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

David

November 4th, 2009
12:31 pm

As a season ticket holder, I am proud of where the program is today under CMR. It has moved forward light years compared to where we were under the previous two coaches. I am confident things will turn around. Great programs have down years. I am sure that we will bounce back. We really need to rally around this team and this coach. I Support CMR!!!

Art

November 4th, 2009
12:32 pm

Az Jacket you should know all about underachieving. GT has been mired in mediocrity since 1964 and will soon return there. Maybe you can also tell us just how many teams have gone wire to wire #1. Can you Az Jacket? I bet you wish GT could “underachieve like that consistently.

TerriDawg

November 4th, 2009
12:32 pm

I would feel a lot better if I woke up one morning and read that Mark Richt was gone.

Barrow Dawg

November 4th, 2009
12:32 pm

CUZ—– It is incredible that someone living that close to South Carolina can be so astute. Win or lose I’m proud to be a UGA fan

Bob Bohanan

November 4th, 2009
12:36 pm

Tony,

You are being a bit disingenuous about Bear Bryant. The reason he changed “his approach on a more fundamental level” was Sam Cunningham, and you know what fundamental change I am referring to.

BigDog_2009

November 4th, 2009
12:36 pm

Terry Bowden !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!

UGASlobberknocker

November 4th, 2009
12:36 pm

Tony, pls air mail this column to Coach Richt in case he missed it. Every word is true.

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
12:38 pm

Looks like AZJACKET had to get back to class…………..no new post in the last 5 minutes.

ARdawg

November 4th, 2009
12:38 pm

AZ Jacket

For me as a loyal Dawg fan, Tech belongs in the gutter. It’s old fashion hate. However, I do congratulate and respect your team for their recent performance and selection of coach. I will never like Tech although there are occasions where I will bet and cheer them on.

I also appreciate you AZ Jacket. It is so rare that a Tech fan comes on a UGA blog and can actually formulate and contribute to a reasoned discussion. Perhaps GT isn’t as bad as most of your bloggers portray

Calhoundawg

November 4th, 2009
12:39 pm

Well, I hate to say it, but I am officially on the “fire Mark Richt” bandwagon. Even the SEC Championships and the ten-win seasons don’t sway me anymore. I think we need to replace Richt with a successful big-time coach from another major conference. Names of coaches that are far superior to Richt come to mind such as Rich Rodriguez, Charlie Weis, Bo Pellini, Dan Hawkins, Rick Neuheisel, etc. Hell, look what Steve Spurrier has done for South Carolina! Maybe we could get him to come over.

Elliot Garcia

November 4th, 2009
12:41 pm

Hey Tony, Georgia plays Charleston Southern in 2011. Check the schedule!!

AZ Jacket

November 4th, 2009
12:42 pm

HBTD, you have a right to you opinion. Would be better if you could try to get you point across with out the name calling. Just because someone went to Tech does not mean they are a nerd. I consider myself to be rather hip. I dated while in high school (even a cheerleader) and college. Played football and baseball. The only problem with me was that I was also smart. You know being smart is not that bad. My Tech education opened up a lot of doors and has allowed me to live a really comfortable life. I don’t think I am better than anyone else just very lucky. So, this so called nerd says to you, you have a right to your opinion but in my nerdie way I think you are full of Sh-t and would not know a tough team if it bit you on the arse.

UGA Alum

November 4th, 2009
12:43 pm

When the topic of the blog is UGA, yes. When the topic is Tech, I don’t want to waste my time. I don’t understand the Tech fascination with UGA.

mcdawg6

November 4th, 2009
12:43 pm

First decent article I’ve seen in a while. Why don’t you put an arm around Schultz and “coach him up” a little. Too whiney in his stuff right now.

Atlantalawyer

November 4th, 2009
12:44 pm

Really, really excellent article. One of the best I’ve read. I hope that Richt reads it. Email it to him.

I (Kirby Smart)

November 4th, 2009
12:45 pm

My bags are packed, Call me, I’m ready to come help straighten out my old team. Put some fire in them and my foot up their ass. But really people. Ga needs to get a proven Def Cord. who can stop the Tech option as well. We don’t need to just go out and get a Ga man like this is a store shopping decision. Richt needs to get the very best Coach he can. Just like Lane Kifen did. Now if that happens to be a Ga man then well enough.

AZ Jacket

November 4th, 2009
12:46 pm

Sorry but I am here HBTD. Thank you ARDawg for your comments. I can understand the good old fashion hate. I did not know this was a UGA blog but just a College Football Blog with a UGA article. This same blog had an article about Tech yesterday, although I think it was TB’s way of being sarcastic. No MNC vision this year for this Jacket.

Paddy

November 4th, 2009
12:47 pm

Monticello Dawg….love your enthusiasm, but have you seen us play this season? We are not coming for anybody, least of all Tech. If you can’t tackle and play with discipline CPJ will make you look confused and appear slow footed. Not a good combination!

Erk'sthebest

November 4th, 2009
12:47 pm

Mark Richt needs to use the old temporary help technique. When you want four folks to work, you bring six. Immediately after starting, you pick out the two slowest, fire them, and pay them off, and then let them walk back to where you picked them up. The other four work harder all day, because they don’t want what happened to their peers to happen to them. Sounds rather cruel, but for those folks who used it, it worked every time. Mark Richt’s folks have gotten way too comfortable, because they don’t have any fear of Richt firing them. Stop blaming the players. As Bear Bryant said one time during a rare down season for him, “The players did what the coaches asked of them, it’s just that the coaches didn’t ask much.”

Villa Rica DAWG

November 4th, 2009
12:47 pm

This article definitely helps answer some of the “what’s wrong” questions swimming in my own head. Thanks T!

Will Garland

November 4th, 2009
12:47 pm

Finally, an even keeled article that deals with the issues at hand in a sound and methodical manner. This article is a welcome change of pace from the usual sensationalist driven blubber that has been appearing on this website. I actually finished this article with the feeling that I learned something. Thank you Tony Barnhart.

AZ Jacket

November 4th, 2009
12:48 pm

UGA Alum, not a fascination with UGA but for me it is laughable. I bet if you were honest you would own up to coming on a Tech blog and giving them hell…right.

macrotech

November 4th, 2009
12:51 pm

UGA Alum, we’re just “rubber knecking”…..who doesn’t slow down to see a train wreck?!

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
12:52 pm

AZ. You “consider yourself rather hip?” Hmmm? You sound sensative, defensive and insecure. Unfortunately, the beatdown that awaits your team on the 28th is probably only going to heighten these problems for you. Sorry!

macrotech

November 4th, 2009
12:52 pm

i know…. i goofed on “knecking”….should be necking…. my bad

ARdawg

November 4th, 2009
12:53 pm

AZ Jacket

If the topic is UGA, then it is a UGA blog. Same with a Tech topic of which I sometimes peruse and rarely post. It’s AJC’s format. Of course all are welcome anywhere but speaking of fringe, most of the Tech fringe appears to be obsessed with UGA. I have noticed some decent threads from time to time on the Tech blogs and most of those guys involved in those threads are rarely on the UGA blogs

Inferiority Complex

November 4th, 2009
12:53 pm

Try asking why the dogs are so fascinated withe the Gators.

DDT

November 4th, 2009
12:53 pm

I’ll bet you right now GT ends this season exactly like it did last season, getting beatdown and embarrassed in a bowl game. The worst thing that could happen to GT is a BCS bowl.

collegeballfan

November 4th, 2009
12:53 pm

My question on the players is less their number of stars on a recruiting website but whether or not they fit the system the coaching staff is running.

Snoop Dawg

November 4th, 2009
12:53 pm

Drink that Koolaid, Dawgs. You know, a dog sleeps over 18 hours a day. Seems the Bulldog nation is sleeping too. When awake, they are intoxicated with the Preacher Man’s Koolaid. Here’s the gouge, y’all- This guy is getting $3M a year ($100 from every student enrolled at UGA)and is not earning it. His style doesn’t motivate, his judgement is not good, and he cannot pull the trigger or poor performers like Bozo and Willie. Therefore, the Preacha Man and his entire Medicine Show needs to go. Don’t worry–maybe FSU will take a like to the Koolaid he passes around so skillfully. He’s truly an artful dodger.

Pit Bull

November 4th, 2009
12:53 pm

(Erk’s the best, that is a profound quote! “The players did what was asked of them, it’s just that the coaches didn’t ask much” Bear Byrant. I can see why he was such a great coach. He has common sense! That quote is exactly what’s wrong with the Dawgs and Richt can’t see it. He listens to Willey saying, “the players aren’t tackling! “The players aren’t tackling!

Algonquin J. Calhoun

November 4th, 2009
12:56 pm

As Brandon “Lightnin” Spikes ‘ attourney, We would like to make a statement at this time: ” We not only deny the alligations , we deny the alligator”.

Northern sympathizer

November 4th, 2009
12:58 pm

I think I disagree with all five of Tony’s points.

Richt gets a little too much credit for the 02 and 05 titles. Why? Those teams were carried by VanGorder’s trained defenses who overwhelmingly carried the team. UGA ranked in the top 10 every year in defensive stats from 02-04. The offense always lagged far behind statistically and was sometimes in the lower tier of the SEC in offensive numbers. Message to CMR-Get Kirby or the equivalent!

BE

November 4th, 2009
12:59 pm

Tony, Question 1 has no merit. This is why. Tech is running a totally different offense where Dwyer does not have to learn a PRO system. The option is not complicated, there is no use of receivers to learn blocking routes. Question 2: Yes. Question 3: No one can truly answer this, Georgia is younger, the Gators have older players – more seasoned. Question 4. Look what UT schedules. Look at 2010 for UT. Question 5. Your drawing off coaches 30 years ago now. Richt is the best thing that has happened to UGA since Dooley left Tony. Is it fair to judge Kiffin off Gen. Neyland? I agree Florida is not as expected, but are better than the rest – right now.

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
12:59 pm

Inferiority. As a dawg fan, I have nothing but respect for the Fl. program. Quite simply and IMO, there hands down the best program in the country over this decade. You’ll get no argument from me.

Willie

November 4th, 2009
12:59 pm

I golfing saturday and shot a 89. Wahoo! I heard UGA was handed its butt on a platter. I guess it will be until CMR fires Martinez or at least replaces him. Well, you guys keep me posted on the coaching aspects because I really do not care about the games. I can not tolerate a loser being coached by a 4.4 million dollar coach. Well..thats just me…

John

November 4th, 2009
12:59 pm

Mr CFB,
As far as strategic scheduling goes; I hope you’re not saying we have to become Florida to beat Florida. The way they intentionally packed this year’s schedule with as many patsies as possible was absolutely disgusting. Toss in a “gimme” win against the game-but-consistently-undermanned Vanderbilt and clearly 4/12 of UF’s 2009 schedule amounted to little more than glorified scrimmages. That’s a season to be proud of? Hardly, that’s the way to play the loopholes in the BCS system and cook an undefeated season. I say good for UGA for finally running to worthy out-of-conference opponents rather than away from them.

As far as recruiting classes go, USC, Texas, Florida, et al receive rave reviews from the same rating services that bless UGA’s incoming talent every year. Every program’s got their share of walk-on-to-all-American and blue-chip-to-bust stories. I suppose that just proves how tough it is to project how talent will perform at the next level. Seems like part of the basic job description for a head coach.

But if I’m correctly taking your point, you perceive Mark Richt to be a “great” coach. And as such, he’s due his grace period to right his floundering ship – by taking names and kicking butts from one end of his program to the other.

How long is his grace period, anyway?

I’ll submit this is Richt’s second wasted season. The quality of his or his staff’s coaching is no worse than last year. He just has a tougher schedule and he can’t hide his many flaws as a coach with departed talents like Stafford and Moreno.

And the “He’ll never embarrass us” claim is a matter of opinion. Maybe CMR won’t get caught in a hottub with coeds or get a DUI; but I challenge anybody to tell me UGA’s recent performances against arch-rivals are not embarrassing – no, make that humiliating to a once-proud program.

Me personally, I’ll trade a little virtue for human frailty if it comes with good coaching skills.

Delbert D.

November 4th, 2009
1:00 pm

Recruiting athletes with character can’t be overemphasized. Georgia posters love to bash Tech for “majoring in literature” or “communications”, etc. Let’s look at the 10 OL’s in the tech rotation:
RS Soph – pre-med
RS SR – management
RS JR – management HS national honor society
RS JR – aerospace engineering
RS FR – undeclared
RS SR – civil engineering
RS JR – civil engineering
RS SO – undeclared
RS FR – undeclared
RS FR – undeclared

UGA has shown that it can recruit great athletes with high character (examples on the OL: the Stinchcomb brothers).

read n black

November 4th, 2009
1:00 pm

Here is what concerns me – I have been very vocal regarding a couple of Georgia’s coaches and have commented that, if the leader cannot lead, he should not lead. My feelings are that CWM cannot lead the defense and CMB cannot lead the offense. However, that does not mean that I feel CMR cannot lead this team but he must do so by removing the deficiencies. My concern is that CMR may get tired of the Bulldawg Nation not trusting him, like we have done so much of in the past, and criticizing his every decision. He is a good coach and I have all the confidence in him in the world. I am confident CWM will not be the defensive coordinator…I am also confident CWM will be on our coaching staff next year!

AZ Jacket

November 4th, 2009
1:00 pm

HBTD, thanks man, if I had gone outside this blog to get that diagnosis it would have cost me $200 per hour. I really appreciate you insight. If a beat down comes on the 28th I will not jump off the bandwagon, I will not scream that my coach should be fired. Now I don’t expect a beat down but you never know until you play the game. I am sure if Tech wins you will go back in your little hole and not come out until bowl week. My life does not depend on Tech winning or losing but winning is more fun. I bet you are one of those bloggers who have been predicting a beat down of Tech every game this year. Thanks for the diagnosis, man it is great what you can get on these blogs. I don’t have time to talk anymore today….30 minutes till tee-time. Such a beautiful day today…It is great to be a Yellow Jacket.

Joe

November 4th, 2009
1:02 pm

hey Copach Richt: read this….as much as i detest Urban this is the difference between our program and theirs
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.”ead this

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
1:03 pm

AZ. Glad I could help. We just made the turn. Should we wait on you?

archangeladidas

November 4th, 2009
1:04 pm

Excuses, excuses, excuses! I have another excuse for you sorry garbagedawgs……..Brandon Spikes! GO GATORS!!!

crs

November 4th, 2009
1:06 pm

Reality – You will not win 10 games every year playing an SEC schedule, a renewed Tech and atleast one solid other non conference. IT WILL NOT HAPPEN.

Reality is Stafford leaving threw off the program as much as any of the other stuff, for example, poor D, o-line struggles, etc.

This team with Stafford would not have this turnover margin, would run the ball better and the D would be on the field far less.

Georgia and Richt hoped this team could run the ball and pass strategically early with the hope Cox would grow and get more comfortable and you open the playbook midseason. They also hoped by running the ball and controlling the clock they could keep the D fresh and keep them off the field. None of this worked out.

5 star qbs do not want to come to UGA and back up for more than a year. So when you have a 5 star kid in the program it is going to be tough to get another one.

This is going to be a situation every 4 or 5 years forever.

Whats the difference between UGA and Bama this year? Bama runs the ball with authority with a nasty oline and they play good D. This allows Bama to hide McElroy.

AZ Jacket

November 4th, 2009
1:06 pm

No need to wait. Have a great day…enjoy the discussion.

alsim

November 4th, 2009
1:08 pm

You Tech fans are so pathetic. You are the biggest bandwagon jumpers in the world.
Every generation or so there are a few years where Tech is better than UGA and you idiots come out of the wood works and talk smack.
Just wait a few years, Paul Johnson will leave for a better job and you’ll be back in the cellar again.

.

gt

November 4th, 2009
1:09 pm

Mr. B,

The best article I have read about this subject. Very thoughtful and analytical.And accurate.

Calhoundawg

November 4th, 2009
1:11 pm

I wish I were an Urban Meyer weiner. That is what I’d truly love to be. ‘Cause if I were an Urban Meyer weiner, everyone would be in love with me.

Afternoon Links | MrSEC.com

November 4th, 2009
1:12 pm

[...] Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun ranks the SEC, too.7.  Tony Barnhart of The AJC lists five questions that Richt should ask himself during the offseason.8.  Mike Griffith of The Knoxville News Sentinel got a coach from one of [...]

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
1:12 pm

ALSIM. The love affair may be over sooner than you think. ESPN is reporting that a certain midwestern school is starting to knock on the door. Somebody just tell PJ to check with George before he gives them anything in writing.