Jump to content

Atlanta Falcons: Top 5 Rbs Of All Time


Recommended Posts

The Atlanta Falcons have had some very strong running backs play for the team in its 50 year existence as an NFL franchise. Normally when the Falcons are able to run the football with authority, Atlanta isn’t all that far away from contending for a playoff berth. In my opinion, the Atlanta Falcons play their best football when the run opens up the pass, not vice versa.

Since Grits Blitz of the late 70’s, the Atlanta Falcons have never gone too long without have Pro Bowl caliber play from its running backs. From the late 1970’s to the present, Atlanta Falcons fans have almost always had a feature back that they can believe in. 1,000 yard rushers just have a way of thriving in Atlanta. While there are certainly many who deserve recognition for their play in Atlanta, five Falcons tailbacks were simply better than the rest.

This was a difficult task for me to compile the Top 5 running backs in Atlanta Falcons franchise history, but I think I’m as close to right as I think I will ever be. Without further ado, here are the five best tailbacks to ever play for the Atlanta Falcons.

Number 5. Jamal Anderson:

There was not a more special year for the Atlanta Falcons than 14-2 1998 NFC Championship Season. I became a diehard Atlanta Falcons fan, doing the Dirty Bird everywhere I went. As a 3rd grader in suburban Atlanta, there was not a cooler guy than Atlanta Falcons RB Jamal Anderson.

Anderson’s 1998 Season was one of the best I’ve ever seen as from an NFL tailback. Jamal Anderson was unstoppable for the Atlanta Falcons that fall, setting a franchise record of 410 carries, rushing for 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to his only Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.

In retrospect, Jamal Anderson literally carried the Falcons to their only Super Bowl berth in 1998. He introduced the Atlanta Falcons franchise to a new generation of football fans. The Dirty Birds as that ’98 team called themselves started out as a premeditated touchdown dance that Anderson started. It was the 1990’s version of the Ickey Shuffle only with a Dirty South twist.

Though Jamal had four 1,000 yards seasons with the Falcons, he never equated the success of his 1998 campaign. A horrible knee injury the following year shortened his prime NFL years significantly. In his 8 year NFL career solely with the Atlanta Falcons, Jamal Anderson rushed for 5,336 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was also a reliable receiving target out the backfield with 156 career receptions for 1,645 yards and 7 scores.

While his 1998 season was one of the greatest ever by an NFL running back, there are other Atlanta Falcons RB’s that have had more consistent success with the franchise. It’s up in the air if Anderson will earn recognition in the Falcons Ring of Honor, but the Falcons faithful will always think fondly of what Jamal Anderson did for our team back in 1998.

Number 4. Warrick Dunn:

Warrick Dunn had a strong six years with the Atlanta Falcons as the team’s starting running back (2002-2007). As part of the DVD rushing attack (Dunn, QB Michael Vick, and RB TJ Duckett), Dunn helped get the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs twice in 2002 and 2004. He earned a Pro Bowl selection for the Dirty Birds in 2005 with 1,416 yard rushing season.

With the Falcons, Dunn was the lightning to Duckett’s thunder in the Atlanta backfield. As an Atlanta Falcon, Dunn rushed for 5,981 yards and 30 touchdowns, including three straight 1,000 yard campaigns from 2004-2006. Like Jamal Anderson, Dunn factored into the passing game as a capable checkdown receiver: 204 receptions for 1,635 yards and 6 scores.

Dunn was a special player for former HC’s Dan Reeves and Jim Mora. If you combine his six other NFL seasons all with NFC South rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Warrick Dunn has a strong case for potential enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio (10,967 yards, 49 touchdowns and 3 Pro Bowl Selections [1997, 2000, and 2005]).

What hurts Dunn the most with his Atlanta Falcons legacy is that he shared the spotlight with Michael Vick and TJ Duckett in the Atlanta rushing attack for so many years. And then you have to ask yourself, was Dunn better with the Atlanta Falcons or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? I would like to believe that there is a spot for Warrick in the Falcons Ring of Honor someday, but he’s just not a shoe-in on the Atlanta Falcons RB Mount Rushmore. I still loved the DVD Atlanta Falcons very much though.

Number 3. Gerald Riggs:

I can’t believe Gerald Riggs is only third on this list. Riggs went to three consecutive Pro Bowls as an Atlanta Falcon. He had three 1,000 rushing seasons. Gerald Riggs also rushed for more yards any running back to ever play for the Atlanta Falcons. His 6,631 career yards in 7 seasons with Atlanta has stood as the franchise mark since Riggs joined the Washington Redskins in 1989.

Gerald Riggs was a first-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons back in 1982, when Atlanta took him 9th overall out of Arizona State. In his prime (1984-1988), Riggs was an obvious starting running back for the Falcons, starting 66 games over that five-year stretch. His rushing totals from ’84 to ’86 are astonishing: 1,486, 1,719, and 1,327. Riggs also averaged 72.9 yards per game with Falcons, scoring 48 career rushing touchdowns.

But what hurts Riggs’ legacy to me is that not one of his Atlanta Falcons teams made the playoffs when he was the featured back. He was sparingly used in the 1982 campaign. Though he accumulated many yards and franchise records for the Atlanta Falcons during his tenure with the team, he never once led our team to the playoffs.

Playoff criticism aside, Gerald Riggs’ franchise rushing record has stood for over 25 years and unless Devonta Freeman or Tevin Coleman are Pro Bowl caliber backs the next five seasons, I see Riggs’ record standing at least through 2020. Any time you can claim a franchise record for over 30 years, you’ve done something truly special.

Number 2. Michael Turner:

When Michael “The Burner” Turner came to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 Offseason from the San Diego Chargers, I just knew that big and powerful things were on the horizon. I remember The Burner dominating the Mid-American Conference in college while at Northern Illinois. While Turner was with the Chargers, he backed up one of the all-time great running backs in LaDainian Tomlinson. After being lightly used in his first four NFL seasons with San Diego, Michael Turner a monstrous 2008 campaign with the Atlanta Falcons.

Along with rookie QB Matt Ryan and fourth-year WR Roddy White, Atlanta got back into the playoffs after arguably the worst season in Atlanta Falcons football, The 2007 Bobby Petrino Lost Year. Turner not only went to the his first Pro Bowl in 2008, but was First-Team All-Pro RB and finished 2nd in MVP voting. In 2008, Turner rushed for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging an amazing 106.2 yards per game.

Turner made another Pro Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons in 2010 and rushed for over 1,000 yards two more times in his five-year stint with the Dirty Birds. After a down 2012 season, Turner quickly found himself out of the NFL. In his five seasons with the Falcons, Turner set a franchise record for most rushing touchdowns with 60 and finished second all-time in yards rushing with 6,081, behind only Gerald Riggs.

Michael Turner will likely receive a Ring of Honor designation with the Atlanta Falcons in the next couple of seasons. But perhaps what I will remember the most about Michael Turner’s time in Atlanta was that he was a winner. Every Falcons team he played for won at least 9 games, making the playoffs four times, and winning the NFC South twice. No other Falcons running back played during a better stretch of Atlanta football (2008-12) and Michael “The Burner” was a major reason for Atlanta’s success when I was in college.

Number 1. William Andrews:

From what I’m told by older Atlanta Falcons fans than I, William Andrews was out of this world talented. A local product from Thomasville, GA played his college ball at nearby Auburn. Andrews had five absolutely remarkable years with the Atlanta Falcons.

From 1979 to 1983, William Andrews rushed for 5,772 yards in only 72 games. Keep in mind that the 1982 NFL Season was a shortened one due to a labor strike, resulting in just 9 regular season games. He made it to four straight Pro Bowls from 1980 to 1983, leading the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs both in 1980 and 1982.

Andrews was also a strong receiving threat out of the backfield with 277 career receptions for 2,647 yards and 11 scores. Twice in his career William Andrews achieved over 2,000 all-purpose yards in a season (1981 and 1983). And then in his prime, the unthinkable happened.

During the preseason leading up to the 1984 campaign, William Andrews suffered a debilitating knee injury that kept him sidelined for both the 1984 and 1985 seasons. He made a comeback as a tight end for the Falcons in 1986 before hanging up the spikes for good at the age of 31. Had this preseason knee injury not occurred, Andrews might have rushed for over 10,000 yards for the Atlanta Falcons.

It’s that allure of what could have been with William Andrews that adds to the legend of arguably the greatest Atlanta Falcons RB of all time. Andrews was part of the inaugural Ring of Honor Class of 2004. His 5,986 career rushing yards and 30 career touchdowns almost don’t even do him justice to just how talented William Andrews was pre-knee injury. Oh, what could have been…

http://atlallday.com/2015/07/09/atlanta-falcons-top-5-rbs-of-all-time/6/

Edited by FentayeJones
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 76
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

I wasn't a Falcon for Andrews and Riggs, but I was here for the other three. I agree 100%. From what I hear about Andrews and the way guys are always looking for him.

Andrews was Bo Jackson before Bo Jackson. Dude could do it all and was doing it better than just about anyone else. I was very young but man, I loved watching him play...

Link to post
Share on other sites

When Madden quite coaching and starting announcing Monday night football.

He was announcing a Falcon's game and told his co-host (Don Meredith???)

"if I had to start a new team and I had my choice of just 1 player it would be William Andrews"

I know there were a lot of other RBs and I do not remember most of them.

But here are the few that do stick with me for different reasons

Dave Hampton--- his relentless quest for 1000 yds ---finally paid off

Cannonball Butler---good RB in the early years

Harman Wages--his pestering the coach to be in the game--he was just an average RB

Link to post
Share on other sites

Those are the five that I thought of when I saw the thread title. I enjoyed watching Andrews, Turner, and Dunn the most. Andrews was the whole schmeer, IMO. Dunn was quick and had good hands and I thought he was exciting. And Turner was a bowling ball who only needed a clean hole before it was going to take a gang tackle to bring him down in the second level. I hope we will be able to debate this list in three years.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great list - spot on!

I am one of those who will always have the "What If?" syndrome over William Andrews. He was my favorite player in the history of the Falcons - and I was devastated when he got hurt.

I always felt that if he had finished his career, he would have been an absolute shoe-in for the HOF!

The guy wasn't just a great running back and a great receiver, he was brutal. He ran through and over them more than around them. I loved watching him play - and I'll always have great memories of those games because of him.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The play above (Andrews 86 yard TD on 3rd and 16) is my favorite non-playoff Falcons play. The whole world knew we would "punt" to the dump off. The DB is broken down in perfect position. William Andrews blows him up then sprints past 3 other Broncos before they could trap him against the boundary. Where do you see a man with that size, power, and above average speed? Wow.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The play above (Andrews 86 yard TD on 3rd and 16) is my favorite non-playoff Falcons play. The whole world knew we would "punt" to the dump off. The DB is broken down in perfect position. William Andrews blows him up then sprints past 3 other Broncos before they could trap him against the boundary. Where do you see a man with that size, power, and above average speed? Wow.

there are two things in that play that always stood out to me, other than the perfect call, the perfect pass and WA31 lowering the shoulder and the BOOM on Steve Wilson

#1. Watch Alfred Jackson, dude was so caught up and in awe, watching him plow over Wilson, he forgot to block anybody HA

#2. This team was just that, a TEAM -----notice at the end #50 running out there on the field to congratulate him? That was Buddy Curry, ONE of the all time best Falcon LB's to play, man that red head could lay somebody out! But the point was, the defense and offense congratulated each other....wasn't much of one team sitting around not watching what the other half of the team was doing like you see so much of in todays game

Link to post
Share on other sites

The play above (Andrews 86 yard TD on 3rd and 16) is my favorite non-playoff Falcons play. The whole world knew we would "punt" to the dump off. The DB is broken down in perfect position. William Andrews blows him up then sprints past 3 other Broncos before they could trap him against the boundary. Where do you see a man with that size, power, and above average speed? Wow.

It was one of my favorite plays. The one below is also one of my all-time favorites.

vnd3xD.gif

Link to post
Share on other sites

It was one of my favorite plays. The one below is also one of my all-time favorites.

vnd3xD.gif

As beatin play. Broke two tackles and gave Pat Thomas a free six yard ride.

Then Thomas got wiped by his own player and popped by Roddy and Mud Duck.

Turner breaks two more tackles, threw Sackmaker and Jenkins to the sideline and gained 40 explosive yards.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Turner's first year was among my favorite individual, season-long performances in any sport. The guy just could not be brought down.

It is amazing what professional athletes with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove to their peers can accomplish. He was truly a man on a mission. His attitude all season was LT who?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Andrews was Bo Jackson before Bo Jackson. Dude could do it all and was doing it better than just about anyone else. I was very young but man, I loved watching him play...

Actually, a better comparison would be Walter Payton. Both were pure football players. Fantastic runners, incredible receiving threats, and punishing blockers.

The only difference is that Andrews often did it all better than "Sweetness" until his knee injury. He simply labored in obscurity in forgotten Atlanta, instead of playing for the overhyped, overblown Chicago Bears. Payton scored more TD's than Andrews in their primes, because Sweetness was the only offense Chicago had; Andrews had more talent around him, produced more yards on fewer total touches, but other weapons leeched some of Andrews' TD opportunities.

If I had to choose one RB in all the NFL's long history to build an offense around while in their prime, it would be William Andrews, hands down.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, a better comparison would be Walter Payton. Both were pure football players. Fantastic runners, incredible receiving threats, and punishing blockers.

The only difference is that Andrews often did it all better than "Sweetness" until his knee injury. He simply labored in obscurity in forgotten Atlanta, instead of playing for the overhyped, overblown Chicago Bears. Payton scored more TD's than Andrews in their primes, because Sweetness was the only offense Chicago had; Andrews had more talent around him, produced more yards on fewer total touches, but other weapons leeched some of Andrews' TD opportunities.

If I had to choose one RB in all the NFL's long history to build an offense around while in their prime, it would be William Andrews, hands down.

You wouldn't even consider AP or Sanders eh? I mean, you said it, Andrews had a great team around him - neither of them really did/do. But Andrews is ridiculous either way.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...