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

DP

May 12th, 2010
9:55 am

Tony, I agree with your analysis except for a couple of minor points. While I think Richt still has plenty of goodwill with the UGA administration and most Georgia fans, I think if he goes 7-5 with 10 starters back on offense and a soft schedule (no Alabama or LSU and no tough out of conference games other than Tech), he will be on the hot seat a year from now. They should do better than that. If Murray is a flop or goes down with an injury, Richt will catch enormous heat for the lack of depth at QB. Had Richt not fired Willie Martinez after last season, I think a 7-5 year this year could have cost him his job. But with a new DC and defensive scheme I think another bad year defensively (though not as bad as the last 2) will be forgiven.

As you say, Les Miles is under much more duress at LSU. I’ve never thought he was a good coach. His national championship team of 2007 was so talented it should have gone undefeated but he somehow managed to lose to Kentucky and Arkansas and almost blew the Auburn game with clock management. They were incredibly lucky to get a shot at the national championship game in 2007 thanks to the epic West Virginia (Rodriguez) choke job against a bad Pitt team.

I think if Miles goes 7-5 or 8-4 he will be gone from LSU, but there’s no way Michigan would consider him to replace Rodriguez (thanks to Mrs. Rodriguez for vetoing the Alabama job) under those circumstances. He may have already burned the Michigan bridge with the lack of a running game at LSU last year and the clock fiasco against Ole Miss.

While Finebaum may be your friend, even as an Alabama partisan I recognize him for what he is: a front running bomb thrower. In the old days I think they called it yellow journalism.

SaintsLSU

May 12th, 2010
9:55 am

Les Miles is a tough arguement amongst LSU fans. He won the National Championship in his 3rd year. I know what you are going to say, he did it with Saban’s players. Yes, and Saban did it with Shula’s players, Meyer did it with Zook’s players. LSU’s slide the past two years can be traced back to kicking that knucklehead Ryan Perrilloux off our team. It forced LSU to start QBs before they were ready. I’m still not completely sold on Jefferson, but it would have been nice to give him two years to develop before he was in the mix. I think LSU fans expceted too much from JJ after he and a talented Tigers squad trashed an inferior ACC team (GT) in a bowl game (Chick-Fil-A) at the end of a frustrating ‘08 season. Heck, even Jarret Lee might have been a good QB in time if he was not thrown into the fire in ‘08. But yes, I cant argue the downward spiral of our football program over the last two years. And yes, there are many D-1 coaches that could have won the NC with the team LSU had in ‘06 and ‘07. Last years Ole Miss game (Timeout-gate) was the most embarrasing moment we have experienced in the Miles era. And it sure doesn’t help Miles that Saban is kicking a$$ at Bama. It just reminds us of what was. All this being said, I still have confidence that Miles and the Tigers can go 10-2 this season. But there is a fine line between 10-2 and 8-4 in the SEC.

Jack Nicklaus

May 12th, 2010
9:57 am

9999,

Richt’s record against Spurrier at South Carolina is 4-1.

You’re a moron.

Richt beat Saban

May 12th, 2010
9:59 am

To 9999:

Saban was at LSU when Richt won the SEC in 2002 and won the east in 2003. Get your facts straight.

Ramble Upwards

May 12th, 2010
10:00 am

Eat the dust of Josh Nesbitt and Co.

ozzfest

May 12th, 2010
10:00 am

I am cool with Richt as coach…but if Georgia does somehow drop to 7-5 with the weak schedule in 2010, HE SHOULD BE FIRED.

Jackie Moon

May 12th, 2010
10:02 am

Finebaum has it right, but the UGA admin will not get it right. Richt has had time to get the program to a national championship level and he has failed to do so. Give him another 10 years and he will not get close. Sure he might get lucky and win another SEC title but that’s a longshot as of right now. Urban Meyer sure hopes Richt hangs around UGA a long, long time.

1980 Natl Champs Pretty Much by Default

May 12th, 2010
10:02 am

Let me knock a little luster off of UGA’s only claim to fame in the last 50 years or so. The 1980 team went 12-0, beating Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl 17-10. That year, the Dawgs’ opponents were a combined 55-78. (!) They were 16-42 in their respective conferences (!!). Only 4 of the 12 teams had a winning season. (!!!) Notre Dame was beaten by USC 20-3 that year and TIED GA TECH who went 1-9-1 on the season. (!!!!) HOW BOUT THEM DAWGS NOW !!!!!!!!!!

BG

May 12th, 2010
10:03 am

Ozzfest, Weak schedule?? This schedule looks like a typical UF schedule.

Thanks Tony

May 12th, 2010
10:06 am

Mr. SEC… Mr. SEC…Mr. SEC… Mr. SEC…

Typical Gator Fan

May 12th, 2010
10:07 am

Please, nobody go through the chain of events that comes with the championship runs the Gators went on. That will really knock the rust of our championships.

Chris

May 12th, 2010
10:07 am

I don’t understand why this is a constant conversation topic. Have we all forgotten the Ray Goff years? I know that I haven’t. If you simply compare Richt’s numbers to any of Georgia’s past coaches, you’ll see that he’s arguably the best. One national title, and he’s inarguably #1, and to think that he won’t win one before he’s done in Athens means that you haven’t been watching for the last nine years.

Anonymous

May 12th, 2010
10:08 am

Les Miles needs to buy a watch.

Dazzling Danny

May 12th, 2010
10:08 am

Tony-

You nailed it. Paul F. can’t be taken seriously, he’s an Alabama homer.

Richt is not a good self promoter like Kiffin or Miles. That’s hurt him. But, his substance is solid. His track record is there. His down seasons are an 8 win season.

Disagree with you about the most important stat is turnover margin. I think it’s scoring margin being +20, if you’re at +20, the penalties and turnovers don’t matter, as Jimmy Johnson proved at Miami.

Pal F. doesn’t point out Richt’s recent record against the ALABAMA SCHOOL IS 3-1 AGAINST BAMA AND 4-0 AGAINST aUBURN. 7-1 IS SIGNIFICANT. Urban Meyer is 0-2 against auburn, and 2-2 against Bama.

I can see why Paul wants Richt out, less competition, but likely, Saban will leave again, like he does after 5 years, every single time in his career. Saban’s a gypsy.

Burdell

May 12th, 2010
10:11 am

They both coach at schools with delusional fan bases but Les Miles is a creep. At least Richt seems to be a good guy…

GO JACKETS!

Mike

May 12th, 2010
10:12 am

Les is on borrowed time, Richt is not. I agree that Les could be living in Ann Arbor, Michigan as soon as December.

Wolveriner

May 12th, 2010
10:15 am

Why do you yokels think that we cannot see Les Miles for the empty hat that he is? We don’t want him. Nice try.

Big House

May 12th, 2010
10:16 am

Why would Michigan want Miles ?

Big 10 - slow football played on knee high grass

May 12th, 2010
10:20 am

Michigan is trash. Give me a break.

76-Dawg

May 12th, 2010
10:21 am

UGA should have gotten rid of Martinez 2 or three years earlier and Bobo is not an offensive coordinator but CMR is trying to find someone in those positions that will be at UGA for 10 to 20 years. The worst thing in the world is to showcase an offensive or defensive coordinator and then he leave after 3 years to be a head coach. CMR didn’t like it when he had to fire Martinez but something radical had to be done after one of the worst defensive years in UGA history. Bobo will never leave UGA voluntarily but this should be his last training year. It’s time Bobo stepped up and showed what he has learned, discipline, consistency, being able to keep up with the speed of an SEC game.

Otto

May 12th, 2010
10:21 am

MIles was never fully accepted at LSU even during the season he won a national title some did fully endorse him. After he won the title you just heard it was with Saban’s players. Les could be gone if he does not win the right games.

CMR would ahve to really screw up to be fire after the end of this season but if ‘11 odes not get to 10 wins and atleast very close against UF it may not look so good.

CMR has 2 wins against the arch rival Florida and alot of it is his fault for putting in a backup QB who tosses an INT, not taking the redshirt off a QB when the starter goes down or just being out coached as in the past 2 years. The location has nothing to do with it, CMR usually has a great road team. If anything being in Jax is an davantage thanks to that road record, UF has to travel by bus, and sadly Athens does not compete with UF, UT, and LSU in terms of noise and home field advantage. SOS regularly outcoached Goff and Donnan making the record that much worse.

WonderDawg

May 12th, 2010
10:24 am

Some more important numbers Tony. If UGA in ‘07 was “as good as anybody in the country,” how did Richt let us get beat by inferior SC and UT? Tony, do you think Saban or Myer could have run the table in ‘07 and ‘08 with those UGA teams?

I am a big Richt supporter and hope he stays our head coach for a long time, but I think he lacks some of the qualities that Saban, Myer, and some others have. His tender-heartedness towards his obviously over-matched assistants (Martinez and Bobo) have let UGA spiral downward so fast, last season almost seemed like a return to the Ray Goff days. Kiffin making fun of how easy it was to game plan for UGA reminded me of Spurrier making fun of Goff.

Hiring Grantham will help put UGA back in the mix, but Richt will have to raid the NFL again (this time for a OC) in order for UGA to compete with Saban’s Tide and Myer’s Gators again.

dawgfan

May 12th, 2010
10:25 am

I think its pretty foolish to write off Richt or Miles based on a couple of underwhelming years. People act like Saban and Meyer win national championships every time they field a team. Saban has had is fair share of mediocre seasons and Meyer has two 9 win seasons at Florida, which may have been worse if Florida didn’t have such a favorable schedule every year (couldn’t resist). He will have more if he doesn’t have a mental breakdown first. Great coaches have not so great years.

timthebrave

May 12th, 2010
10:26 am

Les Miles is on the hot seat. Mark Richt is not and shouldn’t be. If he averages 10 wins a season like he has for the first 9 years he will never be on the hot seat.

Wolveriner

May 12th, 2010
10:26 am

A Big 10 team beat one of your premier SEC teams in the slop in Jax on NYD as I recall. All this SEC triumphalism is overdone…since your universities (with 1 exception) are 3rd rate, I guess you need something to compensate.

DP

May 12th, 2010
10:26 am

Good data on Georgia’s strength of schedule in 1980. Where’s JB, the Georgia homer who claims Alabama had a soft schedule last year when it beat 10 bowl teams and 4 top 10 teams?

observer

May 12th, 2010
10:30 am

Miles is a better coach than Richt. Richt recruits a bunch of undisciplined thugs and can’t control them, either on or off the field. UGA fans LOVE Richt…what does that say about them?

Johnny DangerDawg

May 12th, 2010
10:30 am

Some of the penalty problems are things the coaches can fix (eg: teaching young offensive linemen not to move before the ball is snapped). Other penalty problems are really the result of referees being more stingy in Georgia games. Am I saying the referees are trying to make Georgia lose? NO. But I do believe that ever since the endzone dance in Jacksonville, the refs have been watching BOTH teams much more closely in Georgia games.
How else do you explain the Georgia opponents who tend who get MORE penalties against Georgia than the get when they compete against other teams? Look at last year’s Oklahoma State game (OK State got 15 penalties; UGA got 7.) If every team had to play Georgia every week, I think Georgia’s national ranking for penalties would average out to be about in the middle!

SaintsLSU

May 12th, 2010
10:32 am

This is HUGE year for Coach Miles. Anything less than 9-3 will not be tolerated. LSU can afford losses vs Florida & Bama, although I think LSU will beat Bama. We just can’t slip up vs an inferrior team, and that can easily happen on the road in the SEC. What happens to Miles if LSU goes 8-4? I don’t think that’s enough to fire someone after winning the ‘07 NC.

A Heckofanengineer

May 12th, 2010
10:32 am

Richt is as mediocre as a piece of Wonderbread. He is just in that sweet spot of being too good to fire and not good enough to really win anything of substance.

RichRod = man of integrity and honor

May 12th, 2010
10:32 am

The Big 10 “academic” argument is overstated and overplayed. You people are delusional.

You’re looking at bringing in Nebraska, Missouri, Pitt, and Rutgers for crying out loud.

Tulane rules

May 12th, 2010
10:35 am

At this rate of decline, even we will be able to take down LSU in a few years!

Dwight

May 12th, 2010
10:36 am

i could care less about miles and richt, ROLL MF TIDE!

dawgster

May 12th, 2010
10:37 am

Flowery Branch, You had a very good post and i agree with your comments, its obvious that you know a great deal about football.. To win an NC you have to be good, but also you must have some luck too… The ttimes when the dawgs were very good, the luck factor didn’t fall their way, of course you make you have to make your own luck too.. The times when the dawgs did not have a great season, whether due to injuries, coaching or talent, the dawgs wouldn’t have been helped by luck…It has been a while as we know since the dawgs won a NC but alot of teams are in that boat, it just so happens that Bama and the Gators are in the SEC….Remember it wasn’t too many years back that Bama was not relevant either, so things can change pretty quickly..I hear alot of talk about getting rid of Coach Richt, mostly from what have you done for me lately fans..Tell me who out there would do better than Coach Richt that would gaurentee a NC for us…We still compete in the strongest conference in America by most accounts…We still will be competing against Bama, Gators and other very good teams in the SEC…Please lets stay behind Coach Richt and staff and let him do his job…He made some tough changes in the coaching staff this past off season-lets see how it plays out…One thing i do know about Coach Richt, he is very, very competitive and i can assure he wants to bring an NC to the dawg nation…

suwaneedawg

May 12th, 2010
10:38 am

All I have got to say is people best have patience this year because like it or not, this is a rebuilding year. New QB, new coaches, and new defense means mistakes will happen when we don’t want them to. Richt should no more be on the hot seat then Saban or Meyers. The guy bleeds red & black and has brought respect to the program. Will we win the east this year? Most likely not and we very well could have a year like last. What matters to me is what happens in 2011 and beyond. If we are still running at a 4-5 loss seasons then changes will need to take place at the top. I hope UGA fans understand what this guy had done for our program and will not make this year into a make or break for Richt. What other pinheads on these blogs think from other schools means nothing. What matters is our base and are we going to accept that this is a re-building year and keep our expectations real. I guess we will find out.

Wolveriner

May 12th, 2010
10:39 am

Pitt is a good school…the others…ahem…not so much. Which is why they will never be offered!

As for delusional, you need to look around the SEC to realize that you all have chosen bread and circuses over real universities (again, with 1 exception) and are a bunch of world class chumps for having done so.

DAWG Colonel

May 12th, 2010
10:39 am

CMR will be in Athens long after Les Miles gets the boot at LSU, Nick Saban leaves for the NFL (again) and Urban Meyer retires for health reasons.

Mark Richt is the class of the SEC. He has made some mistakes because he is too much of a “nice guy”. I think he has finally realized that and has taken corrective action. I don’t think he will let personal relationships get in the way of necessary decisions in the future.

As previously posted, Bear Bryant and Bobby Bowden took years to win national championships. CMR will get his in time also.

Saban and Meyer are great coaches but also anomolies (they achieved greatness so fast that it has become the standard). But once the championships are gone, there is no personality or “Class”……just an empty trophy case where the National Championship Trophy used to sit.

UGA may not have the trophies but we have a coach with “Class” and a personality that most admire. CMR will be the head DAWG for many more years. .

Greg

May 12th, 2010
10:41 am

Tony, you lost my at “my good friend Paul Finebaum”. If you are good friends with that POS then a good bit of my respect for you just went out the door. He is a hack and a Bama homer. Everything he does is to help out the Tide. That article was written because Miles is Bama’s biggest rival in the West and because Bama recruits heavily in Georgia. Any one that thought this wasn’t the case before, just look at him on the sidelines in Bama gear for their spring game. Give me a break…

sugarpikegang

May 12th, 2010
10:42 am

I hope you hang around for years to come!

Signed,
A Tech Alumus

5IML

May 12th, 2010
10:43 am

Dawg Fans,

On Monday while the Richts were shooting a carpet commercial, Saban was in California shooting a GameDay commercial with Mack Brown. He was there because BAMA won the BCS championship last year. Nationally, no one cares what Richt’s record is over the last nine years or his record against this coach or that coach. The Championship is what it’s about.

[...] that they are.)Today, Barnhart — for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution — writes that the similarities between Richt and Miles are few.“…Richt’s situation and that of Miles just aren’t comparable.  If Miles [...]

SaintsLSU

May 12th, 2010
10:45 am

Toolame sucks, don’t count on it!

Otto

May 12th, 2010
10:47 am

Timthebrave, I do not think 10 wins a year should guarantee a coach his job. Bama fired Curry who could beat every team in the SEC but Auburn. They found a coach that would win National Titles. Shula won several game at Bama under probation but didn’t win the big ones. THey have another coach that has won a national title and expected to win more. I do not think UGA should settle.

It is one thing to be .500 against your top rival waiting for the year where everything lines up but it is not. The seat may not be hot but it is getting warm.

Tulane Rules

May 12th, 2010
10:48 am

Even Mike the Tiger opted for suicide.

SOOHSO

May 12th, 2010
10:48 am

UGA has another boring 9-3 or 10-2 season. Can’t win the BIG ones!!!

RichRod = man of integrity and honor

May 12th, 2010
10:50 am

Florida ranks 9 spots higher than Pitt in the national rankings. UGA is 2 spots behind.

Delusional.

So do you guys hear this same crap from the Ivy League schools? Is that why you’re like this?

bull-gator

May 12th, 2010
10:50 am

Les Miles is to LSU as Ron Zook was to Florida…only with a little more luck.

SOOHSO

May 12th, 2010
10:50 am

Enter your comments here

Johnny Devereaux

May 12th, 2010
10:51 am

Tony you highlighted the differences between UGA and LSU very well. UGA is ok with medocrity so yes a 7-5 season will probably keep Richt in Athens another year. While in Baton Rouge, anything less than 10-2 will get Miles run out of town. This is also the reason why LSU has 2 national championships to UGA’s zero this past decade. Miles is the better recruiter and LSU is the better program.

Have a great day!!

Otto

May 12th, 2010
10:52 am

Greg, Finebaum is a UT alum. He does articles and radio shows are written to provoke a response like a Howard Stern of Alabama sports media. He is not a Bama homer but being in the media business in Bama you get better ratings if it is often pro Bama. I was disappointed to see Tony call him a friend.