NFL

How Jeff George Cost the Atlanta Falcons a Chance at Hall of Fame Receiver Marvin Harrison

Jeff George and Marvin Harrison are two notable NFL figures from the 1990s for many different reasons.

George, the No. 1 overall pick in 1990, had a lengthy NFL career but never stood out at quarterback. Harrison, a first-round pick in 1996, became one of the greatest receivers in NFL history alongside star quarterback Peyton Manning on the Indianapolis Colts.

What do George and Harrison have to do with one another? If not for George, Harrison could have caught his touchdowns in a Falcons uniform rather than the Colts’ blue and white jerseys.

Jeff George had a lengthy NFL career

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Jeff George is in rare territory for a quarterback who went No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.

The top selection in 1990, George wasn’t a bust — or at least, he shouldn’t be considered one. George played 12 NFL seasons, completing 57.9% of his passes for 27,602 yards, 154 touchdowns, and 113 interceptions.

The NFL has had far worse quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall, with ex-Raiders bust JaMarcus Russell holding the crown in that category.

If football fans are looking for a modern comparison, George was a slightly better Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. Although Bradford played in a pass-heavy era and earned far more money, he struggled to stay healthy.

Both quarterbacks, Bradford and George, each took plenty of sacks and had some durability problems. George only played a full 16-game season four times in 13 years.

Bradford, who last played for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, only started 16 games twice. The ex-Heisman Trophy winner at least started 15 games in 2016.

Marvin Harrison is a legendary NFL receiver

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When the best receivers of the late 1990s and early 2000s are mentioned, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens always come to mind. Marvin Harrison, an Indianapolis Colts legend, is right behind them.

Harrison had 1,102 catches for 14,580 yards and 128 touchdowns in 190 games across 13 NFL seasons, all of which came with the Colts.

From 1999-2006, Harrison caught 826 passes for 11,219 yards and 101 touchdowns. Those numbers averaged out to 105 catches, 1,425 yards, and 13 touchdowns across a 16-game season.

Randy Moss averaged 80 catches, 1,231 yards, and 11 touchdowns across a 16-game campaign in that same span. In that same period with the same conditions, Terrell Owens averaged 93 catches, 1,333 yards, and 13 touchdowns each year.

Harrison had 65 career catches in the postseason for 883 yards and two touchdowns. The former first-round pick won a Super Bowl after the 2006 season.

Harrison entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August 2016.

Jeff George cost the Falcons a chance at Marvin Harrison

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Jeff George and Marvin Harrison never played together, and George’s days as a starter were over by the time Harrison became one of the NFL’s top receivers.

So what do the two have to do with one another? On March 24, 1994, the Indianapolis Colts traded George to the Atlanta Falcons for two first-round picks and a 1994 third-round pick.

Although one of the two first-round picks was for 1994, the other was for two years later. Indianapolis used that pick to draft Harrison, who became an all-time NFL great.

George, by the way, lasted only three seasons in Atlanta.

That is one of the most lopsided trades in NFL history, and it worked out especially well for Harrison and the Colts. On the other hand, Atlanta needed to wait until Michael Vick arrived in 2001 before the Falcons had a truly game-changing franchise quarterback.