Atlanta Falcons: 30 greatest players in franchise history

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) /

. RB. (2008-12). Michael Turner. 25. player. 44

  • Franchise leader in career rushing touchdowns (60)
  • Set franchise record for most rushing touchdowns in a season in 2008 (17)
  • First-Team All-Pro (2008), Second-Team All-Pro (2010)
  • 2x Pro Bowl (2008, 2010)

The Falcons were absolute rubbish heading into the 2008 NFL offseason. Atlanta went an atrocious 4-12 in 2007. Former star quarterback Michael Vick was in prison for his role in a dogfighting scandal. First-year head coach Bobby Petrino spurned the Dirty Birds to go coach the Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC late in the season. Atlanta was the joke of the NFL.

While Atlanta made three outstanding moves to turn around their football culture: hiring Thomas Dimitroff as general manager, Mike Smith as head coach and drafting quarterback Matt Ryan No. 3 overall out of Boston College, we can’t forget how fruitful their big free agent acquisition was that offseason. Michael Turner set the NFL ablaze with his powerful running style in 2008.

While he had been a former standout at Northern Illinois, “The Burner” spent his first four NFL seasons as LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup with the San Diego Chargers. Though 26 years old when he arrived in Atlanta, the Falcons knew that he had plenty of tread on the tires when he came to Flowery Branch that spring.

Turner would go on to be the best running back in football that season. He rushed for 1,699 yards on a league-best 376 carries and a franchise record of 17 rushing touchdowns. Turner was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro player that year. Atlanta made it back to the NFC playoffs for the first time since 2004 as a wild card team.

Bruising, but surprisingly nimble, Turner was every bit the bell-cow Atlanta could have hoped for during Ryan’s early years as an NFL starter. He kind of reminded Falcons fans of Jamal Anderson from a decade ago. While he did rush for over 1,000 yards three times, his production waned in what was his final season in 2012. Turner succumbed to just 3.6 yards per carry that fall.

Though never a capable receiver out of the backfield, Atlanta can look back on Turner’s time with the club fondly as a huge part of the Mike Mularkey offense in the early Smith era of Falcons football. He does hold the franchise record for most career rushing touchdowns with 60. Maybe he will join the Ring of Honor someday?