Archive for March, 2012

That noise you hear in NFL offseason? It’s not Falcons

Mike Smith's new coordinators, Mike Nolan (left) and Dirk Koetter (right), have to make existing pieces better. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Falcons made more news with new coordinators (Mike Nolan, Dirk Koetter) than roster. (Curtis Compton)

In their most noteworthy decisions so far during NFL free agency, the Falcons have signed two players who are coming off injuries and didn’t play a single down last season (good news: Vince Manuwai and Lofa Tatupu should be well-rested), they’re seemingly allowing their leading tackler (Curtis Lofton) and sacker (John Abraham) to walk out the door, and they just gave a three-year, $9.15 million contract to a defensive end (Kroy Biermann) who is three years removed from his best season.

This probably isn’t the best time to launch the season-ticket marketing campaign.

Yes, it’s only March. No team has played a game yet. Granted, every significant NFL player seems to be holding signing ceremonies or meeting with owners and coaches in other cities. But we’ve experienced the hazards of assuming what big names on paper can mean. So it’s premature to assume the Falcons will be gum …

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Mike Woodson steps into inferno: New York Knicks’ coach

If Mike Woodson thought he had headache before, he just inherited top job from Mike D'Antoni (right). (AP photo)

If Mike Woodson thought he had headache before, he just inherited top job from Mike D'Antoni (right). (AP photo)

Mike Woodson believes he never was treated fairly by the Hawks or fully appreciated by the fans or the media in Atlanta (me in particular, unless I just misread the glares and/or strings of expletives any time I said hello).

Well, if Woodson wanted another chance to prove himself as an NBA head coach, he just got it. He has been handed the keys to CarmeloGate, Linsanity and everything else that goes with being the head coach of the New York Knicks (at least on an interim basis). Yahoo! Sports was the first of multiple outlets to report Wednesday that Mike D’Antoni has “resigned” as the Knicks’ head coach and will be replaced by Woodson, who was an assistant on his staff.

It may be only a short-term position for Woodson. (What isn’t short-term in New York?) But at the very least, he presumably will coach the team for the remainder of the regular season and in the …

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Hawks don’t see trade deadline as Josh Smith deadline

Josh Smith would be an asset for any team at both ends of the court, but Hawks don't seem likely to comply with his trade request. (Sacramento Bee photo)

Josh Smith could help any contender, but it's not likely the Hawks will comply with his trade request. (Sacramento Bee photo)

Teams generally fall into one of three categories at the trade deadline: 1) buyers; 2) sellers; or 3) “Wait, there’s a trade deadline? That’s today?”

The difficulty in categorizing the Hawks as we approach Thursday’s NBA trade deadline is that it really doesn’t matter how they view themselves because they have only one player of significance that other teams want — and he’s probably not available.

Josh Smith wants out. That was reaffirmed publicly recently, even if behind the scenes it wasn’t news. He has wanted out all season.

The only thing that really has changed is why Smith wants out. Before, he wasn’t happy that he was viewed as the weak support beam seemingly every time the Hawks crumbled. Now it’s more about needing a new start, wanting to play for a true title contender, his perceptions of the way the Hawks have dealt with him in …

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Falcons’ fans: Please, enough with cries for Mario Williams

Sorry, folks: Mario Williams is not walking through that door. (AP photo)

Mario Williams is not walking through that door. (AP photo)

Reality check request: Can we please stop the Mario Williams campaign in Atlanta?

NFL free agency officially opens Tuesday at 4 p.m., and you will be amazed by how many deals get completed by 4:01 p.m., considering teams haven’t even been allowed to negotiate. (Sarcasm.)

Yes, the Falcons will be active. Teams don’t try to create salary cap space unless they’re planning to do something, and the Falcons already have restructured Dunta Robinson’s contract. According to the latest figures, the Falcons’ 2012 payroll is at $116,002,840, which is only $5,723,709 under the cap. (This assumes cornerback Brent Grimes signs a $10.6 million one-year tender.)

Let’s make this as clear as possible: There is not nearly enough money for the Falcons to sign Williams, Houston’s defensive end, unless they gut the roster and sign several replacements for the minimum straight out of Fred Sanford’s front yard.

Sorry to kill the sports …

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Florida State wins first ACC title (and get used to it)

Tournament MVP Michael Snaer (21) and teammates celebrate Florida State's first ACC championship (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Tournament MVP Michael Snaer (21) and others celebrate ACC title (Curtis Compton)

This means something to Florida State. That’s what makes it cool.

This isn’t Mike Krzyzewski giving that, “We lost, whatever,” look after Duke fell in the semifinals Saturday, or North Carolina’s Roy Williams waxing on famously about not caring if “those blue-haired old ladies” criticize him for not viewing the ACC tournament as wonderland.

Because for Duke and North Carolina, March is about the tournament with four letters (NCAA), not three. The ACC tournament, no matter its history and tradition, no matter the fans (blue hairs and others) traveling from Durham, Chapel Hill and all Tobacco roads in between, has been reduced to the dinner salad.

But not for Florida State. This is the entire right side of the menu.

The Seminoles are ACC champions – in football, not basketball. Leonard Hamilton, forever one of the nation’s better coaches whom nobody talks about, finally received …

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N.C. State has too many meltdowns (starting with Gottfried)

If North Carolina State's NCAA tournament fortunes went in the wrong direction Saturday, it falls on coach Mark Gottfried and his staff for not keeping track of fouls. (AP photo)

If North Carolina State's NCAA tournament fortunes went in the wrong direction Saturday, it falls on coach Mark Gottfried and his staff for not keeping track of fouls. (AP photo)

Mark Gottfried was correct about one thing Saturday.

“I think our players have proven that we’re going to be a tough out, if we’re fortunate enough to get in,” the North Carolina State coach said.

“In” would be a reference to the NCAA tournament.

Out is where the Wolfpack will be if their narrow 69-67 loss to North Carolina in the ACC semifinals Saturday and their body of work this season won’t be quite impressive enough for the tournament selection committee.

And that blame would fall on Gottfried and his staff.

This was a winnable game for North Carolina State against the conference’s top seed and an expected No. 1 seed when the NCAA bracket is revealed Sunday. The Tar Heels were missing one of their best players, John Henson. They didn’t play particularly well or inspired, except when …

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Tech’s lost title might seem unfair but it’s not unexpected

This moment and Georgia Tech's ACC title win over Clemson officially never happened, according to the NCAA. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

This moment following the ACC title game officially never happened, according to the NCAA. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Eight months ago, the NCAA issued a report that suggested Georgia Tech had all the morals and scruples of SMU’s checkbook football program of the 1980s, or Barry Switzer’s outlaws at Oklahoma, and maybe just a dash of Snidely Whiplash.

NCAA investigators labeled Tech’s general counsel an “obstructionist.” They said officials “hindered efforts to get at the truth” and tried to “manipulate” information. They suggested players were tipped off to the investigation and therefore had time to orchestrate phony responses.

The report read like a Grisham novel. Of course, it was about that close to reality – which is to say, it wasn’t. Tech isn’t devious or corrupt. It just screwed up — bad enough to lose a conference championship.

When the Yellow Jackets reached closure with the NCAA on Friday, losing an appeal of their sanctions and therefore the 2009 ACC …

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Josh Smith wants out of Hawks — and it’s hard to blame him

Josh Smith's 30 points led a recent upset of Oklahoma City, and he has been the Hawks' best player this season.  (AP photo)

Josh Smith's 30 points led a recent upset of Oklahoma City, and he has been the Hawks' best player this season. (AP photo)

By the end of last season, the criticism had started to become too much for Josh Smith.

When something went wrong, he got blamed. When the Hawks lost, he got blamed. Certainly, any time he did something silly and made one of those pouty, lower-lip-touches-the-tip-of-the-nose boo-boo faces, the city’s basketball fans held their nose in disgust and screamed, “Feh!”

At some point, it all figured to be too much for the hometown kid – and now it is.

Smith wants out of the Hawks. Out of Atlanta. I don’t blame him. I wrote a column following last season’s playoff exit that it might be best if the two parties went in opposite directions, and that was meant less as criticism of Smith than it was a read of the unhealthy situation. It was clear how he and those in his camp felt about the situation.

Our Michael Cunningham reports that, while external criticism of …

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Colts taking a gamble with Manning (who could face Falcons)

The guy on the right (Jim Irsay) better hope the guy on the left (Peyton Manning) can't still play.

The guy on the right (Jim Irsay) better hope the guy on left (Peyton Manning) can't still play.

Peyton Manning will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. It follows that the Indianapolis Colts’ decision to release him sets up one of sports’ all-time greatest games of risk.

– Colts owner Jim Irsay did not want to pay Manning a $28 million bonus that was about to come due because he does not believe the player can fully come back from his third neck procedure in 19 months. Coincidentally, Indianapolis is in position to take potential franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, with the No. 1 pick in the draft. The risk? If Manning has a successful comeback, he immediately makes his new team a Super Bowl contender and Irsay will look bad for releasing an icon and a hero.

– Several teams will “kick the tires” on Manning but only a few figure to be legitimate contenders. Whichever team ultimately signs him will be taking a risk. Manning will command a …

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Hello, Saints: NFL violence not same as premeditated assault

Gregg Williams admits, "It was a terrible mistake and we knew it was wrong when we were doing it." Too late. (AP photo)

Gregg Williams admits, "It was a terrible mistake, and we knew it was wrong when we were doing it." Too late. (AP photo)

During his NFL career, Doug Plank suffered multiple concussions — they didn’t really count them back then — five knee surgeries and a spinal concussion that left his left leg partially numb in retirement. He might have played longer than eight seasons, but, as he said, “I made 100 tackles per season. That’s like 800 train wrecks.”

This is what Doug Plank, one of the tougher men ever to play football, the guy for whom the Chicago Bears’ famous “46 defense” was named, thinks of the New Orleans Saints reportedly putting bounties on players.

“I can’t believe a coach, a team or an organization would stand behind that policy,” he said. “For a coach to even address something like that with players, like, ‘This is a person we can remove from the game,’ that puts you on pretty thin ice. If this is true, when you make a decision [on discipline], …

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