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Falcons Uniform History #76: Salute to Mike Gann

The number 76 features several promising players that either underwhelmed or decided to sign with another team.

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As the uniform history list continues into the seventies, the talent level usually increases given the popularity of these numbers. The number 76 is a rare exception in Falcons history. Unfortunately, this number consists of players who never played up to expectations or decided to sign elsewhere. There are no standout players on this list, although it does feature a former top ten pick and a left tackle, who was paid handsomely after two good seasons. Here are the players that wore number 76 for the Atlanta Falcons.

LG: Chris Banks

It was a brief career for the one-time Super Bowl champion. Banks was selected in the seventh round of the 1996 draft. He was fortunate enough to start playing regular season games in 1998, when Denver repeated as Super Bowl champions. The former Kansas Jayhawk was a backup throughout his career. Atlanta signed him in 2000 for one season. Banks was underwhelming as a fill-in starter during a four-game stint. No other team signed him following that season.

RT: Antone Davis

The former top-ten pick has become one of the more forgotten busts over the past 25 years. Philadelphia selected him with the eighth pick in the 1991 draft. Despite starting nearly every game for Philadelphia, Davis struggled heavily in pass protection and was benched on multiple occasions. The coaching staff tried to convert him into a left guard in attempting to salvage his career. That failed to generate any positive results. Davis wasn't re-signed after the 1995 season, which led to Atlanta signing him for a short-term deal

Davis struggled with ankle injuries throughout his first season in Atlanta. The coaching staff still thrusted him into a starting role, which came back to haunt them. Davis proved to be a liability once again and was benched by week four of the 1997 season. He was waived shortly afterwards and tried to salvage his career with Green Bay. His career ended through being released by the Packers before training camp began in 1999. The one-time All-American never lived up to lofty expectations.

DE: Mike Gann

Gann joins a short list of players that played for the Falcons during their entire career. The former second round pick played nine seasons in Atlanta, along with starting every game. Although he wasn't a prolific pass-rusher, Gann was relentless and developed into an adequate three-down lineman. He quickly became a fan favorite amongst Falcon fans for his work ethic.

During the franchise's struggles of the late 1980's, fans were looking for any player to appreciate on a weekly basis. Unfortunately for Gann, his body started to break down by 1991. After only playing 26 out of a possible 48 games between 1991 and 1993, Atlanta couldn't re-sign such an injury prone player. Gann's career ended in 1993 to conclude a respectable career.

RT: Lamar Holmes

Not many players have been chastised over the past three years quite like Holmes. The former third-round pick has been overmatched throughout his entire career. After not playing in 2012, Holmes was given full reigns to start at right tackle in 2013. It was a role that he wasn't capable of fulfilling as a full-time starter. From admitting to being out of shape during the regular season and finishing 77th out of 78 tackles in Pro Football Focus' rankings, the decision to start Holmes without any legitimate competition was an insufferable personnel decision.

Multiple severe foot injuries have plagued his development over the past two years. The former Golden Eagle may lose his roster spot, due to not being able to compete during training camp. It's been well documented that Kyle Shanahan's zone blocking scheme isn't an ideal fit for him. Despite dropping 20 pounds in the off-season, Holmes may not have another opportunity to salvage his career in Atlanta.

LT/RG: Quinn Ojinnaka

Despite only starting 12 games in four years with Atlanta, Ojinnaka is one of the better players on this list. The versatile offensive lineman provided solid depth on multiple occasions. In 2007, the former fifth round pick replaced Wayne Gandy at left tackle. In 2009, Ojinnaka replaced Harvey Dahl at right guard. He wasn't anywhere close to a standout at either position. His performances did prove his worth as a capable backup though.

New England agreed with that sentiment and traded for him in 2010. Ojinnaka bounced around from New England, Indianapolis, and St. Louis within the next three seasons. His play slowly deteriorated, particularly as a run blocker. The breaking point during his career was from being benched for Shelley Smith at left guard in St. Louis. No other team signed him following his release from St. Louis, which had the worst offensive line at the time. Ojinnaka has now transitioned himself into becoming a pro wrestler for a promotion called Ring Of Honor. "Moose" has become one of the more popular independent wrestlers today.

RT: Jose Portilla

Portilla has a brief NFL career. After going un-drafted in the 1998 NFL draft, Atlanta signed the former Arizona Wildcat. Dan Reeves placed him as a backup right tackle, which he earned for his solid play from pre season. Portilla never developed into being a starting-caliber lineman and was released during the 2000 pre-season. While his NFL career was over, Portilla became a champion elsewhere. He started for the Los Angeles Xtreme in the illustrious XFL, along with helping them win the Million Dollar Game. The now defunct league lasted only one season, which led to the end of Portilla's career.

LT: Kevin Shaffer

Not many seventh round picks can claim to have signed a seven-year thirty five million dollar contract. Shaffer excelled in Alex Gibbs' zone-blocking scheme between 2004 and 2005. Run blocking was his strong suit, which played a key factor in the success of "DVD" (Dunn, Vick, Duckett). As Shaffer was entering his prime at 26 years old, his price tag continued to increase on the free agency market. Cleveland broke the bank for him, which ended up being a regrettable decision.

They quickly realized that Shaffer was an average pass-blocker at best. The power blocking scheme wasn't an ideal fit for him either. That being said, a left tackle being paid significantly should be able to play at a high-level under any blocking system. Cleveland moved him to right tackle in 2007, as Joe Thomas was being groomed as the franchise left tackle. By 2009, Shaffer was released for his mediocre play and hefty contract. Chicago signed him to a lower money deal, as they needed competition for their dreadful offensive line. Shaffer was unable to lock up a starting spot, which led to him being placed in a utility role for two seasons. Chicago released him in 2010, which marked the end of his career. The once promising left tackle ended up becoming a one-dimensional player.that couldn't flourish outside a zone-blocking scheme.

Final Verdict

On a list of players that couldn't play up to their potential, it seems wise to pick the player that was relatively consistent. Genn never put up gaudy numbers or will be remembered for being a difference maker. He was simply a dependable player that started for several seasons. No other player on this list can claim that accomplishment. Shaffer had two good seasons in Atlanta that were slightly blown out of proportion. Genn is the best number 76 in Falcons history, which doesn't seem to be changing anytime soon.