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Former Falcons make list of Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2024 semifinalists

Two coaches, a general manager, and several players highlight a worthy list.

Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Giants - November 9, 2003 Photo by Tom Berg/Getty Images

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has cut down a list of 60 semifinalists for senior players, coaches, and contributors for the 2024 class. Happily, there are a handful of Atlanta Falcons who have made that list and have at least an outside shot of landing in the Hall of Fame.

A year ago, many of these players and coaches made this list, so we’ll hope at least one or two of these worthy candidates actually make it to Canton in 2023. Let’s take a look at who made it this far and might continue on during the next round of cut-downs for the Class of 2024.

Mike Kenn

We’ve written about the reasons why Kenn belongs in the Hall of Fame many times in an attempt to help push him in to Canton, and we’ll keep that torch burning.

As I’ve written before, Kenn is one of the better and more durable tackles in NFL history, having played more games for the Falcons than any other player, starting in 17 straight seasons, making the Pro Bowl five times, and being named an All-Pro once. Only three offensive linemen in NFL history appeared in more games than Kenn, a testament to his iron man nature. Only Lomas Brown played more games than Kenn and isn’t in the Hall of Fame, an injustice in its own right given that he also was a tremendous player.

Kenn belongs with the NFL’s all-time greats, arguably more than any other man on this list. I hope this is the year.

Tommy Nobis

Nobis played for some truly putrid Falcons teams, but he was as feared and respected a linebacker as you could find in the league in his era. The fact that his statistics seem modest given the modest tracking of the era and he played for such awful teams have hurt his case, but his peers thought he was one of the best linebackers of his era, and they saw him play first-hand. Remember, Hall of Famer running back Larry Csonka once remarking that he’d rather face fellow Hall of Famer Dick Butkus than Nobis.

The linebacker dubbed Mr. Falcon was the original franchise great, and as biased as my viewpoint might be, I think he ought to make the Hall as well as Kenn.

Billy “White Shoes” Johnson

Johnson pioneered some great end zone dances, was one of the NFL’s original great returners, and is a Falcon legend. His speed and shiftiness made him incredibly dangerous on special teams and helped pave the way for many legendary returners to come, and was a useful receiving threat in his own right. That outsized impact on the game should make him

George Kunz

Another truly great, somewhat forgotten offensive lineman. He spent 12 seasons in the NFL between the Falcons and Colts and mauled people despite clocking in at under 260 pounds, managing seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro nods in his career. One of my favorite footnotes is that he was traded for the #1 pick that became Steve Bartkowski, a team record holder for most passing categories until Matt Ryan obliterated them all.

Chris Hinton

The same Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods as Kunz, and the reverse path that Kunz took, as Hinton went from the Colts to the Falcons instead of vice versa. Tremendous at both tackle and guard over 13 NFL seasons, Hinton was one of the most underrated players of his generation and a worthy Hall pick.

Another fun tidbit: The Colts chose to trade him and Andre Rison to the Falcons for the pick that became Jeff George, who is probably as well-known for his Falcons stint as he is for his work in Indianapolis.

Clay Matthews Jr.

I’ll echo last year’s writeup: You probably knows Matthews’ son, the former Packers great Clay Matthews III, as well or better than you know Matthews Jr. The longtime Cleveland Brown was nonetheless a truly great linebacker, piling up four Pro Bowl berths, two All-Pro nods, plus nearly 1,600 tackles to go with nearly 70 sacks and 18 interceptions. Matthews remains the oldest player ever to get a sack in NFL history with the Falcons, managing to snag one as a full-time starter for the team at 40 years old in 1995. His career began in 1978.

Dan Reeves

Unless you became a fan in the post-Michael Vick era, you know Dan Reeves. Arguably the team’s greatest coach, he piloted the Falcons to one of their two Super Bowl berths in 1998, and was instrumental to Vick’s early development with the team.

He won a Super Bowl ring as an assistant with the Cowboys and achieved success with both the Giants and Broncos, as well, and turned in an eight year career as a player. For his all-around contributions, he seems very likely to land in the Hall of Fame sooner than later.

Rich McKay

In the contributor category, we have McKay, a man who the fanbase has been sharply divided on for many years. The son of NFL legend John McKay, Rich oversaw some great Tampa Bay teams as their general manager before hopping over to Atlanta and bringing in minor Falcons legends like Justin Blalock, Jerious Norwood, and Matt Schaub, as well as all-time greats like Roddy White and Jonathan Babineaux. After an otherwise mixed run, he was succeeded by Thomas Dimitroff as general manager, and has contributed to climb the organizational ladder as Arthur Blank’s right hand man. He oversaw negotiations for the construction of both Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay and Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, and has been on the league’s Competition Committee for 27 years. His nomination is less about what he did for the Falcons than what he’s done for the league over the past three decades, and I suspect he’ll eventually get the nod.

The most disappointing omission continues to be Jessie Tuggle, a Falcon great who has a strong case as an all-time great at linebacker. Tuggle is my favorite player ever—bias disclosed—but also is fourth in tackles per Pro Football Reference since 1987, has two of the top three combined tackle seasons all-time, and was a feared playmaker and tonesetter for some terrific Falcons defenses in the 1990s. I’d love to see him garner serious consideration down the line.

Still, this is a list of people who have contributed to NFL history in ways both large and small, as well as some truly great Falcons. I sincerely hope we see many of them make it, starting with Kenn, Nobis, and Reeves.