After an improbable 2008 season, in which the Falcons shocked the NFL world by going 11-5 and making the playoffs after an off-season of turmoil, next season brings with it even more hope, right?
The Falcons have one of the brightest young quarterbacks in the NFL in 2008-09 Offensive Rookie of the Year Matt Ryan. Atlanta also has one of the most exciting running backs in the league in workhorse Michael Turner, who ran for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.
Oh, and don’t forget speedster Roddy White, who finally realized his first-round draft potential last season when he caught 88 passes for 1,382 yards and seven touchdowns. The addition of All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez from Kansas City, who hauled in 96 passes for 1,058 yards last year, would seem to have the Falcons destined for the playoffs.
Given these facts, it’s almost a certainty that Falcons fans are buzzing with excitement over the thought of what the 2009 NFL season will hold in Atlanta. Unfortunately, Falcons fans are keeping their giddiness about the upcoming season to a minimum. They are not punching the team’s playoff ticket just yet.
Why not? One word—history.
The Falcons don’t have history on their side when it comes to a season following good fortunes. The last time that Atlanta had a winning record prior to last season was 2002, when the team posted a mark of 9-6-1. The next year the Falcons couldn’t handle prosperity and stumbled to 5-11 in 2003.
How about the 2004 season, when the Falcons won the NFC South with an impressive 11-5 record? You guessed it; Atlanta once again struggled and missed the playoffs with a .500 record of 8-8 in 2005.
The last time that the Falcons were the NFL’s unexpected darlings prior to 2008 was when they made their only Super Bowl appearance in 1998. The city was caught up in the excitement of the Falcons’ Dirty Birds persona and the success of a 14-2 record.
What happened next? Losing. The Falcons followed their Super Bowl season with another 5-11 record in 1999. In fact, since the City of Atlanta became the home of an NFL team in 1966, the Falcons have never posted consecutive winning seasons. How’s that for futility?
The closest the Falcons have come to back-to-back winning records occurred in 1971 & 1972 when they went 7-6-1 and 7-7. Atlanta also posted a 7-7 record in 1977 and then went 9-7 in 1978.
This season, Falcons fans have good reason to hope that the franchise’s past history won’t be repeated. With a solid coach in Mike Smith, a franchise quarterback in Ryan, the running of Turner, and the receiving of White and Gonzalez, the Falcons seem to be poised to end their curse of losing the season after tasting success.
But you’ll understand if the fans in Atlanta want to wait and see before they take it to the bank.