Archive for September, 2009

5 reasons Bobby Cox needs to hang it up now

He can argue all he wants, but I've come to my conclusion. (AJC photo by Elissa Eubanks)

Bobby Cox can argue all he wants, but I've come to my conclusion: This is the right time for him to step aside. (AJC photo by Elissa Eubanks)

1. He has nothing  to prove. He’s a Hall of Famer. He has won 15 division titles, five pennants and a World Series. He has done it all, and all he’s seeking to do now is repeat after himself. Retire next month and nobody — well, almost nobody — will hold Greg Norton against him.

2. He’s 68 years old. He has money, a large family and the farm in Adairsville. Five years ago he told me what a older friend once told him: “Don’t wait too long to retire, Bobby, because then you can’t do nothin’.” There are a lot of somethings Cox hasn’t yet done. Like go to the Kentucky Derby. Or the Indy 500. Or do anything that happens between February and October and doesn’t involve getting to the ballpark at 11 a.m. for a night game.

3. He’s not quite the manager he once was. This is hard for me to say. As you know, I hold the man in the highest esteem. …

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The Falcons need a test, and they’ll get one in New England

The maligned Chris Houston makes his massive interception. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The maligned Chris Houston makes his massive interception. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

They’re 2-0, having won twice against teams that made the playoffs last season. They’re 2-0 and they’ve trailed for only 16 minutes and 20 seconds of the season’s first two hours. They’re 2-0 and they’re looking really good again, but still they need something. And that something sits about 40 minutes south of Boston.

Chris Houston: “We’re ready.”

Mike Peterson: “We’re up for the test.”

The Patriots are the gold standard of 21st Century football. The Falcons are the team that, having worked in two different centuries, still hasn’t achieved consecutive winning seasons. But that’s about to change. These guys are up for anything. This a franchise that, for the first time in its existence, is moving from strength to strength.

Michael Turner: “We’re trying to do something special here.”

The Falcons did special things against Carolina on Sunday — Matt Ryan completed 13 consecutive passes and …

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Chattin’ with Bradley: The rain, the Falcons and other things

I can’t promise that Falcons-Panthers will be half as entertaining as last night’s Georgia-Petrino tilt. I wish I could, but some things are beyond even my control. So, if things get dull, you can amuse yourselves by reading through the 2,365 comments (at last count) the Bulldogs’ defensive struggle with Arkansas prompted. Pay particular attention to those calling for Joe Cox to be benched even as he was tying a school record for touchdown passes in a game.

Turning to the pros … I’m at the Dome now, and I’d like to say a word on the Dome’s behalf. There are autumn Sunday when it’s bright and shiny outdoors and folks are moved to say, “Look at this weather. What do we we need a roof for? Football’s meant to be played outside!”

This is not such a day. The weather of the past week has been enough to prompt my new neighbor Noah to say, “Man — does it always rain this much down here?” And it poured this morning. It’s starting to clear now, but still … thank goodness for that …

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Chattin’ with Bradley: The Dogs, the Hogs and Travelin’ Bob

Hello from Cobb County, Ga. I mention my location so we’re clear: I am not in Fayetteville, Ark. Though I have been to Fayetteville, Ark., which is a nice enough place but kind of remote. When I went, I flew into Tulsa, which is in Oklahoma and which was the home of Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing.

But enough about that Bob. We can go no further without speaking of Bob Petrino, popularly known as Bobby. He’s popular the moment in Arkansas, less so in Georgia. Perhaps you remember him passing through.

Petrino is in Year 2 at his latest stop, and this is being hailed as a breakthrough game for Travelin’ Bob. It reminds me a bit of a road game Georgia played in 2007 — at Tuscaloosa in late September at a time when Alabama was unbeaten  Saban Mania was at its most maniacal. But the Bulldogs won that night in OT on Matthew Stafford’s pass to Mikey Henderson, and that edition of the Tide promptly went in the tank.

I’m not saying the same thing is going to happen to Arkansas …

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The Braves are still hangin’, but Howard’s still hammerin’

Having spent my adult life being wrong about everything, I try not to be wrong in haste. When I err, I want to take my sweet time about it. And ordinarily I’m ultra-conservative when it comes to declaring a game beyond reach or a team out of the playoff chase, which is why I’m even more chagrined than usual.

Nine days ago the Braves were nine games back in the division race and 8 1/2 in arrears in the wild card derby. Over, I said, and  it didn’t seem a difficult call. Too far to go, not enough time to get there. Infamous last words.

The Braves reported for duty Friday still a distant 7 1/2 games behind the division-leading Phillies, but that’s no longer the issue. By winning every game since Sept. 9, the Braves closed within 4 1/2 games of Colorado, which heads the wild card standings. They passed Florida and were but one game behind San Francisco.

“We’re still hangin’, man,” said Bobby Cox, the hipster skipper. Then this: “Anything can happen. All those years we were …

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How will Tech’s Johnson handle the post-Miami scrutiny?

Josh Nesbitt gets squeezed by the guys in orange. (AP photo)

Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt gets squeezed by the guys in orange. (AP photo)

Most teams can lose and have it just be a loss. When Georgia Tech loses, it’s an indictment of Paul Johnson. This mightn’t be fair, but it’s reality: When your stock in trade is a stylized offense, any reversal is going to be personalized. And Paul Johnson, as we know, tends to take things personally.

As noted earlier, he delights in flouting conventional wisdom, especially when it comes to his offense. Well, that offense just managed 95 yards rushing against Miami — 377 fewer than it did against the same Hurricanes 10 months ago. Yes, Jonathan Dwyer got hurt early, but Tech was supposed to have increased depth in the backfield, was it not?

So now Johnson will have to hear this topic bandied about in both cyberspace and the real world: Has the rest of college football caught on to his spread option? And he’s going to say no, that the offense if run properly will always work against any opponent, but …

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How Carolina might get it right against the Falcons

Were I you, I wouldn’t listen to me. I’m the guy who felt strongly that Georgia Tech would beat Miami. (And the Jackets would have won, I still maintain, had they been playing Miami of Ohio.) So feel free to disregard anything I say. Heck, I’m disregarding, and I’m writing it.

But collectors of MB  whiffs have already begun salivating over yet another on the horizon. Last month I picked Carolina to beat the Falcons in Week 2. This was before the Falcons bowed up — coaches are always exhorting their men to “bow up,” whatever that means — and shut down Miami, and also before Jake Delhomme conjured up five more turnovers, bringing his two-game total to 11, which puts him in Favre-land.

Am I changing my pick? Not exactly. But let’s just say I feel less strongly about the Panthers than I did about the Jackets, who lost by 16 points in a game that wasn’t nearly that close. That said, I wouldn’t be true to my high-school debating roots if I couldn’t concoct some sort of scenario in …

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Smitty gets to scheming, and the Falcons’ D gets good

Did we really think Smitty would put a lousy D on display? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Did we really think Smitty would put a bad defense on display? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Flowery Branch – In preseason the Falcons yielded 281 yards to San Diego in a half. In Week 1 of the regular season they allowed 259 yards in two halves. And here, for all those hand-wringers — hey, I was among y’all — is a reaffirmation: The preseason doesn’t count.

“In preseason you’re pretty much working on your craft,” Mike Peterson said. “And I was getting used to playing outside linebacker again … A lot of older guys, we don’t care too much for preseason.”

Peterson stands as a case study: In August he looked like an older Keith Brooking; against the Dolphins he resembled the young Lawrence Taylor. Yeah, it was only one game. But this one game counted.

Peterson again: “I wasn’t worried. I know you media guys get tired of hearing it, but it’s a process. We don’t game-plan in preseason; I didn’t watch tape of the tight end or the running back I was playing against. You just go out …

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Bradley’s Buzz: ESPN assesses Tech-Miami and picks …

As we know, there’s never any cross-promotion between ESPN the TV network and ESPN.com. (Cough, cough. Roll eyes. Cough again.) But sometimes that’s OK. Because otherwise we wouldn’t get this extemely detailed breakdown of Thursday night’s Georgia Tech-Miami game, courtesy of ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

Because this is one of those requires-registration deals, I’ll quote liberally:

“Allen Bailey, Josh Holmes and Marcus Forston give Miami a formidable rotation of defensive tackles that will hold their ground working against the Yellow Jackets’ interior offensive linemen. Behind them, MLB Darryl Sharpton is a downhill thumper who has the strength to help neutralize powerful B-back Jonathan Dwyer and slow down QB Josh Nesbitt between the tackles …

“Georgia Tech will have problems converting in third-and-long situations. CBs Brandon Harris, Sam Shields and Ryan Hill possess the speed and quickness to shadow Thomas and Cone. In addition, Nesbitt has had issues with his timing and accuracy, …

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5 reasons Georgia Tech will win at Miami

The ESPN-fueled zaniness will be on the other side this time. But that's OK. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The nighttime zaniness will be on the other side. But that's OK. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

1. Paul Johnson coaches Georgia Tech. Randy Shannon coaches Miami. Mismatch.

2. Tech just got a crash course in how to handle a Thursday night game. The home team will be pumped and will start fast. The visitor must ride out the first quarter and stay close, which is doubly important if …

3. You’re a running team, which Tech is. The Jackets can’t get too far behind. But they won’t. Indeed, their capacity to control the ball and the clock will help douse Miami’s early fire. Which means …

4. It will come down to execution. That’s a mismatch, too. Miami beat Florida State because FSU is even sloppier than the U. Tech can get sloppy, but not when it matters. And, in case you haven’t noticed …

5. Tech owns Miami. Even Chan Gailey beat the Hurricanes. As Inspector Clouseau would say, “The case, she is sol-ved.”

(Or is it? Coming next: What ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. thinks of this titanic …

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