Falcons 50: Greatest Atlanta Falcons Coaches #3


We are just 33 days away from the Falcons’ season opener now, and today Ryan Robertson continues to look at the franchise’s greatest ever coaches as part of our “Falcons 50” series here at Blogging Dirty.

You can find the full list of “Falcons 50” posts here.

Here we are again. We are back at it again with number three on our greatest Atlanta Falcons coaches countdown.

Coming in at number three is the one and only Leeman Bennett, the most successful Atlanta Falcons coach in franchise history before the nineties. His success was prognosticated on defense and throughout his tenure he stuck with that formula, leading to the success the Falcons would have in the early eighties.

Upon being hired to his first head coaching gig as a member of the Falcons, Bennett would enjoy immediate success in his first season, especially on the defensive side of the football.

During the 1997 season, the Falcons would set an NFL record for least points allowed in a full season with 129. Coach Bennett, along with famed defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville, would unleash what would become known as the “Gritz Blitz”.

The league had never seen any kind of defensive scheme like it, and it would garner much success and ultimately change the way defensive coaches game plan and attack the opposing quarterback.

After the record setting defensive effort in 1977, the Atlanta Falcons, under Leeman Bennett, would win their first postseason game in team history in 1978. They would defeat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round before losing the defending champion Dallas Cowboys.

Bennett’s Falcons would disappoint in the following season, but would rebound very strongly in 1980, going on to post a franchise best 12-4 record and their first ever division title.

With this previously unfathomable success becoming a very real thing, the Atlanta Falcons found themselves in a very good position. Expectations were high going into their playoff game with the Dallas Cowboys. The game appeared to be well in hand, but a heartbreaking fourth quarter collapse would end Bennett and the Atlanta Falcons chance at advancing to the next round.

Bennett would again make the playoffs in 1982, after a losing season the previous year. The Falcons would overcome an early season slump and win the last three games to finish with a 5-4 record in the strike-shortened 1982 season.

However it would be to no avail, as the Falcons would go on to lose to the Minnesota Vikings in the first round.

That brutal loss would mark the end of Bennett’s illustrious career as Falcons coach as he would eventually be fired after the season. Under his tutelage, the Atlanta Falcons franchise would soar to heights that had previously seemed unreachable.

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For a franchise that had never been to the playoffs, Bennett would take them there not once. Not twice. But three times.

The Falcons also set a franchise record for wins in a single season under Bennett, and he was the only Falcons coach until Jim Mora in 2006 to leave the team with a winning record.

Putting Bennett on this list was a no-brainer for me, not only because of his success, but because of personal reasons as well.

He was the coach that my grandfather used to tell me stories about growing up and it had a profound impact on my Falcons fanhood. Those recollections of him really stuck with me and it was hard not to put him higher than I did.

Bennett is still an all-time great Atlanta Falcon and he deserves to be near the top of any Falcons coaching list. We have now come down to the final two spots and they should come as no surprise to you, the readers. Stay tuned for the next installment tomorrow.

Rise up, Falcons fans!