By Michael Collins
It can be tough being a fan in the city of Atlanta...really tough. It's been said that Atlanta is "Losersville" (Sports Illustrated), "The Worst Sports Town in America" (ESPN's Rob Parker) and a "Turrible place for teams" (Charles Barkley). I will never concede that the fans in Atlanta are bad, but let's face it...there have been a lot of "turrible" moves made by some of the teams in regards to trades, contracts, and draft picks. Here are the ones that stand out as some of the worst moves in Atlanta Sports History, in chronological order.
1977: "The Ted Manages to Lose One" - Ted Turner was known as one of the most hands-on owners in baseball, and in 1977 he took that to a new level. He said, "Managing isn't that difficult; you just have to score more runs than the other guy.", so he sent manager Dave Bristol on a "scouting trip", and took over in the dugout for one game (a loss). He was then told by the league that managers are forbidden to own financial interest in their club. Atlanta sent praises to the league for that ruling.
1988: "The Bruce Bust" - The Atlanta Falcons had the top pick in the draft (again) that year, and originally had looked to trade it away for a fistful of later picks. Instead, they jumped on Auburn Linebacker Aundray Bruce. Billed as an explosive impact player who would improve the Falcons lagging defense right away, Bruce ended up just lagging. All total, he played four nondescript seasons with Atlanta, compiling just three interceptions and 16 sacks. Bruce only ended up starting a total of 42 games in an eleven-year NFL career.
1989: "The Koncak Kontract" - The Atlanta Hawks signed reserve center Jon Koncak to a six-year, $13 million contract. Even by today's standards, that kind of money for a guy who was merely semi-reliable is high. And then when you consider that at that time, he was then making more money than Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird, it makes it an even more ridiculous deal. It also prevented the Hawks from being able to spend any other free agent money that year. His nickname quickly became "Jon Kontract". Wow, some things just never change.
1992: "The Braves Reardon-Ended" - The Atlanta Braves decided they wanted to add a marquis name to their bullpen, so they went and picked up 15 year veteran closer Jeff Reardon from the Boston Red Sox. Reardon, in his prime, had been one of the most dominant closers in baseball, but his last season in Boston was a good indication that his prime was definitely over. He ended up only recording three saves for the Braves that season, and blew two saves in the 1992 World Series, helping the Toronto Blue Jays on their way to Canada's first baseball championship.
1992: "The Falcons say 'Favre You!" - I'm not sure that you can really fault the Falcons for trading future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre to the Packers...but I do. Atlanta drafted Favre, signed him to a 3-year, $1.4 million contract, and then gave in to the idiocy of coach Jerry Glanville - who never agreed with drafting Favre in the first place - and traded him for the 19th overall pick in 1992. The Falcons took RB Tony Smith - Favre's teammate at Southern Miss - with that pick. Smith was out of football after three seasons with Atlanta. Oh...and where is Glanville now? Yeah..thought so.
1994: "The 'Nique Dissing" - In the midst of one of their best seasons since moving to Atlanta, the Hawks did the unexplainable, trading franchise centerpiece Dominique Wilkins to the L.A. Clippers for Danny Manning. It was a trade that was explained as a "move for the future of the team". The Hawks got ousted in the second round of the playoffs, and Manning left the Hawks after the following season. Some future, eh? They still have yet to ever advance beyond round 2 in the post-season since moving to Atlanta.
2005: "The Evil Spirit" - Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System was looking to unload the financial "burden" of the Atlanta Hawks, Thrashers, and Philips Arena - and local investor group Atlanta Spirit, LLC, ended up being the highest bidder....much to the chagrin of sports fans all over the state of Georgia. Within days of taking over operations, the in-fighting among the group began. Steve Belkin fought with the other members of the group over the Hawks trade for Joe Johnson, as well as other financial issues. Eventually Belkin was voted off the island, and then the Atlanta Spirit group voted the Thrashers out of Atlanta. If Ted Turner is reading this...PLEASE, SEND HELP!
2007: "Bobby Petrino" - I think that pretty much says enough on this one.
2009: "The Braves Sushi Roll-Over" - The Atlanta Braves decided they wanted to jump on that Japanese League pitcher bandwagon, so they signed Chunichi Dragons right-hander Kenshin Kawakami to a three-year deal. Kawakami ended up with a 8-22 record in two seasons with the Braves, and spent the last year of his contract with Atlanta playing for the AA Mississippi Braves. File Under: Taste a little of the tuna roll before you order the bento box.
2011: "The Falcons Second Mortgage" - Two words...Julio Jones. Three words...five draft picks. Six words....booted in the first round again. Julio Jones may very well end up being one the greatest receivers in Atlanta Falcons history, but I'm still yet to be convinced he was worth the price the Falcons paid in terms of draft picks. The acquisition of Jones set Atlanta's growth plan back at least two seasons, and it could have severely marred the timing of having a complete championship team put together. 2012 will be a very telling year on this deal.
2011: "The Average Joe gets PAID" - The Hawks wanted to do everything within their power to retain guard Joe Johnson. Unfortunately, they did everything not within their budget and payroll. Johnson signed a six-year, $119 million deal, and once again the Hawks found themselves shut out of being able to pick up free agents when injuries left them without a true starting center this season. Somewhere, Jon Koncak is thinking he could have held out for more. When even Shaq criticizes a deal where gets a player paid, you know it has to be bad.
Get more great Atlanta sports analysis over at Georgia Sports Craze.