We're 3/4 of the way there! 75 is a pretty sweet number for the Falcons, including some players that I'm sure most fans on this board will recognize. Let's get to the players, and I'm afraid I have to start this one on a sad note.
Shane Dronett was a pretty bad man. He only spent 5.5 seasons with the team, but he racked up 22.5 sacks, 118 tackles, and 5 forced fumbles. He was part of a terrifying defense that played its way into the Super Bowl in 1998. Dronett's last season in football was 2003, although he started an unfortunate series of injuries starting in the year 2000, when he tore his ACL. He played one more season and then eventually was unable to stay healthy enough to play. Dronett had just signed a long term deal with the team in 2000.
If you're not aware, Shane Dronett committed suicide in 2009. It's understood that he, like so, so many other players, suffered from CTE, and it eventually drove him to a place I hope no one that reads this has to experience. He's survived by his wife, Chris, and their two children. He was 38.
At first glance, I thought Tony Casillas might be considered one of the worst first round picks the Falcons ever had, since he only played five seasons with the team. Upon further review, Tony Casillas's stats are really bizarre.
Drafted 2nd overall in 1986, Casillas was thought to be someone who could come in and anchor a defensive front that was in desperate need of some quality players. Over 5 seasons with the Falcons, Casillas - as a nose tackle, mind you - had 478 tackles. Four hundred and seventy-eight tackles, people. He had three separate seasons with at least 111 tackles. It should also come as no surprise that those were the three seasons in which he played all 16 games.
For a nose tackle, that is astounding. The only NTs I could think of to make a comparison in today's game were Haloti Ngata and Vince Wilfork. Only Wilfork, for his career (which spans 11+ seasons), had more total tackles AND assists individually than Casillas did tackles with the Falcons. And this is from a nose tackle! Dare I say THIS is a case where tackles matter!
He holds the franchise record for most tackles by a lineman.
It should be noted that in 1987, the season was shortened by a strike, and in 1990, Casillas held out in a contract dispute, which turned ugly. He eventually said he would retire instead of continuing to play and was eventually traded to the Cowboys, where he won two Super Bowls.
Buuuut Casillas doesn't win #75. So now we must move onward, ever closer to our champion.
The Roderick Coleman experience as an Atlanta Falcon was brief, but it was awesome. Coleman was a Raiders 5th round pick out of East Carolina University in 1999. He signed with the Falcons in 2004 and had four solid years with the team. His 2004 season was incredible. Coleman had 11.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and a 39 yard pick six. Yes, Rod Coleman had a pick six. The cherry on top is that he wasn't even a Pro Bowl player that year (He was in 2005, but that year wasn't quite as good)
Coleman was released by the Falcons in 2008 after having an injury plagued 2007 year. The Saints gave him a whirl in 2009, but he didn't make the final roster.
Chris Hinton was a very good lineman for several teams. Unfortunately for him, he carries the cloud of "The guy the Colts had instead of Elway". In 1983, you may recall that John Elway gave the cold shoulder to the Colts (You could even say he gave them the....Colt shoulder. HAHAHA you all know you laughed) and the Broncos swooped in to save the day.
Hinton landed with the Colts and earned six Pro Bowls in seven seasons before coming to the Falcons and earning a seventh Pro Bowl berth across his four seasons with the team. In those four seasons, Hinton only missed a single game and started 60 of 63 games for the team.
Hinton also owns several wine stores, one of which just opened in Alpharetta. Here's his website! It's called Hinton's Wine Store; some of you have probably seen it. It's owned by this guy.
I originally had this guy as the winner, but when I looked at it a little more closely, I made a surprising discovery. I'll get to that in a moment.
Jeff Merrow was an 11th round pick of the Falcons in the 1975 draft. You might recognize the names Steve Bartkowski and Fulton Kuykendall from that same draft. Merrow played all nine seasons with the Falcons, starting 101 games and playing in 108. Unfortunately, statistics weren't quite as important back in those days, and all he has to his name are 5.5 sacks. Hard to base a player's worth based on that.
He currently lives in Buford, GA and owns a truck lift company.
You might also recognize his son, Thor Merrow, who spent a portion of the 2011 season with us. I think he was cut in the preseason.
And last, but certainly not least, let's get to your winner!
George Kunz was an incredible offensive lineman. In a nine-year span, Kunz received 8 Pro Bowls and 5 All-Pro nominations (3 First team, 2 Second team). Unfortunately, he spent only half of his career with the Falcons. He spent the other half of his career with the Colts.
Kunz was the second overall pick in the 1969 draft. Unfortunately for him, it was a pretty awful time to be a Falcon, but Kunz stuck it out and earned some notable recognition for it. Also unfortunately for him, his last season with the team was 1974, the year before we picked Bartkowski. He was probably sick of losing and wanted to go elsewhere. Who could blame him? Sure would've been nice to have a lineman of Kunz's caliber on the team though!
If you pull up Kunz and compare him to Merrow, you'll note that Kunz has a lower AV than Merrow as a Falcon, so why did he beat out Merrow?
On Pro Football Reference, they have a thing called the Fan ELORater, which is a little game you can play where you see two players side by side and pick whichever of the two you think had a better career. Merrow isn't (to my knowledge) considered a good enough player to have a listing on that game.
However, George Kunz's ranking of his lifetime achievements happened to be 286th overall, nestled safely in between two gentlemen by the names of Drew Bledsoe and Randy Moss.
If this guy was comparable in greatness to those two, I think the answer is simple.
Some other names to wear #75 on the team: Garrett Reynolds, Irv Eatman, Dwight Bingham, Jon Asamoah (current), Ed Cook, Simon Fraser, Roy Harris, Bob Hughes, and Lincoln Kennedy.
Your thoughts, memories on some of the players to wear #75?