The executives at CBS Sports won’t admit it but we all know it. The network that has this year’s Super Bowl has their fingers crossed the San Francisco 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons Sunday in the NFC Championship game. (It goes without saying; CBS also wants New England in the Super Bowl over the Ravens.)
What do we make of the Falcons brand? Locally, here in Atlanta, it’s probably the most respected pro franchise in town. You’ve got stable ownership (Arthur Blank), a consistent quarterback (Matt Ryan), a smart, hardworking obsessive general manager (Thomas Dimitroff) and a coach that commands the respect of his players and peers (Mike Smith). However, the national perception is if you throw all those ingredients into a blender you still come out with plain vanilla ice cream. Need I remind everyone that vanilla still ranks as America’s favorite flavor?
The Atlanta Falcons suffer from being, well….the Atlanta Falcons. Zero Super Bowl titles and only one appearance since 1965. After last weekend’s “escape” versus Seattle, most national pundits are talking like the Falcons are backing into the NFC Championship Game. Yet over the past five seasons, the Atlanta Falcons franchise has more regular season wins than any other NFC team. This is a league where offense sells tickets and makes SportsCenter highlights right? Last I checked the Falcons are loaded with Pro Bowlers at all the skill positions: Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, and Matt Ryan. Sounds like a pretty attractive brand to me. Dare I say the Falcons have more household names on their roster then the San Francisco 49ers. So again, what’s the problem CBS??
The problem once again is history, pedigree (or lack of one). The San Francisco 49ers have five Super Bowl Championships from 1981 to 1994. That’s a helluva way to build your national brand (see the current New England Patriots). The 49ers also have legends like Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, and Ronnie Lott (to name a few) in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Atlanta Falcons have….ummm….well, we kind of claim Deion Sanders, even though he never won a championship in Atlanta. That’s it.
But hey, let’s think positive. This week is the start of something special with this Falcons franchise. Let the brand building begin this Sunday! Getting to the Super Bowl would obviously put a lot of eyes on this franchise and these players. Winning the Super Bowl would do even more for their legacies. That sounds nice: ‘Falcons’ and ‘legacy’. We all know Tony Gonzalez will be headed to the Hall of Fame one day. The rest of these Falcons players have 8 quarters of football left to create their own; being called ‘Super Bowl Champs’ is a great place to start. Not even CBS could ignore that.