Chris Chandler - Super Quarterback
That the Atlanta Falcons made it the Super Bowl last January for the first time in club history was one of the biggest stories in pro football. That Chris Chandler, '86, was their starting quarterback and offensive leader was something no one would have predicted.
Not that people doubted his talent. It's just that after an excellent college career, in which Chandler finished third in Husky history in total offense and touchdown passes, his pro career foundered. A devastating knee injury in 1989 started his downward spiral, putting him on the sidelines and making into an angry young man.
In his first nine seasons as a pro, he played for five organizations. He was traded twice, released once, and considered to have a bad attitudea reputation he believes was well-deserved. “I was down on everything about the NFL after the experiences I'd come through,” he says. “I didn't know if I really wanted to play.
Chris Chandler. Photo courtesy Atlanta Falcons.
“Things weren't really going good. My father passed away in 1991 and for several years, I was kind of mad at myself, mad at the league, mad at the world.”
That was before he hooked up with Cardinal quarterbacks coach Jerry Rhome in the middle of the 1991 season. Rhome taught Chandler to believe in himself. Though he didn't last with Phoenix, things fell into place when the Falcons acquired him from the Houston Oilers for two middle-round draft picks him in 1997. That season, staying injury-free, he showed what he could do, finishing with a higher quarterback rating than Brett Favre and John Elway, and earning a $25 million, four-year contract extension.
Last season, he led the Falcons to their dream season, a 14-2 record and berth in the Super Bowl. In the NFC Championship game against the heavily favored Minnesota Vikings, Chandler drove the Falcons to the game-tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation and marched them downfield again in overtime for the game-winning field goal in a stunning 30-27 victory.
It should have not come as a surprise, really. Since becoming the Falcons' starter in 1997, Chandler has a 20-8 record. Throughout his 12-year NFL career, he has shown flashes of brilliance, but injuries always seemed to knock him out of the running at the worst time. Testimony to his talent and perseverance is that Chandler ranks among the 35 top passers in NFL history. The 33-year-old Everett native, who this fall will lead the Falcons' quest for a repeat Super Bowl berth, believes his success will keep coming.
“I play a position where lots of guys don't blossom until later in their careers,” he says. “I think I'm coming into my own now, and I am excited about the opportunity that I was given with the Falcons.”Jon Marmor