The Atlanta Falcons joined the NFL in 1965 as an expansion team, in order to keep then-owner Rankin Smith from joining the competing AFL.
The Falcons have won 6 division championships, their first coming in 1980, and reached the Super Bowl twice – the first after the 1998 season in which they lost to the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, and then after the 2016 season in which they led the New England Patriots 28-3 before Tom Brady led the biggest comeback in NFL Super Bowl history, and the Falcons lost 34-28 in overtime.
Although they have not had the opportunity to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, there is a lot of history for the Atlanta Falcons. Here are some of the top NFL bobbleheads from the Falcons.
Deion Sanders – Cornerback 1989 – 2005
Quite possibly the most famous athlete to ever put on the Falcons jersey, “Primetime” began his career playing for the Falcons and baseball’s Atlanta Braves at the same time.
Drafted with the 5th pick overall by Atlanta from Florida State University, Sanders is the only person to have played in both a Super Bowl and a World Series, winning two Super Bowls with the Cowboys and the 49ers, and appearing in w World Series with the Braves.
But even just taking Sanders’ football career is very impressive. In addition to being a 2-time Super Bowl champion, he went to the Pro Bowl and was named first-team All-Pro for 3 different positions. 9 straight times as a cornerback from 1990-1999, once as a punt returner and once as a kick returner.
He also won the 1994 NFL Defensive player of the year and was named to the All-Decade Team of the ’90s for a cornerback and punt returner. He held the record for most returns for touchdowns, with 19 combined between defensive and kick returns, that was broke by Devin Hester with his 20 kick returns for a touchdown.
Matt Ryan – Quarterback 2008 -present
Drafted with the 3rd overall pick in 2008 by the Falcons, Matt Ryan has been the franchise quarterback ever since. Although since losing the Super Bowl after the 2016 season the Falcons have struggled to get any kind of success, Ryan still has been putting up good numbers.
Ryan won the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2008 and followed that up with an NFL MVP season in 2016 on his way to that Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. He is currently on a streak of 9 straight seasons with over 4,000 yards passing and has been selected to 4 Pro Bowls.
Julio Jones – Wide Receiver 2011 – present
Matt Ryan’s favorite target is Julio Jones. Selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Jone has a rare combination of size and speed, running a 4.39 40-yard dash while being 6’3″ 220 pounds.
Selected to 7 Pro Bowls, and the last 6, Julio Jones has proven that he is one of the best wide receivers in the game. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 2015 and 2018 and is the fastest receiver to get to 10,000 yards.
This past year Julio Jones became the Atlanta Falcons all-time leading receiver, with many more years to go.
Michael Vick – Quarterback 2001 – 2015
Probably more known for being arrested for dog-fighting now, Michael Vick was building a Hall of Fame career before that. He was drafted number 1 overall in the 2001 NFL draft and was able to use his legs as well as his arm to make plays.
He was the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and his single-season record was just broken by Lamar Jackson this past year. Vick still holds the all-time rushing record for a quarterback with 6,109.
All of this came to a halt in 2007, when Vick plead guilty to federal charges for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring. He served 21 months in federal prison and was subsequently released from the Falcons and required to pay back a portion of his signing bonus.
After getting out of prison, Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, where after spending a couple of years as the Eagles back-up before gaining the starting job back in 2010, in which he was named to the Pro Bowl and won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Although I am sure that there are many people that will never forgive Vick for the horrible things that he did, he has become an advocate to animal rights, including Partnering with Wayne Pacelle, who is the President of the Humane Society of the UnitedStates, and gone to inner cities to work with young kids and also works with lawmakers to enact laws to help save animals and penalize those who are a part of injuring them.
Warrick Dunn – Running Back 1997 – 2008
Another former Florida State alumn, Warrick Dunn joined the Falcons after leaving the Tamp Bay Buccaneers in free agency in 2002. Dunn finished his career with over 1,000 yards combined in his first 10 seasons.
After his playing career was over, Warrick Dunn became a minority shareholder in the Falcon’s ownership group led by Arthur Blank.
Michael Turner – Running Back 2004 – 2012
Beginning his career with the San Diego Chargers, Turner was brought in to replace Warrick Dunn when he left the Falcons.
In his very first game as a Falcon, Turner broke the team single-game rushing record with 220 yards against the Detroit Lions. That game sits as the third-highest opening game rushing total behind 250 by OJ Simpson in 1973, and 231 by Arian Foster in 2010.
Turner also ended up with the franchise’s record for total touchdowns, with 60, as well as the single-season record with 17.
Dan Reeves – Head Coach 1981 – 2003
After coaching the Denver Broncos to 3 Super Bowls in the ’80s, the Atlanta Falcons hired the coach to turn around their franchise that had been mediocre for most of their history.
Reeves did have some success early in his tenure, taking the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 1998, which ironically was against the Denver Broncos. After that Super Bowl loss, however, he was unable to continue that success, only getting to the playoffs one other time, losing in the divisional round to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2002, before being fired the following season.
As with any franchise, the Atlanta Falcons have had their share of ups and downs. With a franchise quarterback in Matt Ryan and one of the best receivers in NFL history in Julio Jones, the Falcons are always a threat to contend for a Super Bowl.
Are there any other players you would like to see as a bobblehead? Let me know in the comment section below!