50 years ago this season, the Atlanta Falcons made their debut in the NFL after becoming one of the rare (at the time) southern teams. It hasn’t always been easy, as the Falcons did not have their first division title until 1980, back when they played in the NFC West and we learned what geography was all about. A big part of reaching the top is finding a franchise quarterback, something that the Falcons seemed to struggle with for decades.
There have been some very good quarterbacks over the years, though clearly their best ones have come in recent years. Before the 2016 season, the Falcons had only reached one Super Bowl and that came with a 19-34 loss to the Broncos. Chris Chandler was the quarterback at the time, so where does he rank among the best starting quarterbacks in Falcons history?
There have been a total of 37 signal callers that have gotten the start for Atlanta, starting with Randy Johnson and is now in the capable hands of Matt Ryan. Let’s take a look at all 37 of those quarterbacks, ranking them from worst to best. We start with one of the franchise’s first quarterbacks.
37. Steve Sloan
Our list begins with Steve Sloan, a former Alabama quarterback that joined the Atlanta Falcons out of college and lasted just two NFL seasons (both with Atlanta). Sloan appeared in eight games for the Falcons, but only started in one game, which turned out to be a loss. All in all, Sloan connected on just 10 of his 31 passes in 1966 and 1967 for a total of 134 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions.
The game was a bit different back then for passers, but those numbers are downright bad no matter how you look at them. Sloan would get into coaching immediately after retiring in 1967, bouncing around as head coach with schools like Vanderbilt, Texas Tech, Ole Miss and Duke. He then became an Athletic Director at four schools before retiring in 2006.
36. Kim McQuilken
Just getting edged out by Sloan as the worst quarterback in Falcons history is Kim McQuilken, a former third round draft pick in 1974 by the Falcons. McQuilken remained with the team for four seasons, making seven starts in the process with 23 total appearances. McQuilken won just two of those starts, finishing with a 39.9 completion percentage and four touchdowns. However, the eye opening stat is the fact that he threw for 28 interceptions. That’s an interception rate of 10.4 percent, and that’s disturbing in any era.
McQuilken would leave the Falcons and join the Redskins for the remainder of the 1970’s. After taking some time away from football, McQuilken would join the USFL for one year in 1983. McQuilken finished with a career passer rating of 17.9, but you might know him better as the eventual Executive Vice President at Cartoon Network.
35. Bruce Lemmerman
Back in the early days of the Atlanta Falcons, Bruce Lemmerman was brought in to be a backup quarterback that made 11 appearances in both the 1968 and 1969 seasons. During that time, Lemmerman made two starts (both in 1969), losing both of them. Lemmerman would finish with a 36.4 completion percentage, for a total of 370 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions.
While his interception rate wasn’t as nearly as bad as McQuilken’s, it was still poor. Thankfully for Lemmerman, he would find success in Canada as a five-time Grey Cup Champion. Three of those titles came when he was a player for the Edmonton Eskimos, while the other two came as the offensive coordinator for the same team. Lemmerman would also coach for Winnipeg to end his football career in 1988.
34. Jeff Van Raaphorst
Arizona State quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst did not get drafted in the 1987 NFL Draft, but the Atlanta Falcons did pick him up as a free agent afterward. His rookie season would be his only one in the league, however, as Van Raaphorst started just one game with two appearances. The start ended up being a loss, and Van Raaphorst finished his two-game NFL career with 18-for-34 passing, 174 yards, one touchdowns and two interceptions.
Van Raaphorst would leave the football world behind for the most part, but has serving as an analyst with his alma mater since 1989. Van Raaphorst has also been in business, working with several different companies as a sales manager. Currently, he is the Area Vice President for a company named Ortho Kinematics, Inc.
33. Pat Sullivan
Since the 1990’s started, Pat Sullivan has been more known as a head coach as he was leading the charge for TCU from 1992 to 1997 and then Samford from 2007 to 2014. Before that, he was a Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn that was picked up by the Falcons in 1972. Over four seasons with the team, Sullivan would make 30 appearances with four starts, losing all of them.
The stats weren’t impressive, either, as Sullivan finished with 93 completions on 220 passes, 1,155 yards, five touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Sullivan left to join the Redskins for the 1976 and 1977 seasons, which would be his final two years in the league. Now 67 years old, Sullivan’s greatest accomplishment has been as a College Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1991.