Norbert Earl Hecker (May 26, 1927 – March 14, 2004) was an American football player and coach who was part of eight National Football League championship teams, but may be best remembered as the first head coach of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.
|No. 88, 48|
|Born:||May 26, 1927|
|Died:||March 14, 2004 (aged 76)|
Los Altos, California
|NFL draft||1951 / Round: 6 / Pick: 72|
|1959–1965||Green Bay Packers (DB)|
|1966–1968||Atlanta Falcons (HC)|
|1969–1971||New York Giants (DC)|
|1979||San Francisco 49ers (DB)|
|1980–1986||San Francisco 49ers (LB)|
|1951–1953||Los Angeles Rams|
Born and raised in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, Hecker served in the U.S. Army during World War II, then returned home to attend nearby Baldwin-Wallace College. In his years at the school, he showed himself to be an outstanding athlete by competing in four sports, most notably in football, where he won small college All-American honors in 1950 at wide receiver. After having seen time as a reserve during the previous two years, Hecker caught 34 passes for 646 yards as a senior, including 13 catches in a single game.
Hecker lived in Olmsted Falls Ohio, and his family still lives there. Hecker was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the sixth round of the 1951 NFL Draft, and during his first season with the team, played on both sides of the ball, missing only one game after suffering a fractured cheekbone. On defense, he returned one turnover for a touchdown that season, but his most important contribution came in the NFL title game on December 23, when his game-saving tackle helped the Rams defeat the Cleveland Browns, 24–17.
During the following off-season, Hecker married Barbara Anne Ritchie on April 4, a union that would last 46 years until her death. The family ties became even stronger when his brother Bob joined him in the Los Angeles secondary, but Hecker's time with the Rams would end after the conclusion of the 1953 NFL season, when, after intercepting seven passes for the year, he was dealt to the Washington Redskins. However, before playing a down with his new team, he signed to play with the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts on June 8, 1954.
After just one season with his new team, the Argonauts released Hecker and the team's other American imports on December 14. After first choosing to stay up north with the Ottawa Rough Riders, Hecker changed his mind and reported to the Redskins' training camp on August 2, 1955. In his first season, he had a team-high six interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
Off the field, Hecker also made an impact as one of 12 players who started the National Football League Players Association in 1956, briefly serving as the team representative.
Hecker closed out his career after two more years of action, scoring another defensive touchdown in 1957 and finishing with 28 interceptions for his career. In addition, he also had two touchdown receptions, while also seeing periodic duty as the team's placekicker.
Continuing knee troubles played a major role in Hecker's release from the Redskins on September 7, 1958, with the veteran returning to Canada for one final season as a player-coach with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Inheriting a team that had won just once in 1958, Lombardi finished with a winning record in his first season, then narrowly missed capturing the NFL title the following year. In each of the next two campaigns, the Packers won the championship, then added another in 1965. The latter title resulted in Hecker being hired by the expansion Falcons as their first head coach on January 26, 1966.
Lombardi was initially pursued as the first Atlanta coach, but after deciding to stay with Green Bay, was asked for recommendations for Atlanta's first coach. At the time, Lombardi did not recommend Hecker and the Atlanta owner, Rankin Smith Sr., thinking Lombardi was trying to pull one over on him, decided to hire Hecker. The next three years would be an exercise in frustration for Hecker who managed just four wins in his 31 games at the helm. One bad omen of this misery came in the team's first exhibition game when the Falcons' kicker Wade Traynham completely missed the ball on the kickoff. Following the inaugural 3–11 season, the Falcons were plagued by injuries in 1967 and declined to a 1–12–1 mark, the lone win coming in a one-point mid-season contest against the Minnesota Vikings.
When Atlanta began the 1968 NFL season by dropping their first three games, Hecker was fired on October 1 and replaced by former Viking head coach Norm Van Brocklin. After reaching a settlement on the remaining two years of his contract, Hecker accepted the defensive coordinator position with the New York Giants on February 12, 1969. He had also been under consideration for a post with the Redskins, who had just hired the previously-retired Lombardi.
Following a 6–8 season that began with the preseason dismissal of head coach Allie Sherman, the Giants came close to reaching the postseason in 1970 with a 9–5 mark. However, when the team slipped to 4–10 the next year and gave up 362 points, Hecker was fired on December 23, 1971. He resurfaced at Stanford University, first under Jack Christiansen from 1972 to 1976, then Bill Walsh the next two seasons.
When Walsh was hired as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 1979, Hecker came along as an assistant coach. After struggling for two seasons, the 49ers stunned the NFL by winning the championship in 1981, capping their turnaround season with a 26–21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. San Francisco would go on to win three more Super Bowls, with Hecker eventually moving into a front office position until his retirement in 1991.1951 Los Angeles Rams season
The 1951 Los Angeles Rams season was the team's 14th year with the National Football League and the sixth season in Los Angeles. In 1951, the Rams had an up-and-down season, never winning more than three games in a row, but was able to win eight games and clinch the National Conference after defeating the Green Bay Packers during week twelve. Los Angeles also led the National Football League in attendance for the second time while in Southern California and was the first of ten straight seasons leading the league in attendance. The Rams' largest crowd during the 1951 campaign was 67,186 against the Cleveland Browns during week two.After their 8–5 campaign, Los Angeles won the National Conference and advanced to their third NFL Championship Game in a row and faced the then-powerhouse Cleveland Browns. The Rams ended up winning their second NFL Championship in seven seasons, and their first in Los Angeles. The 1951 NFL Championship was also the State of California's first major professional championship and the Rams' only title while in Southern California. The Rams would advance to the championship round three more times (1955, Super Bowl XIV, and Super Bowl LIII), but failed to win another championship during their first stint in Los Angeles until after the Rams had moved out of the market.
Statistically, the Rams scored 391 points during this season, the second-most points-scored in the 1950s (although significantly less than the highest-scoring team of the decade, the 1950 Rams). Los Angeles led the league in total points, total yards, passing yards, and was third in the league in rushing. Ram quarterbacks Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin led the National Football League in quarterback rating with both in the top three in yards per completion. Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch was arguably the best receiver in the league in 1951, leading in nearly every receiving category (receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, yards per reception, yards per game, and points scored). While the Rams' offensive statistics were stellar, Los Angeles was middle-of-the pack in the NFL with 261 points and 3,879 yards given up.1966 Atlanta Falcons season
The 1966 Atlanta Falcons season was the franchise's inaugural season in the National Football League (NFL). The Falcons finished in seventh place in the NFL Eastern Conference with a record of 3–11, ahead of only the New York Giants.1967 Atlanta Falcons season
The 1967 Atlanta Falcons season was the franchise's second year in the National Football League (NFL). The team slipped from 3–11 in their inaugural season to 1–12–1, and finished in last place in the new four-team Coastal Division of the NFL Western Conference.
The Falcons were shifted from the Eastern Conference to the Western with the addition of the New Orleans Saints for 1967. Atlanta was farther east than five Eastern Conference teams: the Saints, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis Cardinals.1968 Atlanta Falcons season
The 1968 Atlanta Falcons season was the franchise's third year in the National Football League (NFL).1968 NFL season
The 1968 NFL season was the 49th regular season of the National Football League. As per the agreement made during the 1967 realignment, the New Orleans Saints and the New York Giants switched divisions; the Saints joined the Century Division while the Giants became part of the Capitol Division.
The season ended when the Baltimore Colts defeated the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Championship Game, only to be defeated by the American Football League's New York Jets in Super Bowl III 16–7 at the Orange Bowl in Miami. Subsequently, it was the first time in the history of professional football in which the NFL champion was not crowned as the world champion. One year later, this feat would be repeated, as the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs defeated the NFL champion Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.1979 San Francisco 49ers season
The 1979 San Francisco 49ers season was the team's 30th year in the National Football League (NFL). The season is noted for being O. J. Simpson’s final year and Joe Montana’s first season, as well as the first year head coaching the 49ers for Bill Walsh.
The 1979 49ers are the only team in NFL history to lose 12 games in which they held a lead.1980 San Francisco 49ers season
The 1980 San Francisco 49ers season was the team's 31st in the National Football League. This was both Bill Walsh's and Joe Montana's second season with the team. The 49ers looked to improve on their previous output of 2–14 (which they had earned in both of the two previous seasons). They failed to make the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season, but they did improve to 6–10.On December 7, 1980, the 49ers staged the greatest come from behind victory in the history of the NFL's regular season. The 49ers rallied from 28 points down to defeat the New Orleans Saints by a score of 38–35 in Week Fourteen.1985 San Francisco 49ers season
The 1985 San Francisco 49ers season was the team's 36th year with the National Football League.
49ers running back Roger Craig became the first player in NFL history to record both 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Craig rushed for 1,050 yards, and had 1,016 receiving yards.This season was Jerry Rice's first season in the league.1986 San Francisco 49ers season
The 1986 San Francisco 49ers season was the team's 37th year with the National Football League. The team returned to the top of the NFC West after a one-year absence, and lost the Divisional Playoffs to the Giants.
Joe Montana suffered a back injury in Week 1 and was lost for two months after surgery. Because the injury was so severe, doctors forced him to retire. However, Montana did return for Week 10 against the then-St. Louis Cardinals. Montana shared Comeback Player of the Year honors with Minnesota's Tommy Kramer at the end of the season.1987 San Francisco 49ers season
The 1987 San Francisco 49ers season was the team's 38th year with the National Football League. The 49ers won the division for the second consecutive season, and ended the season as the top seed in the NFC playoffs. The season ended with an upset loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the playoffs.Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets
The Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jackets are the athletic teams for Baldwin Wallace University. The Yellow Jackets participate in Division III of the NCAA in the Ohio Athletic Conference. B-W's rivalries include John Carroll University and University of Mount Union. BW's most successful athletic programs include cross country and swimming and diving. Among BW's most famous alumni related to athletics include Harrison Dillard, Lee Tressel, and Jim Tressel.Dan Henning
Daniel Ernest Henning, (born June 21, 1942) is a former American football player and coach. A quarterback, he played college football at the College of William & Mary and professional football in 1966 for the San Diego Chargers of the American Football League (AFL). Henning served as a head coach in the National Football League (NFL) for the Atlanta Falcons (1983–1986) and the Chargers (1989–1991). He was the head football coach at Boston College from 1994 to 1996. Henning then returned to the NFL as an offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills in 1997. After Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy retired, reportedly partially due to his reluctance to fire Henning, Henning left Buffalo.Emmitt Thomas
Emmitt Earl Thomas (born June 3, 1943) is a former American football coach and cornerback. He most recently served as the defensive backs coach for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). He played in college at the now defunct Bishop College. He played professionally for Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League. He owns the Chiefs all-time interception record with 58, which places him ninth on pro football's all-time list. Thomas was elected to the NFL's Pro Football Hall of Fame after being nominated by the Seniors Committee.History of Atlanta Falcons head coaches
In the History of Atlanta Falcons head coaches Vince Lombardi was initially pursued as the first Atlanta coach, but after deciding to stay with Green Bay, was asked for recommendations for Atlanta's first coach. At the time, Lombardi did not recommend Hecker and the Atlanta owner, Rankin Smith Jr., thinking Lombardi was trying to pull one over on him, decided to hire Hecker. The next three years would be an exercise in frustration for Hecker who managed just four wins in his 31 games at the helm. One bad omen of this misery came in the team's first-ever exhibition game when Falcons' kicker Wade Traynham completely missed the ball on the kickoff. Following the inaugural 3-11 season, the Falcons were plagued by injuries in 1967 and declined to a 1-12-1 mark, the lone win coming in a one-point midseason contest against the Minnesota Vikings.
When Atlanta began the 1968 NFL season by dropping their first three games, Hecker was fired on October 1 and replaced by former Viking head coach Norm Van Brocklin. After reaching a settlement on the remaining two years of his contract, Hecker accepted the defensive coordinator position with the New York Giants on February 12, 1969. He had also been under consideration for a post with the Redskins, who had just hired the previously-retired Lombardi.Jim Hanifan
James Martin Michael Hanifan (born September 21, 1933 in Compton, California) is a longtime American football coach and former head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons. He compiled a career record of 39-53-1.List of Atlanta Falcons head coaches
The Atlanta Falcons are an American football team based in Atlanta, Georgia. They are members of the South division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The Falcons joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1966 and have compiled an all-time record of 337 wins, 436 loses, and 6 ties. The team has won the NFC West championship twice in 1980 and 1998 and the NFC South championship 4 times in 2004, 2010, 2012 and 2016. The Falcons have appeared in two Super Bowls, losing both times; their first appearance was in Super Bowl XXXIII, with the Falcons falling to the Denver Broncos 19–34, and the second was in Super Bowl LI, where the Falcons fell to the New England Patriots 28–34 in overtime. There have been 16 head coaches for the Falcons franchise, 12 serving full-time. Current head coach Dan Quinn holds the best winning percentage at .604 in the regular season, while Mike Smith has won the most games and was the longest tenured head coach, with a 66–46 regular season record. Under Smith's leadership, the team attained consecutive winning seasons (11–5 in 2008 and 9–7 in 2009), consecutive playoff appearances (2010 and 2011), and consecutive seasons with 10 wins or more (also in 2010 and 2011) for the first time in franchise history. Also, Smith is the only Falcons coach to win 2 divisional titles (NFC South, 2010 and 2012).List of Atlanta Falcons seasons
This article is a list of seasons completed by the Atlanta Falcons American football franchise of the National Football League (NFL). The list documents the season-by-season records of the Falcons' franchise from 1966 to present, including postseason records, and league awards for individual players or head coaches.
The Falcons did not record consecutive winning seasons until 2009, when the team won their final three games of the regular season and finished with a 9–7 record after winning their season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Atlanta has since added its first stretch of five straight winning seasons, with a 13–3 record in 2010, a 10–6 record in 2011, and a 13–3 record in 2012. The streak ended with a 4–12 record in 2013.Matt Bouza
Matt Bouza (born April 8, 1958) is a former professional American football player who played wide receiver for eight seasons for the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts.
Bouza graduated from Jesuit High School.Pat Peppler
Albert Patterson Peppler (April 16, 1922 – June 23, 2015) was an American football coach and executive who worked for teams that won five National Football League (NFL) titles. He may be best remembered for serving as head coach of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons during the final nine games of the 1976 NFL season.
# denotes interim head coach
Norb Hecker—championships, awards, and honors