NFC South: Tommy Nobis

I’m just glancing through the NFL’s official Record & Fact Book for 2012 and I stumbled up on an area that I think is worth discussing: retired numbers.

The NFC South has only eight of them. The Chicago Bears have 13 retired numbers. The San Francisco 49ers have 12 and the New York Giants have 11.

I realize the four NFC South teams haven’t been around as long as some of the storied franchises. But only one team has more than two numbers retired and two teams have only one.

Atlanta retired the numbers of Steve Bartkowski (No. 10), William Andrews (No. 31), Jeff Van Note (No. 57) and Tommy Nobis (No. 60).

New Orleans retired Jim Taylor’s No. 31 and Doug Atkins’ No. 81.

Carolina’s only retired number is Sam Mills’ No. 51 and Tampa Bay’s lone retired jersey is Lee Roy Selmon’s No. 63.

I think you could make a case that Atlanta should retire Deion Sanders' jersey, even though he wasn’t with the Falcons that long. He changed the game and put the Falcons on the map in Atlanta. I think New Orleans should have retired Mills’ jersey long ago. Mills spent more time and had a bigger impact in New Orleans than he did in Carolina. For that matter, I’d say the Saints should retire the numbers of Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf. They were, after all, good enough to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

I’m not sure Carolina has another realistic candidate right now. But John Kasay and Steve Smith should have their numbers retired the second they quit the game.

Tampa Bay? The Bucs weren’t exactly a dynasty in their early days. Some would make the case that Doug Williams should have his number retired even though his Tampa Bay career was relatively short. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon because Williams left the team’s personnel department on bad terms. He’s been passed over for the team’s Ring of Honor twice. Tampa Bay has some potential candidates on the horizon. I think you can at least make a case for Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Elbert Mack (I’m only kidding on Mack) to have their numbers retired. But when do you do that? I’m thinking you make those calls when you put those guys in the Ring of Honor.
Former Atlanta offensive tackle Georg Kunz probably won’t make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But he’s got a shot at the Hall of Very Good.

The Professional Football Researchers Association has announced its finalists for the Hall of Very Good Class of 2012 and Kunz, who played for the Falcons from 1979 through 1984 and later played for the Colts, is on it. Kunz is the only player with NFC South ties on this year’s list of finalists.

If Kunz makes the Hall of Very Good, he’ll join former Atlanta players Claude Humphrey, who was selected in 2009, and Tommy Nobis, who was selected in 2005.

NFC South links: No Barber reunion

July, 7, 2011
Atlanta Falcons is running a tournament-style bracket to let fans decide who their favorite Falcons legacy player is. Today's matchup: No. 7 Tommy Nobis vs. No. 10 Warrick Dunn.

Tony Gonzalez makes an appearance in Funny or Die's "Field of Dream 2" spoof of the NFL lockout.

Carolina Panthers

Wofford College and Spartanburg businesses have a lot riding on the outcome of pending NFL labor talks. Wofford has been the summer home of the Panthers for the past 16 years, but the lockout threatens to cancel training camp. Not hosting the Panthers would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars for local businesses.

New Orleans Saints

A group of retired players has filed a complaint against the NFL, the named plaintiffs in the Tom Brady antitrust action and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. The retired players’ complaint takes particular aim at Drew Brees, one of the Brady plaintiffs, claiming Brees "voiced his antipathy for NFL retirees."

The Saints' homecoming against the Falcons in the rebuilt Superdome a year after Hurricane Katrina was a significant moment in the city's recovery, according to an NC State University study.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A new CBA with a higher cap floor could lead a team like the Bucs, which has a low payroll, to spend big on free agents such as Nnamdi Asomugha, according to's Jason La Canfora.

The Bucs reportedly have no interest in signing Ronde Barber's brother, Tiki, when free agency begins.

The team has promoted former college scouting director Dennis Hickey to director of player personnel.
Every year since 2003, the Professional Football Researchers Association selects a class for the Hall of Very Good.

It’s a way of recognizing guys who aren’t in the Hall of Fame and probably won’t get in, although Carl Eller got in after he was selected to the Hall of Very Good. The complete list of candidates for the Class of 2011, which will be announced at the end of the year, was announced Monday and I only saw one NFC South connection.

It’s former Atlanta offensive tackle George Kunz. He played for the Falcons from 1969 through 1974. Oh, by the way, Falcons fans don’t need to get all worked up about Tommy Nobis. He was a member of the Hall of Very Good’s Class of 2005.
It’s kind of fitting that the newest member of the Atlanta Falcons' Ring of Honor will be inducted during the Nov. 11 game against Baltimore that will be played in prime time. Yes, it’s Deion Sanders.

The Falcons just announced that Sanders will be the eighth member of the Ring of Honor.

"Deion Sanders is widely regarded as one of the best cornerbacks in the 91-year history of the National Football League," Falcons Owner & CEO Arthur Blank said. "He epitomized excellence on the playing field and was a tremendously gifted athlete who possessed great speed. Deion excelled as a defender, kick returner, punt returner and on offense on his way to establishing 12 club records. He was an electrifying performer who put fans on the edge of their seats every time he manned his cornerback position or dropped back to receive a kickoff or field a punt. He is without question one of the greatest players in the history of our franchise."

Blank pretty nicely summed up what Sanders did for the Falcons from 1989 through 1993. Sanders will join William Andrews, Steve Bartkowski, Mike Kenn, Claude Humphrey, Tommy Nobis, Jessie Tuggle and Jeff Van Note in the Ring of Honor.

NFC South polls are now open

August, 30, 2010
It started as a suggestion from loyal reader Mark H. in Greensboro, N.C., and it quickly has grown into what I think could be one of the more interesting projects we’ve ever attempted on the NFC South blog.

Mark’s basic suggestion was to pick the most disliked person for every NFC South team.

We’ve kicked around parameters for this and you have been phenomenal about providing input to make this work. While on the basketball court, which is where I do some of my best thinking, Sunday afternoon, I thought of a whole other layer for this project. I thought of also including a vote to see who is the most beloved figure for each NFC South franchise and we’re going to do that.

I’ve also settled on the parameters and here they are:
  • Send votes for the figure you dislike most from your team and the most beloved figure from your team to my mailbag. Some of you have already voted, but that was before we set the rules or added the beloved category. So those votes won’t count. Fire away with your new ones and specify the team and the disliked and beloved figures clearly.
  • By “figure,’’ I mean anyone associated with your favorite team. That means players, coaches, general managers and owners. For the beloved category, I’d even nominate Carolina equipment manager Jackie Miles, a legend in his own right, and Jill Hobbs, who started working as a secretary for the Buccaneers back in 1976 when she was something like 4 years old.
  • After a lot of debate, we’re going to open the time frame up on this to the entire history of each franchise. There was some debate about limiting it to current figures or starting the clock when the NFC South officially became a division in 2002. But the narrow consensus was to make it for the entire history of each franchise. In other words, figures such as Hugh Culverhouse, Doug Williams, Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Kerry Collins, Sam Mills, George Seifert, Archie Manning, Mike Ditka, Jeff George and Tommy Nobis are as eligible as figures like Drew Brees, the Glazer family, Matt Ryan and Sean Payton are. I’m not implying disliked or beloved for any of those figures. I’m just using their names to illustrate the time frame. Let’s please avoid the votes for guys who only had a cup of coffee in the NFC South – Reggie White, Brett Favre, etc.
  • I can’t ask this one strongly enough: Please limit your votes only for your favorite team. If we let Atlanta fans list Brees as a disliked figure or allowed former Carolina punter Todd Sauerbrun to vote for Martin Gramatica, we’d turn this thing into a shouting match and that’s not the goal of this project.
  • If you only want to vote for a beloved figure or only want to vote for a disliked figure from your team, that’s fine. Your vote will still count.
  • With each of your votes, feel free to include a little of your reasoning. We’ll use some samples when we post the results, so keep them clean and at least try to make the grammar reasonable.
  • Carolina fans, I’m going to impose one special rule on you. Do not vote for Rae Carruth. He’s ineligible and any votes for him will not be counted. I understand the venom for Carruth. What he was convicted of was beyond terrible, but it went way beyond the scope of football. So let’s just leave that one alone.
  • Other guys who have had off-field troubles for any of the four teams are eligible.
  • To ensure the integrity and the accuracy of the voting results, I’ve gone out and hired a prestigious accounting firm to tabulate the votes. Well, wait, I wasn’t able to afford that. But I’ve done something even better. I’ve turned to my alma mater, Saint Leo University, and enlisted the help of Kevin Little, who I’ve been doing some career mentoring with. Kevin is a Sports Business major with a keen interest in the NFL and numbers. Kevin’s agreed to help me tabulate the results.
  • I haven’t set an official date for the closing of the polls or when we’ll run separate posts on the winners in both categories for each franchise. We’ll just kind of play that by ear, but I’m hoping to have it ready for sometime right around the start of the regular season.
When I got back to NFC South Blog headquarters and picked up a week’s worth of mail, there was something in there I was much happier to see than routine bills and advertisements. The NFL’s annual Kickoff Guide was waiting.

It’s prepared by the NFL’s media relations office and includes all sorts of information about the past, present and future. I’ll share some relevant bits and pieces with you over the next few weeks. One item I caught was a listing of retired numbers for each franchise.

The NFC South is comparatively light in this area because these teams didn’t even exist in the days of George Halas. For the record, there are only eight retired jerseys in the NFC South.

The guys who have earned that honor are Atlanta’s Steve Bartkowski (No. 10), William Andrews (No. 31), Jeff Van Note (No. 57) and Tommy Nobis (No. 60), Carolina’s Sam Mills (No. 51), New Orleans’ Jim Taylor (No. 31)and Doug Atkins (No. 81) and Tampa Bay's Lee Roy Selmon (No. 63).

Made one question pop into my mind “Who will be the next player for each franchise to get his number retired?’’ I’d like to hear your candidates, so discuss it below or send a note to my mailbag.

I’ll share my list and I’m going to make it really elite because I think only the greatest of the great should have their numbers retired:

Buccaneers: Derrick Brooks. No question on this one. This guy’s the best player in franchise history. He just needs to officially admit he’s retired, get over the fact the Bucs ended his career before he thought he was ready. The moment he does that, his jersey will be retired in glorious fashion. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Brooks is the best player in NFC South history, although I think there's a quarterback in New Orleans, who has a chance to claim that honor in time.

Panthers: John Kasay. This guy’s been with the franchise since its start. No player has ever been closer to owner Jerry Richardson. Oh, by the way, Kasay also has been a pretty remarkable kicker and has done great things in the community.

Saints: Drew Brees. You can make cases for Willie Roaf and Morten Andersen and that could happen before Brees is even done playing. But I’d pretty much bet the farm that No. 9 will be retired the moment Brees is.

Falcons: Matt Ryan. Yeah, I’m projecting here as the quarterback enters the third year of his career. But I expect greatness for a long time. I’m sure I’ll hear some suggestions for Keith Brooking. He was a very good player for a long time and I respect that, but was Brooking ever truly dominant?
I thought Matt Ryan was the face of the Atlanta Falcons the last two years and would keep that role for the next decade or so.

But that’s been interrupted, temporarily. Very shortly, television viewers in the Atlanta market are going to be seeing a new face of the Falcons. It’s actor Samuel L. Jackson. He has deep ties to the Atlanta area and he has filmed a commercial to go with the team’s “Rise Up’’ advertising campaign.

"I still remember hearing the PA announcer call out ‘tackle by No. 60 Tommy Nobis and I still have my Steve Bartkowski jersey," Jackson said. "It was an honor for me to bring this spot to life for the city of Atlanta and the Falcons. I have a lot of respect for what Mr. [Arthur] Blank has done with the organization and team, and I really believe the Falcons are headed in the right direction. Walking out to do this commercial at midfield of the Georgia Dome was a special experience for me.”

The commercial will begin airing on Atlanta television Monday. But I just watched and it’s very cool. You, too, can see it by clicking here.

Jackson’s basic message is that the Falcons have spent most of their existence “knocking on the door’’ and now it’s time to rise up. Jackson did his part. Now, it’s up to Ryan and his teammates to go out and make it happen.

Atlanta Falcons: Franchise player

August, 18, 2008

Posted by's Pat Yasinskas

 Allen Dean Steele/NFL
 Deion Sanders was voted the greatest player in Falcons history.

Readers' pick: Deion Sanders, CB

I read what the voters had to say and my first instinct was to argue. Really hard. Deion Sanders as the best player in Falcons' history? Come on. Sanders was nothing more than a traveling circus and he wasn't even in Atlanta that long.

But what's my alternative? Michael Vick? I can't -- and won't -- do that.

This is when it really kicks in that the Falcons don't exactly have a glorious history.

I'd like to make a case for Keith Brooking or Jessie Tuggle or even Tommy Nobis. They each went to a bunch of Pro Bowls. But they're linebackers and didn't come with a lot of flash.

I guess I have no choice to agree and go with Sanders. He was, after all, a great cover corner and return man. But he didn't have longevity with the franchise and he was an attention seeker.

There's a part of me that hopes Matt Ryan or Michael Turner or someone (anyone, please) on the current roster has a great career so we don't have to go with style over substance when we talk about the greatest Falcon.