As a Falcons fan who grew up in the '90s there’s no real competition for who the favorite all-time team should be. It’s not like fans of the Redskins, for example, who can debate which Joe Gibbs team was the best. Or fans of the Giants or 49ers or Steelers who can all bask in their ongoing glory and debate for hours on end about which team they liked the best.
When it comes to the Falcons, there are really only a few choices that even warrant consideration.
1. 1991 – That was the year that Jerry Glanville officially became the most exciting thing to ever happen to the Falcons. That’s very telling. But while changing the uniforms to black was kind of cool, and leaving tickets for Elvis was a little kooky, there was nothing extremely memorable about his tenure except for “2 Legit 2 Quit” and the fact that he ran Brett Favre out of town.
2. 2001-2006 – Let me set the scene. A group of Falcons fans are sitting around discussing the all time great teams in the franchise’s history when the Michael Vick era comes up. Someone starts to list all the awesome things that he did on the field – won a division title, went to the NFC championship game, beat Green Bay on the road in the playoffs, made two Minnesota Vikings look like Mo and Curly in overtime that one time.
But someone says, “Yeah, but he went to prison for dog-fighting,” and the discussion is over. (A close second in the Vick conversation ender is “Yeah, but he gave a girl herpes and called himself Ron Mexico.”)
In the minds of many fans, the Vick years are like the names of minors on a police report—redacted for the protection of the victims, who in this case are the fans of the team. Let’s just move on.
3. 1998 – The one truly glorious season in the team’s history (which incidentally ended the day after team leader and moral beacon Eugene Robinson got caught soliciting sex from undercover cop hookers.)
But this would be the choice for my favorite team. Here’s why:
• They had an all-world running back in Jamal Anderson, but the quarterback was the hero in the most important game. Chris Chandler (who came by the nickname Crystal Chandelier honestly) managed to stay healthy all season, then came through with a thread-the-needle touchdown to Terence Mathis that sent the NFC Championship game against Minnesota to overtime.
• They had a stoic coach and yet were able to exhibit some personality on the field. Dan Reeves was as straight-laced as they come, but even he did the Dirty Bird dance after the win over Minnesota. Invented by Anderson, the Dirty Bird is up there with the Icky Shuffle for the best ever choreographed touchdown celebration (before those were banned by the league).
• When Morten Andersen’s kick won the NFC championship game in OT my buddy Chatraw ran out the door of his apartment and circled the entire complex while waving his arms and screaming. Given that he was 6'2" and weighed about a buck 45, it was an awkward, jumbled blur of knees and elbows that I have never been able to get out of my mind.
It looks like Matt Ryan could be ushering in a golden era for Falcons football, and after 40-plus years without back-to-back winning seasons, I think we’re due for one. But until one of Ryan’s teams does something great—or he gets caught running a prostitution ring in Boston under the name Matty Ice—1998 stands alone in the annals of great Falcons teams.