The Hawks’ Go-To Guy?

January 28, 2008

Photo Courtesy of The Oregonian 

A quick list of Atlanta Hawks that Joe Johnson is not markedly better than:

-Josh Smith

-Marvin Williams

On a night where he scored 19 points (only 2 more than either guy mentioned above) and was embarassed on both ends of the floor by Brandon Roy, Joe Johnson was rewarded by Mike Woodson with exclusive rights to the ball on the Hawks final two offensive posessions.

While his 2 misses in the final :10 were just the icing on the cake of an all-out team collapse (for the 2nd time in a week) against the Blazers. I was left asking – why does Joe always get the ball, with no desire or expectation of passing, at the end of the game?

Obviously, this is Woodson’s call, so I can’t really fault Joe. Nonetheless, while he has been crucial to their gradual improvement over the last 2 seasons, in my mind, he isn’t the only reason…and isn’t that clutch. There’s nothing wrong with that – but this Hawks team wins when it plays as such.

As solid of a jump shooter as Marvin has become, and as great of a slasher as you have in Josh Smith, why leave it in the hands of a guy who isn’t that great of a ball-handler, and is merely “good” at driving to the basket (and honestly, doesn’t do it that much in make or break situations)? If everyone in the crowd knows what’s coming, how hard is it for the defense to defend it? Why not use the wealth of comparable talent you have at hand?

To be fair – I’ve wondered this about many teams over the years, not just the Hawks. This whole idea of having that one guy to take the final shot seems foolish and dangerous to me. Regardless of who it is, they need an outlet if everything breaks down. Creating those outlets, even during non-game ending situations, seems to be something the Hawks aren’t getting from their coaching staff.

This game also reminds me of a thought I’ve been having for a while now. Marvin Williams = Good Draft Pick. Shelden Williams = Bad Draft Pick.

True – you don’t get Chris Paul or Deron Williams when drafting Marvin, but you don’t get Brandon Roy when drafting Shelden Williams, who, by all accounts, is your 3rd post guy off the bench. The non-drafting of a PG in ’05 is mitigated by having Acie Law, and solid veteran play from Anthony Johnson. Not having a gamer like Brandon Roy, when Billy Knight clearly was reaching with Shelden at #5 (Roy going #6), is just mind-blowing. At least most pundits considered Marvin the 2nd best player in that draft when he was taken.

 I’ve defended alot of what Billy Knight has done for the Hawks. That decision, though, is inexcusable.

Oh…and Shelden logged all of zero minutes in last night’s loss, along with Lorenzen Wright, Salim Stoudamire, and Solomon Jones. Maybe Woody’s starters wouldn’t have run  out of gas if those guys could’ve spelled them for a while?


Ex-Falcons’ Playoff Bracket – There Shall Be Only One

January 18, 2008

Old. Man. Strength.

Apparently, Brett Favre has it in spades, because he’s the only Ex-Falcon left standing. As expected, Grady Jackson’s Jaguars and Patrick Kerney’s Seahawks ran into teams that vastly overmanned them.

The former regular on the early 90’s Buckhead nightlife scene needed only 18 completions to throw 3 TDs, and then let young ‘un Ryan Grant do the rest of the work to the tune of 201 yards and 3 TDs.

 Thus, the Godfather of Ex-Falcons outlasts the recent castoffs.

More than likely, this is due to the fact that he spent one season in an Atlanta uniform, and thus the effects of wearing said colors had a minimal effect on him. What he does against the Giants, a team that is entirely Ex-Falcon free, will go a long way to proving that theory.

As was mentioned in comments on the previous blog, of course, the Falcons trading Favre is one of the most notorious personnel moves in franchise (nay, NFL) history. Whether the Packers win this weekend or not, I’ll give you a few reasons next week why it really is an overblown thing. Several factors played into the trade, and the end result for the Falcons, while not including Mr. Favre, weren’t as terrible as you’d think.

 I know – it sounds crazy, but just bear with me.

For now…we’ll see if #4 still has one of those games left in him. You know, the one where he throws it around indiscriminately for about 3 or 4 picks, and the talking heads on ESPN fawn about how charming, and gunslinging, he is. Meanwhile, we’ll all be scratching our heads at the idea of Eli Manning playing in a Super Bowl.

Every Falcon, Ever, Shutout of NFL Hall of Fame for 37th Consecutive Year

January 16, 2008

ATLANTA – Continuing a proud tradition of anonymity and flash-in-the-pan careers, every Falcon who ever donned the Red and Black for more than one season was yet again left off the list of finalists for induction into the NFL’s Hall of Fame. Since players for the franchise would only have been eligible 5 years after the team’s 1966 inception, this now marks 37 years in which no Falcon has been selected.

A veritable Who’s That of the Franchise’s top players gathered at the teams’ Flowery Branch Headquarters to celebrate this remarkable achievement.

“We’re pretty proud of our ability skirt this whimisical bullshit.” said 5-time All Pro DE Claude Humphrey. “Every year, we rejoice in the fact that our fans don’t have to be force fed ideas about who the great players were. They’re smart enough to realize that voting for these things is skewed heavily thanks to squirelly little journalists, who are swayed easily by a good NFL Film montage.”

While urinating on a picture of Lynn Swann, 5-time Pro Bowl LB Jessie Tuggle was overheard to say “Yeah, I made 2 more Pro Bowls than this guy, and led the NFL in tackles twice, but I think what I’m most proud of is the fact that I don’t have delusional half-wits creating websites that argue I should be in the Hall of Fame.” He paused, mid-stream, and added “I guess John Facenda’s voice can convince people to do alot of things, though.”

The few invited guests were given a special treat this year as running backs William Andrews – the first player to ever have 2 seasons of 2,000 combined rushing/receiving yards , and Jamal Anderson, the NFL record holder for carries in a season, held a joint question and answer session on catastrophic knee injuries and their role in Falcons History.

“It was a close call” Anderson said, “I was one of the most feared running backs in the NFL. If it weren’t for two seperate torn ACLs, I might have let these guys down.”

Andrews added, with a chuckle. “I’m just glad modern medicine wasn’t around when I was playing!”

The night ended with former Falcons Director of Player Personnel, Ken Herock, receiving a special achievement award for masterminding the 1992 trade of Brett Favre.

“It’s truly amazing,” Herock uttered, tears welling up in his eyes, “to realize that I was truly part of something bigger than myself.”

The Falcons Non-Hall of Fame Celebration is an annual event. Beginning in 1981, with the first snubbing of Mr. Falcon, Tommy Nobis, the gathering has since been held every January. Future dates for The FNHOFC will be announced later this year, and every year, until someone on this damn team does something to make media drones stand up and take notice!

Other than dogfighting, of course. The Atlanta Falcons Football Club loves dogs…seriously. 

Honorary Citizens – The Ohio State Buckeyes

January 8, 2008

This picture pretty much sums up the night for Ohio State. The play from which this photo is derived – a  Buckeye 4th and 7 from LSU’s 34,  with the score 31-17, and still early in the 4th Quarter – is a mirochosm of their evening. Seemingly close to making this game, but then revealed as vastly overmatched.

I welcome the Buckeyes as honorary citizens of Losersville, only because they’ve now lost two BCS Title Games in a row, in ignominious fashion, to SEC schools. It would be unfair to do it solely because of last night’s performance, because, really, we all saw this coming.

Somehow, in the month leading up to this game, many of us forgot the crowing we had done all year about how weak their schedule was, how many players they’d lost from last year’s team, and how they didn’t deserve to get to the Title Game again if the opportunity presented itself.

We rejoiced when they lost to Illinois, what we didn’t count on, of course, was every team in the country that superceded them in the polls losing in often shocking fashion (including their executioners, LSU).

Thus, I can’t blame them for being in this game – they did would any actual Losersville team would do – stumble, ass backwards, into a golden opportunity, and then come up very, very, short.

The most interesting thought I had from last night, though, is this: With the advent of the BCS system, and the apparent coming of some sort of playoff system in the next decade, when will a Big 10 team win a National Title again? If this system was in place in 1997, would Michigan have even been able to stay on the field with a mid-90s Nebraska team that many regard as one of the best of all-time? I will give them ’02 Ohio State over Miami, woefully late interference penalties notwithstanding.

Nonetheless, before those 2 titles, you have to go all the way back to 1968 to find a Big 10 National Champion, and back to 1965 (Michigan State) to find someone other than Ohio State or Michigan (Granted, ’95 Penn State when undefeated, and did not share the title with equally undefeated Nebraska).

In that same span, 5 different SEC schools have won or shared 10 National Titles. Additionally – Auburn has twice gone undefeated, but been prevented from playing for a championship through either probation (1993), or daft pollsters (2004). 

That is to say, the idea of The Big 10 being the 2nd best, or even best, football conference is a myth that was created by that league being able to avoid playing schools from the Southeastern United States in meaningful football games, thanks to the Rose Bowl.

If not for Ohio State, Michigan, and relatively recent addition, Penn State, you could even argue that it is the worst of the BCS Football Conferences.

Ex-Falcons’ Playoff Bracket – Wild Card Round

January 7, 2008

Since the actual Falcons only make the playoffs about twice a decade (sadly, they’ve already used their allotment for the ’00s), it’s a fond past-time here in Losersville to watch guys who once donned a Falcons uniform stride majestically on the Elysian Fields that are post-season football.

Okay, there’s not much majestic to speak of when referring to former-Birds like Lincoln Kennedy and Grady Jackson, but you get the idea.

For brevity’s sake, I’ll leave out those who I can’t really verify do anything but currently take up a uniform number (I’m looking at you, Brian Kozlowski and Matt Lehr), and focus on the guys that actually step on the field after warm-ups.

With that criteria in mind, it was a great weekend for the ex-Falcons! Playing in 3 more games than any current Falcons, they went 2-1.

A brief review of a triumphant ex-Falcons weekend:

Patrick Kerney, Seattle Seahawks – This move has haunted the Falcons all-season. A fan favorite – cut because he was too expensive, and, apparently too old at 30 – Kerney led the NFC with 14.5 sacks this season. Granted, he got to play the O-Lines of Arizona, San Francisco, and St. Louis 6 times, but his numbers definitely show that he has a few good years left in him. Also – he had exactly 14.5 sacks more than Jamaal “Goose Egg” Anderson, who was drafted to replace him.

Kerney’s performance in Saturday’s 35-14 victory over Washington definitely showed that he’s the kind of guy the ex-Falcons will need to reach Super Bowl XLII. Per ESPN’s Matt Mosley:

Patrick Kerney was brilliant Saturday. His ability to bring pressure from his left defensive end spot is what set up the Seahawks linebackers for a huge day. The Redskins had to plan around Kerney, and he blew that game plan up with his relentless effort.

Sigh. This isn’t to mention either that Kerney was usually the one Falcon you could see out amongst the people on your average Saturday night, dogfighting throwdowns not included. Even on the day he was released by Atlanta, I personally witnessed him finding time to kick back a few drinks at Kramer’s and say his farewells to the friends he had made in his 8 seasons in Atlanta.

Gracious to the fans? Unconvicted? Piling up sacks left and right? Yeah – we didn’t need a guy like that this year. Whatever he would’ve cost, it would have been worth it.

Grady Jackson, Jacksonville Jaguars – Always hard to judge a Defensive Tackle based on statistics, but the Falcons questionable release of Jackson in October has been a Godsend to a depleted Jags line, which has endured a struggling, injured, John Henderson, and a 4-game suspension to Marcus Stroud.

A few stats from Saturday’s game can tell the story pretty well, though. The Steelers running game (more potent than your average ground attack, even without Willie Parker), was held to 43 yards on 26 carries. Add that to a 3 INT performance by Ben Roethlisberger…one of which was caused by direct pressure from Jackson…and it’s plain to see the Morbidly Obese One was blowing up the middle of the Steelers line with regularity. It was close, and some questionable decisions were made by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, but the Jags prevailed 31-29.

If you’ll remember, former Falcons Coach Bobby Petrino cited a movement towards youth when he released Jackson. He then took his desire for youth in the Falcons organization to the next level by resigning to make way for what will likely be a younger coach.  That’s dedication to a plan.

Allen Rossum, Pittsburgh Steelers – Didn’t play due to a hamstring injury. I don’t begrudge the Falcons for dumping an aging kick returner. He couldn’t have done much to turn the Falcons season around anyway, regardless of the abundance of opportunities. Still – Steelers fans have to wonder if Rossum the ex-Falcon could have done what Rossum the Falcon did to St. Louis in the 2005 playoffs.

We’ll continue to monitor the progress of the ex-Falcons next week, as we welcome the Godfather of ex-Falcons, Brett Favre, to the fray.

Hawks Painfully Reminded That LeBron Doesn’t Play Here

January 3, 2008

LeBron Goes For 32 As Cavs Rally Past Hawks

The Hawks have yet to make the disastrous midseason trade to scuttle any playoff aspirations, but even if they did, they still wouldn’t have their own personal LeBron.

We can also be thankful Danny Manning, J.R. Rider, and Glen Robinson are now retired. Oddly, with all of the sturm and drang over his tenure as GM, Billy Knight hasn’t made many of the disastrously bad trades that plagued the Pete Babcock era (he’s going to get his own special Losersville salute one of these days).

In fact, the worst thing you can say about him is that he’s been patient with his coach, who seems to be working out, and that he drafted Marvin Williams instead of Chris Paul or Deron Williams. In case you haven’t read the AJC once in the last 2.5 years (good for you) many feel that was a bad move, even though they now realize Marvin is a good player, but was a bad pick, even though he’s a good player…but still…

While I managed to sneak in a few moments of this game in between watching West Virginia dismantle Oklahoma in The Fiesta Bowl (remember that perpetual Oklahoma BCS egg-laying I mentioned?), it still surprised me to realize that this loss dropped the Hawks from 4th(!) in the Eastern Conference to 5th!

Will they beat the Pistons or Celtics in a 7 Game Series? Probably not. Do they finally appear headed in the right direction? Yes, thank God, yes…

Honorary Citizens – The Hawai’i Warriors

January 2, 2008

First off – a special nod to the brilliant BCS Selection Committee. I’m totally piling on here – but they gave us 2 unpalatable appetizers yesterday on the way to The National Title Game. Another 2 are likely on the way tonight and tomorrow, barring Oklahoma pulling their perpetual Major Bowl Game Disappearing Act (they are winless in their last 3 trips to the BCS).

I thought healthy debate about who the best team was is one of the supposed beauties of Bowl Season? Would it have been that hard to put the aforementioned Sooners, Georgia, Virginia Tech, and Southern Cal in a hat and pull out 2 great match-ups? Couldn’t you then have another pool of West Virginia, Kansas, Hawai’i and Illinois, Missouri and, I don’t know, Appalachian State, to set up the other 2 games?

I’ve pretty much resigned myself that this system isn’t going anywhere, but at least we can improve the selection process to leave out participants-by-default like the 2 losers we saw yesterday.

Now, onto Hawai’i. They get Honorary Citizenship because, much like the FBS team here in Losersville, they looked really bad in losing to Georgia. In a rare moment of lucidity, everything I thought I knew about Hawai’i was proven correct. I thought Colt Brennan was a fraud, and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrel should have gotten way more play for the Heisman for putting up better numbers in a similar system. I was right. Get used to your name being preceded by this phrase, Colty – “Now entering the game for the Edmonton Eskimos…”

I thought Georgia’s D would give up a fair amount of completions, but very few yards. 22-39 is not a bad line – but having that only go for 169 yards, and 3 INTs, is. I thought the Dawgs would run the ball at will. I was right.

Don’t worry – I probably won’t be right in this way more than 20% of the time. Remember the name of the blog. Nonetheless, if we are forced to accept the bowl system as a way for determining the National Champion, I at least want to learn something from each bowl game. All I learned from the Sugar Bowl was that an elite SEC team could dominate a suspect WAC team at will. Not much of a newsflash there.

I sat up until 3 on the final night of the season, begging Washington to put the Warriors away, but as they are Washington, they could not. I knew this would doom Georgia to playing a game where they would get to toss the slight Brennan around like a ragdoll and submit us to 4 hours of Thom Brenneman’s continuous exhibition of idiocy.

Well, I didn’t know Brenneman was doing the game – but as soon as I found out, I wept. This is the guy who was amazed at all the Cubs fans who “travelled” to Atlanta to watch their beloved Cubbies in the 2003 NLDS. If, by travelled, he meant drove down from Alpharetta or Duluth. Must be nice having a Hall Of Fame broadcaster for a Dad. Apparently, that’s all you need to get a job at Fox Sports these days.

I want to personally welcome Hawai’i to the Losersville fold. You guys filled one of the most crucial components of citizenship here – getting so close to glory, only to be exposed as a fraud and fail spectacularly in the end (see: The ’94 Atlanta Hawks).