I've been asking myself since: just what does this mean?
The average cynic, whose favorite team (as long as it isn't the Falcons) has had consistent records for years, probably doesn't really care.
"Welcome to the pros, Falcons," they're thinking. "So nice of you to join us."
The NFL might be a league of parity, but for a club to struggle in such a fashion for so long completely delegitimized the franchise for them.
Despite all the talent that came through, including being the league's face for a number of seasons (Michael Vick), they couldn't carry over enough momentum from one of their decent seasons to notch just nine wins the next.
But on the other hand, you've got the sunny-side-up folks. In their minds, the Dirty Birds have emerged from the dark tunnel and into the blinding light.
Last year we saw a promising glimmer, and even though we couldn't quite match that '08 mark, we did darn well to finish on a three-game win streak after being eliminated from the playoffs.
This is the team that will turn it around, they say. This front office configuration has it figured out, and will not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Where there have been certain sourpusses, there is now the smiling Matt Ryan. Where there have been certain backstabbers, there is now the jovial and approachable Mike Smith. A new day has dawned.
Now, I'm not actually here to take either side. If you've read this column at all before, you probably know which side of the fence I fall on anyway. What I do want to do is shed some light on the numbers behind this streak, and then let the audience decide for themselves just what the significance of Atlanta's '09 is.
For starters, there's 43—the number of seasons we went without achieving consecutive winning seasons, and up until just now, the number of seasons the Falcons have been in existence.
That is a long, long time when you consider that both the Carolina Panthers and the Jacksonville Jaguars, who've existed for about a fourth of that period (in markets much smaller, no less), have managed to string together two whole decent seasons in a row.
Heck, one could argue that even the baby Houston Texans have been more consistent than us, as they've won eight or nine games in almost 40-percent of their seasons.
Then, there's 21, still the highest two-season win total in the team's history. Posted over '97 (seven wins) and the magical '98 (a franchise-high 14 wins, and our lone Super Bowl appearance).
It was a false hope. Even then, fans could tell the success was fleeting, and now it feels much more distant than 12 years.
Quarterback Chris Chandler just didn't have that base level of talent of a championship-winning signal-caller.
Sure, good things can happen with just a mediocre man under center, but even with great talent around him (which they did have) he wasn't even up to Trent Dilfer-speed in terms of longevity. He was already on the downside of his career, and everyone knew it.
And besides their QB (which is only the most important position on the field), no one could pretend Terance Mathis, Tim Dwight, and Jessie Tuggle hadn't played themselves out. The window of opportunity was open only about as long as Jamal Anderson's dance was cool.
What, somebody named a column after that goofy display? Bonehead...
Finally, there's '04 and '05 (OK, not numbers, years) and 11-5 and 8-8. Those would be the campaigns and final records from the seasons in which we previously came closest to accomplishing the feat.
They were Vick's golden years. He and Warrick Dunn formed a fearsome and dynamic rushing duo and...well, that was about it. I guess DeAngelo Hall could pick the ball on occasion?
But more importantly, head coach Jim Mora seemed to have a leash on the roster, and owner Arthur Blank seemed genuinely interested and involved enough to keep everything in line for the foreseeable future. Of course, things are not always what they seem.
They were a non-factor in '06, and then the wheels truly came off: Bobby Petrino bolted and...well let's just say an arrest was made.
So we're left with the question that I first raised. Have the Atlanta Falcons really turned the corner, or will they sink back into the doldrums from whence they came?
One last number for you: four. This is the number of teams that have failed to make the playoffs in two consecutive seasons. And really, that ought to read just two, as one is the Panthers (est. 1995) and the other the Texans (est. 2002).
It's just us and the Bengals who remain as teams around since the merger that haven't made back-to-back postseason appearances.
I'd say there's a new goal in town.
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