Friday, September 17, 2010

Canon Review List-A-Mania: Top Ten Quarterbacks in Atlanta Falcons History

As a long suffering fan of the Atlanta Falcons, I have seen many a quarterback pass through the franchise over the years. Whether they were tall or short, fast or slow, talented or untalented, the one thing that these men have in common is that they played quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, and more than likely they have been a major disappointment at one point or another in their Falcons' careers. Today, the Falcons seem set at the quarterback position with Matt Ryan, but you never know when injury or involvement in a dog-fighting ring will change plans. For now, Ryan is the man, but I was wondering where Ryan would rank amongst Falcons quarterbacks all-time, and just who are the top quarterbacks in Falcons history. So, I've decided to rank the top 10 quarterbacks in Atlanta Falcons history, according to The Canon Review.

10. Wade Wilson (Falcons Career: 1992) - Wilson only played one year and started three games, which tells you all you need to know about the history of Falcons quarterbacks. Seriously though, among quarterbacks with more than 100 passes, Wilson has the highest QB rating in franchise history (110.1). Yes, he started only three games, but in each of those three games, Wilson threw for over 300 yards, and threw for five touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wilson parlayed his success with the Falcons into a starting gig with the New Orelans Saints the next year, with mixed results, and spent the rest of his career as a backup for a variety of teams. But for three weeks in 1992, Wilson played like an All-Pro

9. Brett Favre (1991) - True, Brett only threw four passes for the Atlanta Falcons before partying himself into Jerry Glanville's doghouse and out of Atlanta. But Favre is the only quarterback on this list likely to sniff the Hall of Fame anytime soon, unless space aliens trick the voters into voting in Jeff George. Also, I didn't like any of the other choices, such as David Archer, Joey Harrington, and (not that) Randy Johnson. So Favre makes this list not for what he did in Atlanta, but for what he accomplished after the Falcons traded him for a draft pick that would turn into Tony Smith. If you don't know who Tony Smith is, than you are not alone.

8. Bobby Hebert (1993-1996) - Hebert is more remembered for his play with the New Orleans Saints, but for four years, Hebert played in Atlanta. During his Falcons stint, Hebert was selected for his only Pro Bowl in 1993, and in 1995, Hebert came off the bench after an injury to Jeff George and led the Falcons to victory over the San Francisco 49ers to clinch a playoff berth for the Falcons. Sure, Hebert went only 7-18 as a starter, but at least he had some success with the Falcons.

7. Bob Berry (1968-1972) - Berry went to three Super Bowls, as a backup quarterback for Fran Tarkenton with the Vikings. Before that, Berry was the Atlanta Falcons' first league-average quarterback. Berry was the Falcons' first Pro Bowl quarterback after being named to the game in 1969, although he only played half of the team's games that year. That makes me question the validity of that selection somewhat, even though Berry played well (10 TDs, 2 INTs) when he was in there, but I digress. From 1969-1972, Berry had the 2nd highest quarteback rating (81.6) of any quarterback in the NFL with a minimum of 500 attempts. That's a better rating than guys such as Namath, Tarkenton, Dawson, and Unitas put up during that time period. Not too bad, even if the Falcons had three losing seasons and a 7-7 season in that span.

6. Chris Miller (1987-1993) - Miller is 2nd in franchise history in passing yards, completions, and tied for second in touchdown passes. Miller led the Falcons to the playoffs in 1991, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns. Miller had an up-and-down career with the Falcons, as he, like every other quarterback on this list excluding one, played for some pretty lousy teams and couldn't lead them over the top. But Miller had his moments, and his five and a half seasons as the Falcons starting QB is the second longest stint in team history.

5. Jeff George (1994-1996) - George had a rocket of an arm and could make any throw on the field provided he had time to throw. Because of that, he seemed to be the ideal quarterback for June Jones' run and shoot offense. George had some success in Atlanta, including throwing for over 4,000 yards in 1995 and leading the Falcons to the playoff (although it was Hebert that clinched the spot in the last game, George did all the work beforehand). Things went well until 1996, when George and coach June Jones got into a public shouting match in a nationally televised game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and that would be all for George in Atlanta, where he became the most hated quarterback in team history until Michael Vick came along. But for a short time, it looked as if the ultra-talented, if hard-headed, George would one day become a star in Atlanta for a long time.

4. Matt Ryan (2008-) - Even after two years, Ryan is easily a top-5 quarterback in franchise history. For one, he's already done something that no other Falcons quarterback could do by leading the team the consecutive winning seasons, and although Sunday's game was a disappointment, chances are good that he will lead the Falcons to a third straight winning season and perhaps another playoff game. The 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year is 20-11 as a starter for the Falcons, and with a full season could rank amongst the top five all time in yards and touchdown passes in franchise history, which is somewhat sad if you think about it.

3. Michael Vick (2001-2006) - The most dynamic player in Falcons history, and the team's first true superstar. Vick had his share of ups and downs during his career in Atlanta. On one hand, he led the team to two playoff appearances and the 2004 NFC Championship Game, and also provided a boost to the offense with running skills not seen in an NFL quarterback since Randall Cunningham back in the day with the Eagles. In 2006, Vick became the first quarterback in NFL history to run for over 1,000 yards in a season, and the first quarterback to be photographed shooting his fans the bird after walking off the field. His passing skills were often criticized by the media and some of the fans, although in his favor, Vick only had one season where he threw more interceptions than touchdowns (2001), made three Pro Bowls, and went 38-28-1 as a starter. Chances are good that Vick would still be the Falcons' quarterback today if not for his involvement and funding in a dog-fighting ring which you might have heard about. But even so, Vick is still amongst the top quarterbacks in Falcons' history, and I may have actually underrated him by putting Vick at #3.

2. Chris Chandler (1997-2001) - Chandler had two great years and three not so great years with the Falcons, but he ranks number 2 on this list mainly because he was the only quarterback to lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl, which he accomplished during the 1998 season. During that season, Chandler put up a QB Rating of 100.9, threw for 3,154 yards and 25 touchdowns, and went 15-2 as a starter during the regular season and postseason. Chandler played in the Pro Bowl after the 1997 and 1998 seasons, and even though he couldn't repeat his success of '98, Chandler currently ranks third and passing yards and completions and tied for second and touchdowns, and his 87.4 rating is the highest amongst Falcons passers with more than 500 attempts.

1. Steve Bartkowski (1975-1985) - Our choice for top Falcons quarterback is the only man on this list that has had his number retired, and ranks first all time in Falcons' history in completions (1,871), passing yards (23,470), and touchdown passes (141). Bartkowski led the Falcons to three different playoff appearances (1978, 1980, 1982), led the league in touchdown passes in 1980 with 31, and in QB rating in 1983 with a 97.6 mark. The first pick in the 1975 NFL Draft, Bartkowski survived some rough patches early in his career, and in 1980 and 1981, was named to the Pro Bowl. Sure, one day Matt Ryan may take the top spot on this list, but for now, the clear choice for top quarterback in Falcons' history has got to be Bartkowski.

Well, thanks for reading. Remember, if you have any ideas for future reviews, or comments about this or previous reviews, then send them to me either by e-mail at or by leaving a comment on the blog.


  1. Awesome list, I also thought 1 and 2 would be Bartkowski and Chandler when I read the title.

    Now you should do the ten worst QB's in Falcons history. Would Doug Johnson make the list?

  2. Yes, I probably will make a list of the 10 worst Falcons QBs, more than likely sometime next week. Doug Johnson may not be the worst, but he's in the top five to be sure.