All-Time Teams: Atlanta Falcons



Introduction

In my endless research of all things football and through my passion for the history of the NFL, I have decided to try and compile an All-Time Team for all 32 current NFL franchises. By All-Time Team I mean a starting roster compiled of the very best players to ever put on each franchise’s jersey. I will be starting in alphabetical order by current franchise location, so Arizona Cardinals all the way to The Washington Football Team, with the goal of releasing one to two All-Time teams a week for the duration of the current NFL season. This is meant to be fun and cause some debate and is based on my opinion after all my research and deep dives into each franchise’s history. Of course, not everyone will agree with who I chose, and I’d love to hear from anyone who agrees or disagrees, but first, let’s lay out some ground rules for how I came up with each team.


1. Each team roster will consist of the following:

Offense - 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 OT, 2 OG, 1 C

Defense - 2 DE, 2 DT, 3 LB, 2 CB, 2 S

Special Teams - 1 K, 1 P, 1 Returner

Coach - 1 Head Coach


2. I only considered an individual’s stats and contributions with each specific franchise. For example, Peyton Manning’s years with the Broncos were not considered when deciding on the starting QB of the Colts All-Time Team. As a result, the stats and awards listed with each individual player are only those that were achieved with that specific franchise.


3. A player cannot represent two teams as the starter. Players who spent time with more than one team were considered for the franchise they spent the most time with or had the most impact on. This rule led to some interesting scenarios that I will discuss in detail with each specific article to try and clear up any confusion.


4. A player’s stats and impact were considered in context with their era. This won’t simply be a listing of who passed or ran for the most yards in franchise history.


5. All stats are from Pro-Football-Reference and through the 2021 season. I will also be counting sacks from 1960, though the NFL doesn't officially count sacks until 1982.


6. Players in the "Honorable Mentions" section are ordered by year. It's not an indication of where I believe they rank in franchise history.


Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to it!


Atlanta Falcons All-Time Team


Franchise Information

First Season: 1966

Record: 376-483-6 (43.77 W-L%)

Playoff Record: 10-14

Super Bowls Won: 0 (Lost in 1998 and 2016)

Passing Leader: Matt Ryan 5,242/8,003 | 59,735 Yds | 367 TD

Rushing Leader: Gerald Riggs 1,587 Att | 6,631 Yds | 48 TD

Receiving Leader: Julio Jones 848 Rec | 12,896 Yds | 60 TD

Sack Leader: Claude Humphrey 99.5 Sk

Interception Leader: Rolland Lawrence 39 Int

Scoring Leader: Matt Bryant 1,163 Points

Winningest Coach: Mike Smith 66-46


QB: Matt Ryan (2008-Present)

Record: 113-92 | 65.5 Cmp% | 59,735 Yds | 367 TD | 170 Int | 1,469 Rush Yds | 12 Rush TD | Led League in Cmp% 2012 (68.6%) | Led League in Cmp 2019, 2020 (408, 407) | Led League in QB Rating 2016 (117.1) | Led the League in Yds/A 2016 (9.3) | 4x Pro-Bowl (10, 12, 14, 16) | 1x All-Pro (16) | 2016 MVP | 2016 Offensive Player of the Year | 2016 Bert Bell Award | 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year | 2016 NFC Champion


Matt Ryan is the easy choice at quarterback. He is the franchise leader in passing yards and touchdowns and it's not even close. He's won more games than any other Falcons quarterback and is a four- time Pro-Bowler, one-time All-Pro and was the 2016 MVP and Offensive Player of the Year. He doesn't get the recognition that he deserves and is a Hall of Famer in my book. Ryan currently ranks eighth all-time in passing yards and ninth all-time in touchdowns. A Super Bowl win is the only thing missing on his resume and if it wasn't for the GOAT, he'd have one now, but don't let that fool you into thinking he isn't a winner. Ryan has led the Falcons to seven winning seasons and six playoff appearances.


Honorable Mentions

  1. Bob Berry (1968-1972) | Record: 19-28-3 | 57 Cmp% | 8,489 Yds | 57 TD | 56 Int | 384 Rush Yds | 4 Rush TD | Led League in Yds/A 1971 (8.9) | 1x Pro-Bowl (69)

  2. Steve Bartkowski (1975-1985) | Record: 55-66 | 56.2 Cmp% | 23,470 Yds | 154 TD | 141 Int | 236 Rush Yds | 11 Rush TD | Led League in TD 1980 (31) | Led League in Cmp% 1984 (67.3%) | Led League in QB Rating 1983 (97.6) | 2x Pro-Bowl (80, 81)

  3. Chris Miller (1987-1993) | Record: 23-43 | 54 Cmp% | 14,066 Yds | 87 TD | 72 Int | 607 Rush Yds | 2 Rush TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (91)

  4. Chris Chandler (1997-2001) | Record: 34-33 | 58.7 Cmp% | 13,268 Yds | 87 TD | 56 Int | 480 Rush Yds | 3 Rush TD | Led League in Yds/A 1998 (9.6) | 2x Pro-Bowl (97, 98) | 1998 NFC Champion

  5. Michael Vick (2001-2006) | Record: 38-28-1 | 53.8 Cmp% | 11,505 Yds | 71 TD | 52 Int | 3,859 Rush Yds | 21 Rush TD | Led League in Rush Yds/A 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 (6.9, 7.5, 5.9, 8.4) | 3x Pro-Bowl (02, 04, 05)


RB: William Andrews (1979-1983, 1986)

4.6 Y/A | 5,986 Yds | 30 TD | 277 Rec | 2,647 Rec Yds | 11 Rec TD | Led League in YScm 1981 (2,036) | 4x Pro-Bowl (80, 81, 82, 83)


William Andrews may be the most underrated player in NFL history. If it wasn't for a serious knee injury in 1984 that sidelined him for two seasons and essentially ended his career, there is no doubt in my mind he would be a Hall of Famer. Andrews had over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in every season and had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in two, including 2,176 in 1983. Oh, and Ronnie Lott also said that a head on collision with Andrews was the hardest hit that he ever took. Just take a look at these stats:


1979- 1,023 Yds, 3 TD, 39 Rec, 309 Rec Yds and 2 Rec TD

1980- 1,308 Yds, 4 TD, 51 Rec, 451 Rec Yds and 1 Rec TD

1981- 1,301 Yds, 10 TD, 81 Rec, 735 Rec Yds and 2 Rec TD

1982- 573 Yds, 5 TD, 42 Rec, 503 Rec Yds and 2 Rec TD (Strike Shortened Season)

1983- 1,567 Yds, 7 TD, 59 Rec, 609 Rec Yds and 4 Rec TD

RB: Michael Turner (2008-2012)

4.3 Y/A | 6, 081 Yds | 60 TD | 59 Rec | 457 Rec Yds | 1 Rec TD | 2x Pro-Bowl (08, 10) | 1x All-Pro (08)


After spending four seasons primarily as a backup in San Diego, Turner came to the Falcons and became a touchdown machine. He had at least 10 touchdowns in all five of his seasons and had a career high of 17 touchdowns in 2008. His 60 touchdowns rushing are the best in franchise history and it's this that gives him the edge over Gerald Riggs, who is the franchise leader in yards.


Honorable Mentions

  1. Cannonball Butler (1968-1971) | 3.7 Yds/A | 2,250 Yds | 7 TD | 71 Rec | 718 Rec Yds | 5 Rec TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (69)

  2. Gerald Riggs (1982-1988) | 4.2 Yds/A | 6,631 Yds | 48 TD | 186 Rec | 1,384 Rec Yds | 3x Pro-Bowl (85, 86, 87)

  3. Craig Heyward (1994-1996) | 4.4 Yds/A | 2,183 Yds | 16 TD | 85 Rec | 853 Rec Yds | 3 Rec TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (95)

  4. Jamal Anderson (1994-2001) | 4.0 Yds/A | 5,336 Yds | 34 TD | 156 Rec | 1,645 Rec Yds | 7 Rec TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (98) | 1x All-Pro (98)

  5. Warrick Dunn (2002-2007) | 4.2 Yds/A | 5,981 Yds | 30 TD | 204 Rec | 1,635 Rec Yds | 6 Rec TD | 1x Pro-Bowl (05)

  6. Devonta Freeman (2014-2019) | 4.2 Yds/A | 3,972 Yds | 32 TD | 257 Rec | 2,015 Rec Yds | 11 Rec TD | Led League in TD 2015 (11) | Led League in RRTD 2015 (14)


WR: Julio Jones (2011-2020)

848 Rec | 12,986 Yds | 60 TD | Led League in Rec 2015 (136) | Led League in Yds 2015, 2018 (1,871, 1,677) | Led League in Y/G 2015, 2016, 2018 (116.9, 100.6, 104.8) | Led League in Yds/R 2014, 2015, 2019 (15.2, 13.8, 13.8) | Led League in YScm 2015 (1,871) | 7x Pro-Bowl (12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19) | 2x All-Pro (15, 16) | Hall of Fame All-2010s Team


Julio Jones will be in the Hall of Fame whenever he decides to retire. He has consistently been one of the best wide receivers in the NFL every year of his career. Jones was a threat to take the top off the defense at any moment which can be seen by his stats leading the league in yards per reception three different times. Julio is also the NFL's all-time leader in yards per game. He had six straight seasons of at least 1,300 yards from 2014-2019. His 12,986 yards are the best in franchise history and his 60 touchdowns are second. He also currently sits just inside the top 20 all time for receiving yards.


WR: Roddy White (2005-2015)

808 Rec | 10,853 Yds | 63 TD | Led League in Rec 2010 (115) | Led League in Yds/R 2011 (13) | 4x Pro-Bowl (08, 09, 10, 11) | 1x All-Pro (10)


Roddy White was a beast in his 11 seasons with the Falcons. His 10,953 yards and 63 touchdowns were both franchise records before Julio Jones, but his 63 touchdowns still remain the franchise record. White had six straight seasons of at least 1,100 yards from 2007-2012. White was a two-time state champion wrestler and often used this experience to get physical with defenders and get open. Roddy White has an outside shot to make the Hall of Fame one day as well.

WR: Andre Rison (1990-1994)

423 Rec | 5,633 Yds | 56 TD | Led League in TD 1993 (15) | 4x Pro-Bowl (90, 91, 92, 93) | 1x All-Pro (90)


Andre Rison rounds out the top three wide receivers in Falcon's history. All three receivers were at least four-time Pro-Bowlers and one-time All-Pros, not something many other franchises can say. His specialty was catching touchdowns as his 56 touchdowns in only five seasons show. Rison had over 1,000 yards in four of his five seasons and at least 10 touchdowns in four