Five questions facing Georgia’s Mark Richt

 

The AJC did a good job this morning of breaking down issues that have contributed to Georgia’s 4-4 season. I thought Jeff Schultz made the central point when he wrote that Mark Richt didn’t suddenly become a bad coach after winning two SEC championships (2002, 2005) and playing for another (2003). When football teams have a bad season like this, the head coach has to be willing to look at everything and everybody in the offseason. In the final analysis, it really comes down to five questions that Richt musk ask and answer:

 

1. Despite what the recruiting services say, is Georgia recruiting the caliber of athlete that allows the Bulldogs to compete for the SEC championship? A big part of coaching that fans rarely talk about is the ability of a staff to evaluate talent and make decisions on players. If you are signing the players you want but still getting bad results, then maybe you have a problem in evaluating talent. Example: A couple of years ago the Georgia staff had to make a decision between running backs Caleb King and Jonathan Dwyer. King has been an average player at best for Georgia. Dwyer went to Georgia Tech and became the ACC Player of the Year.

Bobby Bowden once told me that the only reason he signed quarterback Charlie Ward was because the late Wayne McDuffie stood on a chair in a staff meeting and screamed that the Seminoles had to take the skinny kid out of Thomasville. Ward led the Seminoles to the national championship in 1993. Those kinds of decisions over the long haul can make or break a program.

I remember that when Jimmy Johnson was at Miami, his recruiting classes rarely made the Top 25. But the players he put on the field could run like the wind. That’s because Johnson was great at evaluating talent.

 

2. Is Georgia coaching the players it has up to their full potential? Steve Spurrier told me a long time ago that players tend to play the way they’ve been coached. If they play sloppy, then they’ve been coached sloppy. Excessive penalties and turnovers are a sign of some sloppiness in the program. It must be addressed and Richt must decide if his current staff is capable of fixing the problem. Sometimes head coaches must shake up the staff to send a message to everybody—players, trainers, water boys and other coaches—that mediocrity won’t be tolerated. It’s tough to do. But the great coaches do it when necessary.

 

3. Is the offseason conditioning program what it should be? I don’t know the answer to this but the question has to be asked. I do know that after Florida won the national championship in 2008, coach Urban Meyer told me that he had instructed his strength and conditioning staff to put the Gators through one of the toughest offseason programs ever. Why? “Complacency,” Meyer said. “We want them to understand that they cannot, for one minute, take credit for what last year’s team did.  If they want to compete for another national championship, they have to earn it.” I talked to a number of Florida players who said they got the message.

 Jeff Schultz wrote about the edge that some teams—like Florida and Alabama—have and the fact that Georgia doesn’t seem to have it. If you have good players, then that edge is created in the offseason workouts. Again, it’s a tough question because Georgia’s strength and conditioning people are considered to be some of the best. But you have to ask.

 

4. Do I need to have a conversation with my athletic director about scheduling? Fans don’t want to hear this. They want you to play eight SEC games, four big-time non-conference games, and win them all. That is simply not the way the world works. I think it’s great that Georgia went out and played Oklahoma State on Sept. 5. But the fact of the matter is that while Georgia was opening the season with seven straight opponents from BCS schools (with four of them on the road), Florida was tuning up for its first SEC game by playing Charleston Southern and Troy. Sure, Alabama played Virginia Tech but that game was in Atlanta, a short drive away. And before Alabama played its first conference game it also faced Florida International (2-6) and North Texas (2-6). It’s a good thing that athletics director Damon Evans wants to spread the Georgia brand all over the country, but you also have to look at what your competition is doing and be realistic about what you are asking players to do.

 

5. Does the head coach need to step up his game? First of all, I don’t buy the idea that Mark Richt has to change his basic personality. You have to be who you are. Mark Richt’s personality was embraced when he was winning SEC championships in 2002 and 2005. I can’t tell you how many Georgia people have told me with pride that: “He’s the perfect coach for us. This guy will never embarrass us.” Now that Georgia is having a bad season, Richt’s “nice guy” status comes into question. The thinking seems to be that a nice guy can’t compete with Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, and Lane Kiffin. I simply disagree. The truth is that Richt has an edge to him when he gets mad that few people outside the program ever see. He might want to show that a little more often.

 

But what the head coach can do, after he has evaluated all of the other areas in the program, is look in the mirror and decide if he needs to change his approach on a more fundamental level.

Bear Bryant faced such a crossroads in 1969 and 1970 when he had back-to-back teams that only won six games. People started saying Bryant was too old and that the game had passed him by. After the 1970 season Bryant told his staff that Alabama was switching to the wishbone offense and that everybody had to get with the program or get out of town. Starting in 1971 Alabama went on an 11-year run where the Crimson Tide won 116 games, nine SEC championships and three national championships.

In 1974 Vince Dooley’s defense was so bad that he actually told some friends that he would get out of coaching if he couldn’t get it turned around soon. Dooley made some adjustments and Georgia went to the Cotton Bowl in 1975 and won the SEC championship in 1976. And you know what happened in the early 80s.

The point is that the great coaches adjust and adapt when the tough times inevitably come. After this season is over, Georgia’s Mark Richt will face one of those times.

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623 comments Add your comment

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
4:49 pm

C’mon Hookem… Be proud of who you are.

So since there is an elephant in the room, let’s acknowledge him. Who is a suitable replacement for Martiinez? Nerds, feel free to chime in on this one too.

Hook 'Em Horns!!

November 4th, 2009
4:51 pm

Haha, yea thats prob for the best, Delbert. As for Fire ants, just be glad you dont have “Crazy Raspberry Ants” like the ones that have invaded houston. They short out electronics.

Hook 'Em Horns!!

November 4th, 2009
4:52 pm

Leslie Chow, though I am not gay, I find it incredibly bigoted that you find that an appropriate and humorous insult. People like you are the reason the rest of the states, Texas included, make fun of the South.

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
4:59 pm

Ouch!!! Hey look man, either talk football or go do your nails. Have you made one valid point on this blog?

On another note, I am NOT one of the many that seem to be out for Richt’s head in this media charged witch hunt that seems to be brewing up. Not that Tony’s article here is one of them but if you follow the AJC sports page you’ve read them lately. I think it’s safe to say that Richt isn’t leaving so let’s start the talk about who will replace Martinez? I hear the D coordinator at Baylor is a fireball but don’t know much about him.

Delbert D.

November 4th, 2009
5:01 pm

Hook ‘Em – gonna Google about *those* ants. They must have come in by cargo ships, I’m guessing.

David

November 4th, 2009
5:02 pm

Scheduling 11 of 12 games against BCS teams is setting the head coach and UGA players up for failure. Ultimately any team wears down under the constant physical pounding.

The UGA ‘brand’ gets exposure by winning SEC games and thus competing for SEC and national championships. The Bulldogs don’t need to go to Stillwater and Tempe to get national exposure.

It prevents UGA from competing for championships. No other SEC team schedules as destructively foolish as the Georgia Athletic Administration.

UGA should emulate UF on this score…after all it is a former Bulldog who handles football scheduling at UF. He seems to know what he is doing.

Hook 'Em Horns!!

November 4th, 2009
5:02 pm

Many actually, but I’ll sum them up:

Willie Martinez sucks.
Mark Richt has lost his touch.
UGA plays T*^*hug ball, like most of the SEC
Cox is horrible.
UGA is always an underachiever and may not get the best of UF for a loooong time
Tennesse will pay UGA next year and not look back.
South Carolina might, too.

Anything else, Leslie Chow?

ManUp

November 4th, 2009
5:03 pm

Leslie – go cook something.

GT

November 4th, 2009
5:05 pm

Any coach that has ever coach longer than 4 years will have this problem. You are seeing it at Southern Cal, Ohio State and now at Georgia. First of all you are on tape every week for the world to see what you do. I could figure out Houdini if I watched tape of him every week. It is like the movie Groundhog day, even that idiot got it after living the same day over 100 times. One coach looks at Georgia and he attacks them one way pointing out what he sees as the weakness, the next coach picks that up on film and adds his observation, some of it is on players weaknesses but some is on the overall scheme. Old Bear junked everything and made them look at something entirely new the wishbone. Then every team started running the bone and it became yesterday’s news. Spread offenses are yesterday’s news, this defense has been out of control since West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl played in Atlanta. A new team out of conference with several weeks brought a fresh set of eyes, notices how the free safty lines up and keys off that, now everybody does the same. Richt will get it straight it just took some to get him to do it.

Hook 'Em Horns!!

November 4th, 2009
5:07 pm

BTW, i came here to talk football. You were the one that started the name calling

Delbert D.

November 4th, 2009
5:08 pm

Hook ‘Em – Holy cr*p! I REALLY wish I hadn’t Googled that! The Times of London article reads like the apocolypse is here!

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
5:10 pm

Stick to the Big-12 sweet cheeks. How much will Tenn and USC pay UGA? $50?

Martinez sucks? Thank you Capt. Obvious…

And on the note of “thug ball” I’d say it’s more like playing tough defense which is something that the Big-12 doesn’t do. However, I would say UGA and Tech’s D would be a top tier D in the Big-12.

wasn't it bad about the dogs,

November 4th, 2009
5:11 pm

some of you dog fans indicate Cox’s passing (ints) is the problem….then why do you pass so much? What happened to run 60%?

Delbert D.

November 4th, 2009
5:12 pm

“Scheduling 11 of 12 games against BCS teams is setting the head coach and UGA players up for failure”

Back in the ’50s & ’60s, the Big Ten scheduled 9 games while the rest of the country scheduled 10.

17 of 20

November 4th, 2009
5:13 pm

You Georgia fans should be happy with your record 4 and 4. You can still win 3 more games. The coaches do the best job they can do, so leave them alone.

Kenny Stabler

November 4th, 2009
5:18 pm

Tony

How can you complain with a straight face about Georgia’s tough out-of-conference schedule. Maybe it’s because the Dawgs never ventured outside the SE to play another good team. Michigan 1965 >>>>> Arizona St 2008. That’s huge gap of weak opponents Tony. Maybe that’s why the flight to Okie St seemed long to you!!! Good article—but layoff the hard schedule crap. We have played Penn St, BYU, FSU, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Nebraska,etc during the time Georgia was too timid to play good opponents. We start playing Penn St again next year.

Please stop the whining–it makes you & Georgia look weak.

Delbert D.

November 4th, 2009
5:19 pm

“However, I would say UGA and Tech’s D would be a top tier D in the Big-12.”

Tech’s turn with the Big 12 next. Kansas away game next year. I guess we’ll see.

Delusional

November 4th, 2009
5:21 pm

Leslie:

You do know that OKState is in the Big 12, right? And you commented that Baylor’s (Big 12) D-cord would be a potential Martinez replacement. Then you put down Big-12 defenses. In your vast football wisdom are you wanting a Big-12 type defense like Norwood’s or are you sipping wine and thinking it is fun to “chat” with the boys?

Delbert D.

November 4th, 2009
5:23 pm

Kenny – Don’t forget about Ga. Tech in 2013 – 2014. Might be interesting, who knows.

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
5:24 pm

Kenny I completely agree on the scheduling. UF is laughed at for it. I’d rather play a good school or two out of conference every year. Makes for better football from a fans standpoint. Who want’s to watch your team play Tenn Tech 4 times a year?

Gatormeat

November 4th, 2009
5:24 pm

Only question for Richt should be how does he like his annual beatings in Jacksonville. I guess Ga does do one good service however, it gives trailer park trash all over the state something to watch on TV in the fall

shane#1

November 4th, 2009
5:26 pm

1- UGA does recruit well, but there are gaps in their armor. On defense all of the starters at DB except Jones are undersized, as are the Des. Curran does his best, but the defense lacks a playmaker. Boykin, Smith, and Rambo do show a lot of potential, so I look for the defensive backfield to improve. I see big problems ahead for the DL though with the best linemen graduating. If you think the D line was bad this year just imagine it without Owens, Adkins and Weston. I don’t see real improvement ahead for the end posistion, most will continue to be converted linebackers. On offense UGA lacks a power RB for the power I and hasn’t had a real power back since Lumpkin was healthy. It is good that UGA has two top QBs as freshmen, too bad they were recruited a year late. The O line is also undersized, but since the line is still relatively young that should improve. The TEs are hybreds so do not block as well as TEs in years past. UGA did not recruit will for the O line in the past and is still hampered by that fact, neglect of the D in recruiting is begining to be felt now. 2- I don’t think the staff has done a good job of coaching what talent they have. Gox is a five year senior and still has trouble picking up the blitz and is careless with the ball, and there are too many penalties. However, false starts on the line has something to do with the aggressive O linemen that the Dawgs prefer. In any case coaching at the posistion level over all needs to improve. 5- I skipped to five because I think UGA has one of the best strenght coaches in the country and there isn’t a hell of a lot that Richt can do about scheduling. Richt must step up now and lead this team. I am not one that thinks he needs to fire everybody but he does need to take the team by the hand and lead them. Those guys love CMR and will do whatever he asks, if he just asks! I do think it may be time to look at another offense, the pro-style is complicated and is difficult to teach. Maybe some type of spread?

Gatormeat

November 4th, 2009
5:28 pm

Kenny, it is not that the dogs appear weak, they are weak. And a bunch of whiners also. The only thing Spikes did wrong Sat was to not go after a dog’s knee. Ga is a bunch of thugs, but they are too cowardly to take what they try to dish out

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
5:29 pm

Delusion, Google the word ‘facetious’

DAWG 1177

November 4th, 2009
5:31 pm

Do you remember the two players we lost last year in the draft? I think they (Stafford and Moreno) took alot of pressure off of the defense last year. Now that the defense is being relied on a little more Coach Martinez’s unit isn’t coming through. Maybe we need a new defensive coordinator to bring in a spark to that side of the ball. As far as the talent goes, I think we will see a better offense next year simply because of the experience on the offensive line and the talent at tailback. By the way we haven’t lost to GA TECH yet people!!!!!!

godawgs

November 4th, 2009
5:32 pm

Georgia needs to SCORE FIRST.

According to georgiadogs.com stats, Richt is 65-9 when Georgia scores FIRST.

Don’t defer to defesne to start a game like we did against Florida. In the SEC, the team that scores first, almost always wins.

Shows how important it is to BELIEVE YOU CAN WIN A GAME, based on in-game performance.

Small wins, create confidence and lead to wins.

Hook 'Em Horns!!

November 4th, 2009
5:33 pm

Tenn will pass* (don’t know why I typed pay) UGA next year, and USC might too

Thanks for the back up, delusional.

All in all, UGA needs a new d-coordinator that will fire the team up but also cut the stupid penalties out. I said the SEC plays t****hug ball because there is eye-gouging, blatant cheap shots, etc. the easiest way UGA can improve is if they stop hurting themselves. That could effectively add another 100 yards of field position easily. The offense will come around with time (once Cox is gone).

Rick

November 4th, 2009
5:33 pm

TOGA is correct all the way.He just left out the fact how Alabama is a repet violator of N.C.C.A. rules .
But that is o.k. Alabama fans Everyone knows buy now that those in rama ,jama land still can’t re-call this or a N.C.C.A.rule book.

Delusional

November 4th, 2009
5:33 pm

Leslie:

Google Kenny Stabler. You know Kenny Stabler was a quarterback at ———————— Not UGA. The rest of us on hear assume since Kenny Stabler was a QB at Alabama that he is a fan of —————– Alabama and was subsequently getting on to TB about pointing out Alabama having played North Texas and FIU. Kenny wasn’t bestowing the virtue of the UGA schedule this year, he was making fun of the fact that UGA only recently improved the competition of the out-of-conference games and that is somehow why UGA is playing badly.

As Man-up said at 5:03, go cook something.

DAWG 1177

November 4th, 2009
5:36 pm

I think Spikes needs to be kicked off the team because of what he did. WE are talking about the gators though, the raiders of the sec!!!

Gen Neyland

November 4th, 2009
5:38 pm

zoo: BuLLdawg (remember him?) has been calling for the firing of CMR. BuLLdawg, the other Mr. College Football..!

leslie crowe

November 4th, 2009
5:39 pm

hey leslie…play that tough schedule you know tenn tech and ga tech…what tough out of conference???…at least gt plays 3 sec teams….remember you cant spell ugly season without UGA

Delbert D.

November 4th, 2009
5:39 pm

“Georgia needs to SCORE FIRST.”

A bit of advice: If Georgia wins the toss against Tech, take the ball.

Delusional

November 4th, 2009
5:42 pm

Hook’em:

No problem with pointing out the ill-conceived ideas of a delusional UGA fan but on the SEC playing thug ball – remember your conference gave us Bosworth.

Hook 'Em Horns!!

November 4th, 2009
5:43 pm

Oh I’m not implying that we don’t have our fair share. We just seem to condemn it a little more than Richt or Meyer.

leslie crowe

November 4th, 2009
5:43 pm

dont matter if they take the toss…..look at halftime score last year

Dave from GT

November 4th, 2009
5:45 pm

Have a nice Thanksgiving. You’re going down shortly thereafter!

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
5:46 pm

You know what, you are absolutely right. I just read over his post again, he mentioned nothing about how playing cream puffs 4 times a year out of conference doesn’t look weak. How silly of me…

Jake

November 4th, 2009
5:51 pm

All this fighting about a darn pumkin

leslie crowe

November 4th, 2009
5:51 pm

leslie get on with life,,,,your team sucks…from coach to waterboy

Delusional

November 4th, 2009
5:53 pm

Leslie:

Thanks, I like being right and yes, your posts are silly.

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
5:57 pm

Wow, I can feel my IQ dropping. Especially since you’ve been chiming in crowe. Yes, Richt sucks. You sir, are special…

Gatormeat

November 4th, 2009
5:58 pm

If I were the dogs I would be worrying if they can win a shootout with Tenn Tech. They will probably put up 30 on the dogs D and if Cox turns the ball over a couple times it may be App St-Michigan all over again

TerriDawg

November 4th, 2009
6:03 pm

There’s no discipline, that’s for sure. That’s a fault of coaching AND recruiting players who have talent but no character or integrity.

Richt has to go.

Kwazy Kwestions

November 4th, 2009
6:04 pm

O, Tony, Tony – - more craziness. If I were Mark R., I’d take the Fifth.

Delusional

November 4th, 2009
6:05 pm

Leslie:

At 4:59 you wrote “On another note, I am NOT one of the many that seem to be out for Richt’s head in this media charged witch hunt that seems to be brewing up.” And then at 5:57 “Yes, Richt sucks”.

In trying to interpret all of your brilliant posts, can we surmise that you are a UGA fan who wants a coach who sucks?

Jackets Win

November 4th, 2009
6:07 pm

Tech will win, regardless of what UGA does between now and November 28.
GO JACKETS ! ! !

TerriDawg

November 4th, 2009
6:08 pm

I’ve seen others use the word “thugs,” but I used to think that was too strong a term. Now I’m beginning to believe it. Too many of our players have a thug mentality and an entitlement mentality, probably because they’ve been coddled as athletes since grade school, and were never called on their actions. That’s Richt’s responsibility now, and he’s not addressing it, so we’ll continue to have the Arrest of the Week.

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
6:10 pm

You are on point today my friend. Way to keep up! I feel like I am talking the 2nd graders I teach by having to repeat myself so much today on here. Google ‘facetious’…

OK, I’m bored here. Goodnight haters, have fun a UGA blog.

Leslie Chow

November 4th, 2009
6:13 pm

“on” a UGA blog