Brian Finneran has long been a fan favorite for many Falcon fans throughout the years for his gritty play, excellent hustle, and usually good hands. A special teams ace, Finneran proved not only be a big and tall reliable receiver, but also willing to return punts or be the first one down on kickoff coverage. Finneran has fought back several times from seemingly devastating injuries to rejoin the Falcons roster each time, but therein lies the problem: his injury history and susceptibility to hitting the training table. Finneran has been a Falcon for the last nine years and has earned the Ironman award for continually battling back against knee injuries thought to be the final straw in a solid career as a Falcon. This one will likely be a tough one as fans will have to argue their hearts, with BFinn being a fan favorite, against their heads, #86 is 34 coming off several knee injuries. The question is: can the Falcons continue to bring Finneran back or should they finally get younger (and healthier) at the wide receiver position?
Brian Finneran was a big possession receiver before that become the norm in the NFL. He came out of Villanova catching 96 receptions for over 1,300 yards and being awarded the Walter Payton Award. Finneran caught on for awhile in NFL Europe before finally getting on for good with the Falcons in 1999. Finneran has been on with the home team ever since, having his best year in 2002 with 56 receptions, 838 yards, 6 TDs, and starting 16 games. BFinn had pretty good years thereafter, but injuries started to pile up. 2006 and 2007 both saw Finneran’s seasons get cut short with two successive knee injuries. Many thought he would surely hang up his cleats after having two knee injuries in consecutive years. Came back to earn a place as the Falcons number 4 receiver, hauling in 21 catches for almost 200 yards and a touchdown. Earned a spot in the receiving corps again with stiff competition. 2009 season cut short once again with a PCL injury.
Finneran may have had numerous injury issues throughout his career, but his work ethic, drive, and determination is unmatched. The Falcons wide receiver may not be extremely reliable, but he was a big, tall, and tough receiver before that became popular in the NFL. Finneran always displays a tenacity on the field and is the epitome of being a consistent third down receiver, catches everything thrown his way, and is a magnificent red-zone threat. He may not have the best speed in the world, but when comparing he and his hands with those of certain other big and tall receiver, its easy to see why Falcon fans have become enamored with him.
Harry Douglas’ injury was one of the biggest setbacks of the season, but many believed that Finneran would help ease that loss with his sure hands and solid route running. When Finneran went down with his injury, the receiving corps was extremely exposed outside of Roddy White and newly acquired TE Tony Gonzalez. Outside his sure hands and third down conversion capability, Finneran has shown a knack for being excellent on special teams and willing to do whatever it takes to help the team, whether its great coverage on the kickoff and punt teams, or picking up fair catches in dangerous spots. Granted, Finneran’s future may be limited, but the leadership, work ethic, and drive he adds to the locker room is invaluable. Due to his age and injury history, it wouldn’t have to be a big contract, but he deserves another chance to be on the roster and the Falcons are starved for consistent wide receivers.
The Thomas Dimitroff era has issued a new change in the Falcons management style, and by correlation, fans ties to favorite players. Dimitroff showed his intent pretty fast when he quickly let go of then fan favorites Alge Crumpler and Warrick Dunn. The players may have been on the down side of their career, but many fans thought they should get one more chance in red and black. Some believed that maybe he was just putting his imprint on his new franchise, but when he axed several more fan favorites the next year, Keith Brooking and Lawyer Milloy, than the message was sent that who fans liked had no bearing on his desire for a team roster.
Finneran is one of the longest tenured Falcons and is one of the hardest working and determined players in the NFL, for coming back from two knee injuries if nothing else. But the reality is meeting the pavement this year: Finneran has been sidelined for knee problems in 3 out of the last 4 years. Add that to the fact that #86 is 34 years of age and you get the feeling that Finneran’s time as a Falcon might have finally come to an end. Once thought to be a position of extreme strength, the Birds receiving corps has become mediocre at best and a weakness at worst. Roddy White is awesome after making the Pro Bowl two years in a row. Harry Douglas will be coming back from an ACL injury, Michael Jenkins has done everything in his power not to take advantage of having Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez on the field at one time, Marty Booker was a hail mary that didn’t pan out, and Eric Weems has not proven to do much of anything as a wide receiver. Finneran should certainly get another shot at the roster, but the Falcons must finally address their issues at wide receiver. Possibly adding one through the draft and a number 3 or 4 wideout.
Is BFinn a part of the Falcons future? Or should the Birds encourage #86 to move up into the front office?
Obviously we have a ton of time before the NFL Draft in April, but if given the opportunity to draft any of the following: who would it be right now? Sean Weatherspoon or Sergio Kindle @ OLB, Bryan Bulaga or Vladimir Ducasse @ OT, Carlos Dunlap or Brandon Graham @ DE, or Patrick Robinson or Perrish Cox @ CB? Only one that may not be available is Bulaga (according to Mel Kiper Jr., who has him going #17 to Steelers).
After listening to several hardcore Thrasher fans, maybe its not all Waddell’s fault, but damn this really sucks to lose the face of the franchise. He has been the GM of the Thrashers for all 10 years of existence and they have managed 4 playoff games in 10 years, with all 4 being dominant losses. Trading Hossa and Heatley MAY could have been understood, but trading one of the best players in the NHL and THE face of the franchise away is unconscionable. Hockey may be a tough sell in the South, but Atlantans have shown they will follow a winner, and everytime Waddell has had a chance at one, he destroys it. Well, Kovy evidently was offered a contract to become the highest paid NHL player out there, and he turned it down. Maybe Waddell got all he could get out of the deal, but the Thrashers have got to start getting into the playoffs and win some, because fans are growing impatient on always being in “rebuilding mode”. Here’s to hoping that this is not an omen for the future of the Thrasher franchise.