Archive for November, 2009

Something in Falcons’ season has gone horribly wrong

The look on Matt Ryan's face speaks volumes about his toe injury -- and the Falcons' season. (AP photo)

The look on Matt Ryan's face speaks volumes about his toe injury — and the Falcons' season. (AP photo)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Mike Smith admits he doesn’t play poker. So when the Falcons’ coach said Monday, “You have to deal with the hand that you’re dealt,” he chose not to expand on that thought with, “Do I have to ante twice for new cards, or is this where I bluff?”

The Falcons went 11-5 last season. What went wrong? They added  Tony Gonzalez and Mike Peterson and Peria Jerry to a team that went to the playoffs with a rookie quarterback who only figured to get better in season two. What happened? Are twos, fours and sixes wild? Because if so, they’ll be fine.

The Philadelphia Eagles and a well-known second-string quarterback come to the Georgia Dome Sunday. This game conceivably could determine the Falcons’ playoff fate. But they will be missing their starting quarterback (Matt Ryan) and almost certainly their starting running back (Michael Turner) and maybe a few others, …

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Richt needs to end speculation about Martinez

If Willie Martinez has coached his final game in Athens, we should know soon.

If Willie Martinez has coached his final game in Athens, we should know soon.

I’m not sure what to read into Mark Richt’s sudden decision to cancel his scheduled Sunday night conference call with media members because of a reported “family function,” other than, well, a reported family function.

But with strong and protracted speculation that there are going to be significant changes on his coaching staff at Georgia — including either firing or demoting defensive coordinator Willie Martinez — Richt should not let this matter linger much longer. Either announce the staff will remain intact or make changes. The public guessing game helps nobody.

This generally is the week firings happen. (Virginia already has fired Al Groh.) It’s an important time in recruiting, and teams also want to get an early jump on potential replacements. There’s no reason to wait until after bowl games. Bowls generally are inconsequential, as it relates to a coach’s job security.

All that said, it would …

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Vick’s return will illustrate division in Atlanta

This run against Chicago aside, Michael Vick largely has been a non-factor for Philadelphia.

Except for this 34-yard run against Chicago, Michael Vick has been a non-factor for Eagles.

As you might have read, Michael Vick expects, “to get a great reaction from the crowd. It’s going to be a standing ovation,” when he returns to Atlanta next Sunday with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Well, I will agree with him to this point. He will get a reaction.

When Vick was at the top of his game, he united this city more than any other athlete. But when he declined and then train-wrecked his career and the Falcons’ franchise with his off-field issues, he divided Atlanta. Those hard-core Vick fans who bought Falcons season tickets, more to see him than the team, have defended him throughout and blamed others for his faults, even when he admitted guilt. Others have refused to let go of their hatred, saying Vick should never have been allowed back in the NFL.

When Michael Vick comes back to Atlanta, I will . . .

  • Boo.
  • Cheer.
  • Don’t care. He’s just another player.

View …

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Can Georgia Tech avoid a Dog hangover against Clemson?

Paul Johnson's next challenge is having his players get past the loss to Georgia. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Paul Johnson's next challenge is helping Josh Nesbitt and others get past the loss to Georgia. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Paul Johnson told everybody who would listen last week that the Georgia game would not define Georgia Tech’s season. Now all he has to do is convince his players.

The Jackets won eight straight games and had a chance to finish the season with a top-5 ranking. But they blew that by losing at home to Georgia Saturday, 30-24, creating the ACC’s worst nightmare: a championship game between two teams, Tech and Clemson, coming off losses to pedestrian SEC teams. The ACC title game now matches No. 12 (Tech, which fell from seventh) vs. No. 25 (Clemson, which fell from 15th).

But the bigger issue for Johnson is making sure his players get past what just happened. This easily is the biggest defeat the Jackets must bounce back from since he took over. It’s bigger than last year’s loss at North Carolina, and the even the early season defeat at Miami.

Three years ago …

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With Georgia Tech loss, ACC struggling for attention again

This was the scene at last year's ACC title game in Tampa.

This was the sad scene in Jacksonville at the 2007 ACC title game. Attendance was announced as 53,212.

The ACC wanted to be the SEC. It wanted the money, the clout, the conference championship game, the TV contracts and pollsters to give mid-level ACC teams the benefit of the doubt because, well, they were in the ACC.

But once again, the ACC looks like a souffle that keeps collapsing.

Georgia Tech lost to Georgia Saturday. Clemson lost to South Carolina. So both halves of next week’s ACC championship game in Tampa lost to mid-level SEC teams that are headed to third-tier bowl games. That’s not how a conference gets money or clout or a big TV contract or the benefit of the doubt.

Meanwhile, the SEC title game matches No. 1 Florida vs. No. 2 Alabama.

While Tech coach Paul Johnson tries to figure out how to motivate his players after Saturday’s lost to the Dogs, ACC commissioner John Swofford needs to figure out how to spin this almost annual disaster into a positive. Good luck …

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Tech loses bragging rights, chance for something special

Look a little different than the end of last year's Tech-Georgia game? The Jackets won't soon forget this. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Look a little different than the end of last year's Tech-Georgia game? The Jackets lost to the Bulldogs, 30-24, and they won't soon forget this. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@AJC)

Signs of change were everywhere.

Bobby Dodd’s stands weren’t half-red. Thus, the game didn’t have the usual neutral-site feel to it. Bowl officials didn’t jam the press box. What for? Georgia Tech’s future was fairly simple, and Georgia’s was fairly depressing. The Jackets could be headed to the Orange Bowl, a game with history. The Bulldogs could be headed to the PapaJohns.com Bowl, a game with anchovies. The Dogs even had a temp-Uga on the sideline.

But if the Jackets feel like they just got knocked back in time, there’s a reason.

A year ago, they stunned Georgia at home and tore branches off the sacred hedges. On Saturday, with an eight-game winning streak and a fantasy season unfolding, they fell behind early to the Bulldogs 17-3 and fell short in a comeback. They lost 30-24.

The 12 months of …

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We’re live from Tech, Jackets have chance to take charge

The Jackets need to wait for a BCS title shot, but not for bragging rights.

The Jackets need to wait another year for a BCS title shot, but not for bragging rights.

Welcome to Opportunity Night.

Georgia Tech’s ability to become a national program is dependent in part on the ACC’s ability to develop elite teams and elevate itself significantly higher than it has been this season. But the Yellow Jackets never will have a better opportunity to take hold of their local rivalry.

Georgia fans don’t want to hear that. They view the Jackets’ 45-42 win last season and their ensuing hedge assault in Athens as some sort of aberration. All evidence is to the contrary.

This season has confirmed what we suspected last season: Tech is a program on the rise and Georgia is the one sliding. The Jackets are scrambling to keep their head coach, Paul Johnson. Mark Richt is not in trouble at Georgia but is expected to make changes to his staff.

Even if Tech had beaten Miami earlier this season and was entering tonight’s game undefeated, there’s a pretty good chance it …

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Predictions: Big win for Tech, big losses for Georgia, PETA

week13

A Massachusetts woman this week posted an ad on Craigslist seeking donations so that she could pay for her turkey’s eye surgery, which one of my professors back in Interpretive Journalism would say almost certainly indicates she doesn’t hold stock in Butterball, there’s no government option for poultry either, and at least one five-star recruit of the lunatic fringe managed to elude PETA.

Hello, and Happy Thanksgiving to all those at the top of the food chain. This would not include Lyndsey Medeiros or her pet turkey Jerry or PETA, which this week issued a news release that began, “Thanksgiving can be the scariest time of the year if you’re a turkey. More than 45 million of these fascinating birds are killed to disgrace Thanksgiving tables each year.”

"I can't see! I can't see!"

"I can't see! I can't see!"

Let me just say this: If turkeys had a choice, they’d be blasting our heads off, slapping us fascinating creatures on a platter next to the stuffing and yelling at their TV sets, “Why do I have to …

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Johnson exceeded Richt in developing a quarterback

Georgia Tech's offense is flourishing in part because of Josh Nesbitt (9), who certainly never doubted he could score on this fourth-down play in overtime against Wake Forest.

Georgia Tech's offense is flourishing partly because of Josh Nesbitt (9), who certainly never doubted he could score on fourth down in OT against Wake Forest. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

A year earlier and Josh Nesbitt would’ve gone somewhere else. If Paul Johnson and his run-happy, triple-option offense had landed at Georgia Tech back when Nesbitt was still considering colleges, Nesbitt almost certainly would’ve tossed his Jackets’ recruiting letters into the reject basket.

You say “option” to most high school quarterbacks and they hear “oblivion.”

“Yes,” the Tech quarterback said Monday when asked if he would’ve signed elsewhere had he been recruited by Johnson and not former coach Chan Gailey, who ran a pro style offense. “My mindset was different coming out of high school than it is now.”

When Tech and Georgia meet Saturday, it will bring into focus something even more remarkable than the staggering turns of the two programs. The Jackets’ Paul Johnson did a …

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Dogs fans, what’s your preference: Shreveport or nothing?

shreveportI listened to Mark Richt’s teleconference with media members Sunday night and had to chuckle (quietly) when somebody asked the Georgia coach about the bowl picture. “I’m not sure where [we're going],” Richt said, “but I can promise you we will be thankful anywhere we get to go.”

It wasn’t just what he said but the way he said it, as in: “We’ll take anything.”

A question for you: Would you prefer anything or nothing? Because the “anything” is not going to be very good.

The SEC bowl tie-ins are: 1.) BCS  bowl(s); 2.) Capital One; 3.) Outback; 4.) Chick-fil-A; 5.) Cotton; 6 and 7.) Liberty and Music City; 8.) Independence; 9.) Papajohns.com.

It’s looking more and more like Georgia is ticketed for one of the bottom two bowls, either the Independence in Shreveport, La., Dec. 28, or the Papajohns.com in Birmingham, Dec. 29. ESPN.com projections have them playing Connecticut (Papajohns.com) or Iowa State (Independence). CBSSports.com has Georgia playing Florida State in the Music …

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