Welcome to Forgotten Falcons, a 2019 offseason series where we remember some quality players who have been largely forgotten by the fanbase over the years. Today, we’ll take a look back at a current radio personality and former receiver in Brian Finneran.
Time in Atlanta: 2000-2005, 2008-2010
Stats: 236 receptions, 3,072 yards, 19 touchdowns, 13.0 yards per reception, 31 tackles, 2 pass deflections, 2 forced fumbles, 5 punt returns, 9 yards, 5 kick returns, 47 yards
Chances are that you haven’t actually forgotten about Brian Finneran, given that he’s a fixture on local radio in Atlanta at 680 The Fan. But chances are pretty good you’ve largely forgotten about his career, which was a story of quality play, devastating injuries, and a surprising comeback. Let’s remedy that today.
Finneran’s career path is a familiar one to those who followed football in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when NFL Europe was a thing and the NFL had something resembling an actual minor league. Legends like Kurt Warner came out of that league, and so did Finneran, who was an All-Europe receiver for the Barcelona Dragons in 1999. That wound up earning him a short-lived look from the Philadelphia Eagles, and more importantly, it led to him latching on with the Falcons in 2000.
Finn would go on to play his entire career in Atlanta, and he was one of Michael Vick’s favorites in the early going. He put up a 23/491/3 slashline in 2001, a year that saw him average over 23 yards per reception, and followed that up with a career-best 2002 where he posted 56 receptions, 838 yards, and 6 touchdowns. His versatility was noteworthy from early on, as he factored in as a core special teamer and occasional returner from early on, but primarily he was a useful possession receiver who frequently surprised teams with his speed early on. His height made him a problem at times in the red zone, though he’ll never be quite as legendary in real life as he was briefly in Madden, because EA mistakenly listed him as 6’7” and he became the jump ball champion of the game.
Finneran would never get close to those numbers again, but he remained a damn useful player for years on a team lacking top-flight receiving options until a July 2006 knee injury robbed him of the next three years of his career. It’s difficult to understate just how huge of an impact that had on Finneran’s career, given that he was exactly the kind of player who due to his height, hands and special teams value might have played a decade straight without blinking minus that.
Despite the injuries, the Falcons held on to him and he wound up returning in 2008, serving as a useful reserve for the Matt Ryan-led Falcons through the 2010 season. He posted 51 receptions, 446 yards, and four touchdowns over the final three seasons of his career, becoming one of the few Falcons (alongside the likes of Jonathan Babineaux) who survived the series of regime chances in Atlanta and continued to contribute.
Finneran was never a foundational piece for Atlanta, but he was a fan favorite for several years because he was a talented receiver and useful special teamer for some of the best Falcons teams in recent memory. Again, chances are good you haven’t forgotten him because of his stint on local radio, but his career deserves a hat tip, especially those post-injury years where he clawed his way back to the Falcons after a three year absence.