Archive for August, 2009

This just in: Atlanta, Ga., is NOT a lousy sports city!

We get interested in college football pretty early down here. (AJC photo by Sunny Sung)

We get interested in college football pretty early down here. (AJC photo by Sunny Sung)

For reasons unclear, I’m occasionally called to converse via radio with an audience in some other town. Invariably I’m asked, “Why is Atlanta such a bad sports city?” And invariably I’ll say this:

“Actually, Atlanta isn’t a bad sports city.”

When folks in other places think of Atlanta sports, they see the empty seats at Braves playoff games or they recall the Falcons and their wild mood swings. (Sometimes they even think of the Hawks. Not the Thrashers, though.) But there’s more to Atlanta sports than the teams that carry the word “Atlanta” on their jerseys. We’re about to see it yet again.

Georgia Tech opens its season against Jacksonville State on Saturday. Georgia, which technically isn’t based in Atlanta but which has something of an Atlanta following, plays Oklahoma State in Stillwater that day. And that night Alabama and Virginia Tech, each ensconced in the top 10, meet under the …

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Chan Gailey will find another job; he always does

Think of Chan Gailey as the football equivalent of Gene Shue. For you young ‘uns, Gene Shue coached five different NBA teams, making the finals twice but never taking a title. You could, NBA men believed, do a lot worse than having Gene Shue coach your team. But you could also do better.

Not two full years after getting fired by Georgia Tech, Chan Gailey got fired Monday by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he’d been the offensive coordinator. Not many assistant coaches get fired in training camp — sometimes they get punched (see: Raiders, Oakland)  — but that has become the Gailey signature. He’s a solid football man. Alas, solid isn’t a synonym for “inspired.”

Gailey has had 14 different jobs over 34 years, bouncing between the NFL and college football and even the old USFL. The longest he has stayed in place is six seasons, first as the Denver Broncos’ special teams coach and later at Tech. He has, over time, coordinated both offenses and defenses. He knows a lot about …

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Bradley’s Buzz: ESPN prescribes Vitamin D for the Falcons

There’s no defense for the indefensible, or something like that

Apparently Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com saw the same game I did. Because he spent the entirety of his post on the Falcons’ victory over San Diego — was there ever a victory so misleading? — discussing the winning team’s defense. Or the abject lack of same. Wrote Yasinskas:

“The Falcons aren’t going to go out and blow up their defense at the end of the preseason. They’re going with what they’ve got and that’s a little scary. They could have gone out and grabbed some blue-chip defensive backs in the offseason. But they didn’t.

“They’re going with Brent Grimes and Chris Houston as their starting cornerbacks and Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud as their starting safeties, for better or worse. If the Falcons are going to make the best of this, they need to do some of the same things they do with their offensive line. They don’t have a tremendous amount of talent there, but they make the most of it because they hide their …

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Dimitroff: “It’s going to be a very busy two weeks”

Saturday's story: Brent Grimes is beaten for a completion. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Saturday's revelation: Brent Grimes is beaten. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

In the grand scheme, maybe Saturday’s exhibition was the right game at the right time. The Falcons themselves weren’t just surprised by what transpired; they were shocked. But it happened 15 days before the first for-real game, which means there’s still time for some last-minute shopping.

Afterward, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said: “It’s going to be a very busy two weeks.” He would say no more, but the message seemed cleared enough: This is the man who found Domonique Foxworth and Jamaal Fudge near the end of preseason 2008 to prop up his secondary. There seems a strong need to do something similar now.

The Falcons liked everything about cornerback Chris Houston in training camp: His preparation, his attitude, his play. But something happened in Saturday’s first half: Houston yielded one big play on third down, then another, then another. If a guy’s going to be your No. 1 cornerback, that can’t …

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It’s only preseason, but this secondary needs major work

This touchdown was too easy for Michael Bennett. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This touchdown was way too easy for Michael Bennett. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It’s preseason, and preseasons can mislead. The 2008 Detroit Lions were 4-0 when it didn’t count and 0-16 when it did. That said …

If the regular season is going to resemble Saturday’s first half, Mike Smith is going to have white hair soon.

Whoops. Too late.

You don’t often see a coach yelling at his men during an exhibition, but Mr. Smith held forth at some length after his team allowed the Chargers’ second touchdown of the first half. (There’d be another — touchdown, not tirade — to come.) What was especially galling to the old defensive coordinator was his team’s uncoordinated approach to third-and-long. You’re supposed to stop the other team on third-and-long. Indeed, the ability to stop the Cardinals on third-and-16 is one reason Keith Brooking now works for Dallas.

But Brooking had nothing to do with these defensive whiffs. This was the new D, the faster D, the one linebacker Curtis …

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Live from the Dome: It’s a Matty Ice anniversary!

Matt Ryan against the Titans one year ago. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Matt Ryan delivers against the Titans one year ago. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It was a year ago that the course of the Falcons changed. It was the third exhibition of the 2008 preseason  that told the new administration what it had suspected since the April draft: That it could go with a rookie quarterback as its starter and get away with it.

We forget now, in the light of a rookie of the year award and a 11-5 season of the highest giddiness and even a playoff turn, how bold that decision was. The Falcons had drafted Michael Vick No. 1 overall in 2001, and he hadn’t started as a rookie. But this was a different time, a different rookie.

We look back and we see it as a no-brainer: You have Matt Ryan and you have Chris Redman and D.J. Shockley — who else are you going to start? But we forget how perilous the state of the Good Ship Falcon was in August 2008. They were widely projected as the NFL’s worst team, and they were coming off the most depressing season in the …

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5 reasons to feel confident about the 2009 Falcons

Here's reason to believe: Matty Ice as franchise cornerstone. (AP photo by Jeff Roberson)

Here's reason to believe: Matty Ice as franchise cornerstone. (AP photo by Jeff Roberson)

For no reason beyond this being the team with the great fickle bird as its logo, I’ve done much handwringing over the state of the Falcons already. I’ve worried about injuries. (Harry Douglas’ knee, in particular.) I’ve worried about jinxes. I’ve worried about worrying. But today I put on my happy face and offer these reasons to be of good cheer.

1. The general manager is the smartest the Falcons have ever had. I once likened this to being considered the finest yachtsman in Kansas, whereupon a dutiful reader informed me Bill Koch, who won the America’s Cup, is indeed from Kansas. So let’s skip the flawed analogies and just say, “Even if he hasn’t eaten a hamburger in 20 years, Thomas Dimitroff is one clever fellow.”

2. This coaching staff is the best the Falcons have ever had. (Sorry to disappoint all those Greg Knapp fans out there.)

3. Matt Ryan isn’t going to fail. He works too hard. …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Michael Vick returns with a shovel pass

I laughed at this line from John Gonzalez in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “We’ve been held hostage by the Great Vick Debate for two weeks.” And I thought: “Two whole weeks? Poor dears!”

As you know, Michael Vick is now an Eagle, and he made his first appearance for his new franchise Thursday night. And this spawned the sort of Vick back-and-forth’ing we Atlantans have come to regard as Standard Operating Procedure. The NAACP had promised some sort of rally outside Lincoln Financial Field, but apparently it never really developed. Gonzalez counted more media personnel than supporters and wrote this:

“People are still taking sides and shouting, but it is lame sound and fury signifying that principles don’t really matter as long as the media give you the 15 minutes you desperately crave. Who needs courage or convictions when there are soapboxes to stand on and bullhorns to shout into and spotlights to court?

“It’s all so reflexive now with Vick. Love him. Hate him. Doesn’t matter. …

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There’s time enough for Hudson to make a difference

Tim Hudson doing his rehab work. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Tim Hudson doing rehab. He'll have work to do in the bigs as well. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

When Tim Hudson makes his first big-league start of 2009 on Monday, there’ll be 32 games remaining in the regular season. If we count by fives, he could get seven starts. It’s late, but he could still tip the balance in the wild card scramble.

Hudson is a big-time pitcher. Let’s not forget that. Adding him to the Braves’ rotation — if we assume the Hudson of August/September is indeed the Hudson of old — could have the same impact Cliff Lee made on the Phillies’ rotation when he joined it. Except for this part:

The Phils’ rotation contained massive holes; the Braves’ rotation has been good all season.

Lee has given the Phillies five quality starts in five appearances. Kenshin Kawakami, whose place in the rotation Hudson is apparently taking, provided 12 quality starts in 24 appearances this season, which isn’t bad for the No. 5 man in a rotation. (Javier Vazquez has had 16 quality …

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Do the Thrashers really have the NHL’s worst fans?

Each of the ladies seated behind John Anderson has her own blog. (AJC photo by Jessica McGowan)

Each of the ladies seated behind John Anderson has a blog. (AJC photo by Jessica McGowan)

I guess I see it differently. When I go to a Thrashers game and see 5,000 empty seats, my first thought isn’t, “Why don’t more people come to these games?” It is, on the contrary: “Why do so many people come to these games?”

Let’s face it: In a decade of operation, the Thrashers haven’t given their constituency much. They’ve committed the two glaring sins of professional sports: They took too long to build something and then couldn’t sustain it. They’ve had two winning seasons. They’ve made the playoffs once (and were swept in Round 1).

I mention this because it has come to my attention that Derek Felska has, on the blog Most Valuable Network, decided the Thrashers have the worst fan base in the NHL. I present his “justification” in its entirety:

“I am going to share a little story with you which will might explain why the Atlanta Thrashers are deserving of being called the league’s worst …

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