We’re in the dead period of football (you can read about how much I hate this period here), and with it, we don’t have much to talk about except for some speculation here and there.
I figured this would be a good time to look back on some moments in Falcons history and maybe relive them while we wait for football to come back.
That idea has given rise to a new series of “Throwback Thursday” articles I’m planning on writing throughout the dead period. Each week, we’ll re-live and discuss a certain moment in this franchise’s 52-year history.
You can find last week’s Throwback Thursday article, about “DVD” and that 2003 playoff win at Green Bay, here.
The Falcons had their window of contention unexpectedly open in the 2008 season after drafting quarterback Matt Ryan and signing running back Michael Turner, with star wide receiver Roddy White already on the roster.
A year later, General Manager Thomas Dimitroff added future hall of fame tight end Tony Gonzalez to that offensive arsenal. It all came together in a way in the 2010 season, when the Falcons went 13-3 and secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Unfortunately, the birds ended up getting trampled by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs that year.
With the window of contention more open than ever, Dimitroff went into the 2011 draft with his finger on the trigger, looking to trade up. He wanted the type of difference maker who isn’t usually available with the 26th pick, which is where Atlanta was drafting. Dimitroff’s sights were set on giving Ryan another weapon in the form of a star WR.
“Trader Thomas” worked the phones and made an audacious move on draft day. The Falcons traded their first-round pick in 2012, second-round pick in 2011, fourth-round pick in 2011 and fourth-round pick in 2012 in addition to the 26th overall pick to the Cleveland Browns in order to move up to the sixth selection. Reports later surfaced that Dimitroff offered that same package to the Cincinnati Bengals for the fourth selection in an attempt to draft star WR A.J. Green out of Georgia, but was rebuffed.
Atlanta ended up settling for Julio Jones, the star WR out of Alabama, and that ended up being an incredible consolation prize.
Jones started paying immediate dividends. After falling just shy of a 1000-yard receiving season in 13 games as a rookie, he made his first career Pro Bowl appearance in 2012, thanks to a season which saw him generate 1198 receiving yards and 10 TDs. Julio then led the league in receiving yards with 580 through five games before being lost for the season thanks to a foot injury in 2013.
The Alabama product achieved a new level of play following that injury-shortened year. He has made the Pro Bowl every season since then: four straight times from 2014 through 2017, securing at least 1400 receiving yards in every one of those years. Jones would be named a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2015 and 2016. He led the league with 136 catches and 1871 receiving yards (the second most ever in a single season) in 2015.
In the playoffs is when Julio has really shined. In eight career postseason games, he has 834 receiving yards and six touchdowns. In the two NFC Championship Games he’s played in (2013 vs. the San Francisco 49ers; 2017 vs. the Green Bay Packers), Jones has erupted for 362 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Julio Jones has played a vital part in Atlanta’s success since entering the league in 2011. In his seven seasons with the Falcons, Atlanta has made it to the playoffs four times and has won four playoff games. Jones was good enough to win Super Bowl 51 for the birds with one of the greatest catches you will ever see in your life, and it’s a shame that the Falcons couldn’t close it out after that moment of brilliance.
Julio is one of the greatest weapons in the NFL and remains poised to continue adding to his resume of Pro Bowl and All-Pro appearances over the next few years.
Julio Jones’ 95.3 receiving yards per game average for his career is the most in NFL history. His 9,054 career receiving yards is second in Atlanta Falcons history (Roddy White), and his 43 career receiving touchdowns rank fourth in franchise history. Jones will one day go down as the greatest wide receiver to ever put on a uniform for the Atlanta Falcons.
On the flip side of the coin, the Cleveland Browns got a haul for that sixth overall pick that became Julio in 2011. Unfortunately for them, they somehow blew that entire package of picks: they moved up from the 26th pick in 2011 to select DT Phil Taylor, the second-round pick from Atlanta that year ended up being WR Greg Little and FB Owen Marecic was taken with Atlanta’s fourth-rounder; they then used Atlanta’s fourth-round pick in 2012 to facilitate a 2012 trade-up for Trent Richardson in the first round and they used the Falcons’ 2012 first-round selection on QB Brandon Weeden.
At least the Browns managed to cut their losses with Richardson and trade him to the Colts for a first-round pick, which they then used to select QB Johnny Manziel. All of these players are either out of the league now, or barely hanging onto their 53-man roster spot. Julio Jones, meanwhile, is the best WR in football.
Expect these “Throwback Thursday” articles to be recurring throughout the offseason, to reminisce about the team’s history and to give us some stuff to talk about. Don’t expect them to go in order, however. The next one could look back on a moment that occurred in the 90s or even a few years ago. Between you and me, I’m just making it up as I go along.