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Forgotten Falcons: Bobby Hebert

The team’s perfect backup, and a player whose career perfectly encapsulates the futility of Falconsdom.

Atlanta Falcons v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Bobby Hebert is not the best quarterback to suit up for the Falcons. Bobby Hebert is also not the worst quarterback to suit up for the Falcons. He may very well be the most average quarterback ever to play for them, though, which makes his fun four year run in Atlanta worth remarking upon.

There are countless other reasons to do so, as well. A Baton Rouge native who grew up to play for his hometown team, the hated Saints, Hebert was a decent starter for 75 games in New Orleans, helping to pilot the team to a playoff berth in 1991 (where they unceremoniously lost to the Falcons) and winning a lot of games for them along the way. The Saints won 10 or more games four times while he was a part or full-time starter for them, making him one of the most successful players in team history up to that point. He was a good player, and when he left the Saints in 1993, he must have felt he had done everything he set out to do aside from winning a Super Bowl.

But we’re not interested in talking about the Saints doing well here. Let’s cover off on his four seasons in Atlanta, which ranged from fairly successful to gloriously awful.

Time in Atlanta: 1993-1996

Statistics as a Falcon: 25 games started, 7-18 record, 59.8% completion percentage, 7,053 yards, 50 touchdowns, 49 interceptions, 6.6 yards per attempt; 53 rushes, 150 yards, 1 touchdown

Hebert was coming off a solid 1992 season with the Saints, which led the Falcons to sign him as a bridge starter with only Billy Joe Tolliver and journeyman Bob Gagliano as competition. The good news was that Hebert wasn’t just better than Tolliver by a wide margin—the latter had thrown 5 touchdowns and 5 picks in 9 games the prior year—but he was so good he was actually selected for his first and only career Pro Bowl. In that one year, Hebert played in 14 games, threw 24 touchdown passes against 17 interceptions, and wound up third in the NFL in TD tosses and 13th in yards despite just 12 starts. Those numbers don’t look gaudy or even good today, but it was a very different era, and Hebert played admirably.

Unfortunately—and this is crucial—Hebert didn’t win many games. The Falcons went just 4-8 in his 12 starts due to the general crappiness of the roster, and with Jerry Glanville out the door following that season, June Jones showed up and wanted a different sort of quarterback. Jeff George would take over the starting reins in 1994 and would be the primary starter for the next three seasons, leaving Hebert to languish in bench duty. He would play 12 games combined in 1994-1995 but threw just 3 touchdowns versus 7 interceptions, aging his way out of the NFL.

Well, not quite. Jeff George got off to a so-so start in 1996 with a 3/3 TD:INT ratio, and a heated argument with June Jones got him suspended for the rest of the season. That left Hebert to start the final 13 games of the season at age 36, and he would ultimately make the team’s history books for the wrong reason. Hebert went just 3-10 in those 13 games, throwing a very respectable 22 touchdowns in Jamal Anderson’s debut season as a starter, but he also tossed a team record 25 interceptions, blowing by Steve Bartkowski’s 1981 23-pick campaign. Wisely, he would retire after that campaign, and has gone on to be inducted into both the Saints and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fames, as well as becoming Louisiana sports radio personality.

None of that takes the shine off his career in Atlanta, which featured a record-breaking campaign of interceptions and a Pro Bowl berth. In the end, his numbers were perfectly mediocre, but it’s fair to wonder what might have been for Hebert had Jeff George not supplanted him. Enough people have fond memories of the Hebert era that he made our list, so he must’ve done something right.