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Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the Atlanta Falcons play in the National Football League’s (NFL) National Football Conference (NFC) South division. The Falcons were formed in 1965 after Atlanta based businessman and renowned philanthropist, Rankin Smith, decided he wanted to start an Atlanta based American football franchise. Initially agreeing to a deal with the American Football League, he eventually went back on this offer by agreeing to an expansion franchise with the rival National Football Conference who wanted to expand into Atlanta. Competing in their first season in 1966, it makes them, along with the Miami Dolphins, the oldest NFL franchise in the Deep South.
Despite their age, the Atlanta Falcons don’t have the best of records in the NFL. In their 50 years of existence they have only won five championships (1980, 1998, 2004, 2010 and 2012) and have only appeared at the Super Bowl on one occasion, losing to the Denver Broncos 34-19. However, playing at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the ‘Dirty Birds’, as they are known, remain a popular and recognisable NFL franchise.
- Full Name: Atlanta Falcons
- Conference: National Football Conference
- Division: South
- Location: Atlanta, Georgia
- Stadium Name: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
- Year Established: 1965
- Owner: Arthur Blank
- Head Coach: Dan Quinn
- Manager: Thomas Dimitroff
- Nickname: The Dirty Birds
- Mascot: Freddie Falcon
- Team Colours: Black, red, silver and white
Team Practice (Rob Marmion / Shutterstock.com)
The Atlanta Falcons are the oldest NFL team in the Deep South – an accolade they share with the Miami Dolphins. The team’s history begins in 1962 when the American Football League played two exhibition games in Atlanta, the Denver Broncos playing the Houston Oilers and the Dallas Texans playing the Oakland Raiders. These sparked an interest in the city and a local business owner, Rankin Smith, put the wheels into motion to form a team. This led to a proposal from the American Football League to join but thanks to hard negotiations on behalf of the rival National Football Conference, owner of the new team, Rankin Smith, decided to go with the NFL.
Although the Atlanta Falcons have a 50-year history, compared to some other, more successful NFL franchises, it is not exactly full of honours and championships. However, they have had some notable seasons, some of which were good and some of which were bad.
The 1966/67 season was their first ever season in the NFL and this saw them lose their first nine games, eventually winning their first game against the New York Giants. The 60s in general were not kind to the Falcons and they only recorded 12 wins in the entire decade and it wasn’t until 1971 until they had a season where they had more wins than defeats.
The 1978 season saw the Atlanta Falcons reach the playoffs for the first time, winning their Wild Card game against the Philadelphia Eagles 14-13 but, unfortunately, losing to the Dallas Cowboys by 27-20 in the Divisional Playoffs. 1980 saw them pick up a 12-4 record, capturing their first NFC West title. However, their season ended with a loss to the Dallas Cowboys 30-27.
The next championship for the Falcons was in 1998 under the recently appointed head-coach, Dan Reeves. It was their greatest season to date with the Falcons posting a 14-2 record. The team finished with a NFC West division championship and beat the top-seeded Minnesota Vikings 30-27 in the playoffs. Unfortunately, their resulting appearance in the Super Bowl ended in defeat to the Denver Broncos.
Despite the Atlanta Falcons winning three more championships (2004, 2010 and 2012), to date the Falcons have not managed to make another appearance at a Super Bowl. However, the team remains a popular and well recognised franchise and fans hope that another championship and Super Bowl appearance is not too far off in the future.
Super Bowl Appearances
The Atlanta Falcons have only ever made one appearance in the Super Bowl in SuperBowl XXXIII that was played on January 31, 1999 at the Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida. The Falcons finished the regular season with a franchise record breaking 14-2. Much of their success in this season could be put down to the appointment of head coach, Dan Reeves, and former quarterback, Chris Chandler, who threw 3154 yards and 25 touchdowns. Tony Martin and Terrence Mathis also had great seasons with both having over 60 receptions and 1100 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns between them.
The Super Bowl was not a classic but neither was it uneventful and the Denver Broncos eventually ran out winners 34-19 after building an unassailable 17-3 lead by the end of the second quarter. Broadcasted on Fox, it was watched by over 80-million viewers and the cost of a 30-second advert during the game cost a staggering $1.6 million. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they have not managed to have a season as successful as 1998/99 season and this remains their only Super Bowl appearance.
Georgia Dome (f11photo / Shutterstock.com)
The Atlanta Falcons currently play their home games at the Georgia Dome, which is located in Atlanta Georgia. The stadium is owned and operated by the State of Georgia. Before this, the Falcons played at the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium from 1966 to 1991.
However, future games will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which at the time of writing, is currently under construction. The new stadium will have a retractable roof and will be a multi-purpose stadium, serving as the home stadium for Atlanta United FC of Major League Soccer, as well as the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. The total cost of building the new stadium is estimated to be $1.4 billion and it has already chosen to be the home of the Super Bowl in 2019.
The new stadium has been designed by HOK, the largest architecture-engineering company in the US and features a retractable roof that resembles a pinwheel, as well as a glass wall that can open alongside the roof letting in fresh air. The stadium will feature a plethora of technological features and fans can enjoy a 100-yard bar that will stretch the length of the sports field. Although owned by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the naming rights of the new stadium have been bought by Mercedes-Benz, hence it will be called the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Mike Kenn (19978-1994)
At 6’7″ and 275 pounds, Mike Kenn was a veritable brick wall that protected Steve Bartkowski’s blind side and is one of the most popular players ever to wear a Falcons shirt. Appearing in the Pro Bowl every year between 1980 and 1984, he returned to the Pro Bowl roster in 1991.
Jeff Van Note (1969-1986)
Coming to the Falcons in the 11th round of the 1969 draft from the University of Kentucky, he played center for the Falcons for 18 seasons, appearing in a total of 246 games. He only missed four games in his entire career. A popular and imposing player, he was selected for the Pro Bowl multiple times in 1974, 1975, 1980, 1981 and 1982.
Jesse Tuggle (1987-2000)
Coming to the Falcons as a rookie free agent in 1987, Tuggle became one of the best and most popular players ever to play for the Falcons. Totalling 1640 tackles, he also collected 21 sacks during his time with them.
Bob Whitfield (1992-2003)
Starting out life at the Falcons as a right tackle in 1992, 1995 saw him move to the left side. Playing in 178 games over 12 seasons with the Falcons, Bob Whitfield made the Pro Bowl in 1998. Following his time with the Falcons, he went on to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Giants.
Did You Know?
- Famous fans of the Atlanta Falcons include: former President of the USA, Jimmy Carter, actor, Samuel L Jackson, former heavyweight champion of the world, Evander Holyfield, and House of Cards star, Michael Kelly.
- The Atlanta Falcons were named after a competition to name the new team was held. A schoolteacher from Griffin won it and according to her entry, “The falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and pride”.
- Other names that were suggested in the competition included: the Baptists, the Yellow Dogs, the Rebels, and the Goobers.
- Rather than an American football team, Rankin Smith originally wanted to bring a professional baseball team to Atlanta.