Epic 88 shadow! (Kevin Cox/Getty)
Walk into the Falcons' Flowery Branch office building and immediately turn to the left. Ignore the statues of Falcons players lining up. Ignore the TV screens showing highlights and news from the league. Ignore the secretary, who has by now asked you how she can help you in a warm, comforting southern drawl. Just turn left.
Before you beckons a room that you will invariably spend the next hour in. It's a small area that is dedicated to every momentous occasion in Falcons history. You'll find a Tommy Nobis jersey, helmet, and pads from the 68-69 season; a timeline that starts in 1966 and ends at a Keith Brooking jersey, pants, pads, and helmet; a Super Bowl XXXIII game ball, a picture of the 1998 Falcons; the original NFL charter document awarding Rankin Smith an Atlanta franchise; and the most important piece of Falconillia to ever exist: the 1998 George Halas trophy. That one trophy, awarded to every NFC champion since the merger, represents the pinnacle of Falcons football. That's the highest accolade ever awarded to our beloved team.
We earned it with a field goal by a prolific kicker and a fourteen and two season, the greatest record ever by the boys in red and black. We earned it with a competent (if not lucky) defense. We earned it with a quarterback who worked with what he had. We earned it with a running back that refused to give up after initial contact. We earned it despite the head coach, revered at that time, forced to miss games in order to have open-heart surgery.
What will it take to get us back there? That's the question every Falcons fan has been both asking and attempting to answer ever since the Denver Broncos brought the world crashing in on the Dirty Birds. The George Halas trophy is the goal and has been since the Falcons first hoisted it in early 1999. You can argue that the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, but the George Halas trophy is the only way into that exclusive game. What does it take to get back there?
We have a quaterback that, though young, has shown heaping amounts of promise. We have a running back that walks upon tree trunks; a veritable Ent mowing over orcish defenders on his way to the end zone. We have a wide receiver that can catch just about anything when he so desires. We have the greatest tight end to ever play the game. We have a defense that's not so lucky and, though competent at times, not consistent enough. And that kicker situation...yeah. While the pieces are not yet in place for another George Halas trophy to take up residence in Flowery Branch's history room, if the fans' expectations and renewed sense of hope is any indication, Mr. Halas' move in date may come sooner rather than later.