It has been a rough few months for sports fans in this state.
Perhaps it started in May, when Atlanta lost its professional hockey franchise. The Thrashers were sold, and for the second time in history, an NHL team left Georgia for Canada.
Then September rolled around and the Braves blew a huge lead in the NL wild-card race and failed to reach the playoffs. The collapse was legendary, and if not for the Boston Red Sox doing the same exact thing in the AL, more would’ve been made of Atlanta blowing a chance to go back to the playoffs.
Then just last week both Georgia Tech and Georgia blew big leads and missed field goals with a chance to win their bowl games. Nothing like spoiling a successful season by not being able to kick the pigskin. It is, by the way, called football for a reason.
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But nothing compares to what happened Sunday. The Atlanta Falcons had perhaps the most embarrassing performance by a team in years. It’s easy to say the Falcons lost, but it was more than just a loss.
In fact, Sunday’s 24-2 loss to the Giants was the second-worst loss in franchise history. And if you’re thinking the loss to Denver in the Super Bowl was the worst, you’d be wrong.
This loss was worse than that game. It’s hard to imagine a simple playoff loss could be worse than a loss in the Super Bowl, but this one was. Heck, at least the Falcons scored in the Super Bowl. Only the Dallas game in 1981 was worse. Nothing will ever touch that game, when Danny White ripped our hearts out with the Cowboys’ comeback.
The Falcons have had four straight winning seasons. They’ve reached the playoffs in three of those years. It’s easy to be content with that, and there’s no doubt considering the history of the franchise that it has been a great run. But to have a game like we saw Sunday takes the wind out of your sails.
You see, it wasn’t just a loss. Just a loss would’ve been something like 27-21. We would’ve been disappointed. We would’ve clamored for more than another playoff disappointment. What we saw Sunday, however, went beyond that.
The expectations were higher because of what this Atlanta team has on its roster. The Falcons have a good quarterback. They have a great running back. They have two great receivers, along with a Hall of Fame tight end.
A team with all that isn’t supposed to be shut out, is it?
Of course, the line of scrimmage was the problem. But even so, how can a team with so many weapons look awful in the most important game of the season? How could a team we had been led to believe was missing just one more piece (another explosive playmaker) show it instead needs a whole lot more?
Everybody is to blame for that performance. Blame general manager Thomas Dimitroff for wanting that playmaker so bad that he sacrificed the chance to get more help on the lines of scrimmage. Blame head coach Mike Smith for showing that he hasn’t learned from the previous playoff experience and simply doesn’t know how to make big calls.
Blame Matt Ryan. Blame the President. Blame Herman Cain. Blame Charlie Sheen. Blame everybody.
Put most of the blame on offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. A week ago we wondered if Mike Bobo should keep his job in Athens for the same reasons we know Mularkey’s time in Atlanta has run out. Let’s just hope some other franchise will be stupid enough to hire him as a head coach so the Falcons can get a new voice on offense.
The NFL stands for not for long, and it’s usually used in context of if you don’t win, you won’t be around for long. A year from now, if this happens again, Smith is going to be the one looking for a new job.
It’s nice to be successful in September through December, but football is all about winning in January. And so far, this franchise can’t get over that hump.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.