Ah, July. There's bright green leaves on the trees, bright sun and sparkling water, and the AJC's Mark Bradley is full of summery optimism. He's got seven reasons why the Falcons won't be as bad as last year, and most of them are pretty compelling. Let's take it blow-by-blow:
#1- The coaching staff is better: This is easily the most compelling reason to take a big swig of Falcohol this offseason. Jim Mora was a decent coach who didn't make adjustments, Alex Gibbs starved his offensive line, Ed Donatell looked like a lost puppy and Greg Knapp was a goddamn terrible offensive coordinator. Bobby Petrino seems to know what he has to be in order to succeed here, and his style will help a team that seemed lost under the easy hand of Cap'n Mora. Pet Rhino should be worth at least one extra win this year if he sticks to his guns and coachs the way he did in Louisville. Lord knows the team could use more discipline and direction.
#2- A great draft: Hell yeah! With the exception of Martrez Milner and maybe Laurent Robinson, nearly everyone we drafted filled a need and seems genuinely talented, to boot. The team isn't going to go far without getting something out of Jamaal Anderson, Chris Houston and Justin Blalock this year, but so far there's no reason to believe they can't hang with the big boys. Everyone from David Irons to Daren Stone give me hope that these next five years will be as unmiserable as humanely possible.
#3- Grady Jackson didn't leave: There's a part of me that hates to admit this team needs Grady Jackson, in the same way a castle hates to admit it needs walls. The fact of the matter is that Jackson is an enormous run-stopping machine who's going to be a key cog on this line for the next year or two. If the team had cut ties with Grady, no amount of David Patterson or Trey Lewis or whoever the hell else was going to plug that hole. A depressing thought? Yeah. But it's still good to have him.
#4- Norwood's ready to do big things: I still don't think the team's ready to hand him a starting role, but his potential is off the charts. If he's anywhere near as impressive as last year, he'll never be wanting for carries. I've praised Norwood enough lately, so we'll move on.
#5- Vick hasn't been suspended: This is what you call reaching for a happy thought. When you modify that statement with a "yet", that's not actually good news at all. The only really good news in this whole damn debacle would be if Vick was exonerated completely, but that still doesn't seem completely likely. If he gets nailed halfway through the year, it might actually be worse for the team than if he was gone from the beginning of the year. I'm not willing to call this an optimistic forecast.
#6- Harrington might not totally blow: Jesus H., Bradley. This is worth it's own little tack? If Vick's gone, the fact that Pet Rhino's had a chance to work with Harrington still isn't going to help me sleep at night. If you dress up a mediocre QB in a Steve Young jersey, you're not actually getting Steve Young. Then there's this:
A game or two? Is that because he's going to do so poorly in those wins that Pet Rhino's going to have to play Shockley?
...Because that's not a half bad idea.
#7- Vick's focused more than ever: Why are the last three basically about Vick? Because he's still the face of the franchise and still could put it together. If he's going to go out on the field this year and perform well under the new regime, then there's a very good reason to be optimistic about this next season. If he doesn't, then he's going to be trying mighty hard to cancel out the feel good vibes left by the first four points.
So I'm going to look forward to seeing our rookies and our new coaching staff in action, and I'm going to pray the stars align properly for Vick. There's definitely reason for optimism this year, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say the last three of Bradley's points could have been a little more upbeat.