When the Falcons completed the 2011 season with a 10-6 mark it gave the franchise its fourth consecutive winning season, the first time in Atlanta's history that feat has been accomplished.
With that string of success it's no wonder why the Falcons are considered one of the top football clubs in the NFL right now. Only four teams currently have a streak of four winning seasons or longer. Joining the Falcons are the Ravens (4), the Steelers (5) and the Patriots (6).
Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, a winning streak of four-or-more seasons has been accomplished 34 times. Only four franchises have done it three seperate times in their history since 1970. Those teams are the Redskins, the Steelers, the Cowboys and the Patriots, four franchises long synonymous with winning, though the Cowboys and Redskins have struggled to maintain that level of success in recent seasons.
The four straight winning seasons by Atlanta from 2008-2011 marks the first time it has happened in franchise history, all coming under the head coaching leadership of Mike Smith. The Falcons are joined by only one other NFC South team to accomplish that. The Tampa Bay Bucs had a winning record for four straight seasons from 1999-2002. The Panthers have never accomplished it in their franchise history and the Saints are currently on a three-straight-season streak.
In addition to the Saints and Panthers, there are six other teams that have not accomplished four-straight winning seasons since 1970. The Jets, Giants, Texans, Lions, Bengals and Cardinals all have that dubious distinction.
While the run by the Falcons looks to continue on for a few more seasons, it may be difficult to match the longest streak since 1970. The San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys have each had 16 straight winning seasons over the course of their history. The 49ers accomplished this from 1983-1998 and the Cowboys did it from 1970 to 1985.
To make what the Falcons have accomplished recently in what is possibly the most competitive era of NFL football is the fact that nine of the teams that have accomplished four straight winning seasons haven't done so in over a decade.
The direction the Falcons have taken under Smith is remarkable and points to continued future success. Smith is the franchise's 14th head coach and his 43 wins over his first four seasons is a franchise record. His track record also ranks him among the best in the first four seasons by a first-time head coach in NFL history. Smith's 43-21 record since 2008 is tied for fourth with five other coaches on the all-time list. Smith only trails Baltimore's John Harbaugh and the legendary Chuck Knox and George Seifert.