Three teams, three questions.
FALCONS: Is next season make or break for general manager Thomas Dimitroff?
Answer: Yes. To read my column on Thursday’s Dimitroff-Dan Quinn news conference, click this link. Dimitroff did not run from criticism of recent personnel mistakes. He knows many fans wanted him out and that he needs to do better to keep his job beyond the 2016 season. When asked directly about it being a make or break year, Dimitroff gave the correct answer: “I believe every year is.”
But the truth is, it also could be a make or break year for Quinn, as strange as that may sound. Consider: Dimitroff was retained by owner Arthur Blank at least in part because Quinn backed him and the two have a good working relationship. If the Falcons miss the playoffs again next season, Quinn, who currently has control of the 53-man roster, could lose some autonomy, or at worst his job. If Dimitroff is fired, the new general manager likely would come in with some power and might want to bring in his own coach. So in my view, a lot is riding on the draft and free agency for both the coach and the GM next season.
HAWKS: Should the Hawks trade Jeff Teague and/or Al Horford now?
Answer: No. It makes no sense, unless the Hawks are choosing to kiss off the possibility of a long playoff run (which also doesn’t make sense) or they’re getting a tremendous return in a trade (which seems unlikely).
I agree with many that the Hawks look shaky right now. But to trade Teague during a relatively “off” season when he also might be laboring from a lingering ankle sprain would likely mean getting pennies on the dollar. It’s unlikely any contender seeking him would give up a player or players worth the deal for the Hawks. I’m also not comfortable with Dennis Schroeder suddenly becoming this team’s starting point guard. He’s too inconsistent. I understand the argument for trading Teague or Horford at some point. But it makes far more sense to deal one or both after the season when a better deal likely could be made. Horford will be an unrestricted free agent but he can still be moved in a sign-and-trade. Teague is easily movable because of his relatively modest salary for a starting point guard ($8 million in 2016-17, the final year of his contract).
As for the playoffs, think about this: The Eastern Conference against is just north of average. Who scares you? Cleveland? Chicago? Toronto? The Hawks have problems but it’s only late January, still plenty of time to get things together.
BRAVES: Will the Braves be OK in starting pitching?
Answer: I doubt it. Very much. You might’ve seen my blog the other day about USA Today ranking the Braves’ starting pitching as the worst in baseball. Considering they traded their best starter from last season, Shelby Miller and their perceived best remaining starter, Julio Teheran, is coming off his worst season (4.04 ERA, after 3.20 and 2.89 the previous two years), it’s hard to dispute. The Braves have a ton of kids. Logic suggests there are going to be a string of hiccups. Improving on last season’s 67 wins might depend more on the bullpen putting our brush fires than anything else. The team is likely to go through a blur of relievers again over 162 games. It’s always possible that general manager John Coppolella will spin a deal to bring in a dependable arm. But until that happens or there’s evidence of significant improvement through the rest of the team, my default position is this team will lose 90 games again.
From the Digital Jukebox
- Dimitroff was prepared for assault, accepts blame for misses
- Falcons hire two former general managers — and that makes five
- Four-point analysis: Falcons are a ways behind Carolina
- Braves’ starting rotation ranked 30th (and it’s hard to dispute)
- About Atlanta’s hate for Cam Newton and the Panthers …
- NFL’s Final Four all have something Falcons don’t
- Mike Smith says he’s ‘recharged,” avoids references to Falcons
- Braves’ free-agent interest has its limits
- This comes as no surprise: Braves not spending in free agency
- (Full column) There’s a limit to Braves’ interest in free agents
- Mike Smith joins Dirk Koetter in Tampa; Is Roddy White next?
- St. Louis Rams fans: You will get no sympathy here
- Coppolella wants to know what’s on minds of Braves’ fans (oops)
- What are Georgia’s and Tech’s national title odds? Glad you asked
- Can one upset be start of something for Tech, Gregory?
- OK, that’s enough time: Looking ahead to 2016 college football season
- Hawks finally look like team they need to be
- Falcons will keep Dimitroff, Shanahan as expected, fire scouts
- Tired of Brady-Belichick? I’ve got bad news for you
- Why Griffey got my Hall of Fame vote but Piazza didn’t
- Some thoughts on what the Falcons need to fix
- Falcons’ season shouldn’t mandate firings
- Clemson is good but Alabama is better
- Alabama announces its return to center stage
- Can Michigan State score another for Big Ten over SEC?
- Saban references Richt firing as one reason against playoff expansion
- Is Nick Saban’s magic transferable to other schools — like Georgia