Seems ridiculous doesn't it? But if you look back not too long ago the Falcons nearly belonged to Jacksonville. It's not just the AEG mess in L.A. that brings this to mind. It's just my idea that if you're under 30 yrs. of age, you ain't seen bad Falcon football. Yeah, you've seen some bad football, but not the sustained, miserable, "Lord, we don't know nuthin' bout running a football team" brand of NFL ownership. I once heard the team owner, Rankin Smith, Sr. ask the Falcons radio "color" man (former Falcon punter, Billy Lothridge) if he wanted to coach the team after another horrific game (a 44-0 pasting by the Baltimore Colts. Live, on the radio. The Falcons had less than 200 total yards. It was 1968, a terrible year for the country and the fact that this sticks in my mind should tell you something)
By 1987 the Falcons had a cumulative record of 121-218-5 They'd finished above .500 in 3 seasons. There were three cities that were the "L.A." of the day back then, meaning cities that owners could use as a threat to move an NFL team. Phoenix and Jacksonville were the top two, Nashville the other. The team ticketed for Phoenix was the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles were then owned by Leonard Tose, who frankly was a degenerate gambler. His daughter Susan, was the first female NFL GM. No less than five (seemingly always the magic number) teams flirted with Jacksonville (New Orleans, Baltimore, Houston, St. Louis) but one committed, the Atlanta Falcons. Fans were thought to only like college football.
Why?Well the Falcons played in arguably one of the worst NFL Stadiums, Atlanta - Fulton County. The seats on the 50 yrd. line were some of the worst in the house. Neither the Braves or Falcons had a full time groundskeeper. The state legislature had refused to give the Falcons money to build the Georgia Dome until the Falcons were nearly gone. The package that the Falcons were slated to receive from Jacksonville? Between $115 - 175 million.
All of those cities (minus Jacksonville of course) received new stadiums (Houston and St. Louis after their teams had relocated)
The Five Smith's sold their team for $545 million. Leonard Tose sold his team to Norman Braman for $6 million dollars in 1992. Norman Braman sold that team in 1994 to Jeff Lurie for $194 million. Current worth of the Philadelphia Eagles? With a new stadium north of $1.3 billion. Now Jacksonville is on the brink of moving. Why? Well of course they only like ....college football.