The strange phenomena of the election-year Falcons

History says the 2024 Atlanta Falcons will make a deep postseason run.
Atlanta Falcons v Tennessee Titans
Atlanta Falcons v Tennessee Titans / Wesley Hitt/GettyImages

Hello, avid Falcons fans, we are all waiting eagerly for a promising season that holds even more promise than your average year. Why, you may ask? Well, this year is an election year, and for some unexplained reason, our Atlanta Falcons seemingly do better when this is the case. You didn’t know that? Buckle up as I explain the strange phenomena of the election year Falcons.

The Falcons hold a strange trend on election years

This uncanny “development” began in 2004, and it is unknown what causes it (maybe our beloved team wants to show out for the new president!). In 2003 the Falcons had quite a disappointing season, going 5-11 and finishing last in the NFC South. Heading into 2004 there were not many high expectations for the Falcons, but they came out and shocked the world going 11-5 and winning the division handily. 

Now I was only 2 years old, so saying I hardly remember this season would be an understatement, but 11 wins was enough to secure the Falcons a first-round bye. They beat the Rams in the divisional round and found themselves in the NFC Championship game, just one win away from a Super Bowl berth. Unfortunately, making the Super Bowl wasn’t written in the stars for the Falcons as they lost and wouldn't make it to the NFC Championship again until 2012 (another election year, but we will get to that a little later).

Sadly in 2007, Atlanta Falcons star quarterback Michael Vick was arrested for running a dog fighting ring. The Falcons decided to move on from Vick and drafted his replacement in 2008—a fellow named Matthew Thomas Ryan. Ryan completely turned around the Falcons franchise. 

The third-overall pick debuted by throwing a touchdown on his first pass and went on to win the Rookie of the Year (impressive considering the players he beat out). Sadly the Falcons fell 30-24 to the eventual NFC-Champion Arizona Cardinals.

Fast forward to the next election year in 2012 when the Dirty Birds had another electrifying year.

Having the privilege of throwing to Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones, Ryan threw for 32 touchdowns (a career-high at the time) and led the Falcons to a 13-3 record (tied for best in the league). They earned a first-round bye and faced the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional round.

The Falcons snuck past the Seahawks 30-28 off the back of a Julio Jones interception and a last-second Matt Bryant field goal. The San Francisco 49ers awaited them in the NFC Championship game. They got out to an early 17-0 lead off the back of two Julio Jones first-half touchdowns. The Falcons looked set to make their first Super Bowl since 1998. Sadly, in Falcons fashion, they lost the game 24-28 due to a controversial no-call on a potential pass interference by Navarro Bowman late in the 4th quarter.

In 2016, arguably the greatest Falcons season of all time (and my personal favorite), things got fun.

In 2015 the Falcons were utterly dysfunctional starting 6-1 but finishing 8-8, with rumored bad blood between Matt Ryan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

Through the first one-and-a-half games, the offense looked broken. But in the second half of the week 2 game against the Oakland Raiders, something just clicked and the Falcons came out firing on all cylinders.

This offensive firepower continued resulting in the best offense in the NFL, BY FAR! The Falcons rode the offense to an 11-5 record, the number-two seed, and a first-round bye. Matt Ryan had his best season throwing 38 TDs to just seven INTs earning himself an MVP award. He also broke a multitude of records, one of which we will point out: Matt Ryan became the first QB to throw a touchdown to 13 different receivers. It proved the naysayer's argument that he was only good because of Julio Jones wrong.

The Falcons' dominance continued into the playoffs. They manhandled the Seahawks 36-20 (Matt Ryan is undefeated against them in the playoffs) and could have won 43-20 if Dan Quinn had decided to run up the score. In the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers (personally, my favorite game), Matt Ryan had 5 total touchdowns, Julio Jones had 180 yards and 2 touchdowns. After some garbage-time points by the Packers, the Birds curb-stomped them 44-21.

Of course, this meant they made it to the Super Bowl—a game that didn't end how we would have liked and the details seem unnecessary.

2020 did not follow this strange trend of the Atlanta Falcons being a good football team, but I chalk that up to COVID-19. It was a dysfunctional team in a messed-up season. Back-to-back blown leads in weeks two and three (they didn't know how to recover an onside kick), a game-LOSING touchdown (how is that possible??), a tank bowl against the Chargers, and a missed field goal against the AFC champion Chiefs. Just a weird season all in all.

However, the Falcons have reached 3 of their 4 NFC championships and one of their two Super Bowls in election years. With new faces around the building, I am more excited than ever to see what this election year season holds for our beloved Dirty Birds. 

The Falcons are set to continue the trend we saw earlier, bringing in a new quarterback (Kirk Cousins), head coach (Raheem Morris), and offensive coordinator (Zac Robinson). Will the election-year Falcons strike again? Or will Falcon’s fans once again find themselves calling for next year?

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