50 Years of Falcons Quarterbacks

vintage-fal50 Years of Falcons Quarterbacks – A Statistical Retrospective

by Rick Woolbright ‘The Time is NOW’

Now that the NFL “dead zone” is truly upon us, and as we wait for training camp to begin later this month, it seems like a good time for a little Falcons nostalgia. Fifty years is a nice, aesthetically pleasing, sample size. Fifty seasons of football makes for a good time frame for reflection; a good time to stir memories of the team we rooted for in days gone by.

From Randy Johnson to Matt Ryan, the Atlanta Falcons have had 47 QB’s attempt a pass in an NFL regular season game. Hopefully, as we look back at these names, they will bring back memories of remarkable plays, both good and bad. We may remember other players, on both sides of the ball, from seasons past. We will remember moments of victory, and splashes of success, while we also recall the stretches of futility and disappointment inherent in any review of a franchise whose all-time record is 330-432-6, with only 12 playoff appearances; a franchise that notoriously failed to post consecutive winning seasons in the first 42 years of its existence. The truth hurts; but, this truth is necessary to our retrospective because it puts the following statistics in their proper historical perspective. Yet, we love our Falcons. Some people love to pull for the underdog. Falcons fans can sympathize with those who are so called. We love our Falcons not least for those periods, however brief, that the fan-base felt hope that maybe our befuddled franchise had finally turned the corner and were on their way to becoming a legitimate championship contender.

When I think of Randy Johnson, my mind is inexorably drawn to the Falcons other first round pick in 1966 – Tommy Nobis (who was selected #1 overall). Thinking, in turn, of Nobis, leads my mind to the great DE combo of Humphrey and Zook; which brings Rolland Lawrence to mind, and on and on it goes. How can a fan look back on Steve Bartkowskis’s career without also recalling William Andrews, and Lynn Cain, and Alfred Jenkins, and Big Ben? The “Grits Blitz” defense (as dubbed by local Atlanta radio personality Ludlow Porch in 1977) had its heyday during Bart’s career.

Unfortunately, many of the fans of the first NFL franchise located in the football hotbed of the deep south (I refuse to acknowledge, here, the other expansion franchise from 1966) are beginning to outlive their hope of ever seeing a Lombardi trophy hoisted on Peachtree. In Biblical times a generation was considered to last 40 years. The numbers of the remaining members of the first generation of Falcons fans are starting to dwindle. Yet, still, we few remain hopeful that we will witness an NFL Championship for the Atlanta Falcons in our lifetime. There are pieces to build around. The Falcons have a young, second year, defensive-minded, head coach in charge. While we hope for the success of the 2016 Falcons, let’s take a glance back at 50 years of Falcons quarterbacks.

(The source of all statistics was Pro-Football-Reference.com. Any errors are the responsibility of the author.)


The Players

The following quarterbacks have attempted at least one pass for the Atlanta Falcons in a regular season NFL game, listed in order of their first season with a pass attempt:

(1966) – Randy Johnson, Dennis Claridge, Steve Sloan; (1967) – Tommy Nofsinger; (1968) – Bob Berry, Bruce Lemmerman; (1971) – Dick Shiner, Leo Hart: (1972) – Pat Sullivan; (1973) – Bob Lee; (1974) – Kim McQuilken; (1975) – Steve Bartkowski; (1976) – Scott Hunter; (1978) – June Jones; (1979) – Mike Moroski; (1984) – David Archer; (1985) – Bob Holly; (1986) – Turk Schonert, Scott Campbell; (1987) – Erik Kramer, Chris Miller, Jeff Van Raaphorst; (1988) Steve Dils, Hugh Millen; (1991) – Billy Joe Tolliver, Brett Favre; (1992) – Wade Wilson; (1993) – Bobby Hebert; (1994) – Jeff George, Percy Klein; (1996) – Browning Nagle; (1997) – Chris Chandler, Tony Graziani; (1998) – Steve DeBerg; (1999) – Danny Kanell; (2000) – Doug Johnson; (2001) – Michael Vick; (2003) – Kurt Kittner, Woodrow Dantzler; (2004) – Matt Schaub; (2007) – Joey Harrington, Chris Redman, Byron Leftwich; (2008) – Matt Ryan; (2013) – Dominique Davis; (2014) – T.J. Yates; (2015) – Sean Renfree.

Of these 47 quarterbacks, 16 were originally drafted by the Falcons. Of the 16 Falcons QB draftees, only the 5 first round picks were starting quarterbacks for the Falcons for more than a handful of games. The five quarterbacks selected by the Falcons in the first round of the draft were:

Steve Bartkowski (1st round, #1 overall – 1975); Michael Vick (1st round, #1 overall – 2001); Matt Ryan (1st round, #3 overall – 2008); Chris Miller (1st round, #13 overall – 1987); and Randy Johnson (1st round, #16 overall – 1966).

The remainder of the Falcons starting quarterbacks have been either journeyman players or UDFA’s.


The Pro-Bowl QB’s

The obvious place to begin analyzing these 47 Falcons quarterbacks seems to be the QB’s who were selected to the Pro Bowl. Bob Berry was the first of the Falcons’ Pro Bowl quarterbacks, gracing the Pro Bowl roster in 1969. Berry would later combine with QB Dick Shiner (3-1 that year) to lead the Falcons to their first winning season in 1971.

bob-berry Bob Berry

Year*** Age*** Tm*** Pos*** No.*** G***** GS**** QBrec* Cmp*** Att**** Cmp%* Yds

1969***27**** ATL*** QB**** 17**** 7**** 7****** 4-3-0***71*****124***57.3***1087

TD**** TD%** Int**** Int%*** Lng*** Rate*** Sk**** Yds**** Sk%***4QC***GWD

10***** 8.1**** 2**** 1.6**** 88***** 106.5***31*****219****20.0

The second Falcons Pro Bowl quarterback was Steve Bartkowski in 1980, the year of the crushing playoff loss to the Cowboys. Bart went on to garner a second Pro Bowl nod in 1981.

bart Steve Bartkowski

Year*** Age*** Tm*** Pos*** No.*** G***** GS**** QBrec* Cmp*** Att**** Cmp%* Yds

1980*** 28*** ATL*** QB**** 10*** 16**** 16**** 12-4-0** 257*** 463**** 55.5*** 3544

1981*** 29*** ATL*** QB**** 10*** 16**** 16**** 7-9-0*** 297*** 533**** 55.7*** 3829

Year***TD**** TD%** Int**** Int%*** Lng*** Rate*** Sk**** Yds**** Sk%***4QC***GWD

1980** 31**** 6.7**** 16**** 3.5**** 81****  88.2**** 35**** 324**** 7.0**** 3**** 4

1981** 30**** 5.6**** 23**** 4.3**** 70****  79.2**** 37**** 287**** 6.5**** 1**** 1

Next up was Chris Miller for his 1991 performance that led to a two game playoff appearance. (Coincidentally, 1991 was Brett Favre’s one and only season as a Falcon.)

chris-miller Chris Miller

Year*** Age*** Tm*** Pos*** G***** GS**** QBrec* Cmp*** Att**** Cmp%* Yds

1991*   26****   ATL*   QB* * 15***   *14****   9-5-0* 220**  * 413****  53.3*   3103

TD**** TD%** Int**** Int%*** Lng*** Rate*** Sk**** Yds**** Sk%***4QC***GWD

26****   6.3**   18****   4.4***   80***   80.6**   23***   145****   5.3****   4****   5

In 1993, Bobby Hebert, the ex-Saint, was selected to the Pro Bowl as a Falcon.

bobby-hebert Bobby Hebert

Year*** Age*** Tm*** Pos*** G***** GS**** QBrec* Cmp*** Att**** Cmp%* Yds

1993**   33***   ATL*   QB**   14****   12****   4-8-0   263**   430****   61.2   2978

TD**** TD%** Int**** Int%*** Lng*** Rate*** Sk**** Yds**** Sk%***4QC***GWD

24****   5.6**   17****   4.0***   98***   84.0**   29***   190****   6.3****   1****   1

In 1997, Chris Chandler came to town and was selected to back to back Pro Bowls (1997, 1998). Of course, 1998 was the pinnacle season for the Falcons thus far, with the Dirty Birds winning the NFC Championship, before losing to the Broncos in Atlanta’s only Super Bowl appearance.

chris-chandler Chris Chandler

Year*** Age*** Tm*** Pos*** G***** GS**** QBrec* Cmp*** Att**** Cmp%* Yds

1997**   32***   ATL*   QB**   14****   14***   7-7-0*   202**   342****   59.1*   2692

1998**   3****   ATL*   QB**   14****   14**   13-1-0*   190**   327****   58.1*   3154

Year*** TD**** TD%** Int**** Int%*** Lng*** Rate*** Sk**** Yds**** Sk%***4QC***GWD

1997**   20***   5.8***   7****   2.0****   56***   95.1*   39****   261***   10.2***   1****   3

1998**   25***   7.6***   12***   3.7****   78**   100.9*   45****   283***   12.1***   3****   3

2002 marked the first Pro Bowl appearance for the young and electrifying Michael Vick. Vick was eventually selected to 3 Pro Bowls: 2002, 2004, and 2005. Vick led the Falcons to the playoffs in his first two Pro Bowl seasons. Because of Vick’s unique skill as a rusher, rushing stats are included.

vick Michael Vick

Year*** Age*** Tm*** Pos*** G***** GS**** QBrec* Cmp*** Att**** Cmp%* Yds

2002**   22**   ATL**   QB**   15***   15****   8-6-1*   231**   421***   54.9*   2936

2004**   24**   ATL**   QB**   15***   15***   11-4-0*   181**   321***   56.4*   2313

2005**   25**   ATL**   QB**   15***   15****   8-7-0*   214**   387***   55.3*   2412

Year*** TD**** TD%** Int**** Int%*** Lng*** Rate*** Sk**** Yds**** Sk%***4QC***GWD

2002**   16***   3.8***   8****   1.9***   74***   81.6**   33****   206***   7.3****   2****   2

2004**   14***   4.4**   12****   3.7***   62***   78.1**   46****   266**   12.5****   3****   4

2005**   15***   3.9**   13****   3.4***   58***   73.1**   33****   201***   7.9****   0****   1

Year****Rush****Yds****TD**** Lng

2002**   113****   777***   8****   46

2004**   120****   902***   3****   58

2005**   102****   597***   6****   32

Most recently, Matt Ryan joined the Falcons Pro Bowl QB club with three selections in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Ryan is Atlanta’s all-time winningest quarterback.

matt-ryan.jpg Matt Ryan

Year*** Age*** Tm*** Pos*** G**** GS*** QBrec* Cmp*** Att**** Cmp%* Yds

2010**   25**   ATL**   QB**   16**   16***   13-3-0*   357*   571****   62.5*   3705

2012**   27*** ATL*  **QB**   16**   16***   13-3-0    422*   615****   68.6*   4719

2014**   29***  ATL**   QB**   16**   16***   6-10-0    415*   628****   66.1*   4694

Year*** TD**** TD%** Int**** Int%*** Lng*** Rate*** Sk**** Yds**** Sk%***4QC***GWD

2010**   28***   4.9****   9***   1.6****   46**   91.0**   23***   158****   3.9****   5****   6

2012**   32****  5.2***   14**** 2.3***   80***   99.1*   28***   210****   4.4****   5****   7

2014**   28***   4.5***   14***   2.2****   79**   93.9**   31***   205****   4.7****   3****   3

The Falcons have had 17 players selected as a first team All-Pro, 4 of them twice; none were quarterbacks. It is ironic to note (or should I have said tragic) that Brett Favre (drafted by the Falcons in the 2nd round, #33 overall in 1991) was selected to 11 Pro Bowls, and was named first team All-Pro QB three times, after the Falcons traded him in 1992. Here are Favre’s passing stats as a Falcon:

brett-favre Brett Favre

Year*** Age*** Tm*** Pos***G***** GS**** QBrec* Cmp*** Att**** Cmp%* Yds

1991**   22**   ATL**   QB**   2****   0**** **** ****   0****   4****   0.0****   0

TD**** TD%** Int**** Int%*** Lng*** Rate*** Sk**** Yds**** Sk%***4QC***GWD

0****   0.0****   2***   50.0****   0****   0.0**   1****   11****   20.0


chris-chandler_2

Single Season Leaders

At this point, let us look at some Falcons single season QB records. We will start with the team’s best single season W/L records under each quarterback. Here are the top ten, sorted by winning percentage:

1) Chris Chandler (1998) – 13-1

2) Matt Ryan (2010 & 2012) – 13-3

3) (General) Bob Lee (1973) – 8-2

4) Steve Bartkowski (1980) – 12-4

5) Michael Vick (2004) – 11-4

6) Matt Ryan (2008) – 11-5

7) Chris Miller (1991)- 9-5

Matt Ryan (2009) – 9-5

9) Matt Ryan (2011) – 10-6

10) Steve Bartkowski (1978) – 8-5

Next, we will examine the best completion percentage by Falcons’ QB’s for a single season (minimum 100 pass attempts). As we shall see, this category belongs to Peachtree Bart and Matty Ice.

1) Matt Ryan (2012) – 68.6 %

2) Wade Wilson (1992) – 68.1 %

3) Matt Ryan (2013) – 67.4 %

4) Steve Bartkowski (1984) – 67.3 %

5) Matt Ryan (2015) – 66.3 %

6) Matt Ryan (2014) – 66.1 %

7) Steve Bartkowski (1982) – 63.4 %

Steve Bartkowski (1983) – 63.4 %

9) Matt Ryan (2010) – 62.5 %

Steve Bartkowski (1985) – 62.2%

The QB leaders for single season TD passes, with rushing TD’s added in parentheses:

1) Matt Ryan (2012) – 32 (+ 1)

2) Steve Bartkowski (1980) – 31 (+ 2)

3) Steve Bartkowski (1981) – 30

4) Matt Ryan (2011) – 29 (+ 2)

5) Matt Ryan (2010) – 28

Matt Ryan (2014) – 28

7) Chris Miller (1991) – 26

Matt Ryan (2013) – 26

9) Chris Chandler (1998) – 25 (+2)

10) Bobby Hebert (1993) – 24

Jeff George (1995) – 24

11) Michael Vick (2002) – 16 (+ 8)

The franchise leaders for most interceptions thrown in a single season are:

1) Bobby Hebert (1998) – 25

2) Steve Bartkowski (1981) – 23

3) Randy Johnson (1966) – 21

Randy Johnson (1967) – 21

5) Steve Bartkowski (1979) – 20

6) Steve Bartkowski (1978) – 18

Chris Miller (1991) – 18

Jeff George (1995) – 18

9) David Archer (1985) – 17

Bobby Hebert (1993) – 17

Matt Ryan (2013) – 17

While we are looking at negative stats, it may be interesting to compare the above seasons with the franchise leaders for the most times being sacked in a season (this stat has only been kept since 1969).

1) Steve Bartkowski (1983) – 51

2) Michael Vick (2004) – 46

3) Chris Chandler (1998) – 45

Michael Vick (2006) – 45

5) Matt Ryan (2013) – 44

6) David Archer (1985) – 43

Jeff George (1995) – 43

8) Chris Miller (1989) – 41

Chris Chandler (2001) – 41

9) Steve Bartkowski (1984) – 40

Chris Chandler (2000) – 40

It is curious that while Matt Ryan had his worst season throwing picks in the same season that he was on the sacks leader board, sack leader Steve Bartkowski appears on the interception leader board only in those seasons where he was not a sack leader. As a matter of fact, Ryan and Archer are the only Falcons quarterbacks whose appearance on the sack leader board coincides with an appearance on the single season interceptions leader board.

While we are looking at sacks, we will now segue to the statistic that reflects the escape artists: the scramblers. You already know who the all-time Falcons QB rushing leader is (if you’ve followed the team since the beginning of the millennium); but after Vick, the names of the leaders in single season rushing yards were sometimes unexpected to me.

vick_2

Single Season Rushing Yards

          1. Michael Vick (2006) – 1039

          2. Michael Vick (2004) – 902

          3. Michael Vick (2002) – 777

          4. Michael Vick (2005) – 597

          5. David Archer (1985) – 347

          6. David Archer (1986) – 298

          7. Chris Miller (1991) – 229

          8. Chris Chandler (1997) – 158

          9. Matt Ryan (2014) – 145

          10. Randy Johnson (1967) – 144

I find it interesting that Ryan’s best rushing total occurred the year before Kyle Shanahan became Offensive Coordinator.

george_2

The final two single season statistics we will look at are the stats that quarterback legends are made of: 4th quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. 4th Quarter Comebacks (4QC) are defined below.

“Comebacks led by quarterback. Must be an offensive scoring drive in the 4th quarter, with the team trailing by one score, though not necessarily a drive to take the lead. Only games ending in a win or tie are included.” (from the glossary at pro-football-reference.com)

Single Season 4QC

1) Steve Bartkowski (1978) – 5

Steve Bartkowski (1979) – 5

Matt Ryan (2010) – 5

Matt Ryan (2012) – 5

5) Chris Miller (1991) – 4

Matt Ryan (2015) – 4

7) Chris Chandler (1998) – 3

Scott Hunter (1976) – 3

Steve Bartkowski (1980) – 3

Steve Bartkowski (1983) – 3

David Archer (1986) – 3

Chris Miller (1989) – 3

Michael Vick (2004) – 3

Matt Ryan (2011) – 3

Matt Ryan (2014) – 3

Game-winning drives (GWD), on the other hand, “Must be an offensive scoring drive in the 4th quarter or overtime that puts the winning team ahead for the last time.”

Single Season GWD

1) Matt Ryan (2012) – 7

2) Steve Bartkowski (1978) – 6

Matt Ryan (2010) – 6

4) Chris Miller (1991) – 5

5)Steve Bartkowski (1979) – 4

Steve Bartkowski (1980) – 4

Jeff George (1995) – 4

Michael Vick (2004) – 4

Matt Ryan (2008) – 4

Matt Ryan (2015) – 4


matt-ryan_2

Career Leaders

Having looked at the Falcons’ single season statistical leaders in several key quarterback areas, we now move on to examine the Falcons’ career statistical leaders at the quarterback position. First, we will look at games played

  1. Matt Ryan – 126
  2. Steve Bartkowski – 123
  3. Michael Vick – 74
  4. Chris Miller – 69
  5. Chris Chandler – 68
  6. Bob Berry – 54
  7. Randy Johnson – 46
  8. Bobby Hebert – 40
  9. David Archer – 38
  10. Jeff George – 35

Next we will again examine the Win/Loss record of the Falcons under each quarterback. Here are the career leaders in Quarterback Record (QBR), this time sorted by the number of wins:

          1. Matt Ryan – 74-52-0

          2. Steve Bartkowski – 55-66-0

          3. Michael Vick – 38-28-1

          4. Chris Chandler – 34-33-0

          5. Chris Miller – 23-43-0

          6. Bob Berry – 19-28-3

          7. Jeff George – 16-19-0

          8. Bob Lee – 10-8-0

          9. David Archer – 9-13-1

          10. Randy Johnson – 8-28-1

It is a sad commentary on the history of the Falcons franchise to note that only four of the top ten winningest quarterbacks in franchise history have winning records. But still, we fans hope. At least we still have one of the winners as our current quarterback.

Pro Football Reference states that 1500 pass attempts are required to qualify as a career leader in Completion Percentage, and several other QB stats. On that basis, only 5 Falcons quarterbacks qualify. To add another 5 quarterbacks to the list, I used a minimum of 500 pass attempts to qualify. Only two players on this leader board had less than 1000 career pass attempts: David Archer, and Randy Johnson. Quarterbacks with at least 1500 career pass attempts as a Falcon are marked with a “+” symbol.

george

Career Completion Percentage

1) Matt Ryan (+) – 64.3%

2) Jeff George – 60.5%

3) Bobby Hebert – 59.8%

4) Chris Chandler (+) – 58.7%

5) Bob Berry – 57.0%

6) Steve Bartkowski (+) – 56.2%

7) Chris Miller (+) – 54.0%

8) Michael Vick (+) – 53.8%

9) David Archer – 51.2%

10) Randy Johnson – 48.1%

That’s right folks, the Falcons’ tenth most accurate career passer completed less than half of his pass attempts.

One statistic we did not consider for single season leaders was Yards Passing. I believe this stat is particularly misleading when evaluating quarterbacks from different eras. Nonetheless, Career Passing Yardage is a commonly used stat, so I will include it here.

Career Yards Passing (as a Falcon, sack yards deducted)

1) Matt Ryan – 32,757

2) Steve Bartkowski – 23,470

3) Chris Miller – 14,066

4) Chris Chandler – 13,268

5) Michael Vick – 11,505

6) Jeff George – 8,575

7) Bob Berry – 8,489

8) Bobby Hebert – 7,053

9) Randy Johnson – 5,538

10) David Archer – 4,275

The Falcons franchise leaders in Career Passing Touchdowns are:

1) Matt Ryan – 202

2) Steve Bartkowski – 154

3) Chris Miller – 87

Chris Chandler – 87

5) Michael Vick – 71

6) Bob Berry – 57

7) Bobby Hebert – 50

Jeff George – 50

9) Randy Johnson – 34

10) David Archer – 18

When we presented the single season touchdown leaders, we noted rushing TD’s among the members of the leader board in parentheses after the passing TD total. Looking over the course of their careers, here are the leaders at getting the ball in the end-zone with their feet – whether by quarterback sneak, or electrifying run.

Career Rushing TD’s by a QB

1) Michael Vick – 21

2) Steve Bartkowski – 11

3) Randy Johnson – 7

4) Matt Ryan – 5

5) Bob Berry – 4

6) Chris Chandler – 3

Five players tied – 2

Career Rushing Yards by a QB

1) Michael Vick – 3,859

2) Matt Ryan – 763

3) David Archer – 691

4) Chris Miller – 607

5) Chris Chandler – 482

6) Randy Johnson – 459

7) Bob Berry – 384

8) Steve Bartkowski – 236

9) Bob Lee – 166

10) Mike Moroski – 158

Yes, you read it right. Matt Ryan is the second best rushing quarterback in franchise history. Who’d have thunk that?

bart_2

Career Interceptions Thrown

Steve Bartkowski – 141

Matt Ryan – 107

Chris Miller – 72

Randy Johnson – 65

Chris Chandler – 56

Bob Berry – 56

Michael Vick – 52

Bobby Hebert – 49

Jeff George – 32

David Archer – 29

Career Percentage of times Intercepted when attempting to Pass (minimum 500 attempts for the same reason noted earlier; QB’s with 1500 attempts noted by “(+)” symbol)

Matt Ryan (+) – 2.4 %

Jeff George – 2.7 %

Michael Vick (+) – 3.0 %

Chris Chandler (+) – 3.3 %

Chris Miller (+) – 3.4 %

Steve Bartkowski (+) – 4.2%

David Archer – 4.5%

Bobby Hebert – 4.6%

Bob Berry – 5.3%

Randy Johnson – 7.2%

While we’re on the topic of interceptions, I did some research on records of “pick-sixes” thrown by quarterbacks. While I found some articles documenting pick-sixes thrown over limited time periods (I’m pretty sure 4 pick-sixes have been thrown in one game by the same QB – but, no, it wasn’t a Falcon), the only statistics I could find were for defensive players. The defensive statistics did not record who threw the INT. However, scoring summaries note interceptions returned for TD’s. If the game was played too long ago for Pro-Football-Reference.com to include a play-by-play section in the records, and if more than one Falcons QB threw an interception in a game where the other team scored on an interception return, I found it impossible to know which QB I should attribute the pick-six to in the leader board. Hence, some players will have a range – verified minimum number of “pick-sixes” to a possible maximum number.

Most Interceptions Returned for TD – Career (Regular Season – number of playoff “pick-sixes” noted in parentheses)

Matt Ryan – 15 (+1)

Chris Chandler – 9

Steve Bartkowski – 6 or 7

Chris Miller – 5 to 7

Randy Johnson – 5 to 7

Bobby Hebert – 3

Jeff George – 3

Michael Vick – 2 (+1)

Mike Moroski – 2

Either Kim McQuilken – 0 to 4 or – Pat Sullivan – 0 to 3 One of the two was responsible for each of two pick-sixes.

By the way, if you think Ryan’s problem with throwing pick-sixes has been getting worse, you are correct. Ryan threw four pick-sixes in 2013 – the year he was on the single season sack leader board. In 2014, Ryan threw five pick-sixes. That amounts to 60% of Ryan’s career pick-sixes thrown in two seasons (coincidentally, these were seasons when the Falcons had a moribund offensive line and few play makers beyond MR2 and JJ11). In 2015, Ryan threw only one pick-six. We can only hope that MR2 returns to the historical average of one pick-six per season, which he established in his first five seasons (2008-2012).

Since we have been looking at turnovers, let’s also take a look at which Falcons quarterbacks have been the most fumble prone. A fumble is counted in the QB’s totals, regardless of which team recovered the fumble. Were this leader board to include all positions, there would be seven running backs with totals between those listed for the quarterbacks on this leader board. The RB with the most fumbles would be number six on the team-wide leader board.

Fumbles – Career

1) Steve Bartkowski – 58

2) Michael Vick – 55

3) Matt Ryan – 45

4) Chris Miller – 39

5) Chris Chandler – 37

6) Bob Berry – 28

7) Randy Johnson – 25

8) Bobby Hebert – 23

9) Jeff George – 21

10) David Archer – 18

Next we will turn our eyes to the most sacked quarterbacks in Falcons history. Will there be any correlation between sacks and other negative categories?

archer

Sacked Most Times – Career (Stats have only been kept on sacks since 1969)

1) Steve Bartkowski – 345

2) Matt Ryan – 218

3) Chris Chandler – 197

4) Michael Vick – 187

5) Chris Miller – 143

6) Bob Berry – 127

7) David Archer – 87

8) Jeff George – 86

9) Bob Lee – 59

Bobby Hebert – 59

Percentage of Times Sacked when Attempting to Pass (minimum 500 attempts; 1500+                  attempts marked with “(+)” symbol)

1) Randy Johnson – 17.0 %

2) Bob Berry – 12.4 %

3) David Archer – 11.9 %

4) Chris Chandler (+) – 10.5 %

5) Michael Vick (+) – 9.8 %

6) Steve Bartkowski (+) – 9.4 %

7) Jeff George – 6.8 %

8) Chris Miller (+) – 6.4 %

9) Bobby Hebert – 5.2 %

10) Matt Ryan (+) – 4.6 %

It caught my eye here that Ryan has a lower sack percentage than all of the other Falcons quarterbacks who have more than 500 pass attempts. The first thought that came to my mind was Ryan’s quick release, combined with his willingness to throw the ball away, accounted for the discrepancy. Nonetheless, one possible explanation is that Ryan has had better protection from his offensive lines (compared to past Falcons units) than has been generally assumed. Such a solution could be seen as a general indictment of the historical quality of the Falcons’ offensive line over the years (with apologies to Mike Kenn, Jeff Van Note, and many other Falcons OL stalwarts). If the offensive line has been better than the Falcons norm over the course of Ryan’s career, such a solution to the low sack percentage conundrum would seem to make Ryan’s pick-six numbers even more troubling.

Finally, we move to the quarterback legend statistics – 4th Quarter Comebacks and Game-Winning Drives.

4QC – Career

1) Matt Ryan – 24

2) Steve Bartkowski – 19

3) Chris Miller – 9

4) Michael Vick – 6

5) Chris Chandler – 5

6) Bob Berry – 4

7) Scott Hunter – 3

Billy Joe Tolliver – 3

Bobby Hebert – 3

David Archer – 3

GWD – Career

1) Matt Ryan – 31

2) Steve Bartkowski – 21

3) Chris Miller – 12

4) Chris Chandler – 10

5) Michael Vick – 8

6) Bob Berry – 5

7) Jeff George – 4

8) Bob Lee – 3

Scott Hunter – 3

Billy Joe Tolliver – 3

Bobby Hebert – 3

Doug Johnson – 3

With that statistical summary put forth, I will leave the analysis to the collective expertise, recollection and judgment of the Cage. It is my hope that this retrospective has brought unexpected memories to your mind, as you perused this article. I’ll close (with all due deference to MIA Cage member, Darrell Starks) with this – GO FALCONS!!!!!!!


bob-lee

Questions for the Cage

  1. What players, or memorable moments, came to mind as you read through this retrospective?

  2. Which Falcons Pro Bowl QB had the best single season?

  3. Are there any non-Pro Bowl QB seasons that you feel are equal to, or better, than some of the Pro Bowl seasons?

  4. How do you account for Ryan’s low sack percentage, relative to other Falcons QB’s, for his career?

  5. What’s your ranking for the top Falcons quarterbacks over the first 50 years?

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911 thoughts on “50 Years of Falcons Quarterbacks

    1. Grits Blitz

      Flo – And “the game”, the big game, is indeed played in …Vegas.
      Wonder if the Vegas bookies will take the Skins +3 points or lay it all on the line for the Falcons?
      THEY may be the only ones who have the “real” inside scoop on respective training camps!
      Now, where is Jimmy The Greek when you need accurate info?

      Reply
      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        Grits – I don’t know how you can handicap an “exhibition” game when you don’t know who or how long these guys will play; especially when the goal is not to win the game but to get ready for the “real” season.

        Reply
        1. JB Falcon

          I think any real coach or player cannot totally ignore the fact that a win does have some importance, even though their main goal it to get ready.

          Reply
          1. medallion

            I liked your wording JB.
            Sometimes what is needed to bring out the best (or at least improvement) in some (maybe even most) is a feeling of accomplishment or improvement that can come from a win.
            I don’t know if you follow baseball, but winning and the related mindset can get contagious. Consider the Braves worst to first team back so long ago when 3 newcomers helped produced a winning attitude. Consider that later in time the future Hall of Famer Smoltz was struggling until some doctor got to him start visualizing success.

  1. Flo-Ri-Duh

    ESPN Senior Writer Mike Sando: Evaluating QB’s by Tiers:
    Tier 1: Can carry his team every week. Team wins because of him.
    Tier 2: Can carry team sometimes but not as consistently.
    Tier 3: Legit starter but needs heavy run game/defense to win.
    Tier 4: Might not want this guy starting all 16 games.
    Tier 5: Do not think this guy should be starting.

    Where would you have put Matt Ryan based on his 2015 season?
    * Hint- there were only four tier 1 QB’s listed and no starting QB’s listed in tier 5.

    Reply
    1. Paddy O

      lol – on his 2015 season – here is manipulation via cherry picked stats. If Ryan was in a vacuum, this would be applicable. Ryan was NOT a rookie in 2015. Try again.

      Reply
      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        Paddy-0 …. Matt Ryan had to overcome a lot of hurdles in 2015 that he did not previously have – limited WR weapons, a completely new OC and system and a below average interior OL. I’m not basing his tier rating off of one year. Tier 2 is not an insult but rather an above average rating over all.

        Reply
  2. Grits Blitz

    falcon21 – If the goal in preseason is to identify a team’s best players (& I agree that should be the case), it amazes me “starters” play AS MUCH as they do in these games and…risk injury in games that do not count. (I don’t really think veterans need as much “game” experience, timing and tempo notwithstanding. And, case-in-point, imagine M. Ryan going down w/ a season-ending injury in preseason as there goes the reg. season. For veteran “starters”, preseason games are more about not getting hurt…all risk with little reward.

    If any (new) player is actually “pushing” a starter for his job in a truly legitimate “open competition” and the HC is having a tough time deciding between the two, I’d like to see the HC sub the alleged “starter” back and forth for an equal number of plays/series with the new guy (with whatever unit is on the field at the time – not just the starting unit – for equal fairness in judging) and let the best man win the competition for the good of the entire team.
    I believe if that were the case, then these games would actually have some meaning other than the NFL picking the spectator’s pocket (at full price).
    I’d like to see, for a variety of reasons, preseason should be cut back to preferably 2 games (3 max). Any NFL HC worth his salt can figure out who his best players are by multiple means and if he’s wrong, he can always … make a change, imo.

    Reply
    1. falcon21

      I agree Grits, I’ve never understood a known starter playing more than a quarter, if that much in preseason. I also agree that the preseason should be cut back to 2 games. After training camp and 2 games you should know who your starters are. More than that and the risk injury is too great.

      Reply
      1. John Waynesworld

        I agree with you both. It will be interesting, when the NFL changes to a 2-game preseason, how they handle veteran playing time in those two games leading up to the regular season.

        Reply
    2. just "little ole" me

      From a coaching stand point you want your young players to get as much real game experience as possible in the preseason. This helps prevent silly mistakes that can cost games early in the season.

      Fans should look at preseason games like this:
      1st Quarter: Is our team ready for the regular season?
      2nd Quarter: Are we going to be ok if our starter(s) go down?
      3rd/4th Quarter: How does the future look?

      We must remember that it is a business. As a consumer if I don’t want to pay regular season ticket prices for preseason games then I don’t buy tickets.

      Reply
      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        jlom – That’s the usual script though it seems the starters usually go to mid second quarter in the first game.

        Reply
    3. Arno

      Not sure how much you can mix starters with guys trying to make the team. Those two groups have very different motivations. If I’m trying to make the team, I’ll put my health on the line every play– while the starters will calculate the risk. Preseason is a crazy cocktail, for sure.

      Reply
  3. Flo-Ri-Duh

    Have they agreed to play only two “exhibition” games in a season in the future? If so will their regular season games go to a total of 18? I think they should keep regular season at 16 games.

    Reply
    1. Grits Blitz

      Flo – No and no.
      If it weren’t for the greedy owners wanting the 16 reg. season games and 4 preseason (at full ticket price), they could show they were REALLY concerned about player safety and reduce the schedule numbers. (Not to mention about 3-4 more add. playoff games for quality teams taking it to the SB…)

      I’m not surprised in the least when young players today retire early. (I predicted as much after watching the movie, “Concussion”, and the trickle-down effect all the way to Pee-Wee Football has already begun.)

      Remember when there were only 10 reg. season games and some players played both ways?
      Did we hear about injuries (esp. hamstrings) back then as much as nowadays? Were those players in that era tougher and just not as athletic as today’s players? (Another debate for another time.)

      Reply
      1. Flo-Ri-Duh

        Grits – I think it’s the greed of everyone getting paid. They all want more more more. At some point after I had 3 or 4 mill in the bank I would prefer to keep my brain in tact rather than play 3 or 4 more games for more $$$$ – but that’s just me.

        Reply
    1. Arno

      OFFENSE
      Gray, Cyrus RB
      2 Ryan, Matt QB
      4 Simms, Matt QB
      6 Washington, Corey WR
      7 Glidden, David WR
      8 Schaub, Matt QB
      11 Jones, Julio WR
      12 Sanu, Mohamed WR
      13 Renfree, Sean QB
      14 Weems, Eric WR
      15 Williams, Nick WR
      16 Hardy, Justin WR
      18 Leslie, Jordan WR
      19 Robinson, Aldrick WR
      20 Wilds, Brandon RB
      24 Freeman, Devonta RB
      26 Coleman, Tevin RB
      28 Ward, Terron RB
      35 Johnson, Gus RB
      39 Ratelle, Will FB
      42 DiMarco, Patrick FB
      49 Lynch, Arthur TE
      51 Mack, Alex C
      63 Garland, Ben G
      64 Rahrig, Collin G
      65 Chester, Chris G
      66 Gibson, Laurence OL
      67 Levitre, Andy G
      68 Person, Mike G
      69 Reed, Jake C
      70 Matthews, Jake T
      71 Schweitzer, Wes G
      72 Harris, Bryce T
      73 Schraeder, Ryan T
      74 Huey, Michael G
      76 Compton, Tom T
      79 Ahmed, Shahbaz OL
      80 Toilolo, Levine TE
      81 Hooper, Austin TE
      82 Perkins, Joshua TE
      83 Tamme, Jacob TE
      85 McKissic, J.D. WR
      86 Tialavea, D.J. TE
      87 Fuller, Devin WR

      Reply
    2. Arno

      DEFENSE
      Wells, Matt LB
      20 Neasman, Sharrod S
      21 Trufant, Desmond CB
      22 Neal, Keanu S
      23 Alford, Robert CB
      25 King, Akeem CB
      27 Therezie, Robenson S
      29 Goodwin, C.J. CB
      32 Collins, Jalen CB
      33 Johnson, Devonte CB
      34 Poole, Brian S
      36 Ishmael, Kemal S
      37 Allen, Ricardo S
      38 Mims II, David CB
      39 Sefon, Jordan CB
      40 Parms, Damian S
      41 Wheeler, Philip LB
      43 Van Dyke, DeMarcus CB
      44 Beasley, Vic OLB
      45 Jones, Deion LB
      48 McLennan, Ivan LB
      49 Obada, Efe DE
      50 Reed, Brooks OLB
      52 Starr, Tyler OLB
      53 Reynolds, LaRoy LB
      54 Goodman, Malliciah DE
      55 Worrilow, Paul LB
      56 Weatherspoon, Sean LB
      59 Campbell, De’Vondre OLB
      74 Mayes, Chris NT
      75 Williams, Brandon DE
      77 Hageman, Ra’Shede DT
      90 Shelby, Derrick DE
      91 Upshaw, Courtney OLB
      92 Mbu, Joey NT
      93 Freeney, Dwight DE
      94 Jackson, Tyson DE
      95 Babineaux, Jonathan DT
      96 Capi, Nordly DE
      97 Jarrett, Grady DT
      98 Johnson, Cory DT
      99 Clayborn, Adrian DE

      Reply
  4. medallion

    Twas the night before the first preseason game in year two of the DQ era and there was much wonder as to what defensive surprises and toys would be under the dome the next day.
    Will the D line have or look like:
    (A) a DQ treat of pass rushers from different locations
    (B) look like a traditional 4/3 D line where anyone might attack as a pass rusher since each only has one gap responsibility
    (C) look like a traditional 3/4 D line where every lineman has two gap responsibility so the LBs can attack in unpredictable places even though we don’t have a prototypical NT (besides UDFA Mayes)
    (D) look like a 4/3 under or 4/3 over base defense where one DT and one DE have two gap responsibility and one DT has one gap responsibility and a “LEO” DE that is supposedly a designated pass rusher able to at least slow a run to his side
    (E) look like an amoeba where someone like Soiiai drops into coverage (sorry – couldn’t resist joking about that)
    (F) something invented by DQ

    Reply
      1. medallion

        While I am still quasi-decent at some things, I failed poetry class, coloring inside the lines’ class, and crystal ball/tea reading class a long time ago.

        Reply
    1. Grits Blitz

      waynester – Behavioral Analysis Unit “deep”! How would that information not be anything but helpful in the land of NFL millionaires?
      I totally agree this hero IS onto something very useful for an intelligent team that will fully utilize his gift.
      Would love to have him in Atlanta…as successor to TD. Believe he’s got “the right stuff” we could surely use and need.

      Reply
  5. SG

    Doubling back on the 4 exhibition season convo, I agree w/ those who’ve stated 2 is enough. I also agree w/ Grits and Flo regarding the never-to-be -ignored greed factor, i.e., If we did see a cut back to a 2 game exhibition season, the owners would probably demand an 18 game regular season. At this time, I don’t think that’s going to happen, but if it did, at least we’d see 2 more meaningful and relevant contests than these over-priced, casting calls that the emperors try to dress as actual games.

    The comment Grits made, “For veteran “starters”, preseason games are more about not getting hurt…”, exactly. Not to minimize the health issue one iota, but that statement also speaks volumes of why these aren’t actual games. For the most part, (emphasis on ‘most part’), they are really just lab experiments.

    With that said, I’m genuinely enthusiastic about what appears to be an exciting caliber of defense gelling. This may be one of those seasons we get more excited at seeing the D take the field than the O.
    Now speaking of the O, (excuse me, my stomach just churned), more important than the Mack factor, or the Sanu signing will be seeing how the relationship between Ryan and Shan has, or hasn’t, evolved.

    Godspeed Falcons.

    Reply
    1. Grits Blitz

      Thanks, SG.
      I agree with you the D should be the deciding factor in the 2016 “games won” dept. and I, too, hope DQ will make the necessary changes to upgrade that entire unit. Until the O & Sham gets their collective act together, we’ll be relying on the D (& K, Matt Bryant) with greater pressure than they would normally deserve to “save the day”.

      During every preseason game, though, I’ll be focusing mainly on the (starting) O line as a unit.
      Until they can man-up, whip the guy in front of them the majority of time, and successfully push the pile at will, their “improvement” or lack thereof will continue to determine the tone and momentum of just about every game played. (If they still can’t cut it, hope DQ will make some player changes – fast.)

      Reply
  6. John Waynesworld

    Arno, thanks for those lists. I will print them out today.

    My 5 cents for getting to 2 preseason + 18 regular season games…

    1) Expand the roster to 63 + a 12-man Practice Squad.
    2) League-wide pay increases factoring in 2 extra game checks.
    3) Increase practice dates to allow more reps for increased roster.
    4) Change rules to allow more contact in practices leading up to the 2 preseason games OR
    schedule 2 inter-league scrimmages leading up to the 2 preseason games with practices mixed in.
    5) Add another bye week.

    What else, or is this a non-starter for the NFL players?

    Reply
    1. Flo-Ri-Duh

      JWW – I’m just believing that with the increase in “real” games from 16 to 18 there would be more serious injuries. They would need to increase the roster size because of all the injuries an 18 game season would cause. I can’t see how that’s good for the players. Maybe they should go to 10 rounds in the draft also in order to increase the roster size. With the increase in roster the overall cap would go up of course. Would the 2 extra games bring in enough revenue to pay for an extra 10 or so guys? This ain’t the gub’ment with an unbridled runaway blank check.

      Reply

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