Archive for January, 2011

Stacy Searels leaving Georgia? Can I offer him a lift? (Update II)

Stacy Searels hasn't lived up to his reputation at Georgia. (Brant Sanderlin)

Stacy Searels hasn't lived up to his reputation. (Brant Sanderlin)

(Updated below with Searels officially accepting the job.)

Reports are flying that Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels is closing in on taking a job with Texas coach Mack Brown, who has been churning assistants (and recently lost coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp to Florida).

First thought: Does Searels need a ride to the airport?

Second thought: Is it abandon ship time in Athens?

First, about Searels: He came to Georgia from LSU in 2007 with a solid reputation. But the Bulldogs’ offensive line has been central to their problems, particularly in the running game.

Now, I suppose some of the blame also could be attributed to the team’s oft-criticized strength and condition program (Dave Van Halanger recently was demoted), or to a perceived lack of talent up front, or to coach Mark Richt. But Searels can’t be absolved of responsibility. Coaching the offensive line is his job and he also carries the title, …

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SEC’s get into ‘Smack Wear’ with BCS T-shirt (really?)

Georgia fans: Would you wear a T-shirt advertising BCS title by Auburn, Alabama, Florida and LSU?

Georgia fans: Would you wear a T-shirt that celebrates BCS titles by Auburn, Alabama, Florida and LSU?

Apparently, smack among college athletes now extends to conference officials — and the SEC just threw down the apparel gauntlet!

Fresh off Auburn’s BCS championship — which is the fifth straight national title for by an SEC school — the conference is selling T-shirts that read: “Southeastern Conference. 5 Football National Champions in a Row!”

Below that, the five BCS champions are listed: 2006 Florida, 2007 LSU, 2008 Florida, 2009 Alabama, 2010 Auburn.

This leads me to wonder if fans at Georgia and Tennessee — or South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt — really want to spend $19.95 to celebrate championships by rival schools. Well, maybe Vanderbilt. They’re harmless.

The shirt’s description on the SEC Store website reads:  “No matter which powerhouse you cheer for on Saturdays, show the world that you represent the most unstoppable …

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Before you pre-judge Ryan, look at NFL’s ‘Final 4′ QBs

Jay Cutler was a "knucklehead."

Jay Cutler was a "knucklehead."

Aaron Rodgers "couldn't win big one."

Aaron Rodgers "couldn't win big one."

It has been amusing the past few days as I’ve sorted through comments and emails from readers who’ve declared, “See! See! I told you the Falcons were lucky and Matt Ryan is just average.”

My position is that 13-3 teams aren’t lucky. Teams that win games at the end deserve to.

We all have this perception about what a 13-3 team is, and anybody north of 40 will tell you that 13-3 teams 20 years ago generally were a lot better than 13-3 teams today.

Today, every team is flawed – right down to the 14-2 New England Patriots, who have not won a playoff game in the last three seasons.

When the Falcons were toasted by Green Bay, I wrote that they’re at the point where they should be judged by the playoffs, not the regular season. Coach Mike Smith echoed that sentiment.

Similarly, Ryan will be judged by how he fares in postseasons. Thus far, he has made major mistakes in two playoff games that contributed to losses to …

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Joe Johnson appears to be buying into Hawks’ new offense

Joe Johnson is coming off a season-high 36 points going into tonight's game at Miami. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Joe Johnson is coming off season-high 36 points going into Miami game. (Curtis Compton)

Whether it’s because of his contract, too many poor playoff performances or those regrettable seconds last May when he indicated Hawks fans weren’t real high on his priority list, Joe Johnson might be the least popular star athlete in Atlanta.

But Johnson’s also the Hawks’ best hope for significant postseason success, which is why his seemingly buying into Larry Drew’s it’s-not-all-about-Joe offense is a positive sign.

I understand the doubts about the Hawks and Johnson. Management overpaid to keep him and painted the team into a corner for several years because no other team is going to be willing to absorb a $20 million-a-year contract. Further, to this point in his career, Johnson has proven to be an All-Star but not a super star — and there’s a difference.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t work, and there are some positive early signs. Drew is convinced Johnson has been worn down late in …

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‘Soft’ Hawks looking to make statement against Heat

Al Horford and Joe Johnson were the only two Hawks to show up for Sacramento. (Curtis Compton)

Al Horford and Joe Johnson were only two Hawks to show up for Sacramento. (Curtis Compton)

Oh, the clever puppet-master that is Larry Drew. The night before the Hawks meet the Miami Heat for the second time, he directed the Hawks to play three of their worst quarters of basketball of the season against the 9-29 Sacramento Kings, only to pull out a victory at the end.

Don’t you just know this was all part of a master plan to lull LeBron James and the Heat into a false sense of security?

“Yeah, we know Miami’s playing possum with all of those injuries,” Jamal Crawford said, laughing. “That’s why we’re kept Marvin [Williams] out and we went back and forth with Sac.”

OK, maybe not. The Hawks defeated Sacramento 100-98 Monday at Philips Arena. They took their first lead with 6:41 left on a Joe Johnson jumper. They won it on a pair of Johnson free throws with six-tenths of a second remaining. So maybe there was just a little bit of looking ahead to the Miami game Tuesday night.

There's no guarantee the "Big Three" all will play Tuesday.

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Tech’s win over Carolina: Aberration or a turning point?

Iman Shumpert slams home two of his 30 points over North Carolina's Tyler Zeller. (Curtis Compton)

The Jackets' Iman Shumpert slams home two of his 30 points over North Carolina's Tyler Zeller. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(Updated at 2:04 p.m. Monday)

Amid another Georgia Tech losing streak, continuing grumbling over Paul Hewitt’s rollover contract and a “home crowd” punctuated by empty seats and a few thousand fans wearing Carolina blue, the Jackets went and threw everybody for a loop Sunday night.

They won a game. In the ACC. Over North Carolina. By 20 points.

Sure, who didn’t see that coming? A team that loses to Kennesaw State, Siena and most recently Clemson by 25 points proceeds to make North Carolina look like . . . well, Georgia Tech?

“It’s sports,” the oft-maligned Paul Hewitt said afterward. “How did the Jets beat the Patriots today?”

Point taken. Pretty sure nobody has been calling for Bill Belichick’s head, though.

Here’s another anomaly: The Jackets have now won four straight games over North Carolina. Or, to put it another way, Roy Williams has now lost four …

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LIVE from Tech-UNC hoops: Will this game be ugly, too?

Tech's Brian Oliver blocks a shot Atlanta - Georgia Tech forward Brian Oliver blocks a shot by UNC's Justin Watts. Tech led 33-32 at hafltime. (Curtis Compton)

Brian Oliver blocks shot by UNC's Justin Watts. Jackets led 33-32 at hafltime. (Curtis Compton)

So I went to the Georgia Dome Saturday night, expecting a competitive football game. Oops.

Is it possible I could come to Alexander Memorial Coliseum tonight expecting a blowout and get something else?

Come on, work with me here.

Georgia Tech (7-8, 0-2), which has lost three straight and seven of its last 10, faces North Carolina (12-4, 2-0) tonight. According to RealTimeRPI.com, the Jackets rank 168th in the country in RPI, which tucks them between Western Michigan and IPFW (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne). The Tar Heels are ranked 18th.

No revelation here: The Jackets aren’t very good. The worst thing is they’re not getting better. They’ve followed a non-conference schedule that included losses to Kennesaw State and Siena with ACC defeats to Boston College (86-75) and Clemson (87-62).

Coach Paul Hewitt, who started to lose the fan base a few years ago, never has …

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Falcons’ embarrassing loss means season was an epic fail

Matt Ryan had two interceptions and was sacked four times in the loss. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Matt Ryan had two interceptions and was sacked five times in the loss. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

It’s year three of this great franchise awakening, and that means one thing: We don’t grade seasons on the first 16 games.

We can praise the Falcons for a 13-win season. We can marvel at their young quarterback, Matt Ryan, for his progress in three seasons and his ability to pull out victories in pressure situations. We can sit back and praise the owner, the general manager and the coaching staff for seemingly doing everything right and winning 33 regular season games since 2008.

But in January of 2011, the Falcons should not be graded on what happens in the first 16 games. They should be graded on postseasons.

They failed. Epically.

There’s no shame in losing to the Green Bay Packers. But getting bodyslammed 48-21 is a level of humiliation that no playoff team should ever experience, especially this one. Not after a 13-3 season. Not in its first playoff game. Not at home. Not after …

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LIVE BLOG: If Falcons win, it could be Super Bowl dance

John Abraham and the Falcons celebrated after a 20-17 win over the Packers Nov. 28. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

John Abraham and the Falcons celebrated after a 20-17 win over the Packers Nov. 28 at the Georgia Dome. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Win tonight. Go to the Super Bowl. So sayeth I. (Sorry. I saw, “The King’s Speech” last night and got carried away with the whole English thing.)

Most believe the Falcons and Green Bay are the two best teams in the NFC. They just happened to be meeting in the conference semifinals. I fully expect the winner of this game to beat the winner of Sunday’s Chicago-Seattle semi. So winning today could mean a trip to Dallas.

It has been nearly two weeks since the Falcons last played — a lopsided home win over Carolina. It has been only six days since Green Bay played — last Sunday’s win in Philadelphia in the wild card game. Logic says the Falcons will be rested and the Packers will be beat up. (Remember, this is a team that also had to scramble down the stretch and win its last two regular season games just to make the playoffs.) What we can’t predict is …

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Matt Ryan’s notes, intangibles are driving his success

Falcons owner Arthur Blank gave Matt Ryan a hug after the team clinched the NFC South two weeks ago, and he may never let go of him. (Curtis Compton)

Owner Arthur Blank hugged Matt Ryan after the Falcons clinched the NFC South two weeks ago. It's a wonder he ever let go. (Curtis Compton)

FLOWERY BRANCH – Matt Ryan is much like his team. He does little to make you go, “Wow,” at least until you look at the won-loss record. He doesn’t blow you away with his arm or his legs or his sound bites.

His shoe would be, “Air Beige.”

If you walked into a music store, Ryan would be the equivalent of the vinyl in the far left corner, not the digital music players to the right that can hold everything on the floor, as well as possibly wax the floor.

Vinyl still sounds better.

The Falcons are in the playoffs for the second time in Ryan’s three years. The biggest reason they’re here is the maturation of their starting quarterback, who is 33-13 in starts for so many reasons other than being able to throw passes that leave vapor trails.

Ryan was drafted because, as general manager Thomas Dimitroff said, the Falcons needed a quarterback who …

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