UGA’s Richt, LSU’s Miles, in completely different situations

I’ve done a lot of radio interviews this spring and invariably the host has asked me the same question: Going into the 2010 season whose seat is hotter– Mark Richt or Les Miles? Even my friend Paul Finebaum linked the two men together in his most recent column.

http://blog.al.com/press-register-sports/2010/05/finebaum_les_miles_mark_richt.html

First of all, I don’t understand the linkage, other than the fact that both men coach in the SEC , where they are expected to win every game, and that the top coaches in their respective divisions (Nick Saban, West; Urban Meyer, East) have won the last two national championships.

But there the similarity ends.

Les Miles took over a program that Nick Saban built and won a national championship in his third season (2007), when the players in Saban’s last class were seniors. In the past two seasons LSU is 8-8 in the SEC and fans on the Bayou wonder if Miles can win a title with his own players.

When it comes to Miles, there is this nagging sense that he and his staff are not maximizing the talent on this team. Actually, it’s more than a nagging sense.  When it comes to offense, LSU really hasn’t had much of a clue as to what it is doing the past two seasons. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson has not gotten one bit better since this time last year. A team that used to be known for blue collar football (LSU ran for over 200 yards a game in the national championship year but was 11th in the SEC last season), the Tigers are now look pretty soft on that side of the ball.

Let’s put it this way: LSU had better beat North Carolina on Sept. 4 at the Georgia Dome or there will be folks in that part of the world with Jon Gruden’s number on speed dial.

Richt took over at Georgia in 2001 and won a conference championship in 2002 with a team made up mostly of players he inherited from Jim Donnan (who still doesn’t get enough credit for what he did at Georgia to rebuild the talent base). But then he won another championship with his own players in 2005, and was as good as anybody in the country in 2007.

He’s won 90 games in nine years. He’s 50-22 in the SEC. In six of those years he has been 6-2 or better in the league. He has never been worse than 4-4 in the SEC.

Having said all that, has Georgia looked like a well-coached team the past two seasons? The answer is decidedly “No.” Here are two important numbers:

113: That was Georgia’s national ranking (out of 120 Division I-A schools) in penalties per game. Georgia had 105 penalties in 13 games. Only five schools in America (Troy, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas Tech, Arizona State) had more penalties. By contrast, BCS champ Alabama had 69 penalties in 14 games. This has been a problem for two years and has not been fixed.

118: Georgia’s national ranking in turnover margin, which I think is the most important statistic in football. Georgia forced 12 turnovers last season (2 fumbles, 10 interceptions) but turned the ball over 28 times. That’s minus-16 in turnovers. Only one team in America, Miami of Ohio (minus-24) had a worse turnover margin. By contrast Alabama was plus 19 (31 takeaways, 12 turnovers) in 14 games. The hope at Georgia is that Todd Grantham’s new 3-4 defense will partly address this issue.

So I’m not saying that Richt and his staff don’t have work to do. They do. Georgia has done things the past two seasons that well-coached teams don’t do. And there is the fact that he is 1-4 against Meyer, who has won two national championships, and that the gap between Florida and the rest of the division seems to be growing. Some Georgia fans, and I hear from a lot of them, are worried that the program has lost momentum. I get that.

But Richt’s situation and that of Miles just aren’t comparable. If Miles goes 7-5 and 3-5 in the SEC there will be a concerted effort to nudge him back towards Michigan, his alma mater, where Rich Rodriguez faces a most uncertain future.

If Richt goes 7-5 it will certainly impact his quality of life in the offseason but it won’t jeopardize his job. He will feel pressure to make some more changes to his staff. But nobody in authority is going to say that he should relocate. In nine years Richt has put a lot of good will into the bank and that matters to the decision makers.

I could be totally wrong about this. What say you?

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477 comments Add your comment

First

May 12th, 2010
8:39 am

Zaaaaaaa Nachos

May 12th, 2010
8:40 am

Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!

I dont like you, Coach Richt!

RAMBLE ON!!!

May 12th, 2010
8:41 am

Tech Fan

May 12th, 2010
8:44 am

God I wish the Tech fan base cared enough about football to where a coach could be considered on the hot seat.

Roman

May 12th, 2010
8:45 am

Tony, I’d be careful who I call my “friend”. Finebumb is an idiot!

5IML

May 12th, 2010
8:46 am

You can’t compare UGA to BAMA or Richt to Saban UGA is good for what they do (contends for division almost every year, occasionally wins conference) and what they are (regionally known team with a big local following). Firing Richt would be a very big mistake.

Kitty Kelley

May 12th, 2010
8:46 am

Finebaum is a great writer and sports talk host.

KR

May 12th, 2010
8:49 am

In college football, it all boils down to “what have you done for me lately?” After the 2003 Bobby Lowder jet incident and Auburn’s 2004 season, there were people who said that Tommy Tuberville was untouchable. We all know how that turned out.

Richt wins a lot of games, but so far the winning the big game has eluded him. Try this: turn the clock back 10 years and ask Georgia fans if they would be happy with 90 wins in 9 seasons BUT only 2 SEC championships and no BCS championships. Do you think they would have bought into it?

There is no mistake that Richt has talent as a coach, but so far he has not shown that he can take UGA to the absolute top. I know that bothers a significant portion of the Bulldog faithful.

Roman

May 12th, 2010
8:53 am

Coach Richt’s biggest problem is that he doesn’t hire good assistants. Willie and Bobo should never have been put in those positions. And Finebumb is a joke to everyone outside of Alabama.

Charles from Reeltown

May 12th, 2010
8:54 am

I could give Les Miles a country boy ass whuppin…

Redneck

May 12th, 2010
8:56 am

I use words like whuppin…..

Paul Finebaum

May 12th, 2010
8:57 am

Tony, don’t misunderstand me. We here in Alabama *love* both Les Miles and Mark Richt and wish them both long-trm employment with their respecive universities and good health. It’s just that Gener Chizik who makes me nervous.

Football Fan

May 12th, 2010
8:57 am

Change a few words and this paragraph applies to both coaches doesn’t it ?

When it comes to Richt, there is this nagging sense that he and his staff are not maximizing the talent on this team. Actually, it’s more than a nagging sense. When it comes to defense, UGA really hasn’t had much of a clue as to what it is doing the past two seasons. (Insert name here) has not gotten one bit better since this time last year. A team that used to be known for blue collar defense, the Bulldogs now look pretty soft on that side of the ball.

itpdude

May 12th, 2010
8:57 am

Well, if we hear noise about Richt telling his players to purposely get penalties or how he didn’t worry about penalties at FSU, Richt is gone.

But if Richt is reigning his players in (as evidenced by dropping the QB) and bringing back discipline, he’ll stay.

Jim from Crestwood

May 12th, 2010
8:58 am

Paul, you dweebs in the Birmingham media always bring it back to Auburn. you just can’t let it rest. Now, what did I do with my meds?

TommyJack

May 12th, 2010
8:59 am

TB: I don’t get the Miles deal either. But I think you’re looking at Richt thru rose colored glasses. Way too much talent, year after year.

Spokesman for the SEC East

May 12th, 2010
9:00 am

First things first; Finebaum is an idiot who only says outrageous things to draw people to read him or listen to him on his radio show, unfortunately it works. Secondly the SEC East really hopes that Mark Richt is NEVER fired.

Tammy

May 12th, 2010
9:00 am

I dont cir just as long as all them mesicans stop takin our jobs.

SimpleDawg

May 12th, 2010
9:00 am

Les Miles is working on borrowed time…..his goofs and gaffs will be his Waterloo if the Tigers don’t have a big year. They can lose to Florida and Alabama, but no one else, and have Les still retain his job.

At times Les looks like he’s a stranger in a strange land…..

Richt needs to have a 9-2 regular season, 8-3 at worst. With a freshman QB, his leash will be much longer, but the Dawgs must play better defense….and commit much fewer turnovers and penalties.

More debacles like Tennysee last year, and Alabammer 2 years ago will not be tolerated. The Dawgs may not win every game, but they damn sure better be competitive in every game.

Charles

May 12th, 2010
9:01 am

Finebaum has made it his personal mission to put Mark Richt on the hotseat. He began indicating that Richt was not doing a good job last summer and subsequently took heat from Georgia fans. This irked him because he’s a smug know-it-all, and when Georgia had a down year, he used this is evidence that he was right all along. Essentially, he’s on a witchhunt b/c it’s gotten personal for him with the Dawgnation after all that junk last summer.

Additionally, Finebaum is an unabashed Bama homer, even if he is a UT grad. He’s playing to his audience, and the entire Tide fanbase knows how pivotal it is that UGA continues to slide. This state is a goldmine for prospects, and Saban and Smart are hoping to really rack up in this recruiting class. Thankfully, that’s not going to happen unless Georgia has another poor season. Bama will likely snag Dickson, but that will be the only key Georgia target they’ll get. But rest assured; they want them all, and Finebaum has his marching orders on how to do his part to propogate the image that Georgia is floundering.

In the end, Georgia just needs to win. A good season in ‘10-11 and Finebaum will go silent and UGA will pull in a recruiting class for the ages…this is the best in-state talent crop since ‘98. Big year forthcoming.

MississippiDawg

May 12th, 2010
9:02 am

Well said Tony – CMR is the best thing to happen to UGA since Herschel…he will right this ship…7-5 won’t happen anyway…have you seen our schedule…RUN the BALL Bobo and everyone will have job security,,,

chiefdawg

May 12th, 2010
9:02 am

Mark Richt must find a way to beat UF.All of it is not his fault. A game of this magnitude should be played home and home. That being said he must play with the cards he has been dealt. He also must win the games he is suppose to win, such as the KY game last year. As a big UGA fan my hope is that things will be turned around soon, but I am afraid UGA is headed for a Fulmer like experience.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

May 12th, 2010
9:02 am

Miles is clearly on the hot seat. The complete debacle at the end of the game against Ole Miss was a complete embarassment for that team. Richt does have work to do, but if I were a Tiger fan, that memory of how the staff handled the clock would still leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Pulpwood

May 12th, 2010
9:03 am

Les Miles is a complete buffoon. I’ve said this since day one. He won’t be at LSU in 3 years, maybe less.

Paul Finebaum

May 12th, 2010
9:04 am

Why does everyone blame me for the opinions of my callers? I am innocent I tell ya.

Paul Finebaum

May 12th, 2010
9:04 am

Hey Spokesman for the SEC East. Please let Mick Hubert know I’m waiting for him outside and I’ll beat the “oh my” out of him.

Tormentor

May 12th, 2010
9:04 am

Chief dawg are you really going to go to the home and home? It didnt work out too well in 94 and 95 did it? That being said Mark is a gracious loser and we hope he stays.

Mrs. Miles

May 12th, 2010
9:05 am

I just wish he would take that hat off when he comes to bed at night.

Tormentor

May 12th, 2010
9:05 am

Finebaum Mick Hubert has a prettier head of hair than you do.

DawgHouse

May 12th, 2010
9:05 am

If Richt goes 7-5 in a year that has UT rebuilding; UF having to replace their QB and basically entire Defense; We do not play either LSU or Bama from the West….then he should be ran not only out of the state but out of the nation. We return the O line intact and Richt has complained the past two subpar years that O line depth hurt the team. Not this year unless we have 3 or more linemen go down. We return two great tailbacks to run the ball. We have a great D coordinator, now. So there are no excuses!!! We go 7-5 with our talent he should be fired, fired, fired.

Lane Kiffin

May 12th, 2010
9:06 am

Richt and THUGA are about to go through hell this coming season and it’s going to be very, very ugly in Athens. But the administration will keep Richt one year too long and by 2011 the program will resemble exactly what happened to auburn a couple of years ago, with a major rebuilding project awaiting the next coach. Les the Mess is nothing more than the village idiot and everyone who really knows and understands college football saw that the first game he ever coached at LSU. lsu will have another subpar season and Miles may even be terminated before season’s end.

Ormewood

May 12th, 2010
9:06 am

Tony has to write about something. These are the only two coaches in the SECat this moment who are on somewhat shaky ground. Chizik and Mullen are year two of their tenures. Dooley and Phillips are just starting out. I think the one to watch is Nutt. Things could go south in a hurry the next year or two in Oxford, especially if Auburn, MSU, and Ark keep getting better. Some team or teams slide when others are ascending.

I’d say in the ACC, the coach on the hottest seat is Freidgen., followed very closely by Shannon.

Tormentor

May 12th, 2010
9:07 am

Well call the Real Estate Agent Dawghouse because he will go 6-6, and Evans will bring in Chris Peterson from Boise St.

Paul Finebaums

May 12th, 2010
9:07 am

In this battle of duelling Finebaums, I am the authentic Finebaum. Pay no attention to that other Finebaum behind the curtain.

Charlie Bama

May 12th, 2010
9:07 am

I think this will be a ‘make or break’ season for both coaches, Tony. No doubt LSU has underperformed given the high school talent they hired –uh, I mean, recruited– over the past few years. Miles doesn’t appear to be a good game day coach or a thoughtful craftsman at offense. CMR, I think, is now officially ‘awake’ and is ready to get the most out of his players–it seems his expectations declined over the past two season, not sure why. Maybe Paul Johnson’s success? More than likely, the same burn-out that most SEC coaches face after about 8 or 9 slap-happy years (ask Pumpkin Fulmer or Deputy Dog Tuberville–they understand how that works). Either way, good luck to both team and both coaches. Florida and Bama need the loyal opposition to be good so the annual victories over each look even better. Gators, see you in the Dome in December!

Greens23

May 12th, 2010
9:07 am

I agree that Richt and Miles are in two completely different situations. As a Gator fan, it looks to me that Richt and his coaches arent getting the most out of his players. The penalties have been killing his team, and to me that is a coaching issue. Richt does need to figure out a way to beat FL on a consistent basis but where the game is played has nothing to do with it. No one was complaining from UGA when you owned the series. Richt has done a lot of good at UGA but I think he should be competing nationally on a regular basis. No reason GA shouldnt be a top 10 team year in and out…

Paul Finebaum

May 12th, 2010
9:08 am

Termigator, I mean Tormentor, I mean Reptiles Rule, I mean GaGator, Alabama is now your big brother. Get used to it.

Gville dawg

May 12th, 2010
9:08 am

You are spot on Mr. Tony

Flowery Branch

May 12th, 2010
9:08 am

Mark Richt has been head coach for 9 years and has won 90 games, is 8 put of 9 against our arch rival, has won 2 SEC titles and is 7-2 in bowl games. Richt has one of the best records in college football.

One major reason for underachievement over the past few seasons was a poor defensive coaching staff. Richt was slow to address the problem but he finally did. Hopefully Richt will be less patient with inadequate assistants next time. He probably learned a lot from the experience.

Richt is an excellent head coach and his best years are ahead of him. Vince Dooley won his only national championship in his 17th year as head coach. It took Bear Bryant over a decade of head coaching to win one. The same goes for Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno. Give Richt time and we will win the national title or maybe several. He has had UGA in the hunt as a major contender, eventually quality teams, players luck and consistency will win it.

Just think Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier while winning 3 national titles between them for Florida never went undefeated. Of course they were good but they were also lucky. Had one more team gone undefeated in those years and the Gators would have not played in the big game.

Saban’s Alabama did go undefeated but think how rare that is in the SEC. And even that wasn’t good enough for Auburn, which has gone undefeated twice in the last 17 years but still did not get a chance to play for the national title.

Obviously Richt has been very unhappy with the results of the last 2 seasons and I expect Richt to keep fine tuning the UGA program until we get the big payoff – a national championship!!!

Ron D

May 12th, 2010
9:08 am

5IML

May 12th, 2010
9:08 am

Charles,

Finebaum is a front runner. He is a BAMA homer right now because BAMA is winning right now. If Auburn got the upperhand on BAMA, he would become an Auburn homer as he was when Shula was BAMA’s coach.

BAMA doesn’t need UGA to be down to be successful. On the other hand, UGA, as evidenced by Richt’s early success, needs other programs to be down to be successful. Richt won his SEC titles against the Shulas and Zooks, not against the Sabans and Meyers.

Tormentor

May 12th, 2010
9:09 am

The penalties are a direct result from Richts 2007 episode of Dancing with the Stars in the Jax endzone.

Miles

May 12th, 2010
9:09 am

LSU needs a QB…Georgia will place third in the SEC East…neither team can beat Alabama or Florida…

Tormentor

May 12th, 2010
9:09 am

Spoken by a true trailer park bama fan.

Bayou Philosopher

May 12th, 2010
9:10 am

Tony, you’ve never been much of friend of the LSU football program (voted USC no. 1 in 2003; now your fantasy football statement the UGA was “as good as anyone [ie. LSU] in 2007″. But you have presented a thoughtful analysis of an interesting pair of coaches who deserve comparison. My feeling is that if Richt goes 7-5 he will not survive either– especially if one of those loses is to Georgia Tech. For all the posturing at UGA about the Dawgs’ national / SEC goals —beatin’ the Jackets is Obsession No. One. –Ask the aforementioned Jim Donnan. I agree completely that 7-5 will mean “so long” for Les Miles, fair or not. But Miles did beat Richt head to head in Athens last season with equally mediocre teams. That should say something.

NoGaGator

May 12th, 2010
9:11 am

Tony -

Slimebaum is your friend? That pencil-necked geek has his head surgically implanted in Saban’s arse.

They say you can’t pick your relatives but you can pick your friends.

Bad choice Tony.

Bama Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:11 am

Stop living in the past Tormentor. Realize your fate.

Paul Finebaum

May 12th, 2010
9:12 am

Nick Saban’s backside is very warm to the touch by the way. My lips feel comfortable there on cold autumn days.

Tormentor

May 12th, 2010
9:12 am

Bama congrats on your one year streak, when Saban leaves it will be back to the Shula years.

Spokesman for the SEC East

May 12th, 2010
9:13 am

Now, now Bama fans, hold your anger until the SECCG.