Archive for October, 2010

Alas, Georgia’s coaching is no longer championship-caliber

It was another hair-raising loss for UGA and Mark Richt. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

It was another hair-raising loss for UGA and Mark Richt. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

On Oct. 27, 2007, Knowshon Moreno scored to give Georgia a 7-0 lead against Florida, prompting the Bulldogs’ semi-planned and twice-penalized on-field celebration. What you knew: Georgia won that day 42-30, marking the only time Mark Richt’s team has beaten Urban Meyer’s.

What you didn’t know: The day of the Gator Stomp marked the first and last time — in six tries, mind you — a Richt team has taken a lead on Meyer’s.

As disheartening as Richt being 1-5 against Meyer is, the repeated failure to nose ahead even 3-0 is more alarming. It’s a direct reflection of coaching, or the lack thereof. Rule 1 in the Coaching Manual: Get your team ready to play. Sad to say, the Bulldogs under Richt are rarely ready.

Say what you will about Meyer, but the man can coach. His work against Ohio State in Glendale, Ariz., in January 2007 was the greatest coaching performance the BCS title game has ever seen, …

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The new/old Hawks stay unbeaten and Joe thanks the fans

Here's Joe Johnson, famous dunker. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Joe Johnson, famous dunker. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Speaking before his team’s home opener, the NBA’s reigning sixth man of the year said: “We’ve got a whole new scheme, a whole new everything.”

Jamal Crawford was right, but also wrong. The Hawks have a new head coach, even though Larry Drew has been on staff the past six seasons. They have a new offense, even though it wound up looking like the old offense in the fourth quarter Saturday night. They have the same core personnel, even if it is being differently deployed.

As much as we might want to call these the Same Old Hawks, they’re not quite. (Not that being the Same Old Hawks was all that terrible. They did win 53 games and claim the No. 3 seed in the NBA East last season.) But they’re not the Brand New Hawks, either.

I know. It’s kind of confusing. The Hawks won Friday in Philadelphia with Joe Johnson taking fewer shots than Al Horford or Josh Smith and working the fourth-fewest minutes among starters. They won here …

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Live from the home opener of the unbeaten Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks arrived home 2-0, having won at Memphis and Philadelphia. A year ago, we’d have been surprised if the Hawks lost to either of those teams, neither of which made the playoffs. This year — and let’s be frank — we were kind of surprised they didn’t lose at least once.

Saturday night brought the home opener of a strange team at a strange point in its exceedingly strange history. Lest we forget, these Hawks won 53 games last season and were the No. 3 seed in the NBA East. (Ahead of the Celtics, who wound up winning the Eastern Conference crown.)

“I think people have forgotten,” said Jamal Crawford, the reigning NBA sixth man of the year. And lots of them have, or else their memory has been clouded by that staggering loss suffered by this team in Round 2 of the playoffs. The East’s No. 3 seed was swept by the No. 2 seed by a record aggregate spread of 101 points.

Four wipeout losses wiped out those 53 victories and the Round 1 comeback that undid Milwaukee. Four wipeout …

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A chilling thought: What if Richt DOESN’T beat these Gators?

Bulldogs and Gators gather to discuss: "Who's worse -- you or us?" (AJC file photo)

Bulldogs and Gators gather to debate the issue: "Who's worse — you or us?" (AJC file photo)

The Georgia Bulldogs head to Jacksonville, where they’ve won three times since 1989, as favorites over Florida. We couldn’t have foreseen such a thing a month ago, but here it is. Georgia, which had lost four in a row, has won three in a row. Florida hasn’t won since September.

A check of the SEC stats shows that Georgia leads Florida in every significant offensive category and in rushing defense and turnover margin. Heck, Georgia has even been flagged for fewer penalties.

Put simply, this stacks up as Georgia’s best chance to beat Florida since 2004, when Ron Zook was a lame duck. (And Georgia did prevail that year, though not without a struggle.) Put even more simply, this puts an even greater onus on the coach who’s 2-7 against the hated Gators. Because what will it say about Mark Richt if he can’t beat Urban Meyer’s worst Florida team?

I know, I know. A month ago, we were calling …

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Good news/bad news: Mel Kiper likes UGA’s Justin Houston

This quarterback has a problem -- by the name of Houston. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

This quarterback has a problem — by the name of Houston. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

If any Bulldog figured to benefit from the switch to the 3-4, it was Justin Houston. He has 8 1/2 sacks through eight games, not far off the 15-for-the-season pace forecast in this space back in August. (Not that I’m smart or anything. I just happen to know enough about the 3-4 to understand that “weakside linebacker” means “lots of sacks.”)

And now the famous Mel Kiper of ESPN has released his newest Big Board for the 2011 NFL draft, and the man who was just named the SEC’s defensive player of the week for his work against Kentucky has risen to No. 17. (Houston wasn’t rated in the previous installment.)

The good news is that another Georgia player is getting recognized for his great work. The bad news is that, as is also the case with wide receiver A.J. Green, who’s rated the No. 2 overall prospect by Kiper, the Georgia player is a junior. Meaning: There’s a good chance a year’s …

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With Texas in the Series, we reconsider the Teixeira trade

Two of the five most important players on a big-league team are the shortstop and the closer. The Texas Rangers, gracing the World Series for the first time in their existence, have young All-Stars at both spots. They came courtesy of the Atlanta Braves.

July 31, 2007: The Braves sent five prospects to Texas for first baseman Mark Teixeira and reliever Ron Mahay. They won that night — Teixeira hadn’t yet arrived — to draw within 3 1/2 games of the Mets in the National League East. They would get no closer, finishing in third place, five games behind the division-winning Phillies.

July 29, 2008: Knowing Teixeira, who would become a free agent at season’s end, wouldn’t re-up with them, the Braves traded him to the Angels for first baseman Casey Kotchman and minor-league pitcher Steve Marek. The Braves were in fourth place, 7 1/2 games out of first. Teixeira played 157 games as a Brave, hitting .295 with 134 RBIs and 37 homers. As a Brave, he spent one day — April 6, 2008 — in …

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LeBron’s losing debut shows us why he’ll be a great villain

LeBron James is a great player. He’ll make an even better villain.

I haven’t much cared for the Celtics since Bill Russell retired, but I have to admit: I was pulling for them last night. And when LeBron and his South Beach-based talents and his Super Friends managed to muster all of nine points in the first quarter of the first game of the NBA season … well, I laughed out loud.

The NBA built itself on hyping players, but massive overload of the Summer of LeBron and his ESPN-aired Decision and the sheer wrong-headedness of a player this gifted feeling the need to cherry-pick both a new team and an NBA title at the ridiculously young age of 25 left a lot of folks cold. I know. I’m one.

When even commissioner David Stern, who never met a PR campaign he couldn’t embrace, called “The Decision” “ill-conceived,” you know something went bad somewhere. But let’s give the NBA credit: It knows how to play catch-up ball. So Night 1 of the Endless Season began with TNT bringing us the …

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So the 2010 Phils were unbeatable? Just like the 1993 Braves

On July 21, the Philadelphia Phillies were 48-46, not even in second place in the National League East. They were third, a half-game behind the Mets and seven games behind the Braves. Then Philly won 49 of its final 68 regular-season games and surged from seven games behind to six games ahead. And then it swept the Reds in the Division Series, allowing no hits in Game 1 and no runs in Game 3.

And right about there, I’m guessing one or two of you were thinking just what I was thinking: “There’s no beating this team.”

The World Series begins tomorrow night. Philadelphia will not be playing. The best-looking National  League team of the past 16 years was beaten by San Francisco in six games in the NLCS, three of the losses coming by one run. I mention this because there was, 17 years ago, a team of similar eminence that stormed down the stretch, overrode an even deeper deficit and seemed a mortal lock to become the first team since the Cardinals during World War II to win three …

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What’s wrong with Tech? Bay-Bay went away (boo hoo)

This pass was dropped Saturday in Pickens County, S.C. (AP photo)

This Yellow Jacket pass was dropped Saturday in Pickens County, S.C. (AP photo)

I’ve actually had requests to write more about Georgia Tech. This is noteworthy because I usually only get asked to stop writing about something. But enough about me.

Georgia Tech, I’m afraid to say, is what I thought it was when last I mentioned the Jackets. It’s bad on defense and limited on offense. To say the Tech D has gotten worse under Al Groh would be statistically incorrect: The Jackets were 54th nationally among FBS teams in total defense last season; they’re 53rd now. What’s hurting Tech, believe it or not, is that Paul Johnson’s stylized offense isn’t holding up its end.

The Jackets are second in the nation in rushing offense, same as a year ago. The difference is that Tech ranks 48th nationally in total offense, down from 26th last season. What has gone wrong? There’s no Bay-Bay.

Demaryius Thomas, known as Bay-Bay, averaged 82.43 receiving yards per game last season — pretty darn good …

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The Falcons can make the Super Bowl: Do they know that?

"Stand aside, striped lackey! I'm bound for glory!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

"Stand aside, striped stripling! I'm bound for glory!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The bye week arrives at a propitious time. The Falcons are 5-2, owners of the NFC’s best record. (The Giants would likewise be 5-2 if they beat Dallas tonight.) They’ve done good work. They’re capable of better.

The bye week brings time to refocus and recalibrate. Everything the Falcons believed about themselves when they reported to training camp has been borne out: They are indeed a massively gifted team. We saw as much Sunday when the Bengals brought a bunch of brand-name players — Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, Adam “Pacman” Jones — to the Dome. The Falcons built a three-touchdown lead, tossed it away and then surged backed ahead by two touchdowns.

And therein we bore witness to both the Falcons’ inherent potential and their one liability. They’re good enough to beat anybody, but sometimes they don’t seem to grasp how good they can be. Oh, they talk about it. …

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