrassment against the Denver Broncos.
Roddy White has already broken most of the records that Mathis set, but he still holds career records for receiving touchdowns (57). Mathis has to be considered one of the frontrunners to have his name placed among the Falcons' greats.
#1: Todd McClure - Center (1999-2012)
Todd McClure will no doubt be the second center inaugurated into the Ring of Honor. McClure announced his retirement during the 2013 offseason, and will be sorely missed anchoring the Falcons offensive line. A rarity in the free agent era of professional sports, McClure spent his entire career with the Falcons, and was always an outstanding example of toughness.
Arthur Blank basically told McClure that he would have a place in the Ring of Honor as soon as possible. My guess it that he'll be the next one inducted.
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