By Anthony Rhoads
It was too good to be true. The Atlanta Falcons were headed into the 2003 season with seemingly all the tools it takes to produce the first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history.
Then what happens Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens?
Star quarterback Michael Vick fractures his right leg and it looks like he will be out of action for about six weeks.
It might be a sign of things to come in the 2003 season. This season might again be a futility-filled year for the Falcons.
History is not on the Falcons' side.
The Falcons' history is dotted with winning seasons here and there and occasionally the team has even shown glimpses of greatness.
As a fan who has followed the Falcons since 1980, I have seen the best and worst the team has had to offer.
What long-time Falcons fan could forget 1980?
With guys like Steve Bartkowski, William Andrews, Alfred Jenkins, Jeff Van Note, Mike Kenn and Wallace Francis, the Falcons played like champions for much of the 1980 season.
They won 12 games, won the NFC West title and were poised to make a serious run in the playoffs.
In their playoff game against Dallas, the Falcons had the Cowboys on the ropes and it looked like they were headed to the NFC Championship.
But the Falcons grasped defeat out of the jaws of victory when Dallas scored 20 points in the third quarter to win the contest.
Yes, it was a crushing defeat but optimism was still in the air going into the following season.
One magazine even trumpeted the Falcons as the ?team of the 80s' but it was not to be.
The Falcons plummeted again and finished at 7-9 in 1981. The team kind of bounced back in the strike-shortened season of 1982 with a 5-4 record and a playoff berth.
The 80s were truly horrendous as the team struggled year after year.
The 90s were a little better with playoff seasons in 1991, 1995 and in 1998, when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
But in 1999, the Falcons again reverted back to their losing ways and didn't produce a winning season again until last year with Vick at starting quarterback.
Hopefully, the Falcons can bounce back and can get along without Vick for a while. Doug Johnson isn't a bad quarterback and hopefully he can carry the load. He's no Michael Vick but he's a solid player.
Maybe this year, the Falcons can make history and produce their first back-to-back winning seasons.
The Falcons don't have to be a replica of the 1960s Green Bay Packers or be like the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers and win championships every year but it would be nice to see them at least have a winning season this year.
Anthony Rhoads is a sports writer for The Daily and his column appears on Wednesdays. He can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.