So finally, here it is, my first interview with Falcons legend Jamal Anderson. We had a great discussion about the current team and the 98 team and below the cut you'll find the first part of our chat. Enjoy!
tloz: How different do you see it, nowadays? Is it all about the numbers now or is it more about the explosiveness? You look at the running backs like Adrian Peterson or Maurice Jones-Drew and they’re putting up sick numbers but their teams don’t really do much.
JA: Right. It’s very interesting. This is why I love this sport. First of all, it’s the only sport where you absolutely, positively have to have a cohesive unit of people moving in the same direction to be successful. There’s nothing else like football. Think of it this way; Alex Rodriguez could hit four home runs and the Yankees could win four, zero. Everybody else has to do their job, of course, in order for them to win, but it’s a one-on-one at the bat. Kobe Bryant, he can take over the course of a game and go seventy, eighty points, oh the Lakers are going to win because Kobe did eighty-one. The Lakers are going to win.
In this sport, you need everybody. You know, I always felt that, with my production for the Falcons, there was no doubt in my mind; if I had a hundred yards, we were going to win. It changes the whole mentality of the team. I will never forget it; Cornelius Bennett coming up to me and he was like "Yo man, you know what you do for everybody when you run like that, when you go out there and you be like that. Man, everybody picks up their game."
That, unfortunately, is not the type of player that Maurice Jones-Drew is right now. Love him, love what he brings to the table. It’s weird. It was the same way at UCLA. He produces extremely well, but does that ever transcend to victory? No. It’s essentially what makes people stars versus solid players. You look at his production and you say "wow!" but they don’t translate to wins. It’s really strange.
And I like him a lot though.
tloz: Oh, I love him. He’s a stand up guy and he’s great for my fantasy team.
JA: Yeah, exactly. He’s a heck of a guy, a good dude. Had the opportunity to be around him at some events. I did one of his games in college.
I think the numbers right now, we’re looking at a different time. When I first got into the league, a thousand yard season and you had a good season. Wasn’t great. You had a good season. You gotta have 1200 now. The numbers ebb and flow all the time. Look at Thomas Jones, a guy who just got [chuckle] no pun intended, jettisoned from the Jets. He had 1400 yards! I couldn’t even imagine getting released with 1400 yards. 1400 yards is a heck of a season! It’s something I couldn’t even imagine ten years ago.
tloz: Is there anything remarkably different between what you see in this [current] regime and the Dan Reeves era you were in?
JA: I think now the fans realize how good of a coach Dan was. I love Mike Smith. Had the opportunity to meet him; great direction [for the team]. What Dan brought to the table for us was a guy that had an immense knowledge of football and an unbelievable will to win. I think Mike Smith is that guy. I like Dimitroff a lot. I think that was a huge move.
I like where the Falcons are now. One thing I thought Arthur did an excellent job of doing, when he bought the team, a lot of people don’t know this, he sat down with me and said "Jamal, you’re the leader of this team. I want you to put together a committee of guys and let’s see how we can make it better for you guys." From the fan experience on down. I have tremendous respect for the [Rankin] Smith family. When we built that facility in Flowery Branch, there wasn’t even one player in any of the feelings. I was like "Dude, we’re going to spend our whole lives there!" Arthur came in and immediately addressed those things. I really do think it’s a much better experience for the fans now, than what it was before.
tloz: I spent the past season chronicling that fan experience because it was the first year I got to go to every game, the first year I got to spend time with Falcons fans for more than an hour or so at a time. Everything that they do there, Falcons landing, the promotion things, the halftime shows… There’s just no comparison. There just isn’t.