Publish Date: 01/26/2017
Fact checked by: Mark Lewis
Now here’s an argument starter for you in the leadup to Super Bowl LI: The Top 20 greatest Atlanta Falcons of all-time. Ready? Here we go!
22) Jeff Merrow, 1975-83
Merrow was a relentless run stuffer and pass rusher. He started 101 games for the Falcons from the defensive end position; Merrow could and did play on the right side and the left side. Merrow was famous for being an integral part of the 1977 Falcons defense which was known as “The Gritz Blitz.” Merrow accounted for ten sacks that season and appeared in a total of 108 games for the Falcons in his career.
21) George Kunz, 1969-74
George Kunz started 79 games for the Falcons and made the Pro Bowl in each season from 1969 to 1974, except for the 1970 season which he missed due to injury. George Kunz was one of the top offensive linemen in the 1970s, and in all he was named an All-Pro eight times. He would rank in the top five at worst if he had played his whole career in Atlanta.
20) Warrick Dunn, 2002-07
Probably best known for being a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Dunn signed with the Falcons for the 2002 season. His best season in Atlanta was 2005 when he made a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl after rushing 280 times for 1,416 yards and three touchdowns; he also caught 29 passes for 220 yards and another score that year. For his career, Dunn ran 1,413 times for 5,981 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Falcons. He also caught 204 passes for 1,635 yards and six touchdowns.
19) Jamal Anderson, 1994-2001
Anderson’s best season was 1998 when he helped lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl. That year he carried the ball a record 410 times for 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was a first-team All-NFL selection that season. In total for his career, Anderson gained 5,336 yards on 1,329 carries, scoring 34 touchdowns. He also caught 156 passes for 1,645 yards and seven touchdowns.
18) Gerald Riggs, 1982-88
For his career in Atlanta, Riggs accounted for 1,587 carries for 6,631 yards and 48 touchdowns. Riggs was a three-time pro bowl selection from 1985 to ’87.
17) Alfred Jenkins, 1975-83
Jenkins best season with the Falcons was 1981, when he was selected as a first-team All-Pro by catching 70 balls for 1,358 yards and 13 touchdowns, leading the league in yards and TDs. He played 110 games for the Falcons as a starting WR and caught 360 passes for 6,267 yards and 40 TDs. He was a big contributor for Falcons playoff teams in 1978, ’80 and ’82.
16) Terance Mathis, 1994-2001
The Falcons signed Mathis as a free agent for the 1994 season. Mathis would catch an incredible 111 passes that year, a club record. He scored 11 touchdowns, gaining 1,342 yards. He would be chosen to the Pro Bowl team for his efforts. During Mathis’s eight seasons with the Falcons, he would appear in 126 games, starting 124. He gained 7,349 yards on 573 catches, scoring 57 touchdowns. [And he’s an alumnus of the University of New Meixco! Represent! — Ed., also an alum.]
Rison had very productive campaigns with the Falcons from 1990-94. During these years, Rison finished near the top of most receiving categories and led all NFL players with 15 receiving touchdowns in 1993. Andre Rison was only the 5th Receiver in NFL history to score 60 touchdowns in his first six seasons. Rison led the NFL in most receptions in his first four and first five seasons. Rison was second in the NFL for most receptions in six seasons.
Sanders was not on the Falcons for long but he made a huge impact in a short time. Sanders ran for a touchdown on his second kick return attempt of his first game. During his time in Atlanta, he intercepted 24 passes (including a career high 7 in 1993), three of which he returned for touchdowns. In 1992, he also led the league in kickoff return yards (1,067), yards per return (26.7) and return touchdowns (2).
13) Bob Whitfield, 1992-2003
Whitfield began his career at right tackle and in 1995 moved to left tackle. Whitfield played in 178 games over twelve seasons with Atlanta, starting 167. He made the Pro Bowl in 1998 at left tackle.
12) Greg Brezina, 1968-79
Brezina was a mainstay in Atlanta for over a decade, manning the right outside linebacker position.
11) Michael Vick, 2001-05
Vick is one of those what-might-have-been stories. Of course, his actions off the field will always cloud his on-field performance, but could his on-field performance be spectacular! For his short career in Atlanta, Vick rushed 529 times for 3,859 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also completed 930 of 1,730 passes for 11,505 yards and 71 touchdowns with 52 interceptions.
10) Keith Brooking, 1998-2008
From 2001-05, Brooking averaged 103 tackles a season, he was also selected to the Pro Bowl in every one of those seasons.
9) Rolland Lawrence, 1973-80
Lawrence was an iron man at left cornerback in Atlanta, he never missed a game in his career. Lawrence intercepted 39 passes for the Falcons and was a solid return man also.
8) William Andrews, 1979-86
Andrews was one of the most prolific power backs in NFL history, unfortunately, his career was cut short early in the 1984 season and he never carried the ball again for the Falcons.
7) Tommy Nobis, 1966-76
Nobis took over in the middle of the Falcons defense in 1966. Staking his claim as one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL, Nobis accumulated an NFL record 294 tackles in his rookie season. That total was unofficial, as the NFL did not keep tackling sacks in 1966. Whether statistically accurate or not, Tommy Nobis was a great middle linebacker.
6) Steve Bartkowski, 1975-85
Bartkowski was the starting quarterback as soon as he arrived in Atlanta. He was awarded NFL Rookie of the Year honors with a passer rating of 59.3, throwing for 13 touchdowns on 115 of 255 passing for 1,662 yards. Bartkowski was a Pro Bowler in 1980 and ’81. In 1983, Steve passed for 22 touchdowns and five interceptions, leading the league with a 97.6 passer rating. He finished as the Falcons all-time leading passer, gaining 23,470 yards on 1871 of 3330 passing. He passed for 154 touchdowns and 141 interceptions. His career passer rating was 76.0.
5) Jesse Tuggle, 1987-00
Tuggle totaled 1,640 tackles for the Falcons, breaking the 200-tackle mark in two of those seasons. He also collected 21 sacks. He intercepted six passes for 106 return yards and one touchdown. Tuggle also forced 10 fumbles and recovered 10 more, returning five for touchdowns.
4) Claude Humphrey, 1968-78
Humphrey is one of the most underrated defensive lineman in NFL history. Humphrey was selected as the 1968 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl from 1970 to ’74 and again in ’77. He finished his career in Philadelphia, but Humphrey will always be considered a Falcon.
3) Roddy White, 2005-15
White was a four-time Pro Bowl receiver who caught 880 passes in his career for 10.863 yards and 63 touchdown passes.
2) Jeff Van Note, 1969-86
Van Note was a true iron man during his time with Falcons, he missed a total of four games during his career. He was selected to the Pro Bowl following the 1974, 1975, 1980, 1981, and 1982 seasons.
1) Mike Kenn, 1978-94
Mike Kenn was one of the greatest offensive linemen to ever play the game. Kenn was a Pro Bowler every year from 1980 to ’84 and then again in 1991. He played a Falcons record 251 games in his career.