I don’t think anyone is arguing that Atlanta is a traditional football power. Hell, we’re talking about a team that’s making only its second Super Bowl appearance since it joined the league in 1965. The first decade or so of Falcons football was rough, yielding only two winning seasons between 1966 and 1977. There was a short period of success in the early 80’s that always led to playoff disappointment (and eventually got their coach Leeman Bennett fired), but the mid to late 80’s saw futility return to Georgia as the Falcons suffered through eight straight losing seasons.
The Falcons closed out the 80’s by drafting Deion Sanders, then followed that up in 1991 by drafting Brett Favre (of course, nearly one year later the Falcons traded Favre to Green Bay, and the rest, as they say, is history). Atlanta bounced back from that poor personnel decision to advance to Super Bowl XXXIII after a 14-2 regular season record, where they got trounced by the Denver Broncos 34-19. Injuries and poor play followed that “Super” campaign as the Falcons fell back to mediocrity. In the 2001 draft, the Falcons selected Michael Vick first overall after trading with the San Diego Chargers (their end of the trade included Tim Dwight and the pick that would end up being LaDanian Tomlinson). Vick led the team through a few up and down years, a couple playoff appearances and even an NFC title game appearance before going to jail relating to charges surrounding dog fighting in Virginia.
In 2007, Bobby Petrino was hired to coach the team, and made it through almost the whole season before quitting on his players to take a job at the University of Arkansas. The Falcons then got their act together, hiring a new general manager, a new coach, and drafting Matt Ryan as their quarterback. The Falcons took off from there with multiple winning seasons and playoff appearances until 2013 where injuries took a toll and dropped their record to 4-12. Two more subpar seasons brought the Falcons to the present 11-5 campaign that netted them the opportunity to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Falcons History: Quick Hitters
Joined the NFL in 1966 as part of the Eastern Conference.
Moved to the Coastal Division of the Western Conference from 1967-1969.
Joined the NFC in 1970 as part of the NFC West from 1970-2001.
Moved from the NFC West to the NFC South in 2002 where they currently reside.
Super Bowl Appearances – 2 (1998, 2016)
Division Championships – 6 (1980, 1998 – NFC West; 2004, 2010, 2012, 2016 – NFC South)
Falcons Hall of Famers:
Norm Van Brocklin – Head Coach
Deion Sanders – CB
Claude Humphrey – DE
Other Hall of Famers that had a cup of coffee in a Falcons uniform:
Tommy McDonald – WR (1 year)
Eric Dickerson – RB (1 year)
Chris Doleman – DE (2 years)
Brett Favre – QB (1 year)