You say the Falcons are legit? Buddy, I’ve heard it before

I have this problem. I can never fully concentrate on watching the local NFL club actually play because I have one eye on that door.

See it? It’s the one that says, “Falcons Annals.” And I keep waiting for Dan Henning to walk through and bum a cigarette. Or Norm Van Brocklin to barge in and start stacking chairs. Or Marion Campbell to amble over and say, “What’s up, gahz?” (Swampy talk for “guys.”)

I came to work here in 1984. It took seven years before I actually saw a winning Falcons’ season, and when finally one arrived Jerry Glanville was coaching and the stereo was blaring so loud — “Back in Black” and “Wild Wild West” and “2 Legit 2 Quit” — that I never heard a single word in any postgame interview and I was too distracted by the sight of Wayne Newton sitting next to Hammer in the press box for anything to register.

And now I watch the door, and I wait. For Wayne Newton to sing, “Danke Schoen.” Or for Hammer to put a move on somebody. (On that surrealistic Sunday, Deion Sanders intercepted a pass and was returning it and Hammer stood up in the press box and yelled, “Put a move on him!”) Or for Steve Broussard to hit air.

I watch the door, and I wait for the other shoe to drop. I wait for the phone call in my hotel room at 10:40 p.m. on Super Bowl eve and the voice on the line to say, “My friend at a Miami TV station says a Falcon just got arrested.” And then, 20 minutes later, for the follow-up that begins, “It gets even better. It’s Eugene Robinson.”

I watch the door and I await the worst because, to be frank, how could you not? Forty-three seasons and never consecutive winning campaigns. The grim and resolute power of the great fickle Bird logo. The faith that, no matter how good anything might seem, that door is going to fly open and O.J. Santiago is going to ride in on a golf cart — and fall off the darned thing.

Only now I’m starting to wonder. Is it OK to take that one eye off the dark door? To borrow from “Marathon Man” — which didn’t end well for anybody — is it safe?

Is it safe to believe in the Falcons?

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I spent the preseason fretting about one thing or another, from Harry Douglas to overconfidence, and finally I found something that seemed a clear and present danger. The defense. It stank. And what happened when the Falcons started playing for real?

The defense made four takeaways and didn’t surrender a point until the game’s 57th minute. Charles Dimry did not walk through that door and line up at cornerback. Keith Brooking did not get fooled on third-and-16. Instead everything went right. Or, for a student of Falcons history, everything went wrong.

And now I’m thinking: Could it be? Could brainpower have been the missing element all along? Are Smitty the coach and TD the GM smart enough to outwit a legacy of letdowns now on its fifth deflating decade? Are the men who wear the great fickle Bird at last flop-free?

Me, I’d never say such a thing just yet. Me, I’m still eyeing that door. But I’m starting to wonder. I’m starting to think there might indeed be a trophy behind that door, and not Glanville’s faux California Trophy. This one’s named after a coach. His first name was Vince. But I dare not mention his last name lest I jinx …

Wait! I see something! Guy says his name is Aundray Bruce, and he’s toting a machete!

(Video alert: If you fast-forward to the four-minute mark and watch the rest, you’ll find three manifestations of the Falcons of yore.)

123 comments Add your comment

Reid Adair

September 14th, 2009
2:09 pm

It has taken a long time for this organization to overcome bad ownership, bad management, bad coaching and bad personnel decisions.

It would certainly seem – since there certainly are no guarantees – that most, if not all, of those problems have been corrected. You brought up some very dark memories of the Falcons’ past, Mark, but I think it’s safe to look away from the dark door and focus on what’s happening now.

Dave

September 14th, 2009
2:16 pm

You cant take your eye off of that door until 9 wins this year.

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 14th, 2009
2:16 pm

Those of us who have watched the Falcons since 1966 have 18 years on you Mark. Nearly half of the misery took place before you got here. They got off to a good start yesterday but it’s still early. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Is your mention of Van Brocklin stacking chairs an illusion to his challenge to Ron Hudspeth? If so, Hudspeth was being a smart ass and I don’t blame Van Brocklin a bit for that one. Others may see it differently.

NativeATLien

September 14th, 2009
2:17 pm

i’ll be curious to see how the discussion goes here. funny, when Terrence Moore expressed the same kind of pessimism/cynicism he was met with a resounding chorus of “you’re racist” and stuff along that line.

face it, Mark. people like to be sugarcoated and lied to around these parts…

Mark Bradley

September 14th, 2009
2:19 pm

That was indeed a Hudspeth reference, Hillbilly. And that did happen before I arrived. But I heard about it.

F-105 Thunderchief

September 14th, 2009
2:19 pm

I heard it, and believed it, in years two and three of the Mora regime. I’m hopeful, but I’ve seen the curse in action to many times to believe it until it comes to pass.

By the way, Glanville, was/is/will always be a dolt/clown.

toccoadawg

September 14th, 2009
2:22 pm

I couldnt agree with Reid more.

Bob in SF

September 14th, 2009
2:24 pm

It helps to not have a GM whose sole qualification is being the owner’s son.

Mark Bradley

September 14th, 2009
2:26 pm

Actually, Bob, Dimitroff is a quarterback’s son.

Manny

September 14th, 2009
2:27 pm

Great first game. But the score is ugly and our running game wasn’t hitting on anything. But I am confident in one thing and one thing only: The ownership and management looks very competent and strong. Why? Because when they saw a glaring problem (secondary issues) they went out and fixed it almost immediately.

That is a seismic shift in what would normally happen with the Atlanta Falcons (run with what you got and blame the coaches for the performance of immature or bad talent.) That and that alone gives me hope- not the fact that they won that game.

F-105 Thunderchief

September 14th, 2009
2:27 pm

Aundray Bruce? Man, that guy was almost as big a waste of skin as Adam Jones. At least Jones did have one – or was it two – productive seasons.

Junior Miller

September 14th, 2009
2:27 pm

As a lifelong Falcons fan who remembers the original thunder and lightning backfield of Bubba Bean and Haskell Stanback, I appeciate your concerns, MB. But, as long as Matt Ryan doesn’t morph into Billy Joe Tolliver and as long as Dimitroff keeps Bobby Butler’s name off speed dial for secondary help, I think we’ll be okay.

beavis

September 14th, 2009
2:27 pm

heh heh, you said “Falcons Annals”

F-105 Thunderchief

September 14th, 2009
2:28 pm

Need to clarify. Jones is a bigger waste of skin, because he actually proved he could play, only to then &#$$ it all away.

Mark Bradley

September 14th, 2009
2:30 pm

I always believed Bobby Butler got to see more great catches up close than any CB ever, Junior. He was invariably right on his man, and yet the man tended to make the catch.

Falcon luck, I call it.

Randalf, the Wise

September 14th, 2009
2:30 pm

2 Legit ? Quit!

DawgNDallas

September 14th, 2009
2:35 pm

Two things, Mark:
I thought Aundray had a crossbow…(?)

Also I had the sound off on the last part of the game (due to a one year old son, long story). Anyway the Falcons were up 19-0 with under 4 minutes left when the Dolphins got the TD. The dolphins needed two touchdowns (with two-point conversions) and a field goal to tie it. But they just kicked the point after. Maybe the dolphins figured not enough time, but not even trying for the long shot was basically giving up. Wasn’t that bad coaching? Was there any discussion about this? Am I over-thinking this?

Ryno

September 14th, 2009
2:35 pm

Mr. Bradley – where on earth did you dig up that phone of Glanville? I would buy a print of that and hang it on the bar in my house for humor.

Also – if you have any hidden pictures of June Jones soaking his bunions surrounded by Falcons Cheerleaders, post them immediately.

Go Falcons!

Mark Bradley

September 14th, 2009
2:38 pm

Here you go, Ryno. It’s from a cheerleader Web site.

Now don’t everyone rush off! You hear? Come back here!

SWAT Native

September 14th, 2009
2:40 pm

Mark,

Your concerns about history really hit home when you remember that they’re wearing the ‘66 throwbacks this Sunday.

Mark Bradley

September 14th, 2009
2:40 pm

Nope, DawgNDallas. It was a machete. He had it even when he was a student-athlete at Auburn.

And you’re right about Miami giving up.

dl

September 14th, 2009
2:43 pm

14th!!!!!!!! Man, I’m cool!

Khao$

September 14th, 2009
2:43 pm

Great article Mark! It summed up why it’s hard for me to get overly hyped about the season after game one. Judging our “legacy”, the law of averages would tell you to pick against the Falcons winning back to back seasons. Not being a pessimist…just a mathematician. I won’t believe it until I see it. That said, I’m hoping for the best. And who knows, if the Falcons do have back to back winning seasons, maybe the Hawks will make it out of the 2nd round…

Maybe I’m wishing for too much.

elviskl

September 14th, 2009
2:43 pm

the reason the falcons will prevail is because they have ridded themselves of all nonthinking thugs, ex uga grads etc……..

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 14th, 2009
2:45 pm

Please post more videos while look for my parachute pants.

Gotta, gotta dance…

A Tribe Called Quest

September 14th, 2009
2:48 pm

One of the worst blogs I’ve ever seen.

Sting 'em Buzz

September 14th, 2009
2:50 pm

I truly believe that we have reached the end of that particular curse.

Herschel Talker

September 14th, 2009
2:51 pm

A Tribe Called Quest: Why don’t you go back to your Mike Vick worshipping hole and leave the blog critiquing to the big boys? You clown.

MB: another winning blog. It’s fair to be skeptical, even though this really does look legit.

rms

September 14th, 2009
2:52 pm

they have the same cheerleading outfits….. so out of date!!!!!

Al

September 14th, 2009
2:54 pm

Falcons will finish 11-5 again. Mark it down. They will make it to the nfc champ game. Winner to be determined.

Philo Beddo

September 14th, 2009
2:55 pm

I bet that elviski gets removed…..he used MB’s dreaded “t” word.

Denver Bird

September 14th, 2009
2:57 pm

I go back to ‘77 and the Grits Blitz, and that notorious “record” we hold has been an albatross around our neck for far too long. One thing I remember clearly is Coach Jim Mora, sitting at 5-2 in 2005, saying consecutive winning seasons meant nothing to him… Then he went out and proved it. This is the year – or else…

Sick of It

September 14th, 2009
3:00 pm

Nah, elviskl, it’s cause they got rid of a Georgia Tech graduate waste of space who didn’t know that the other team PROBABLY wasn’t going to run the ball on 3rd and 16.

Mark Bradley

September 14th, 2009
3:00 pm

I’m actually as un-skeptical about this team as a skeptic can be.

Bil

September 14th, 2009
3:00 pm

Does anyone know what time the us open final is today?

74 Dawg

September 14th, 2009
3:02 pm

I would think that throwback is a word the Falcons would want to avoid.

elviskl

September 14th, 2009
3:04 pm

HEY SICK OF IT……COME ON DOWN TO NORTH AVE ON NOV 28 AND GET YOU A PIECE..AND BRING BILLY BOB QB WITH YOU BOY

oldmike

September 14th, 2009
3:07 pm

Seeing Tony Gonzalez on the field for our team was a huge rush. This guy is a first ballot HOF’er and he still is playing at a HIGH level. What a great add to an already talented offense. Hats off to TD for that trade!!!

GeoffDawg

September 14th, 2009
3:12 pm

I think the franchise’s low point is when June Jones used to wear those God-awful workout pants on the sidelines. Their garishness reportedly contributed to Jeff George’s minor break with reality.

GeoffDawg

September 14th, 2009
3:15 pm

Also, can anyone actually get too many accolades? I just can’t say enough about the talent evaluation abilities of Thomas Dimitroff. Does that guy ever make a personnel mistake?

Gilbert Renfroe

September 14th, 2009
3:15 pm

Good article Bradley. Seriously. But why do you never mention me in your passing allusions to flashes of Falcon Greatness?

Herschel Talker

September 14th, 2009
3:20 pm

MB – so I noticed, regarding your skepticism. But I noticed that there’s a hint of it.

NoleRick

September 14th, 2009
3:25 pm

Some really bad memories brought back….but its just that …the Past..
Somehow this season just feels different, feels like we have a coach, GM, QB, and players that are all on the same page. In the past, that never seemed to be the case.

D Falcon

September 14th, 2009
3:27 pm

I have tried every way that I can to find a reason why they won’t stop the madness of no back-to-back winning seasons, but I just can’t find one. This should be the end of it, but this is the Falcons…As much as I hope this long negative streak ends this year, I can’t forget 2005 (the last time I thought it was over). 6-2, then 8-5, only to drop the last 3 games. I’m putting my trust in Coach Smitty and TD that THIS IS IT!

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 14th, 2009
3:28 pm

Mark, back to the point.

Reason not to be sceptical, good pass rush equals good secondary play.

Preseason did not reveal it. That’s game plan and coaching.

Antonio Gramsci

September 14th, 2009
3:29 pm

You’re in the big leagues, now, Harmon.

And MB continues to enjoy his complimentary “100% Wrong Club” membership. Where are the “they can do it!” Bravos now, Mark?

Jackets2009

September 14th, 2009
3:35 pm

It would not surprise me if TD never drafts a Yellow Jacket or Bulldog again because the fans of both teams make it difficult to cut them. I’m quilty here too.

Greg

September 14th, 2009
3:37 pm

Well we weren’t exactly hitting on all cylinders were we? T jury is still out, I say. Some breaks went our way, for sure. (Just because you hit a guy hard, as Peterson did, doesn’t mean the ball pops up into the hands of one of your CBs.) Ryan was inconsistent and strangely weak-armed at the start. Miami stuffed the box, and therefore Turner, but we took too long to figure out how to answer that. It would have taken Belichick/Brady about 2 plays (1 play?). They had receivers get behind us much of the time—thank god Pennington missed them. So there’s lots to work on. Biggest surprise to me: Biermann. He looks bigger for sure, and clearly has been going to the Abe school of pass-rushing, than which there is no better..

Jackets2009

September 14th, 2009
3:37 pm

Possibly TD’s first mistake is trading Laurent Robinson. Still far better bating average than any other GM in Atlanta pro history.

slick

September 14th, 2009
3:39 pm

Great batting average Jackets2009. Mike Peterson made more plays yesterday than Keith Brooking made his last 5 years here in town.