The decade just passed gave us 28-3. So, in parting we say to that decade ... well, I can’t say what needs to be said here. We’ll revisit as soon as I get my own show on cable.
When the local NFL franchise blows the biggest lead in the nation’s grandest sporting spectacle, identifying the dominant image of the last decade is pretty simple. It is a still-angry scar running the length of Atlanta’s chest.
The Great Falcons Flop of Feb. 5, 2017 – also known as Super Bowl LI – throws shade on all else that happened these past 10 years. Devoid of sunlight, all else withers. And that single botched 25-point lead will continue to be a cheese grater dragged across North Georgia’s raw sporting psyche until somebody does something grand enough to supplant the memory.
So, you ask, just who might do that? Given the clean start of another decade, which of the teams we seem to care most about might be the next to win a healing championship?
Hello, somebody? Anybody?
Who will give that next columnist, hopefully a cheerier soul, winning deeds to recall on Dec. 31, 2029? (During which I’ll salute with a frosty bottle of Ensure).
Here are the candidates to win a title in the next decade, ranked in a completely subjective order of probability.
And in parenthesis is, on a scale from 1 to 5, how strong my belief is in that team will win a championship in the 2020s.
Feel free to rearrange to your own liking, it won’t hurt my feelings:
- Georgia Bulldogs football (4.5).
In Kirby Smart we still trust, although that does diminish a little with every bowl game he plays in which his roster has more mysterious absences than an Agatha Christie novel.
So long as Smart recruits like his hair’s on fire and Georgia keeps spending obscene amounts on the little extras and the coach continues to learn how to do more on the sideline than just rage, the Bulldogs will remain the most promising of the local brands over the near term. There is no good reason for them not to win. Not even James Coley.
Still high on this administration getting over that last hill.
2. Braves (3.5, and note that this number holds no Sabermetric nutritional value).
Look, it has been two-and-a-half decades since the team won a World Series. And darn close to two decades (2001) since it won as much as a playoff series. So, excuse me for not buying futures in the Braves for the new Roaring ’20s.
We tend to look at the progress of certain young pitchers and the arrival of a transcendent talent such as Ronald Acuna in a vacuum. Yes, these Braves are much improved over the past decade that featured three 90-loss seasons. But a lot of other teams are ambitious, too, including one in the division that won it all as a wild card last season. There also remains a question of commitment from the absentee owner.
All that said, a lineup with Acuna, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman up top deserves respect. That’s a fine roof under which to build.
3. Atlanta United (3.0).
There’s the eternal question – well, since 2017 anyway – about where the MLS team really fits in the local sporting org chart. Suffice to say, Atlanta United still has many hearts and minds to win before its championships are embraced like more established sports and franchises.
Its one title was a pleasant diversion. And then it sold its most important player overseas. Yes, this is an odd alternative universe.
Who can say the 2018 championship wasn’t a flash of inspiration, gone as quickly as you can say Tata Martino? Frank de Boer has an impossible act to follow.
4. Falcons (2.0).
Now, as for Arthur Blank’s other, less accomplished, franchise.
It’s 2027 and the Falcons have closed a 7-11 season – the league’s added a couple of more games by then – and coach Dan Quinn says he has learned many lessons from that failed experiment of using artificial intelligence to call the defense over the first nine games. About this time, we may start to wonder if this thing is going to work.
Talking next decade, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are going to be obsolete way too soon. I don’t understand the salary cap, but am led to believe the Falcons possess the financial flexibility of a boarded up Blockbuster.
Oh, and 28-3 still haunts them like a five-figure college-loan debt.
Maybe I over-rated them.
5. Hawks (0.00004).
It would have been 1.000003 points higher had they kept Luka Doncic.
6. Georgia Tech football (not scientifically measurable, even by tools available on campus).
Look, be realistic. Tech is not going to be in the national championship business for a good long time now. Some would say never. That’s regardless of how much verbal cotton candy Geoff Collins spins.
If the Yellow Jackets return to the point that they are factors again in the Coastal Division, call that a wildly successful decade on The Flats.
Maybe they could even vie for all the ACC. That’s assuming Clemson has ascended to the NFC South by then.
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