Out of the playoffs, the Falcons still can take a giant step

This will sound strange, but strangeness and the Atlanta Falcons walk — or, to be more precise, stumble — hand in hand. The 2009 Falcons can’t make the playoffs, and the playoffs are the primary goal every year for every NFL team. Except this team, this year.

The Falcons have made the playoffs before. They were there last season. They’ve been there nine times. Heck, they’ve even graced a Super Bowl. (Though that trip ended disgracefully, what with Eugene Robinson getting arrested.) But the Falcons have worked 43 seasons — this is the 44th — and have yet to break .500 two years running. So long as that curious factoid is attached to this franchise, it will be the first thing we think about when we think about the Falcons.

Among NFL teams that have been around for a while, the Falcons are alone in this ignominy. The Carolina Panthers haven’t been back-to-back winners, but they opened their doors in 1995, not 1966. The Houston Texans and the new Cleveland Browns haven’t, either, but they’re expansion teams. Even the one franchise that could match the Falcons for longstanding buffoonery — the Arizona Cardinals — have just assured themselves of consecutive winning seasons for the first time since relocating in 1987. (They’d done the deed in previous manifestations in Chicago and St. Louis.)

The Jacksonville Jaguars were back-to-back winners in Seasons 2 and 3. The Seattle Seahawks got there in Seasons 3 and 4. The Cincinnati Bengals made it in Seasons 5 and 6. The Tampa Buccaneers did it in Seasons 6 and 7, this after losing their first 26 games. The New Orleans Saints thrashed for more than two decades but finally arrived consecutively in Seasons 21 and 22. The Falcons started before all of the above and still aren’t there.

But they are, wonder of wonders, close. Win two games over bad teams and the cruel characterization goes away forever. And it must go away if we’re ever to regard the Falcons in a serious light. This hasn’t been the year they (or we) hoped it would be, but this can still be an essential season in the grand scheme. It can be the year they make us stop giggling.

Any team can get hot for a year. The Falcons went 12-4 in 1980 … followed by 7-9. They were 14-2 in 1998 … followed by 5-11 after Jamal Anderson hurt his knee in Week 2. Most egregiously they were 11-5 in 2004 and stood 6-2 in 2005 … and still couldn’t get to 9-7. The skid began when they lost in the Georgia Dome to the 1-7 Packers and a running back named Samkon Gado. The skid began not two weeks after Jim Mora trashed Mike Kenn and Jeff Van Note, distinguished Falcons of yore, by saying: “What did they ever win? Never had consecutive winning seasons.”

And then Jimbo didn’t, either. And Karma laughed its head off.

Those 2005 Falcons came the closest to breaking down the back-to-back wall. They were 8-5 with three games remaining, and then they lost on a frigid night in Chicago; lost in Tampa on Christmas Eve when Todd Peterson missed the winning kick in overtime and Mora got on his cell phone to discuss playoff possibilities, and lost 44-11 at home on New Year’s Eve in a game Michael Vick later admitted he hadn’t tried very hard to win.

That team was too flighty. It didn’t deserve to be the drought-breaker. This team does. This team isn’t great — it has scored as many points as it has yielded, which is the definition of so-so — but it tries hard and it’s well coached and it just won a game on which it it might easily have punted, having been eliminated from the postseason the night before.

This team deserves its moment. It can arrive Jan. 3, 2010, in Raymond James Stadium. If it comes (and it should), it won’t quite be a moment to celebrate — when you need 44 years to do something, you shouldn’t get giddy when it occurs — but it’s a moment that absolutely needs to happen. This mocking albatross has hovered decades too long. Time, once and for all, to shoot it down.

147 comments Add your comment

Troy Glaus

December 23rd, 2009
2:40 pm

howboutthembraves

December 23rd, 2009
2:41 pm

howboutthembraves

December 23rd, 2009
2:43 pm

Lets bring back ARMANDO GALARRAGGA

Mark Bradley

December 23rd, 2009
2:45 pm

Welcome to Atlanta, Troy. Let’s hope you play first base as well as you type, “first.”

FalconUGAFan

December 23rd, 2009
2:49 pm

I, for one would like for this albatross to be lifted.

Gamer

December 23rd, 2009
2:55 pm

THIS SHOULD BE EASILY DONE!!! BUT KNOWING THE FALCONS, IT WILL PROBABLY TAKE SOME MAGICAL MOMENTS TO ACHIEVE BACK TO BACK WINNING RECORD!!!

GO AHEAD AND GET IT DONE FALCONS!!!! A 9-7 SEASON IN 2009.

COACH SMITH, DON’T BE A BONE-HEAD AND RISK CAREER ENDING INJURY TO RYAN AND TURNER!!!

IF EITHER ONE OF THEIR INJURIES RESURFACE NEXT SEASON CAUSING NAGGING PROBLEMS RESULTING IN POOR PERFORMANCE IN GAMES!!!

I AM THE FIRST TO SUGGEST TO MR. ARTHUR BLANK TO FIRE YOU FOR A BONE-HEAD MISTAKE!!!!

jerry

December 23rd, 2009
2:55 pm

According to Cold Hard Facts, ( I wish I knew how to make a link to it), Roddy White has had 71 incomplete passes thrown to him, most in the league. Why so?

Sonny Clusters

December 23rd, 2009
3:00 pm

Clusters was never out of the playoffs so we don’t know for sure how to take things with the Falcons but one thing is for sure . . . no Clusters would ever go 44 seasons without back-to-back winning records. Maybe this team is jinxed. We was thinking about some bad things that happened with the Falcons over the years and about all the turf toe and ankle sprains this year – and the bad kicking – and we decided that maybe they have a bad shoe contract. We was thinking bad shoes makes for bad football teams and maybe the Falcons need some new shoes that will help out some. When we was playing ball we was always wearing the best shoes we could find.

COON DAWG

December 23rd, 2009
3:00 pm

MB Thanks for a great article. Everyone talks about the curse but you actually made it hurt remembering the specifics. All of the hope that never came to be. With the Braves mess and the cursed relived, please give us a positve Christmas present tomorrow.

Troy Glaus

December 23rd, 2009
3:00 pm

I can’t lift my arm above my head.

Sonny Clusters

December 23rd, 2009
3:07 pm

Mark, where does Arthur Blank get his shoes? Maybe he could get a contract with them for some game shoes. We was pretty sure he had on some Allen-Edmonds or maybe some Italian shoes. Some of those Italians are good kickers and some good Italian shoes might be just what this team needs. How about a kicker named Gucci with a nice pair of Gucci football shoes? That would break the monotony.

COON DAWG

December 23rd, 2009
3:07 pm

MB can you give us the money breadown for Roddy White and Mike Jenkins. The combo we are stuck with for at least another for years. White is paid like an elite WR and he is not. Jenikis is paid like a great WR and he is not. Might be Thomas D. Waterloo if things dont work out the right way. He is doing a great job but this could become a question mark down the road. I was amazed how much we missed Harry Douglas.

Froggy Dawgy

December 23rd, 2009
3:11 pm

Out of the playoffs and they had 3 games left? Embarrassing, waste of a season, and millions of dollars down the drain.

Benjamin

December 23rd, 2009
3:12 pm

It isn’t often that I laugh out loud in a MB comments section, Troy. Kudos on “I can’t lift my arm above my head.” :)

jakesdad

December 23rd, 2009
3:14 pm

SO SAY WE ALL!!!

wxwax

December 23rd, 2009
3:15 pm

I’m not sure anyone other than close followers of the Falcons is aware of this embarrassing record. Nevertheless I agree with you, it’s a blemish on the franchise and it needs to be eliminated.

What your article implies is that consecutive winning seasons aren’t handed out like free candy in the NFL. So perhaps the Falcons’ inability to achieve them isn’t as terrible as it first sounds?

I saw the blog entry about the Falcons having as many as nine picks in the draft. This brings me back to my current bete noire, which is Dimitroff’s proclivity for selecting excellent players who have a history of injuries. After seeing Baker, Jerry and Moore live up to their pasts, I hope he takes injuries into account come April.

I also hope he beefs up the lines. A better O-line wouldn’t be as traumatized by the loss of Turner. And we’re all familiar with the absent pass rush this year. Strong lines can cover up for a lot of weaknesses elsewhere on the field.

Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff have done fine things in their first two years. The team has character — Hallelujah! — and is working on depth. Under their stewardship I look forward to the Falcons becoming one of the better franchises in the NFL.

Benjamin

December 23rd, 2009
3:15 pm

As far as the Falcons are concerned, I’m completely fine with a 9-7/non-playoff team. The organization is on the general upswing because of the braintrust, and with the potential for a strong draft and some solid free agent signings this upcoming offseason — plus a full season of health from Turner the Burner and Matty Ice — I think we’re in good shape.

Reid Adair

December 23rd, 2009
3:19 pm

Long-time Falcons fans can’t deny the organization’s past, but they can see that the current state is far more positive and stable than the franchise has ever seen in the past.

I hope that the Falcons can beat Buffalo and Tampa Bay to finish 9-7, ending this streak. Then Thomas Dimitroff, Mike Smith and company can continue to move the entire organization forward for the long term.

Leo Mazzone

December 23rd, 2009
3:24 pm

I still need a job, I can play first !!!!

He worked hard with a feather

December 23rd, 2009
3:24 pm

[...] http://blogs.ajc.com/mark-bradley-blog/2009/12/23/out-of-the-playoffs-the-falcons-still-have-a-massi…Mark Bradley of the AJC believes this Atlanta Falcons season will be a success if they finally break the streak of never having consecutive winning seasons. [...]

A Rod

December 23rd, 2009
3:25 pm

still no back to back seasons in the playoffs though, which is what really matters.

Bill

December 23rd, 2009
3:25 pm

If the Falcons do win the last two I will have to come here and eat crow.I have said all year that the roster is too thin and the schedule too tough to have a winning season.

I do have faith in the stewardship of this club.I said they would have back to back winning seasons in 2010 and 2011.If they win the last two that will give the media something else to write about.The future is still somrthing to look forward to.

It could be worse.The Falcons could have the Braves ownership.

mudcat

December 23rd, 2009
3:31 pm

Bah! Humbug! What’s with all this positive mush about the Falcons? Where’s the old curmudgeon Mark Bradley that we love to hate?

J

December 23rd, 2009
3:35 pm

No Playoffs and my season tix go up in price agian come on Aurther

SOUTH GA BIRD FAN

December 23rd, 2009
3:38 pm

I am not a drinker but if the falcons break the curse I will get some cheese dip and a twelve pack and have a super sunday I think I will deserve it after cheering for the birds from the smith years until the new smith years .

GO FALCONS !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mike

December 23rd, 2009
3:41 pm

the Falcon’s not having two winning seasons in a row is not
even remotely the first thing I think about when I think
about the Falcons.

Hillbilly Deluxe

December 23rd, 2009
3:43 pm

I’m not sure anyone other than close followers of the Falcons is aware of this embarrassing record.

Those of us who’ve been watching since 1966 are aware, painfully aware.

t-bone

December 23rd, 2009
3:44 pm

Turner should stay out the rest of the season and not risk further injury. Ryan should do the same if the well being of any of his ‘little piggies’ is in question. 9-7 is not that big a deal when you are already out of the play-offs. Just because the Falcons has never done it doesn’t really matter in the end. HELLO!!!! They’re the Falcons. Get some DB’s who actually know how to play the ball and not the receiver and maybe the defense can carry the team to post season next year. Does anyone know how much yardage has been given up on pass interference? Add to that the illegal contact and defensive holding and our defense could be considered the offensive player of the game for many of the opposing teams.

FalconsFan1

December 23rd, 2009
3:51 pm

I want to win the last two games just so I can quit hearing about the inability to have back to back winning seasons. By the way, have you seen next year’s schedule Mark?

Also, check out my thoughts on what happened to the NFC South this year on my website. Feel free to comment.

http://thesportsdebates.com/2009/12/23/the-most-surprising-nfl-division-debate-%E2%80%93-who-expected-the-nfc-south-to-go-south/

Matt "Choke" Ryan

December 23rd, 2009
3:53 pm

2009 COURAGE AWARD WINNER:

Congratulations Mike Vick!

You finally have an organization and local journalism base that appreciates your talents.

Matt "Choke" Ryan

December 23rd, 2009
3:53 pm

MV#777

December 23rd, 2009
3:55 pm

SORRY!!!!!!!!!!
YOUR JUST PLAYING TO BE PLAYING..LOL…
MAYBE IN 10YRS THIS TEAM WILL BE READY FOR THE PLAYOFFFFSSSSSSSSS…LOL

P.S. AND I KNOW! YOU MISS MR.MICHAEL VICK!!!!!!!!!HAVE FUN IN THE PLAYOFFS MICHAEL VICK!! I HOPE THE EAGLES MAKE IT TO THE BIG GAME..:)

Ancient Mariner

December 23rd, 2009
3:56 pm

Thanks for the plug, Mark.

Ancient Mariner

December 23rd, 2009
3:59 pm

By the by, Owens and Grimes didn’t look too bad out there last week. Grimes has skills and heart, but short is permanent.

KD

December 23rd, 2009
4:07 pm

BREAKING NEWS !!!!!! Michael Vick has just won the COURAGE AWARD from the Eagles, I didn’t know it took that much courage to KILL a defenseless dog !!!!!!!!!!

GO FALCONS!!

December 23rd, 2009
4:09 pm

Hey MV#777, we’re just thankful stupidity isn’t contagious. Go back to grammar school moron.

Just Nasty & Mean

December 23rd, 2009
4:10 pm

I have lived in Atlanta since 1985 and am not a Falcon fan for this very reason. The management, coaching, and personnel haven’t shown ANY consistency—EVER!!!
Until management PROVES they are behind this team—with committed management like in Pittsburgh, Dallas, New England—perennial winners….that occasionally have off years—but ALWAYS seem to come back strong year after year after year.

Until they PROVE they are committed—Why should I?

juice soucer

December 23rd, 2009
4:20 pm

This non winning back to back for 40 plus seasons is unreal…how would you rate this as far as pathetic records in all of professional sports?

GSU Eagle 91

December 23rd, 2009
4:21 pm

MV#777, take the next train out of town. Falcons fans don’t need to hear from you anymore.
Our organization is in good shape, and our QB can actually read, write and punctuate a sentence.
See ya…

Justin

December 23rd, 2009
4:24 pm

KD…..Your comment is just plain ignorant. The article is not about Micheal Vick it’s about the sorry a– Falcons! That’s why he scored twice on the birds! Now take that to dog kennel! LMAO!!!

lanier

December 23rd, 2009
4:27 pm

i followed this morbid franchise from 73-05 supporting them with 4 season tix. forget it wont happen because they are the Falcons actually the worst team in the history of the modern NFL hence no back to back winning seasons. unargueable fact.

dave

December 23rd, 2009
4:28 pm

Excellent column.

Thanks!

dave

Rocky Mountian Falcon

December 23rd, 2009
4:35 pm

One down, two to go! Would love for this team to do what no other team could do! Back to Back winning seasons!!! Then maybe idiot’s like MV#777, Matt “Choke” Ryan and all the other MV cry babies will shut the hell up!!! Of course that will never happen!!! They will always find somthing to cry about! Just a bunch of idiot’s with a keyboard and WiFi Access.

Falcons 9-7

December 23rd, 2009
4:35 pm

MV#777,

“MR. MICHAEL VICK” is not missed in Atlanta. As a matter of fact, almost ALL Falcons fans were happy to see him go. It was the best thing to ever happen to this franchise. As soon as he left, look how quickly consecutive winning seasons has come. While he was sitting in JAIL, this franchise has been building something we have waited decades for. Michael Vick taking the same number of snaps this postseason as Matt Ryan…ZERO, so I don’t know why you even consider him as making the playoffs. He’s not part of that team. He won’t sniff the field when it counts. You will probably be able to watch him play again next preseason, if the Eagles even want to keep him, which they probably won’t.

juice soucer

December 23rd, 2009
4:38 pm

lanier…you must really like pain…following 30 years of losing…I hope you were grandfathered in and your ticket prices did not go up over the 30 years….this is really a pathetic record…

Rocky Mountian Falcon

December 23rd, 2009
4:42 pm

Just Nasty & Mean, So your not a real football fan at all!!! Your just a Bandwagoneer! You only jump on the wagon of winning teams? Well, just stay the hell off our wagon. I would rather be loyal to one team, then jump from team to team because they are having a winning season.
Jesus!, with guys like that living in Atlanta, no wonder it hard for the Falcons to see out every now and then.
If I could find a Telecom job in Georgia, I would move back in a heartbeat and have season tickets for the team I grew up with and treat as one of the family.

Rocky Mountian Falcon

December 23rd, 2009
4:44 pm

Hey Mike it was not Miss Mike Vick, it was Mrs. Bubba’s Beeootch!

pilgrim

December 23rd, 2009
4:46 pm

Like Sisyphus, the Falcons have tried to roll the consecutive winning season up the hill, only to watch it come rolling back down, and to repeat that forlorn hope over and over in dreadful two year cycles.

I figure the Falcons are ready to kick some Sisyphus butt.

KD

December 23rd, 2009
4:48 pm

Hey Justin, I had to blog somewhere, because under the Vick story there wasn’t any place to blog. So I just had to voice my opinion because I thought it showed a lot of class on the Eagles behalf. NOT !!!!!!!!!!!!

J-Bro

December 23rd, 2009
4:51 pm

Man, I hated Jim Mora…