Saturday, May 29, 2021
After compiling records of 3-10 and 1-12-1 in their first two seasons, the 1968 Falcons finished up at 2-12 in 1968.
They replaced original head coach Norb Hecker with Norm Van Brocklin after 3 games in 1968. With a full season under his belt, The Dutchman improved the team to 6-8 in 1969, but they wouldn't have a winning record until 1971 (7-6-1).
Junior Coffey and Dan Grimm are the only two players here from the 1966 expansion draft.
Randy Johnson was the second 1st-round pick by the Falcons in the 1966 draft. (As the expansion team, Atlanta was given the 1st pick in each round, and another pick at the end of rounds 1 to 5.) He was the starting QB for 2 1/2 seasons, before giving way to Bob Berry. Johnson played 5 seasons with the Falcons, then 3 with the Giants. After playing 1974 with the WFL's Hawaiians, he returned to the NFL with the Redskins ('75) and Packers ('76).
Ron Vander Kelen was the hero of the 1963 Rose Bowl, setting passing records that still stand today. His NFL career wasn’t as impressive. He was the Vikings' backup QB for 5 seasons (1963-67), and only started as many as 3 games once (in 1967, after the departure of Fran Tarkenton). He was traded to the Falcons in 1968, but was released before the season and ended up in the CFL that year.
Junior Coffey was the Packers' 7th-round pick in 1965. After a year on the bench he was picked by the Falcons in the expansion draft, and started at halfback for the next 2 seasons. He missed the 1968 season, but returned in 1969, splitting his time between the Falcons and Giants. After another lost season (1970) he wrapped up his career with a few games in 1971.
Tommy McDonald was the Eagles' 3rd-round pick in 1957. He played 7 seasons for the Eagles, making the Pro Bowl 5 times, and led the NFL in TDs twice (’58, '61) and receiving yards ('61). After a year with the Cowboys, he played for the Rams ('65, '66) and Falcons ('67), then was a bench player for the Browns in 1968. He was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
Jerry Simmons was a journeyman wide receiver who played for 5 teams from 1965 to 1974. After 2 seasons with the Steelers, he was selected by the Saints in the 1967 expansion draft, but was flipped to the Falcons during the season. His 1968 season with the Falcons was the only year he started all 14 games. He split the '69 season between Atlanta and Chicago, then after missing 1970 he played his final 4 seasons with the Broncos (starting most games in '71 and '73).
Dan Grimm was the Packers' 5th-round pick in 1963. He started no games in '63 or '65, but started 13 games in 1964 in place of injured right guard Jerry Kramer. Drafted by the Falcons in 1966, he was the starting right guard that season, but was limited to 2 games in 1967. Grimm returned in 1968 as the starting center. He finished up with the Colts and Redskins in 1969.
Tommy Nobis was the first overall pick in the 1966 NFL draft. (He was also the Oilers' 1st pick in the AFL draft.) Nobis played 11 seasons, all as the Falcons' middle linebacker. He missed most of the '69 and '71 seasons with injuries, but started every game in 7 other seasons. He made 5 Pro Bowls, and I'm surprised he's not in the Hall of Fame.
Bob Riggle was picked a distant 20th by the Falcons in 1966, and was their starting free safety for their first 2 seasons, starting every game in '66 and starting all 11 games he played in '67. After that, his career was mysteriously over.