The topic came up Friday on “The Morning Show.” Which Atlanta team among the big three leagues is closest to winning a championship?
That question came out of a discussion about Forbes Magazine listing Atlanta as the most miserable sports city in the nation.
My co-host, Charles Olson, said the Falcons are the closest to winning a championship, ahead of the Braves and Hawks. My initial reaction to that was, “Really, that team that just went 4-12?”
Quickly going through the NFC in early August, the Falcons are behind all four teams in the NFC West, the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears or Detroit Lions in the North and one team in the South. It’s not clear which team it is in the South, but one of those other teams (Carolina, New Orleans and Tampa Bay) is ahead of the Falcons, as well.
So the Falcons are about eighth in the NFC alone, and that’s not really close to winning a Super Bowl. Yes, they went to the NFC title game two years ago, but they were awful last year and still have a lot of questions going into the season. There is some reason for optimism from fans (mostly after seeing the “Hard Knocks” opener) going into the year, but there are still plenty of holes to fill before the team can even think about being a title contender.
Maybe the Falcons’ pick in this discussion says more about the Braves and Hawks than it does the Falcons.
The Hawks aren’t close to a title in the NBA realistically, but they seem to be heading in the right direction. General manager Danny Ferry has made many terrific moves with the roster, dumping some bad contracts and giving the team plenty of flexibility moving forward. And head coach Mike Budenholzer is off to a strong start, getting the team to play the right way and play hard every night.
They need some more talent, for sure, but the Hawks are at least interesting for the first time in many years.
And then there are the Braves. In the standings, they are the closest to winning a title. They’re still in the hunt in the NL despite all their recent troubles, but does it really feel like the Braves are close to winning the World Series?
This year’s team is lacking in leadership and chemistry, and it makes you wonder why both Tim Hudson and Brian McCann got away during the offseason. The Braves are in danger of falling too far behind Washington to catch up in the East, depending on what happens against the Nationals this weekend.
Moving forward, the Braves have several bad contracts that are holding them back, and they have some ill-fitting pieces and some big holes in their lineup. B.J. Upton has just been awful, and Evan Gattis isn’t really a catcher. He probably would be better off moving to left field, switching Justin Upton to right field and moving Jason Heyward to center field. To do that, B.J. Upton and his huge contract would have to go to the bench, but the team doesn’t appear to be ready to do that.
There are also whispers about the manager and the general manager and just the general direction the Braves are moving. There are simply too many questions that have to be answered before the Braves can be considered championship contenders.
The Falcons, at least, have been close in the recent past, and that’s good enough to finish first in this debate. Now, they need to improve a ton so they can finish first on the field.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org