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

a

November 4th, 2009
1:13 pm

Tony,

I think the scheduling thing hits it right on the head. I don’t care who you are, you’ve got to have a couple “no-brainer” games to get the juices flowing. Every top-tier team does it (yes, Tech fans, even you had a Jacksonville State). I can’t remember another Georgia year in recent memory where we didn’t do that.

For all you Florida fans on here: you’re a good team. Maybe the best (but I still think Texas is better). No one’s taking that away from you. So go be good on your own message boards.

And for all you Tech fans on here: run this kind of success for a decade, then we’ll be impressed.

It says something when you can have an 8-4, or a 7-5, season and be outraged. We’ve built our program to high standards, and I have no doubt this year is the exception to the rule – which Tony did a great job in pointing out here.

Go Dawgs! This season’s not lost. Beat Auburn and BEAT TECH!

Brandon Spikes

November 4th, 2009
1:14 pm

” I says I’se gwann to Atlanta and gwann to Atlanta I is!

VolNation

November 4th, 2009
1:15 pm

We love Mark Richt. Keep him and Willie Martinez, at least for one more year while we break in a freshmen QB Tyler Bray.

Northern sympathizer

November 4th, 2009
1:15 pm

I agree with John’s post above. Any idiot can see that Georgia is getting the talent. Tony thinks it’s an “assessment problem”, in affect blaming the players for the 09 debacle.

gdawginkalamazoo

November 4th, 2009
1:16 pm

Gators for Richt, I love the name. That’s just too funny.

Calhoundawg, excellent post. I am sure we could pull one of those coaches away without any problem. Hell probably pick and choose those coaches to be the co-ordinators that we need.

Richt’s the best and he will will get it going again. He might need to dip his hand back into the play calling IMO. When he gets healthy we should wear AJ Green out. Make him earn his money. Best in the SEC that kid.

The scheduling is fine. The teams we played this year we are fully capable of beating. Just beat them and nobody would be complaining about it.

Also, Washaun, what a great kid. Has the fire and pep of the old #24, by the time he is done playing he will have done the dawgs proud.

macrotech

November 4th, 2009
1:19 pm

alsim, that’s it? That’s all you got?! Bandwagon fans?! Coming from a pup fan?! Now THAT’S comedy!!! No mas! No mas!

Real World

November 4th, 2009
1:21 pm

Hey WTH—-GT runs a high school offense? What about the “high school offense” laying 45 on your sorry defense?

FAME

November 4th, 2009
1:22 pm

This may sound silly to some but go back and look at the rosters over Richt’s time.You know what’s missing more than anything?The country boys…the little town kids who would run thru a plate glass door to play for UGA.Let’s not try to turn this into some kind of racial slight…I’m just saying those kids from the small towns play with a lot of fire because they have a chip on their shoulder.I think we put too much emphasis on metro ATL talent…there was a time there when TENN seemed to own ATL and did great but this is now…take a peep at Bama and LSU their rosters esp BAMA are chock full of the small town country boys.Big city kids go to UGA to make it to the pros….small town kids go to UGA because they love the fact they will be representing GA.Laugh it off if you want but when you analyze the rosters under CMR most of our best players came from small towns!!Look it up

Bud

November 4th, 2009
1:22 pm

VolNation… don’t worry we’ll break him in! Is he one of yall’s helicopter recruits?

Tide Rising

November 4th, 2009
1:23 pm

Intersting article in the birmingham news today regarding recruiting and who has under and overachieved with their talent. Georgia is a consensus #4 overall in recruiting from 2005-2009 classes. Tech is something like 51st but is top 10. Dogs definitely have the talent but like I said earlier the skill position talent like qb or rb can be hit or miss. Richt will undoubtedly be getting rid of martinez and probably a couple other guys and have brighter days ahead next year.

Lord of The Lizards

November 4th, 2009
1:23 pm

One of the biggest reasons that the Dawg Nation finds itself where it is today is because they are always trying to focus on external factors as to why they lose when they lose…One week it’s the Refs , another week it’s a great big ol SEC conspiracy favoring other teams, yet another it’s Brandon Spikes etc etc. You will never improve yourself if you are always blaming others. Recruiting is surely not the problem. According to THEM, they ALWAYS get the best players!

Yellow Fuzz

November 4th, 2009
1:24 pm

This just in, Georgia just accepted an invitation to play in the Poulan Weedeater Bowl in Northern Louisiana (Shreveport). As a payout, Georgia will receive $990,000 and 75 free weedwackers, one for every Parks and Recreation Major in the program.

Georgia Tech will play in THEIR conference championship game (sunny Tampa Florida) in hopes of advancing to the BCS Orange Bowl (sunnier Miami Florida). As a payout, Georgia Tech could receive $1,490,000 and 75 free deep sea fishing excursions. Georgia Tech plans to watch georgia’s bowl game on December 28th from its hotel over looking Key Largo.

Look at the Weedwackers falling from the sky!
Look at the Weedwackers falling from the sky!

macrotech

November 4th, 2009
1:24 pm

HBTD, sounds like we might be losing our coach to a mid-western school…..EXCEPT for the fact that CPJ took the GT job because he ‘knew’ he could get it done here…so far, so good. He wanted to move his family back to the peach state….done. CPJ won’t leave until he adds another national championship to the GT trophy case…THEN we’ll have 5 and the mutts will STILL only have two!

WTH

November 4th, 2009
1:25 pm

HBTD is quiet a guy, he can blog, check out espn and play golf at the same time.

Reality check

November 4th, 2009
1:25 pm

Face it UGA, you won SEC championships in down years for all the other SEC powerhouses. You don’t have the mentality, talent or drive to do it unless Alabama, Florida, LSU, and now SC and Tennessee fall flat again. Get used to mediocre seasons, why do you think its going to get better next year? UGA looks like a bottom tier team for at least a few years to come.

Willie

November 4th, 2009
1:26 pm

Do you expect this kind of team from a coach making 4.4 million dollars? If so, I need a job working for you with this kind of salary. I always heard you pay for what you get….I guess that’s another liberal lie.

macrotech

November 4th, 2009
1:26 pm

FAME, I agree with your assessment!!! THAT’S the passion that seems to have faded in Athens!

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
1:26 pm

RealWorld. Regardless, it’s still just a tricked up HS offense. Sorry!

Taylor

November 4th, 2009
1:26 pm

ugablows

November 4th, 2009
10:15 am

everyone always points to Richts earlier success, but have you ever considered that maybe he was NEVER really a great coach? he was just leaching off a great D-coordinator and Donnan’s great recruits?

Donnan’s last class was 2003 LOL LOL I get so tired of this argument

BCS bound

November 4th, 2009
1:26 pm

ARCHANGELADIDAS – you hit the nail right on the head. That’s all it is excuses, they are already talking about next year while the Gators are fighting for another BCS Title. KerryB is totally reaching on his excuse of why the Dawgs lost. Coach Smith needs some more coaching and seems to be a Florida coach as he knows who is leaving and who is not.

GT4LIFE

November 4th, 2009
1:26 pm

Fame that’s an interesting take but you know country boys can’t read and write all that well!lol…joking…well sort of.

John

November 4th, 2009
1:27 pm

crs
Your point regarding scheduling is well-taken. So the current system incents programs to pack the discretionary slots in their schdules with powderpuffs – why not, they won’t be penalized for it?

So UGA travels to Stillwater to grapple with a top 10 opponent. At the same time, the Gators roll outta their bunks, rub the sleep from their eyes and shuffle across the street and kick the crap out of a glorified pop-warner team.

A game’s a game in the eyes of the pollsters.

Beleive me, I ain’t holding a pity party for Georgia. They were masters at this for years – although not quite as egregious in their offenses as Florida is.

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
1:27 pm

WTH. At UGA, we learn to multitask.

Taylor

November 4th, 2009
1:27 pm

Reality check

November 4th, 2009
1:25 pm

Face it UGA, you won SEC championships in down years for all the other SEC powerhouses. You don’t have the mentality, talent or drive to do it unless Alabama, Florida, LSU, and now SC and Tennessee fall flat again. Get used to mediocre seasons, why do you think its going to get better next year? UGA looks like a bottom tier team for at least a few years to come.

Similar to how Tech is going to win the ACC ?

Willie

November 4th, 2009
1:29 pm

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
1:27 pm
Does that mean you can play offense and defense in the same game?

hmmm

November 4th, 2009
1:29 pm

Question #6: When will Richt be fired?

WTH

November 4th, 2009
1:30 pm

And I guess tell a lie or two.

Burdell

November 4th, 2009
1:31 pm

Let’s hope this all pans out…except the projected loss to Pitt in the Orange Bowl.

http://www.sportingnews.com/college-football/article/2009-11-03/georgia-tech-no-1-among-college-footballs-one-loss-teams

GO JACKETS!! BEAT THE DEACONS!!

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
1:32 pm

Macro. Of course PJ knew he could win at tech. He’s competing in the ACC. Beat Clemson and he can stroll through the remainder of the conference schedule. What a joke! LOL

RodneyGT

November 4th, 2009
1:33 pm

Tony

You’re an idiot. Either you just have UGAg so far up your behind you don’t know what’s going on or are just too ignorant to want to represent the facts. Your “King vs Dwyer” is complete hogwash. Yes, Dwyer is the better RB, hel1 he’s the best RB in the state and one of the top three best in the country. But there are four other RB’s on Tech’s roster that are all better than UGA’s as well.

Fact is, Dwyer had NO intentions of ever going to UGAg. He was raised a Tech fan. Get your facts straight Tony.

BIGBOY

November 4th, 2009
1:34 pm

Yellow fuzz I guess your closet is full of all those free starbucks mugs you got from going to Seattle to play in the emerald bowl huh?

Go DOGS

November 4th, 2009
1:34 pm

“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.”

What about THE water girl????

GT Man

November 4th, 2009
1:36 pm

I am loving our team this year but I know once gailey’s skill players leave we are in trouble!

John

November 4th, 2009
1:36 pm

Lord of The Gators,
You should thank your lucky stars that we UGA fans whine and complain as we do. If you didn’t have us to hate and ridicule, what reason would the Florida-Georgia game pique evne a minutes-worth of your interest?

This “rivalry” has been a farce for over 20 years. And in my opinion, we as Dawg fans are wont to place the blame everywhere except where it belongs. Right ‘chere in Athens.

On the other hand, you Tebow-worshipping lemmings make me want to puke.

BWAHAHAHA

November 4th, 2009
1:37 pm

4-4 BWAHAHAHAHA
Be nice if the snuggle buddies aka; Shultz, Barnhart, King, AJC sports talkies could write about something other than cry over the mutts losing. Seems they are on the UGAy payroll and can’t get their noses out of each others butt….

GSU Eagle 91

November 4th, 2009
1:38 pm

Tony: UGA’s out-of-conference schedule has been nothing short of lame for 40 years now…The OK ST game was UGA’s first non-conference road trip against a top ten team since Dooley took his Dawgs up to Michigan in the 1960’s. Meanwhile, UT has been playing the likes of Miami, Notre Dame and UCLA in recent years. It is about exposure, and Georgia will not get the national respect it wants from other areas until it earns it on the field…
Schedule home and home vs Oklahoma, or Texas, or USC.If your team is good enough they can win. The SEC has many weak sisters right now that do not add up to a “brutal” schedule…

HBTD

November 4th, 2009
1:38 pm

Willie. Oh no, I never played football, but I sure stayed busy with all the pretty coeds. 1000’s of them. Everywhere. I guess you could say it was kind of like playing offense and defense at the same time. How bout you? Any girls over at tech? If so, I never seem to see them at the games except for the imported cheerleaders and dancers from the local area schools.

Taylor

November 4th, 2009
1:39 pm

RodneyGT

November 4th, 2009
1:33 pm

Tony

You’re an idiot. Either you just have UGAg so far up your behind you don’t know what’s going on or are just too ignorant to want to represent the facts. Your “King vs Dwyer” is complete hogwash. Yes, Dwyer is the better RB, hel1 he’s the best RB in the state and one of the top three best in the country. But there are four other RB’s on Tech’s roster that are all better than UGA’s as well.

Fact is, Dwyer had NO intentions of ever going to UGAg. He was raised a Tech fan. Get your facts straight Tony.

your rant is cute but UGA was in Dwyers top 5 choices. Nice try though

QB1?

November 4th, 2009
1:40 pm

QB Controversy hitting theatres in Athens, 2010.

TG

November 4th, 2009
1:40 pm

fuzz you are too much. hahaha. How do you seem to stick and turn that knife a little more with each sentence? Hahaha.

hmmm

November 4th, 2009
1:40 pm

Richt likes Cox

Dawgs73

November 4th, 2009
1:41 pm

Tony, I think your article should have been titled Five Excuses for Mark Richt’s poor coaching.
1.) Talent evaluation. I am sure that the these same players would be as woeful under Richt as they would be under Meyer, Saban, Miles, or Paul Johnson
2.) Schedule – UGA should go back to their “cupcake schedule” because winners love to make excuses about playing 7 BCS schools to start the season. I am sure the above state coaches would cry about this as well.
3.) Conditioning – When in doubt blame your conditioning program/coordinator
4.) Coaching players up to their potential – Oh, isn’t that what Richt is getting paid $2 mill a year to do…my bad for expecting him to do his job
5.) Stepping up his game – See answer # 4
I am a die hard UGA fan, but I am also objective in regards to the programs performance. I believe that every fan expects/wants its team to compete at the very highest level. If it takes an overhaul of most if not all of the staff, then we as fans expect it. Why would we as fans expect our team to underperform and under achieve? The answer is simple, STOP MAKING EXCUSES AND START MAKING PROGRESSIVE CHANGES NOW!

WTH

November 4th, 2009
1:44 pm

HBTD,

While you playing with all those coeds, were you playing golf, blogging, surfing the web, watching ESPN, etc. etc. From all your delusions, I would guess that you also did a lot of drugs while you were at UGA.

TybeeDawg

November 4th, 2009
1:44 pm

macrotech

November 4th, 2009
1:46 pm

HBTD, of COURSE that’s your response…it’s ALL you have…funny that you left out your little leg humpers! Now, THAT’S a joke!!!

Taylor

November 4th, 2009
1:48 pm

Enough with UGAG Ugay Leg Humpers. It is all played out tech fans. learn some new insults. Watch this I can do the same thing Gay Tech School that has an insect as their mascot. PLAYED OUT

RainbowRandy

November 4th, 2009
1:48 pm

I love YellowFuzz….I’d like to get some of his 22 year old young tail down here in Midtown….what a hottie!

WTH

November 4th, 2009
1:49 pm

HBTD

That is if you even went to UGA. I really doubt it because most UGA Alums have more class than you.

BIGBOY

November 4th, 2009
1:49 pm

I saw where Meyer said he has no intention of playing a loaded schedule…he says the SEC is enough and Fla will not be emulating UGA and Tenn when it comes to scheduling…he might just have a point.

RodneyGT

November 4th, 2009
1:49 pm

Taylor

Ha..yes, UGAg was in the top 5 for Dwyer…along with Ok St, Michigan, FSU, Auburn….give me a break. UGAg had no chance of getting Jonathon Dwyer.

I guess two years from now you’ll be telling me how UGAg and Mark Richt specifically dropped the ball on getting Charles Perkins away from Georgia Tech too…..”he was in the top 5″….good lord.