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  • A new Force field?

    By Corey Clark
    [email protected]

    Staff Photo: Craig Moore
    Georgia Force owner Arthur Blank speaks during an afternoon press conference Monday at the Falcons’ Flowery Branch headquarters. Blank spoke about the possibility of moving the team’s games to Philips Arena in Atlanta.




    FLOWERY BRANCH — In the next two weeks, the Georgia Force will officially announce whether it will continue to play games at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
    Though new team president Dick Sullivan called it a “coin flip” during a press conference Monday at the team’s new facility in Flowery Branch, it appears as if he and owner Arthur Blank are already presenting their case for a move back to Atlanta.
    “There’s a couple of things,” Sullivan said about the reasons to move the team to Philips Arena. “There’s a lot of excitement taking place downtown. Obviously with the addition of the World of Coke and the aquarium and all the great things that are being done downtown, it seems like a logical place for us to look at.
    “But importantly, we received research back, and the fans’ interest in Philips is very, very high. Every route — 75, 85, 400, 20 — it all leads to downtown. But at the same time we love Gwinnett. I think Gwinnett is terrific. I attended a couple of games there, and they’ve done a phenomenal job in that building.”
    However, it’s the building itself, or more specifically the seating capacity, that has the Force’s new management concerned. The Arena at Gwinnett Center has a capacity of just 11,200, while Philips seats 20,300 for Hawks games and 18,750 for Thrashers contests.
    “The difficulty we have is that it is the second-smallest arena in the AFL,” Sullivan said. “And nothing I know that Arthur’s ever done wants to be associated with the second smallest. Because of the demand that we already have within the marketplace, we think that we could fill up Philips. So when you’re dealing with the difference between 10 and 15,000, we want to be able to reach out to as many fans as possible.”
    The question is: Will they?
    The Force drew 9,160 people per home game in 2004, which ranked 16th in the 19-team league and was almost 3,000 below the AFL average of 12,019. But those figures were an improvement on the team’s attendance in 2002, when the Force drew just 7,070 people per game at Philips before deciding to move to Gwinnett under former owner Virgil Williams.
    Sullivan, who is also the marketing chief for the Falcons, doesn’t seem concerned about those low numbers repeating themselves if the team moves back for the 2005 season.
    “There are a lot of things that are stacked in our favor,” he said. “When you look at the last couple of years, NFL owners that have purchased AFL teams, their teams rank in the top five of the 20 teams in terms of attendance. So, if you’re an NFL-owned team, you’re going to historically be at the top of the pack, which means you (shouldn’t have) an arena that only holds the bottom of the pack.”
    “There are issues in terms of capacity,” Blank said. “While that may not be important today, we have a lot of confidence in our ability to fill up almost any place ... given the growth of Atlanta in the next 10, 15 years, going from 41¼2 to 7 million people, we’d have to have some capacity to grow.”
    The only worry Blank seems to have about returning to Philips is possible schedule conflicts. The Hawks and Thrashers will both be in the middle of their seasons when the Force begins in February, and the circus will also be in town for much of that month.
    “It’s one of the challenges to work out scheduling at Philips Arena,” Blank said. “So we’re still debating that and looking at all the options and things, and both facilities are working with us, but I would say my viewpoint is that Philips is a little more of a challenge in terms of scheduling. I think it’s workable, but not as easy.
    “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it; you never really take on anything based on ease.”

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  • DJRamFan
    Georgia Force gets new owner
    by DJRamFan
    LAWRENCEVILLE — Arthur Blank can now win two football championships in the same year.
    Blank, who already owns the Atlanta Falcons, got the go-ahead Tuesday to become the new owner of the Georgia Force, the Arena Football League team that plays home games in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
    The league board of directors approved Blank as the new Force owner during their meeting Tuesday in Las Vegas. It was the last step in purchasing the team from former owner and Gwinnett resident Virgil Williams.
    Transfer of the club is immediate, and Force staff members are relocating this week to the Atlanta Falcons training complex in Flowery Branch.
    Blank and team officials are expected to discuss plans for the Georgia Force in a media briefing Monday at the Flowery Branch training complex.
    Blank and Williams reached an agreement in principle May 24. At that time, team officials said it was unclear if the Force would continue playing home games in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
    The announcement Tuesday gave no indication of the plans. The answer could come at the press conference Monday.
    Blank is the fifth NFL majority owner to purchase a stake in an AFL franchise. The NFL season typically ends in January, with the Arena League running from February to June.
    “We intend to put the same passion into the Force as we continue to put into the Atlanta Falcons,” Blank said Tuesday in a press release.
    “We have the same objectives with the Force as we do with the Falcons: putting a winning team on the field, creating a great game-day experience, and being a winning team off the field in the community. Our goal is to build a team the fans will embrace for years to come, and all of Georgia will be proud to call its own.”
    Also on Tuesday, Blank named Atlanta Falcons Marketing Chief Dick Sullivan president of the Georgia Force. Sullivan, who will continue to spearhead Atlanta Falcons marketing, will try to turn around a Force team that went 7-9 this past year.
    Williams acquired the Arena League franchise in February 2000, then relocated it from Nashville to Georgia. Renamed the Georgia Force, the team played its first season in downtown Atlanta before moving to the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth last year.
    -08-19-2004, 01:26 PM
  • RamWraith
    Falcons are feeling no pain for playoffs
    by RamWraith
    By Dan O'Neill
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    01/11/2005

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora opened his Tuesday news conference with news he particularly enjoyed sharing.

    "In terms of injuries, which is usually the first question, we will, for the first time in modern NFL history or NFL Falcons history, list no one on our injury report today," a grinning Mora said. "Everyone practiced and everyone is healthy to play and that's a positive. So we're excited about that."

    So much for the bye-week blues. Theorists, especially those favoring the Rams this weekend, have put forth the proposition that a team with a week off - particularly a certain team coming off a season-ending loss at Seattle - is a team without momentum, a team without its rhythm. In other words, down time can make a team vulnerable. But history, not to mention Mora's injury report, paints a contrasting picture.

    Fact is, over the past 15 years, NFC teams with the bye week leading into the divisional playoffs are 27-3, or 90 percent successful in shaking the rust. On the AFC side, teams coming off byes are 22-8 in their postseason opener. Overall, that computes to a rather decisive 49-11 over the same 60-game period.

    "I think having the week off is definitely a positive for us," said fullback Fred McCrary. "The big thing is, you don't spend the time trying to change too much, you know. You don't want to be Einstein and think up some magical game plan, there isn't one. You just go with what got you there."

    McCrary acknowledged something is to be said for rhythm, but he added: "Anyone who has watched us practice knows we practice fast. We simulate the game speed as close as possible. So as far as being in a rhythm, it shouldn't hurt us too much. We shouldn't be too far off."


    Home-field edge

    Linebacker Keith Brooking is looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. While some believe playing indoors helps the Rams, the Falcons were 7-1 at home during the season and Brooking said there is no question which team the field will favor.

    "I know one thing, 70,000-plus fans will be in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night and they will be cheering for us," he said. "Not only does it help us from a motivational standpoint, we feed off the energy and everything, but it creates a lot of problems for the other team.

    "Our fans are screaming and hollering at the top of their lungs. I've never played in a louder place; I can't even hear myself talk at times. It's tough for the opposing players to go through their checks and be on key with everything that is going on. So I think that is definitely in our favor. That's what we fought for over 16 games this year."


    "Mutual respect"
    ...
    -01-12-2005, 05:04 AM
  • DJRamFan
    Cities confident MLB will pick someone soon
    by DJRamFan
    Associated Press
    HOUSTON -- Baseball's No. 2 official expressed confidence Monday that the Montreal Expos will move before the 2005 season but wouldn't set a new deadline for a decision.



    The Expos were bought by the other 29 teams before the 2002 season, and baseball at first hoped for a decision by July 2002 but later pushed it back to the 2003 All-Star break and then to this year's break. The bidding areas have said in recent weeks that they think a decision could be made by late July or early August.



    "I've been hanged out to dry by coming out with proposed dates," Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said before the All-Star Home Run Derby. "The sooner we get it done the better. I believe it will happen this summer. I believe it's very important we get this done this year."



    Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia's Loudoun County, near Dulles International Airport, appear to be the top contenders to land the Expos. Also bidding are Las Vegas, Monterrey, Mexico; Norfolk, Va.; Portland, Ore., and San Juan, Puerto Rico.



    Downtown Washington is about 40 miles from Baltimore's Camden Yards, and DuPuy acknowledged that Orioles owner Peter Angelos has openly opposed having a team move that close to his franchise. If the Expos move to either Washington or Northern Virginia, they would play at RFK Stadium, home of the expansion Washington Senators, before moving to a new ballpark in 2007 or 2008.



    "He's expressed his view with the regard an impact a club in the Washington area would have on the Orioles," DuPuy said.



    Commissioner Bud Selig said in May that he was concerned about the effect an Expos move to the nation's capital would have on the Orioles.



    "It isn't only the Orioles, it's all teams," Selig said then. "I think it's the commissioner's responsibility to protect the 30 franchises."



    Baseball officials met Friday with the Washington and Northern Virginia groups, and DuPuy said discussions are ongoing with all the bidding communities.



    He also said it's possible baseball will decide where the Expos move before finalizing a deal to sell the team, a process that could extend into early 2005. He said that areas that don't wind up with the Expos could become contenders for other franchises.



    "That's an inevitable conclusion you can draw if you're having eventual relocation," DuPuy said.



    Selig says the Florida Marlins and Oakland Athletics need new ballparks to survive in their areas.
    -07-12-2004, 05:12 PM
  • MauiRam
    The NFL’s Analytics Revolution Has Arrived.
    by MauiRam
    Football is still well behind baseball and basketball when it comes to embracing advanced metrics, but teams have made significant progress in recent years. Those who do not adapt will be left behind.

    By Kevin Clark Getty Images/Ringer illustration


    TheThe football analytics revolution may not be obvious, but it is happening in front of you all the time. There is an NFL team that plans to run more offensive plays to the side of the field farthest from its opponent’s bench. It has figured out, using player-tracking data, that a defensive lineman will sometimes run more throughout the course of a game by shuffling from the bench to the field during a substitution than he will during actual gameplay. Thus, running plays to the far side of the field can help tire out rotating defensive linemen.

    This strategy is unique but the logic behind it is not. Stories like this are common around the league: A team stumbles upon some shred of data and builds a play, a playbook, a personnel decision, or an entire scheme around it. It changes how a team drafts, calls plays, and evaluates opponents. All of these trends point to one thing: Football’s analytics moment has arrived.

    We’ve reached this high point for a couple of reasons. The rise of smarter, younger GMs and coaches is part of it. A bigger part of it, though, is the spread of the NFL’s player-tracking data, which is being shared leaguewide for the first time this season. Having access to that data allows teams to build models to analyze plays and players differently, and to simply know more about the game. That’s been a boon to a movement that had already been embraced by a handful of the smartest teams. As other teams try to catch up, they’ve created an arms race to get the best numbers. Essentially, the smartest teams are getting significantly smarter, the average teams are trying to get better, and the dumbest teams are going to be very dumb if they don’t act soon.
    “It’s about translating that data ASAP and being very, very in tune with the numbers. You can’t be a year behind, you can’t be a month behind.” —Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons general manager
    “It’s about translating that data ASAP and being very, very in tune with the numbers. You can’t be a year behind, you can’t be a month behind,” said Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

    Teams are examining details they’ve never studied before to get an edge. One scouting department graded a defensive back prospect as an undrafted free agent due in part to his slow 40-yard dash. When that department was able to measure his game speed using tracking data, it determined that it should have listed him as a midround pick. Other teams in the market for linebackers have homed in on what kind of closing speed elite tacklers need. For instance, Zebra Technologies, a company whose MotionWorks service collects game-day data, found that the Cowboys’ Leighton...
    -06-02-2020, 11:26 AM
  • DJRamFan
    VooDoo coach says he wants to build on the team's success
    by DJRamFan
    Tuesday, June 29, 2004
    By Jim Derry
    Staff writer
    The Arena Football League arguably enjoyed its most successful season in 18 years of play, and the expansion VooDoo was part of the reason.

    The league set an overall attendance record, with the VooDoo ranked third, averaging more than 15,000 fans.


    From Our Advertiser




    The leader on the football field was AFL Coach of the Year Mike Neu, the man in charge of a team that set a record for most wins for a first-year team (11). In a Q & A session with staff reporter Jim Derry, Neu looks back on the season, how he ended up in New Orleans and his thoughts on his new hometown.


    Putting your playoff loss aside, this season had to be satisfying for you?

    It was. I'm very excited to be recognized as the most successful expansion team in the history of the league. I feel very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to have come to New Orleans. I've been dealt an incredible hand to have these kinds of facilities, to have these kinds of resources, to have a partnership with an NFL team and to have a team to be able to attract free agents to. I was given an unbelievable opportunity from (owner) Tom Benson and (executive vice president of football operations) Mickey Loomis to come here, and, although I am disappointed about not winning the playoff game and having a chance to win a championship, to be able to win 11 games, which has never been done before, and qualify for a first-round playoff game at home (is satisfying).


    You won the Coach of the Year award in just your second season as a head coach in the league (Neu was coach of Carolina in 2002). How much has your background shaped you, with your experience as a player and assistant coach in the AFL and as a head coach in af2?

    It has a lot to do with the person I am and the coach I am right now. Those experiences and those trials and tribulations, that's what makes you who you are. I wouldn't trade that path for anything. To be a quarterbacks coach (at Nashville in 1998), to be an offensive coordinator (at Nashville in 1999), to be a head coach in the af2 league (at Augusta, Ga., in 2000) was a start. That experience I gained there -- putting an organization together from scratch -- I mean, those experiences are some of the best I've had. Then there was the opportunity in Carolina, where I learned about free agency. Those experiences had everything to do with who I am. Even when I was a player in Nashville and Orlando. . . . I've had great teachers all along.


    As a quarterback in college (Ball State), how did you go from playing football to playing and coaching arena football?

    As a quarterback, you always want to throw the football on every down. When I first got into the arena league in 1996, I thought this is great, throwing...
    -06-30-2004, 10:03 AM
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