The Atlanta Falcons don’t have an incredibly rich history. Since becoming an NFL franchise in 1966, the Falcons have only made a pair of Super Bowl appearances, losing both times.
Also, between 1966 and 1990, Atlanta only made three trips to the playoffs. So, clearly, the Falcons’ organization struggled to get off the ground for quite some time.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean Atlanta did not have its fair share of great players come through.
Let’s focus on running backs for a minute and break down the top three rushers to ever don a Falcons uniform:
3. Jamal Anderson
Had it not been for injuries, Jamal Anderson would be higher on this list.
Anderson entered the NFL with the Falcons in 1994 and spent his entire (and brief) eight-year career in Atlanta, helping lead the Falcons to their first Super Bowl during the 1998-99 campaign.
That season, Anderson racked up 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, establishing himself as one of the league’s best halfbacks and also inventing one of the best touchdown dances the game has ever seen: The Dirty Bird.
Anderson seemed primed for greatness, as he logged three-straight 1,000-yard campaigns between 1996 and 1998 and was one of the toughest backs to bring down in the open field.
However, in 1999, a torn ACL limited Anderson to just two games. He returned and rushed for 1,024 yards and six scores in 2000, but in 2001, he tore his ACL yet again, ending his career.
2. Gerald Riggs
That brings us to the Falcons’ all-time leading rusher: Gerald Riggs.
In seven seasons in Atlanta, from 1982 through 1988, Riggs tallied 6,631 yards. A big chunk of that production coming between 1984 and 1986, when he totaled 4,532 yards.
Riggs’ best season came in 1985, when he rattled off 1,719 yards while reaching the end zone 10 times, averaging 4.3 yards per attempt. He also notched three-straight Pro Bowl selections between 1985 and 1987.
After that run, though, Riggs declined rapidly, recording just 488 yards in nine games during his final season with the Falcons in 1988.
He would go on to join the Washington Redskins in 1989, but he would never hit the 1,000-yard mark again.
Riggs’ prime may have been fleeting, but there is no doubting just how good he was for those few years.
1. William Andrews
Remember when the fullback position actually meant something? You may not, but William Andrews certainly does.
Andrews broke into the NFL with the Falcons in 1979, and while he was a fullback, he didn’t take long to cement himself as one of the league’s most versatile running backs.
During his rookie campaign, Andrews logged 1,023 yards and three touchdowns as a rusher while also catching 39 passes for 309 yards and a pair of scores.
He would be even more productive during his sophomore year, finishing with 1,308 yards and four touchdowns on the ground while adding 51 catches for 456 yards and another score. That marked the first of four straight trips to the Pro Bowl for Andrews.
He continued to improve in 1981, when he not only posted 1,301 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rusher, but also hauled in 81 receptions for 735 yards and a pair of scores.
But Andrews’ best season came in 1983, as the Auburn product rushed for 1,567 yards and seven touchdowns while snaring 59 passes for 609 yards and four scores.
The most impressive part of Andrews’ run was the fact that he averaged 4.6 yards per carry over the course of his career, something that was not all too common back in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, Andrews lasted only through 1986 due to knee injuries, which took away took full seasons from the star in 1984 and 1985.