Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Falcons, Jamal Anderson
9 Jan 1999: Jamal Anderson #32 of the Atlanta Falcons scoring a touch down during the NFC Play Offs Game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons defeated the 49ers 20-16. /

RB. (1994-01). Jamal Anderson. 28. player. 44.

  • 1998 NFC Rushing Champion (1,846 yards)
  • 1x Pro Bowl (1998), 1x First-Team All-Pro (1998)
  • Franchise record for carries (410), rushing yards (1,846) in a season (1998)
  • Inventor of The Dirty Bird

The 1998 NFL season was a magical one for the Falcons. It was also the genesis of The Dirty Birds moniker. Atlanta was coming off a frustrating 7-9 campaign in 1997 and literally NOBODY was expecting anything out of the team. But the original Dirty Birds managed to go 14-2, win the NFC West and knock off the juggernaut 15-1 Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis to reach Super Bowl XXXIII.

Sure, the Falcons lost Super Bowl XXXIII to John Elway’s Denver Broncos, but this team was stuff of legend in the Dirty South. You can’t even begin to tell the tale of that 1998 Falcons season without Mr. Dirty Bird himself in running back Jamal Anderson.

Anderson would be a seventh-round pick out of Utah by the Falcons in the 1994 NFL Draft. While he would spend his entire eight-year NFL career in Falcons uniform, Anderson didn’t really begin to take off running until year three in the league. Beginning in 1996, he would achieve 1,000 rushing yards on the ground in a season for the first time in his career.

Anderson rushed for over 1,000 yards in a season four times in his Falcons. However, his career year would coincide with the best year in Falcons history up to that point. Anderson was every bit a bell cow back for The Dirty Birds, as he amassed 1,846 yards on a league-most 410 carries for 14 rushing touchdowns.

He would do The Dirty Bird every time he scored a touchdown that season. The Georgia Dome was lit unlike ever before. It seemed like that era of Falcons football under head coach Dan Reeves was here to stay. Then Anderson tore his ACL early the next season and the Falcons imploded to a terrible 5-11 record. The division rival St. Louis Rams would win the Super Bowl that season on the improbable rise of Kurt Warner.

While Anderson would rush for over 1,000 yards again in 2000, another torn ACL would cut his career short the next year in 2001. He ended his NFL career with 5,336 rushing yards on 1,329 carries for 34 touchdowns.

Outside of Atlanta, Anderson may only be seen as a one-year wonder. Around the Perimeter, Anderson is synonymous with the unforgettable 1998 season, and for good reason. He was utterly sensational that season pounding the rock as the best part of The Dirty Birds’ offense.