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NFL football in Atlanta turns 49 on Monday

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The NFL came to Atlanta 49 years ago Monday, with the league awarding a franchise to a group led by the late Rankin M. Smith on this date in 1965.

The club, eventually named the Falcons, would begin play in 1966 in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, a home shared with Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves, who moved from Milwaukee after the 1965 campaign.

The Falcons struggled at the start. They were a combined 6-35-1 in their first three seasons, and they did not have a winning season until 1971. Their first postseason berth wouldn’t come until 1978, when they defeated the Eagles in Round One and pushed the eventual NFC-champion Cowboys in a seven-point loss in Round Two. However, Atlanta would not win another playoff game for another 13 seasons.

Finally, in 1998, the Falcons broke through, stunning the Vikings as big underdogs in the NFC title game before falling to Denver in Super Bowl XXXIII. The next season, though, the Falcons slid backwards, posting a 5-11 mark, the first of three straight losing campaigns.

Sustaining success was long a problem for Atlanta. The franchise didn’t post back-to-back winning seasons in any of its first four decades of existence. But then came the club’s strongest run to date — five straight winning seasons, including four playoff berths, from 2008 through 2012. Still, truly special prosperity eluded the Falcons, with the team winning just one postseason game in these five campaigns.

Nevertheless, as they near their 50th birthday, the Falcons are in good health. A new stadium is on the way to replace the Georgia Dome, their home for just a little more than two decades. The franchise has strong leadership, with owner Arthur Blank, G.M. Thomas Dimitroff and coach Mike Smith all playing key roles in the team’s recent ascent. The roster has a good deal of talent, especially on offense, with quarterback Matt Ryan entering his prime.

When it comes to Atlanta and football, the collegiate game may first jump to mind. There aren’t many other major U.S. cities, if any at all, where the pulse of college football beats so strongly. But the pro game is well-established in Atlanta, too, and the roots are only growing deeper.

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21 Responses to “NFL football in Atlanta turns 49 on Monday”
  1. micknangold says: Jun 30, 2014 12:10 PM

    I’m a huge fan of the helmets in the picture.

  2. steelerben says: Jun 30, 2014 12:13 PM

    No mention of Michel Vick’s contributions to the franchise?

  3. touchdownroddywhite says: Jun 30, 2014 12:15 PM

    Love those helmets, hate that bird. haha

  4. ctiggs says: Jun 30, 2014 12:23 PM

    There is an NFL team in Atlanta? #Nobodyhasitbetter

  5. hilamonster says: Jun 30, 2014 12:23 PM

    Anyone remember when Favre was a Falcon?

  6. glennsyank13 says: Jun 30, 2014 12:23 PM

    49, gee, what a milestone. Nothing like the 49th anniversary.

  7. flaccodelic says: Jun 30, 2014 12:28 PM

    That’s a rather uninteresting milestone.

  8. Marshawn Lunch says: Jun 30, 2014 12:28 PM

    Matt Ryan is “entering” his prime?? It seemed to me like he fell off a little last year.

  9. bobnelsonjr says: Jun 30, 2014 12:38 PM

    The Falcons have won a George Halas Trophy.

    That is something the Lions and vikings have not done.

  10. ravens2xworldchamps says: Jun 30, 2014 12:38 PM

    Joe Flacco Super Bowl XLVII MVP

    Matt Ryan who?

  11. 6stn says: Jun 30, 2014 12:40 PM

    And the best of the early Falcons-linebacker Tommy Nobis-still awaits membership in the Hall of Fame.

  12. nflfan1326 says: Jun 30, 2014 12:55 PM

    The Vikings have won a George Halas trophy. Welcome to earth.

  13. Marshawn Lunch says: Jun 30, 2014 1:07 PM

    The George Halas Trophy? That is the trophy they give out for winning the NFC. It is given to NFC teams that get to go to Superbowls. It’s a big deal to win the division and all, but it’s nothing compared to Superbowl victories. This is football, and there are no best of seven matchups here. It’s all about that Lombardi trophy. Not the Halas trophy.

    But, I suppose we should give props where they are due. Vikings have more NFC championships than the Falcons. Heck, the Vikings have more NFC championships than the Seahawks too. That still doesn’t change the fact that the Vikings can’t close the deal and win the big game.

  14. kneelbeforesod says: Jun 30, 2014 1:17 PM

    This organization should embrace its mid-life crisis and go younger.

  15. scoops1 says: Jun 30, 2014 1:18 PM

    Imagine what this team could have been if Glanville treated Favre a bit nicer….

  16. Aaron Rodgers Has Tiny Hands says: Jun 30, 2014 1:21 PM

    The George Halas trophy has been awarded to the NFC Championship winner since 1984, so bob is correct that the Vikings have not won a George Halas trophy. They have won one NFL championship and three NFC championships. For the NFL championship, they won the Ed Thorpe Memorial Trophy, which was a traveling trophy given to the NFL champion. Unfortunately, Joe Kapp lost it in a poker game shortly after the Super Bowl and it hasn’t been seen since.

  17. chc4 says: Jun 30, 2014 2:42 PM

    Those are some great unis. Why they wear those hideous arena league looking things now is a mystery.

  18. southernboy150 says: Jun 30, 2014 3:07 PM

    Maybe we’ll all get lucky and it’ll be their last birthday.

  19. AKA Slow Joe (Bucs fan) says: Jun 30, 2014 3:50 PM

    Isn’t every franchise one year older this year?

  20. simonator917 says: Jun 30, 2014 5:19 PM

    Don’t you just love the steady leadership in Atlanta? No overreaction to them having a bad season last year. Probably not a lot of calls to fire the head coach. I hope they reward their loyal fans and steady ownership someday with a Lombardi trophy. They’re showing much of the rest of the league how it’s done. Are you paying attention, Mark Davis?

  21. gammynomnom says: Jun 30, 2014 7:11 PM

    49 years and an empty, sad, dusty trophy case with cracked glass and rusting trim…


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