Good news! A lot of familiar faces will be on display at Super Bowl LIV. The bad news is those people left the Falcons. We can cheer on our team’s alumni through the disappointment that has been every minute since the third quarter of Super Bowl LI.
If the Super Bowl reference felt bad, just know that will be a major talking point for the next two weeks. It is also guaranteed to get dozens of mentions during the Super Bowl itself. And the reason is because of one of the Falcons alums.
Kyle Shanahan, the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was both the reason for Atlanta’s prolific 2016 season and its abrupt end. Since this will be Shanahan’s first return to the championship game, there will be questions if he can close out a game and not repeat one of the worst losses in NFL history.
With Shanahan leaving, the Falcons opted against holding onto any of the offensive assistants. Shanahan brought Mike LaFleur, formerly Atlanta’s offensive assistant, and Mike McDaniel, another former offensive assistant.
All those offensive minds have brought a number of former Falcons to the Bay area. The biggest name may be Tevin Coleman, an instrumental piece to Atlanta’s Super Bowl run but has since been an inconsistent role player. He finished the NFC Championship game with a tough arm/shoulder injury so it is unclear if he will play in the Super Bowl.
More surprising has been the ongoing success of both Mike Person and Ben Garland, starters along San Francisco’s stout offensive line. Garland at one time played defensive tackle and sacked Russell Wilson for a safety, then moved to guard where he battled inconsistency.
Person, a guard free agent, was shockingly moved to center at the start of the 2015 season. He was always a solid blocker but did not transition to snapping well. Atlanta may have moved on too soon from Person, especially considering their lackluster guard situation.
Not good enough for the Falcons, both blockers are a major reason San Francisco has developed into a crushing, unstoppable running offense.
Most surprising is definitely Levine Toilolo. He finished the year with a career low in catches (2) but has been a part of blocking in the run game. He spent five years in Atlanta, even signing a short-lived contract extension after the Super Bowl.
The Kansas City Chiefs have no Falcons connections.