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

cynthia mckinney

November 4th, 2009
11:06 pm

i miss white bread

bull-dykes

November 4th, 2009
11:06 pm

billy ray – you need to change the tire on your trailer. I bet you wouldn’t last 2 seconds against Paul Johnson.

billy ray

November 4th, 2009
11:09 pm

hey bull dyke you must be from atlanta ,the ghetto and triple chins

scott

November 4th, 2009
11:17 pm

Hey Tech fans …..:(you know, the ones here that are obsessed with Athens and UGA), they don’t write about Tech b/c nobody wants to read about Tech. Its supply/demand. Something not taught at a nerd school I guess. Enjoy your one good season, just hope we don’t ruin it for you Thx-giving weekend, boy that would be some funny stuff!

Maybe you Tech folks should give us some info/advice on how to handle bad seasons, you guys are very experienced in that arena.

Would just hate to knock you from the Orange Bowl, right to the nasty pit they call jacksonville/Gator Bowl

billy ray

November 4th, 2009
11:17 pm

atlanta sucks , no other way to put it. lived there ,done that. make good money on the gulf of mexico. i bet you still drink quick trip cofffee. sorry you are in a feild that you have to stay in the city.rather than a sunset , you see the smog .quiot hating you liberal scumbag

brenda

November 4th, 2009
11:21 pm

billy ray, will you marry me

Snott

November 4th, 2009
11:27 pm

And just how are you going to knock us out of the Orange Bowl? That bowl is decided in the ACCCG, idiot.

bull-dykes

November 4th, 2009
11:34 pm

billy ray – we all know you prefer rosie o’donnell with a strap on when she makes her booty call to your trailer.

Enjoy!

Observor

November 4th, 2009
11:49 pm

Billy Ray and Bubba (same person),

You got psychiatric problems buddy. You sound like a disgruntled, angry person. Get some help.

Nerd

November 4th, 2009
11:59 pm

George P

November 5th, 2009
5:17 am

You make it sound as if UGA chose King over Dwyer. According to Richt in his press conference before last year’s game, Dwyer made that decision, not Richt.

King Gator

November 5th, 2009
6:48 am

Georgia gets 4/5 star talent every year, but only has 3 star coaching.. enjoy the Peach Bowl

No Homer

November 5th, 2009
7:53 am

Why do you care so much Tony?
Why didn’t you write long and well thought out articles like this when GT was winning 7 games a year?
This article comes across as very homer to me.
The majority of football fans in the state of Georgia is happy when UGA is down because you have Auburn, Clemson, GT, UT, UF, Alabama fans who all don’t like UGA. So please start writing articles that the majority of fans care about Tony and quit showing your bias love for UGA. It lowers your readership.

Also, do you have confirmation that UGA wanted Caleb King over Dwyer?

iJax | Baker’s Dozen

November 5th, 2009
8:44 am

[...] the wake of another blowout loss to Florida and yet another opportunity lost for a signature win, Tony Barnhart isn’t alone in his assessment that Mark Richt needs to give his program a major overhaul at season’s end.  In an email from [...]

SPORTS GUY

November 5th, 2009
9:41 am

To Dizzog,

Why in the world would Kirby Smart want to come to UGA where the defense is considered second class citizens to the offense.? At Alalbama the defense comes first, and from everything I have watched and read Kirby Gets The Credit for the Defense….Not Gonna Happen….

[...] UGA football observer Tony Barnhart raised the issue this week when, as one of his questions facing Richt, he asked, “Is the [...]

Yellow Fuzz

November 5th, 2009
10:42 am

dog nation,

Great to see the jealosy that so many georgia fans (I hope you can hear me) have developed toward the new Tech Nation. Maybe you should have been kinder, gentler competitors in the past instead of obnoxious azzholes. But since that is your trailer park nature I say

1. Get used to it
2. Deal with it the best you can
3. STFU until you beat us again!

Dixie yookie

November 5th, 2009
12:40 pm

Mark; this season is over why not play all juniors the team of next year?

Dixie yookie

November 5th, 2009
12:52 pm

hart broken just to know G T is going to beat GA and there is also them War eagles. HAY Muson saturday fishing season came early this year.Sure makes a big man want to cry.

V for Victory

November 5th, 2009
4:38 pm

GO COMMODORES!!! KICK THE UGLY DAWG WITH OUR HOBNAIL BOOTS!!!

Abilene

November 7th, 2009
9:36 am

To all those who say that the problem at UGA is the coaching: You are correct.

To Damon Evans: Fire Richt after the Georgia Tech game, even if UGA wins (unlikely). Yes, it will play havoc with recruiting this year, but the bleeding will stop and we can start rebuilding with a winning coach, whoever that may be. And we can start being competitive at the highest levels again; i.e., the SEC championship and a BCS bowl.

billy

November 13th, 2009
3:36 pm

Richt will show his true character …or lack of ….and lack of backbone …if @the end of this season he keeps martinez and bozo on staff……..he knows he has some hard decisions to make …and to a large extent he knows what they are ….if drastic /needed changes are now made …then maybe Reverend Richt needs to go :)

billy

November 13th, 2009
3:37 pm

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>”.NOT made” …my bad …