Atlanta Falcons: Cellar Dweller to Championship Contender

Ryan DuncanContributor IIIDecember 1, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - SEPTEMBER 26:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on September 26, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Falcons defeated the Saints 27-24.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Early in 2008, Arthur Blank and Rich McKay made two crucial moves which would forever change the Atlanta Falcons.

First, they hired former New England Patriots director of college scouting, Thomas Dimitroff. Then, along with Dimitroff, they hired Mike Smith, former defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars.  

From there, this revamped front office made two more moves in the following months that would start the transition that we see today.  They signed Michael Turner, free agent running back from San Diego and they took Matt Ryan 3rd overall in the 2008 draft.

I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I feel it's important to bring up these moves before I get to my main point.  These changes shaped the Atlanta Falcons franchise in a way that had been tried many times before, but failed each and every time.

In 2008, they stunned the NFL going 11-5 and making it into the playoffs.  The team received accolades such as GM of the Year, Coach of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year,  but, ultimately, they fell short and started preparing themselves for 2009. In the words of Mike Smith, “It's a process.”  

In 2009, the Falcons suffered many injuries to key players including Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Peria Jerry, William Moore and Brian Williams, but still managed to finish the season 9-7.  Although it was little consolation to the players and coaching staff, it was the first back to back winning seasons in the history of the organization.  A history which stretches all the way back to 1966, the longest such streak in all of professional sports.

The Falcons began 2010 with high aspirations again. They tasted the playoffs in 2008 and they wanted more.  They're well on their way to achieving that goal.  By beating the Green Bay Packers, they've put themselves atop the NFC with a 9-2 record.

This marks their 3rd winning season in a row, a far cry from your father's Falcons.  In 44 years, the Falcons have 12 winning seasons.  Three of those over the last 3 years.  This new regime has brought change to the Atlanta Falcons in every facet of the organization. 

You likely won't hear about these consecutive winning seasons for the Falcons, but ask any fan, it's a big deal.  For a team who was a perennial bottom-feeder, the Atlanta Falcons are putting their name in the hat as one of the NFL's elite.  All they need to strengthen their argument is a ring and this team seems to be on the path to do just that.