5-at-10: Falcons draft plan, SEC silence in weekly nods, First Amendment talks

FILE -Atlanta Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder (4) drops back to pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022, in Baltimore. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 he is encouraged by the progress of quarterback Desmond Ridder and the potential of building the team around the rookie.(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Falcons fax

Who remembers Mr. Drysdale from the "Beverly Hillbillies" from back in the day?

He had a busy-body secretary -- Miss Hathaway if memory serves -- who was always commanded to "take a letter," which in retrospect makes you wonder how much wasted money and time we spent in corporate America back in the day.

(Side question: If we did a Rushmore of TV secretaries, Pam from "The Office" and Carol from "The Bob Newhart Show" are no-doubters, right? Who else you got?)

Anywell, if I had a secretary, I'd need them to take an email to the Atlanta Falcons.

In the subject line, put "QB plans."

Dear fellow Falcons lovers,

Some of us have been infected with a loyalty to this franchise through years of anguish.

We were there, watching through the tears of a preteen when Danny White and the Cowboys broke our hearts in the playoffs.

We were there with baited breath as the potential of Jeff George allowed your predecessors to give away Brett Favre.

We were there for the Deion Sanders experience, when we wasted the prime years of Prime Time.

We were there for the highs and lows of the Mike Vick years. And the Super Bowl run that Eugene Robinson derailed before it ever got started, and the Super Bowl run that Tom Brady derailed before it ever finished.

You are paid to be there; we have paid our dues for the right to be here.

So hear me out.

This is a critical off season. You have money. You have some interesting pieces. You have a coaching staff that got this team to play hard despite being out-manned by almost every opponent.

The ingredients are there. Now is the time for leadership. And savvy.

As you are well aware, the combine is this week. Do not be tempted by any of the flash first-round QBs. Sure if Bryce Young or CJ Stroud fall to eight, sprint to the podium, turn the card in and ignore everything else in this email.

And yes, picking eight is a home-run-or-whiff deal for this organization. No. 8 produced Pro Bowlers Bob Whitfield and DeAngelo Hall back in the day. It also produced all-time busts Jamaal Anderson (pass rusher from Arkansas, not Dirty-Bird dancing running back from Utah) and current XFLer Vic Beasley.

Resisting the temptation of reaching at eight for a QB this year of all years is paramount. Rather than taking the flier that is Anthony Richardson or goodness knows who else, follow these steps:

1. Be forthright with Desmond Ridder. Tell him he's QB1 -- he is and should have been before Halloween last season rather than right before Christmas -- but share with him this plan. He has been CC'd on this email to make sure.

2. Kick the tires Carson Wentz, who was released by the Commanders and is just a handful of years from being an MVP candidate for a Super Bowl team before injuries derailed his career arc. And if Arthur Smith can get the best out of Ryan Tannehill, Carson Wentz is a fine back-up candidate.

3. Draft Hendon Hooker with your first pick of Day 2. Yes, there are a slew of depth needs across a defense that was more effort than talent last year. But Hooker is a lot like Jalen Hurts, with not as much quickness but a bigger arm. Could he be a product of Josh Heupel's system? Of course. That happens all the time. But like Hurts, he's a dynamic presence in the locker room in all the right ways. He navigated the transfer portal with extreme grace. He delivered on the biggest of stages and made the most of a second chance. He's adapted to multiple offensive sets. And now know this: Hooker has a bigger arm than Hurts. And if you doubt that, I will refer you to arguably the single best throw of the 2022 college football season, when Hooker threw a 25-yard square-in on a clothesline to set up the game-winning field goal to beat Alabama. It was that good.

To paraphrase William Wallace, "Do this and all of your staff shall live to see better days; do it not and all of your crew will face a familiar fate for Falcons office folks."

Yes, it would be tempting to see what Aaron Rodgers could cost. Yes, it would "win the off season" to land Lamar Jackson. Yes, first-round QBs until you find a franchise QB is a pattern that will become commonplace in future drafts.

But Rodgers does not want to be in Atlanta. Jackson wants a quarter of a billion guaranteed, which is entirely too steep for a QB who played 60% of his team's games the last two years and needs to run -- often -- to be worth that price tag. And, after Stroud and Young, here's a vote that Hooker's the next best QB in this class.

Plus consider the downside: If all of that fails, you are not on the hook for anything long-term or cap-crunching, and then you can truly tank for the 2024 draft and a little cat named Caleb Williams.

Thanks for your time.

Falcons Fans.

P.S. Got any of those old "Gritz Blitz" T-shirts lying around anywhere in Flowery Branch?

Say what

Kudos to David Paschall -- as always, he's good at what we do over there at 400 E. 11th St. -- but he was the first one to note the interesting decision in front of the SEC awards folks after last week.

Yes, normally, weekly SEC basketball awards have the news value of Spy's grocery list or Vader's XFL parlay wagers.

But the SEC had a freshman last week score 65 points in two games -- both wins -- as well as hitting a buzzer beater to force OT and the game-winner basket in that OT.

He did it on 22-of-40 shooting from the field (55%), 7-of-19 from 3 (37%) and 14-of-15 from the stripe ( 93.3%). He played 81 of the 85 minutes in those two games and added 14 boards with only four turnovers.

He's a dude. And he won neither player of the week nor freshman of the week, and by this point, I think you know of whom I am speaking and why the SEC award folks went full-blown ostrich and buried their heads in the sand.

Can they have it both ways with Brandon Miller, though? If the league is not going to step in and sit Miller, one of the best freshmen scorers since Kevin Durant spent one season at Texas, for his tangential involvement in the Jan. 15 killing in Tuscaloosa, then why exclude him from the hardware?

Sure Oscar Tshiebwe, who won the player of the week award, had a fine week for Kentucky last week. But it was not what Miller did. And the freshman of the week award went to Nick Smith, who, again had a fine week, but far short of Miller's production.

Makes you wonder if the SEC will follow a similar path for some of the postseason honors, too.

Which leads us to an even bigger quandary: Who will the league vote as SEC coach of the year?

Buzz Williams, get your acceptance speech ready.

First Amendment conversations

Thought this was interesting, as Fox's Howard Kurtz spoke on air over the weekend about being told by his superiors at the network not to cover, talk about or write about the lawsuit coming from Dominion Voting System's billion-dollar lawsuit against Fox.

Kurtz hosts Sunday's "Media Buzz" on Fox, which is one of the few programs on that network that interests me because it covers the people who cover the news. We could use more programs and publications doing that, to be honest.

I get Fox's trepidation. A $1.6 billion lawsuit is assuredly nothing to be trifled with and a mistake or misspoken word could potentially lead to a lawsuit verdict that could lead to bankruptcy for the network in a worst-case scenario.

Now, Kurtz of course, has the right to say or write whatever he decides, but it almost assuredly would get him the pinkest of pink slips by lunch.

It also leads us back to the creator of Dilbert, who all but ended his career over the weekend with an online rant calling Black Americans "a hate group."

Scott Adams claims he's being canceled and that the First Amendment is under attack.

I completely agree that the First Amendment is under attack, but do you think Dilbert's been canceled?

I think it's important to note the critical, albeit subtle, difference in those scenarios. The First Amendment allows Adams to hold any opinion he wants, whether it's dumber than a bag of hammers or as brilliant as a James Joyce short story, without legal repercussions.

The decisions of the private sector and employers is a whole different kettle of fish, and beyond the quotes Adams offered last week, it's paramount to remember that the level of controversy and angst any employer is willing to deal with on your behalf is directly proportional to you value in that company.

In Brandon Miller's case, anything short of him pulling the trigger would have been debated about whether or not he should be kicked off the team.

For a faceless guy in an industry that is always looking for reasons to cut bait, well, Adams made it easy.

But was he canceled? Discuss.

This and that

-- You know the rules. Here's Stephen Hargis on one of the 5-at-10's personal favorite area high school football coaches relocating. Grant Reynolds is leaving East Hamilton to take over the program at CCS. First, CCS will have stacked Phil Massey and Reynolds in back-to-back seasons, and those are two first-class guys. Second, Reynolds, who was aces at Boyd-Buch back in the day and was nothing but first-class at East Ham, leaves a monster void atop the Hurricanes program.

-- So LeBron and the Lakers started to make a push, and then LeBron hurts his foot. No bueno for Lakers fans or the NBA front-office types, because another LeBron-less playoffs is not a good thing.

-- Egad, speaking of QB craziness, this Mock Draft -- I love the draft, you know this -- has the Colts trading up to pick Anthony Richardson. Buckets of risky business right there. Get Joel Goodman on the phone and watch out for that egg.

-- And yeah, I was further behind on "1923" than I thought, so I am not completely prepared to discuss today. That's on me.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. Hi, Ernie.

True or false, Brandon Miller will be SEC player of the year.

True or false, Hendon Hooker will be a better NFL player than Will Levis or Anthony Richardson.

True or false, Nate Oats will be SEC coach of the year.

True or false, Dilbert's creator was "canceled."

True or false, "canceled" always feels like it should be spelled with two Ls.

You know the drill, answer some T or Fs, leave some T or Fs.

As for today, the last day of February, let's review.

On this day 40 years ago the final episode of "MASH" was broadcast with 125 million viewers.

Man, it was a good finale, but not great. And that show is amazingly somehow underrated and overrated at the same time.

Rushmore of TV military characters. Go, because Hawkeye Pierce has to make it, right?