Ranking All Atlanta Falcons Quarterbacks in Franchise History

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Michael Vick runs with the football for the Atlanta Falcons

Though Michael Vick and Matt Ryan have dazzled as Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks while using polar-opposite styles of play, the franchise’s history at the most prominent position in football still isn’t particularly noteworthy. Plenty of NFL organizations have found much more success under center, which leaves a significant disparity between the top of the all-time rankings and the middle of the pack.

The Falcons opened their franchise history in 1966 with Randy Johnson taking snaps in a 19-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and they’ve since added 44 more qualified quarterbacks to the mix. Those signal-callers have produced a combined 14 Pro Bowl seasons, but only seven men have earned the individual honor.

Perhaps Desmond Ridder can break out in his sophomore season and change the perception of the franchise’s positional history, especially with a promising rookie in Bijan Robinson serving as a safety valve and versatile weapon out of the backfield. But based on the history in play here, betting on that is a risky proposition.

Using the Total Yards Added (TYA) metric I developed for QB Math, which evaluates quarterbacks’ success relative to league average in four facets of the game — rushing, passing, sack avoidance, and fumble avoidance — we’re highlighting each and every one of the 45 Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks with at least one qualified game for the organization since ’66. These rankings will be updated continuously and are accurate heading into Week 5 of the 2023 NFL season.

Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks Nos. 45-11

Franchise RankQuarterbackQualified GamesTotal Yards Added
45Randy Johnson44-1501.247
44Kim McQuilken14-1386.136
43David Archer28-767.93
42Pat Sullivan14-632.064
41Kurt Kittner6-516.664
40Tony Graziani12-431.977
39Doug Johnson17-402.224
38Scott Campbell15-371.127
37Danny Kanell6-348.918
36Mike Moroski13-305.076
35Joey Harrington12-301.25
34Desmond Ridder8-297.442
33Steve Dils4-286.156
32Turk Schonert6-283.854
31Bobby Hebert35-278.756
30Billy Joe Tolliver23-274.041
29June Jones9-268.475
28Bruce Lemmerman6-213.951
27Byron Leftwich3-200.714
26Erik Kramer3-190.942
25Steve Sloan3-184.537
24Bob Lee21-169.682
23Hugh Millen10-140.433
22Chris Miller70-138.469
21Sean Renfree1-104.968
20Jeff Van Raaphorst2-103.729
19Josh Rosen1-66.375
18Browning Nagle2-53.43
17Steve DeBerg4-30.39
16Dick Shiner9-25.181
15Terry Nofsinger4-24.208
14Marcus Mariota13-11.501
13Dominique Davis1-6.013
12Scott Hunter1416.538
11Dennis Claridge628.084

Keep in mind that this is about career production.

Playing in more games usually means moving further away from the league-average score of zero, which is why Randy Johnson — objectively not the least-talented of the Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks — falls all the way to the bottom of the pack despite having a far superior per-game output to other low finishers such as Kim McQuilken and Pat Sullivan.

10. Chris Redman

  • Years: 2007-11
  • Stats: 1-5 record, 180-of-302 (59.6%), 2,068 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 30.598

Primarily acting as a backup for Matt Ryan during his stint with the Atlanta Falcons, Chris Redman at least managed to remain productive whenever he traded in the clipboard for a helmet. He also enjoyed the best game of his career on Dec. 30, 2007, when he completed 17 of 27 passes for 251 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions in a 44-41 shootout victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

9. Bob Holly

  • Years: 1985
  • Stats: 0-0 record, 24-of-39 (61.5%), 295 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 45.203

Bob Holly appeared in just five games for the Falcons, all of which saw him come off the bench to relieve Steve Bartkowski or David Archer. The Princeton product proved accurate, but big plays were hard to come by for an ’85 Atlanta outfit that went 4-12 and averaged just 17.6 points per game.

8. Matt Schaub

  • Years: 2004-06, 2016-20
  • Stats: 0-3 record, 140-of-238 (58.8%), 1,649 yards, 9 TD, 7 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 114.283

Though we’re remaining in the realm of backups, Matt Schaub should exist in a category of his own.

He may have been entrenched in a second-string role for much of his Atlanta career, which accounted for the beginning and end of his NFL days, but he showed enough promise to earn a featured role with the Houston Texans that yielded two Pro Bowl appearances.

7. Steve Bartkowski

Ranking All Atlanta Falcons Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski | Focus on Sport/Getty Images
  • Years: 1975-85
  • Stats: 55-66 record, 1,871-of-3,330 (56.2%), 23,470 yards, 154 TD, 141 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 380.796

Finally, we arrive at a legitimate starter.

Steve Bartkowski spent 11 up-and-down seasons with the Falcons, but two years do a lot of heavy lifting in these rankings. Interestingly, his Pro Bowl season in ’81 is not one of them, though it still graded out positively as his third-best go-round.

In 1980, Bartkowski trailed only Brian Sipe and Earl Campbell in AP MVP voting as he went 12-4 while pacing the NFL with 31 touchdown passes and four game-winning drives. Three years later, he posted 22 touchdowns and just five interceptions, submitting a 97.6 quarterback rating that no qualified signal-caller could match.

6. Wade Wilson

  • Years: 1992
  • Stats: 1-2 record, 111-of-163 (68.1%), 1,366 yards, 13 TD, 4 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 542.892

Wade Wilson, not to be confused with the Marvel antihero claiming the same name, spent only a single season with the Atlanta Falcons and started in just three of his nine appearances. Though he led one game-winning drive that ended in a field goal, the bigger selling point — statistically, at least — was his ability to find the end zone with frequency.

He recorded 13 touchdown passes in only 163 attempts, giving him a sterling 8.0 touchdown percentage. Granted, he didn’t play frequently enough to qualify for the actual leaderboard. But for perspective, Steve Young finished as the 1992 season leader with a mark of 6.2% for the San Francisco 49ers.

5. Michael Vick

Ranking All Atlanta Falcons Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick | Joe Murphy/NFLPhotoLibrary
  • Years: 2001-06
  • Stats: 38-28-1 record, 930-of-1,730 (53.8%), 11,505 yards, 71 TD, 52 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 552.034

Perhaps Michael Vick would’ve risen far higher on the leaderboard of Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks had he spent more time on the field. He spent his early career as one of the faces of the NFL — as well as a borderline unfair Madden signal-caller — thanks to his electric dual-threat ability and unprecedented combination of foot speed and arm strength.

But in 2007, Vick’s role in a dogfighting ring landed him in federal prison for 548 days following a plea bargin. When he returned to the field after missing the entirety of the 2007 and 2008 campaigns, he was no longer a part of the Atlanta roster and resumed his career with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Vick’s ’02 season was undeniably magical. He finished fourth in AP MVP voting as a sophomore while throwing for 2,936 yards, 16 touchdowns, and eight interceptions and rushing for 777 yards and another eight scores. But the self-inflicted limitations of his on-field sample prevent him from rising higher.

4. Jeff George

  • Years: 1994-96
  • Stats: 16-19 record, 714-1,180 (60.5%), 8,575 yards, 50 TD, 32 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 571.795

Though far less glamorous than Michael Vick, Jeff George was quite efficient during his brief time as a starter for the Atlanta Falcons.

The 1990 first-round pick opened all 16 games on the field in both 1994 and 1995, tossing a combined 47 touchdowns to 29 interceptions. He may not have avoided turnovers well enough to drag the Falcons into contention, but he moved the ball down the field with aplomb. During that two-year stretch, only Warren Moon (8,492), Brett Favre (8,295), Dan Marino (8,121), and Drew Bledsoe (8,062) outdid his 7,877 yards through the air.

3. Chris Chandler

Ranking All Atlanta Falcons Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler | Focus on Sport/Getty Images
  • Years: 1997-2001
  • Stats: 34-33 record, 981-of-1,672 (58.7%), 13,268 yards, 87 TD, 56 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 1,257.013

Remember when Chris Chandler made back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances in 1997 and 1998? Among the many Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks in the organization’s nearly six-decade history, only he, Steve Bartkowski (1980-81), and Michael Vick (2004-05) have achieved that feat.

The second of those efforts was particularly impressive as Chandler went 13-1 under center, threw for 3,154 yards, recorded 25 touchdowns through the air, and tallied another two scores on the ground. He went on to submit a sterling performance in an NFC Championship Game victory over the Minnesota Vikings (27-of-43 for 340 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions), but everything came crashing down in a 34-19 defeat to John Elway’s Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 33. Chandler threw three picks and had trouble moving the ball against the NFL’s eight-ranked scoring defense.

2. Bob Berry

  • Years: 1968-72
  • Stats: 19-28-3 record, 598-of-1,049 (57.0%), 8,489 yards, 57 TD, 56 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 1,463.424

Bob Berry only made a single Pro Bowl appearance for the Falcons, shining over seven games during the 1969 season. But the totality of his efforts over a five-year stretch with the franchise rewarded him with one of the top marks in the books.

The losing record, sub-60 completion percentage, and nearly 1:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio all fail to stand out. However, Berry made far more big plays down the field than many of his contemporaries. From 1968-72, he averaged 8.1 yards per passing attempt. Among the 21 quarterbacks who threw at least 100 passes during those five years, just Earl Morrall (8.5) and Roger Staubach (8.2) surpassed that mark.

1. Matt Ryan

Ranking All Atlanta Falcons Quarterbacks in Franchise History
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan | Tom Pennington/Getty Images
  • Years: 2008-21
  • Stats: 120-102 record, 5,242-8,003 (65.5%), 59,735 yards, 367 TD, 170 INT
  • Total Yards Added: 5,390.045

Is there any doubt about Matt Ryan’s status atop the list of Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks? There shouldn’t be.

Era differentiation is important here, but the raw numbers still tell a compelling story. Ryan has more passing yards for Atlanta (59,735) than the combined sums of the next three on the leaderboard: Steve Bartkowski (23,470), Chris Miller (14,066), and Chris Chandler (13,268). The story holds if we look at his touchdown passes (367) compared to the next three up (328).

He has nearly twice as many fourth-quarter comebacks as any other quarterback in franchise history and actually does double up the runner-up in game-winning drives. The list goes on and on.

Plus, we can’t overlook his efforts in an MVP-winning 2016 campaign, regardless of how the season ended in the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. The TYA earned in that season (2,051.389) would put him in first place by a wide margin even if he’d never played a snap in any other go-round, and it still checks in as the No. 3 score in NFL history, behind only 1984 Dan Marino (2,399.737) and 2004 Peyton Manning (2,298.124).