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

Paul Finebaum

May 12th, 2010
9:13 am

I rub my head with gator grease.

Tormentor

May 12th, 2010
9:15 am

Bama Fan, 26-2 in the last 2 years is quite ok.

Bama Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:15 am

Will you go back to the Zook days when Meyer strokes out after another beat down in the SEC Championship game?

Reality Check

May 12th, 2010
9:15 am

Florida can keep those highly talented , top recruits playing by lowering eligibility standards such as allowing them to flunk 5 drug tests before suspending them. And Alabama has several convicted felons that played for them under Saban. The same goes for Tennessee. At Georgia we and our state media make a huge deal out of misdemeanors that are generally ignored at Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Tennessee and LSU.

Plus we know that Alabama is willing to risk NCAA punishment in order to put together a big winning team. Alabama has been placed on two MAJOT probations by the NCAA in the last decade even having to forfeit 21 victories. Heck, even Georgia Tech was placed on NCAA probation for changing 11 starting football players grades in order to keep them eligible to play. So evidently we play several teams like Alabama and GA Tech willing to cheat to win!

Tweeb

May 12th, 2010
9:16 am

Luke!! I’m Your FATHER, Luke! Join me on the Dark Side.

Or, sorry wrong blog . . .

Greens23

May 12th, 2010
9:16 am

Flowery Branch, we can look at numbers more than one way….Meyer has been in the SEC 5 years and has won 57 games…Richt’s best 5 years only add up to 55 wins. Richt’s teams fail to show up when they need to…your 2007 season, arguably the best in many years at UGA you lose to Tenn and SC. Last year, Tennessee took you to the woodshed. Dont blame that on assistants. The coach should have fired Willie immediately…

Charles from Reeltown

May 12th, 2010
9:16 am

I am actually a graduate student in Anthropology at Harvard doing undercover research in Reeltown. Scarily, I am so convincing as Charles that I actually began sleeping with my own cousin.

Dan

May 12th, 2010
9:16 am

Way to suck up to Saban again, Tony. I’m sure he is starting to admire how you kiss his ring as much as “your friend” Finebaum does. Amazing how “those seniors Saban recruited” were able to win a National Title in 2007 at LSU with no coaching. Incredible just how Saban’s magic touch led them to a championship.

So I guess Saban won the SEC title n 2001 because of the seniors Gerry DiNardo left behind.

Tony the Tiger

May 12th, 2010
9:16 am

Here is the deal on Les. I truly believe there are 2 Les Miles. The Les Miles of 2006-2007 – go for it, wide open offense, calculated risk taker. Then you have the Les Miles of 2008-2009 – hesitant, play not to lose, conservative. LSU fans loved the attitude and coaching style of 06-07

After the national championship, I believe he realized he had to maintain that level of success. He had always been an ace recruiter, but he has let the fear of losing creep into his coaching. This resulted in poor game day coaching decisions among other things. I truly do not think Les is a bad coach, but if he wants to be here for the long term he will need to channel his inner 06-07 coaching philosophy.

Bama Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:18 am

Nice record last year Tormentor. You were the first loser after it was all said and done. This years game will make Tebow cry all the way out in Denver.

Charlie Bama

May 12th, 2010
9:18 am

Hey, Reality Chick — You’re funny. The idea that Georgia deosn’t allow players of questionable character is hilarious. I wish I had my camera for this moment.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

May 12th, 2010
9:18 am

both will be in the hot seat- especially if Richt does not change the penalties/turnovers #s. This has to change this year. Agree w/ TB- hopefully new DC will change that.

stubby

May 12th, 2010
9:18 am

Richt should be on the hot seat – Georgia is a great football program, and deserves better than being a perpetual runner up to Florida.

Iceman

May 12th, 2010
9:19 am

Finebaum has got his head so far up his rear, he can’t even see the light of day. I do think Miles is entering the danger zone, but Richt is far from it. The only ones that think CMR is on the hot seat are Tech and Auburn.

Tormentor

May 12th, 2010
9:20 am

like you the year before oh I forgot about utah bammer

Mikey

May 12th, 2010
9:21 am

I’m not sure that CMR can do anything about the penalties and NO- it wasn’t because of the end zone dance.
He has admitted that the FSU teams he was a part of were the most penalized teams and still had an amazing run of success so he might think it’s no big deal.

The wild card- I think Grantham and his staff will address this isssue for CMR.
They will get in the faces of the players and hold them accountable unlike their predecessors.

DawginLex

May 12th, 2010
9:21 am

Defense and running the football wins the SEC. How you run it doesn’t matter(spread, power I), just run it. But you have to be able to stop the other team.

If our defense doens’t improve dramatically this year, I will be shocked. If we don’t run the ball 60% of the time, I will be shocked.

We must win in Columbia, period. do that and the season becomes optimistic. I think we will win that one and the Arkansas game will end up being the toughest game on our schedule except for Florida.

Charlie Bama

May 12th, 2010
9:21 am

Tormentard — PLEASE use spell check. I really works.

Greens23

May 12th, 2010
9:25 am

Mikey,
If he wants to fix the penalities, sit the person that commits them. I have seen so many late hits and dumb penalties on GA recently that its mind boggling.

Bama Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:26 am

Tormentor, stay in the present forget the past. You sound like a Georgia fan for crying out loud. Remember when Shawn Alexander torched the Gators twice in one year? See what I mean?

Paul Finebaum

May 12th, 2010
9:26 am

Why do you all hate me so much? I am merely a reflection of my listeners. Hating me is like hating yourself!

#1 Hater

May 12th, 2010
9:27 am

Greens23, he even had a problem with late hits and an almost fight between one of the thugs during the Gday game.

Run Lindsey Run

May 12th, 2010
9:28 am

Coach Richt is going to win most of his games including away games. About last year, everyone has a tough season in life. The Dawgs will be back this year and they will be hungry. Also, what I like most about Coach Richt is what he does when nobody is watching. What the Dawg nation needs to realize is there is only one Coach Richt. Sure, Alabama won the National Championship last year. But, the Dawg nation needs to be positive and encourage Coach Richt to win big games. I can remember 1979 Georgia went from mediocre to National Championship. Run Lindsey Run.

Bama Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:28 am

What’s the record between the 2 teams since the conference split? Oh and should we mention your stellar performance against La Monroe?

Shaun Alexander

May 12th, 2010
9:29 am

You mean when I torched the Gators twice, right?

Vince Dooley

May 12th, 2010
9:29 am

I love coach Richt. He makes me look so dadblamed good in comparison. Keep it up Mark and “Go, Big Orange!”

Well....

May 12th, 2010
9:31 am

if the Dawgs go 7-5 this year, 2011 becomes Richt’s make or break year. He would then need at least 9 wins in 2011 to save his job.

Actually, I’d go so far as to say 8-4 this year has the same effect.

Typical Gator Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:32 am

God I wish we had half the tradition Alabama has. Oh well, we’ve only played competitive football since 1990, we still have plenty of time to catch up.

Typical Gator Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:33 am

Please notice that I use “we” when I talk about us Fightin Gators. Work ‘em, Silly Gators!!!

On Campus

May 12th, 2010
9:34 am

Just a few short years ago, both Alabama and Florida were having mediocre season after mediocre season while LSU and UGA were battling it out for supremacy in the SEC. The past couple of years, Florida and Alabama have been the ones at the top while LSU and Georgia have hit a bump in the road. Who is to say that at this time a couple of years from now the roles won’t be reversed? That’s the way things go in the SEC.

CLEVON LITTLE

May 12th, 2010
9:34 am

Richt’s not on the hot-seat yet…maybe by some fans, but as a whole he’s not on the hot-seat. If he wins 7+ games this year he will be back in 2011. Now, after a 7 or 8 win season in ‘10 he comes back & has a re-peat, then he would be on the hot-seat. But my guess is he wins 8 to 10 games this year. He’ll be back in 2011. Too early to give a prediction of 2011.

Typical Bama Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:35 am

God I wish I had a family tree that forked.

BurningRedBleedingBlack

May 12th, 2010
9:35 am

Tony, I really feel like i agree with alot of this post. I think the new defensive coordinator will fix those problems fast!!! However, if Richt does go under fire and lose some games or offense tends to look not ready or the play calling is off, then i think he will have to let BoBo go. I feel good Tony about this season i think good things will return to between those hedges once more. Go Dawgs!!!!!

help, I live in Ga

May 12th, 2010
9:37 am

113 and 118. That says it all right there. That is on the head coach. Richt is an average coach in a talent rich invironment. And he’s a nice guy. He can win an SEC east title again if Florida slips and all the stars align in the rest of the east. But that’s a big if. Then he’ll have to face Saban and thats never good for him.

Les Miles doesn’t have a clue about clock management or most other aspects of football. He is surrounded by quality assistant coaches and tons of talent and that covers up his lack of understanding of the game. He made several fourth down gutsy calls in one year and people started to believe he was a great coach. But were really gutsy calls? If you had polled 20 guys in a bar and asked them would they go for it on fourth down in all of those situations; most of them would have said, hell yeah, lets go for it as they downed their beer. My point is that he gambled and won. But then his luck ran out and his actual coaching ability started to reveal itself.

I like having Richt and Miles in the SEC. Somebody has to set the bar for the middle of the pack in the east and west. They’ll do.

Typical Bama Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:38 am

God I wish I did not need this drool-guard for my keyboard.

Reality

May 12th, 2010
9:39 am

Richt will be in trouble after UGA goes 8-5 this year.

BG

May 12th, 2010
9:39 am

Mark Richt owns Georgia Tech. 8-1 baby!!!!!!!!

9999

May 12th, 2010
9:41 am

CMR’s early career at GA benefited by not having
the likes of Spurrier, Saban, Meyer around.

GA wont sniff an SEC title for a long long time.

GA will be lucky to even win their division.

Paul Finebaum

May 12th, 2010
9:41 am

My family tree forks and I removed my drool-guard. But then again I am not a typical Bama fan. I am the Kaiser, Czar and Imperator of the Bama Nation.

NoGaGator

May 12th, 2010
9:41 am

Playing them every year, I hope that both Coach Richt and Miles stay at their respective schools for a long time to come.

Reality

May 12th, 2010
9:42 am

UGA loses to SC, UF, KY, Auburn and GT this year.

Typical Gator Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:44 am

God I wish I didn’t have to use childish insults to mask my jealousy towards a storied college football team like the University of Alabama.

Typical Gator Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:45 am

I say things like, “I hope he coaches for a long time because we beat them so often.”

The rest of us

May 12th, 2010
9:47 am

I hope Coach Urban Meyer coaches a couple more years. His reaction, as few as there are, is priceless when he loses. There won’t be enough Ambien in North America to help him get sleep in the 2010 season.

Well....

May 12th, 2010
9:48 am

9999,

Saban was around early in Richt’s tenure at UGA. He coached at LSU.

You’re a moron.

Ben

May 12th, 2010
9:48 am

Tony, as a lifelong Dawg fan, I was completely satisfied with the changes and improvements Richt made in the off season. He has shown reluctance to cut bait too quickly, sometimes to the detriment of the team, but the changes that were made directly addressed our most GLARING issues. I think Richt can coach but I think he fell into thinking he could keep doing the same things that won him previous Championships. The landscape has changed since 2005. You have to adapt and his willingness to do so has shown me that he still has the desire to win. Can’t wait to see the new Defense and Special Teams.

Typical Bama Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:49 am

You are jealous…right? Please don’t convey to me that my spiritual life dedicated to Bama worship has all been a lie? Look at my fine Hound’s Tooth Hat….surely you are jealous of that? You mean you wouldn’t trade my doublewide for a national championship? The two are unrelated…right?

anotherdawg

May 12th, 2010
9:50 am

Mark Richt is a great coach, and even better man. He has made changes that needed to be made, and given time, I believe he will not only succeed, but possibly win it all. But, it takes talent, a lot of work, and some breaks to do that. If he was ignoring the problems, it would be different, but I honestly think he wants to win as much as any of us. I remember Saban’s dismay when UGA beat the crap out of one of his LSU teams. Richt is a competitor and a class act. Anyone that thinks you should fire a man like this is an idiot.

Football Fan

May 12th, 2010
9:53 am

Richt’s winning percentage is quite a bit higher than Dooley’s and Dooley is a saint. What gives? You could do much worse than CMR. MUCH WORSE!

Ramble Upwards

May 12th, 2010
9:54 am

You Uga nimrods are such a bunch of well-meaning sheep. Richt is ineffective and you guys are so soft, gullible, well-intentioned or just plain stoopid to realize it. Believe me, the rest of us in the conference are mightily grateful.