It was about a year ago this time when we presented our completely unscientific inaugural rankings of area sports teams.
The unveiling had such a profound impact on the sports landscape that No. 1 ranked Georgia went on to allow 135 points in losses to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech, and the No. 2 ranked Braves lost 90 games and bankrupt several HMOs.
Perhaps, like the BCS, we should just go to a playoff system.
But no, we’re back. This ranking isn’t based merely on projected win totals but also direction, leadership, structure, stability, coaching, drafts/recruiting, fan support, litigation and any time one co-owner calls another co-owner, “evil” (thank you, Bruce Levenson).
So here we go, top to bottom, with last year’s ranking in parenthesis:
1. FALCONS (3): Last year’s high ranking was based on the hiring of Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith. So we got something right. And then those two got everything right. The team fumbled a season-ticket renewal push before the playoffs. But could anything stop them from consecutive winning seasons? (There. I jinxed it.)
2. GEORGIA FOOTBALL (1): I guess it says something that the Bulldogs went 10-3, yet were viewed as the Hindenburg. Mark Richt lost Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno but more importantly kept assistant Rodney Garner, his key to recruiting, which leads to wins and money and, OK, sometimes false expectations.
3. TECH FOOTBALL (4): Paul Johnson inherited players who were recruited for an entirely different offense, won nine games, beat Georgia, energized the fan base and didn’t act surprised about any of it. Should we be surprised he and Mike Smith are close friends? Maybe they can do something about General Motors.
4. BRAVES (2): This winter was like watching Frank Wren work the Stardust Ballroom and every girl responding, “No, I don’t want to dance with you.” The spring optimism about the pitching staff – I witnessed that last year. This team still has more what-ifs than wows (Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez as Nos. 1 and 2 starters?). Two big keys to success: 1) No exploding arms; 2) No exploding head on Jeff Francoeur.
5. HAWKS (5): Rick Sund admits he still isn’t sure what to make of the team. March (when the Hawks play 12 of 17 at home) needs to be better than the last two months (11-13). A playoff team? Yes. A fourth seed? Possibly. But Mike Bibby is doing most of it himself right now. Also, the spitting war in the executive suite precludes me from ranking them higher.
6. (THIS SPACE FOR LEASE.)
7. TECH BASKETBALL (6): The next person who says, “Yeah, but wait until next year!” gets run over by a Winnebago. I maintain some trust in Paul Hewitt because Final Four runs just don’t happen by accident. He can coach. He can recruit. But he had better coach those recruits to something next year or there may not be another next year.
8: GEORGIA BASKETBALL (7): Damon Evans has to sell a coach on his vision. That coach has to sell recruits on hope. Until then: spring drills open March 17.
9: DREAM (unranked): They went 4-30 in their first season. But they signed somebody who can dunk (Michelle Snow), talked Chamique Holdsclaw out of retirement and, as a bonus, their future is not in the hands of Don Waddell. (Transition.)
10. THRASHERS (8): They have built only one thing since 1999. Debt.