It's a very special day for the Atlanta Falcons. Today commemorates the 50th anniversary of NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle awarding the NFL's 15th franchise, which would become the team that we all know and love today, to the Falcons' very first owner, Rankin Smith. The team took its name from the winning entry in an essay contest. Julia Elliott, a schoolteacher from Griffin, Georgia, submitted the entry, stating, "The falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops its prey. It's deadly and has a great sporting tradition."
Since that time, the team has seen some very good times. The Grits Blitz defense in 1977 is still remembered for giving up incredibly few points. The 1998 season, and especially the NFC Championship win that secured the team's only Super Bowl bid to date is a memorable one. We'll never forget the pleasant surprise of 2008, when Matt Ryan looked like a fully functional NFL quarterback right off the bat, or the 2012 season, which culminated in a divisional playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks and very nearly saw the Falcons representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The team has also experienced plenty of rocky times. The franchise never posted consecutive winning seasons until 2009, and there were many moments between the time that the team took the field in 1966 and that season-ending win over the Bucs in 2009 that fans would probably prefer to forget. Fans could have done without Eugene Robinson's shenanigans the night before the Super Bowl. Michael Vick's arrest, the 2007 season in general, and Bobby Petrino sneaking out of town under cover of darkness weren't exactly shining moments in Falcons history. Hey, remember that time that the Falcons only scored two points in a playoff game against the Giants? Yeah.
Despite those ups and downs, many fans have been here since the very beginning, and those of us who have fallen in love with this team along the way aren't going anywhere, either. It feels appropriate that, as the team begins its next 50 years, it's truly a new era in Atlanta. We may not be as eager as fans were just happy to even have a local team to support back in 1965, but this is a very exciting time for Falcons fans as we all look forward to seeing what Dan Quinn can do with this team.
In honor of the Falcons' 50th birthday, share your favorite Falcons memory in the comments.