Has Mark Richt earned the right to fix the problem at Georgia?

 I’m not going to sugarcoat this. What I see from the football team at the University of Georgia is not good. I picked Colorado to win last Saturday because I really wondered how much fight was left in this team. To Georgia’s credit, and I trust Tim Tucker’s judgment on this, effort was not the issue Saturday night in Boulder. The inability to execute basic plays in pressure situations and the inability to play defense at the most fundamental level was the problem.

Based on my mail and the folks who call in to my radio show, there are a lot of people who are convinced that the Georgia football program after 10 years under  Mark Richt has lost the necessary edge of coaching,  talent and game day savvy to compete at the very top of the SEC.

I get all that and when a team is 1-4 all those arguments can be made and they are fair. Still,  I am not backing away from this position: I believe that Mark Richt will be head coach at Georgia next season. But if this season continues to go South, some tough decisions are going to have to be made.

When things start going bad, the reaction always seems to be to fire the head coach because people believe there is always another Urban Meyer or Nick Saban waiting around the corner. You just have to go out and find him. Rarely do coaching transitions go that smoothly.

 Florida had to go through Ron Zook in order to get to Urban Meyer. Alabama went through Mike DuBose and the devastating NCAA probation that followed. Then it was two years of Dennis Franchione, an embarrassing episode  with Mike Price, and Mike Shula before Nick Saban returned them to the promised land. And also remember that Rich Rodriguez took the Alabama job and changed his mind or Saban would probably not be the coach today.

Changing head coaches in this league isn’t a simple process. A lot of the time the program has to go backwards before it goes forward again.

As I said a week ago, I look at Georgia and I see a team that isn’t very good. The offensive line has underachieved. The running backs aren’t bad but they aren’t All-SEC caliber. It’s easy to blame the defensive problems on the scheme but these guys were getting gashed pretty good last year running the old scheme.

Yes, you can make the point that the landscape of the SEC has changed pretty dramatically since Mark Richt won his last SEC championship in 2005. Meyer and Saban have raised the bar, there is no doubt about that. You can argue that it’s hard for any coach to maintain his edge after 10 years in one place. At some point you wonder if the players start tuning out the head coach.

But understand that when you let go of a guy who is a proven winner, you are taking a tremendous risk. Ole Miss couldn’t understand why it wasn’t as good after Eli Manning left. So they forced out David Cutcliffe, who only led the Rebels to five straight winning seasons. They wanted somebody more exciting in Oxford and chose Ed Orgeron, a good recruiter who wasn’t ready to be a head coach then and will probably never be a head coach again.

Tennessee was two bad passes away from winning the SEC championship in 2007. But after 16 years under Phillip Fulmer fans wanted something new and exciting instead of the tried and true. They wanted a rock star as their head coach like Alabama and Florida had in Saban and Meyer. So they hired a sun tanned Wonder Boy from Southern California. And we know how that one turned out. He’s back at USC and Tennessee had to hire a solid man in Derek Dooley to clean up the mess. Now Tennessee is looking at several difficult years before the program can be restored.

Greg McGarity, who became Georgia’s athletics director in July, learned from Vince Dooley and Jeremy Foley, two of the best ADs ever. He hasn’t told me this but I’m guessing that the last thing he wants to do just five months into the job is let go of a head coach who has won a pair of SEC championships (2002, 2005), played for another (2003), and might have had the best team in the country in 2007.

Having said all that,  there is no question that things are not going well in the football program at Georgia and that something needs to be done. So how about this:

McGarity sits down with Richt at the end of the season and says: “Coach, here is what I see. We should be competing consistently for the SEC East championship and right now we are not at that level.  In order to do that, what do you need that you currently don’t have? Whatever it is, I’ll get it for you. But I want you to identify the problems and then give me a plan to get us back on the right track.”

If you’re Mark Richt, you have to be willing to look at everything. Start with yourself and your level of commitment. Do you have the passion and the fire in the belly to do what is necessary to get Georgia back on top?

Then you have to look at your entire organization. What about your recruiting organization? Are you bringing in the right players but just not developing them to the SEC championship level? Or, is your talent evaluation not good enough?

You have to look at your strength and conditioning program. Is everything being done there that can be done? Look at the way Alabama’s players fill out their uniforms and look at yours.

What is the level of accountability throughout the organization? Have you changed? Are you doing things differently from when you first got here? You have to look at everything because at this point everything has to be on the table.

If Greg McGarity is satisfied with that plan, then everybody moves forward. I just believe that Richt has earned the right to fix what is wrong. I know a lot of people disagree and I respect their right to do so.

I would argue that Saturday’s game with Tennessee is a very important 60 minutes of football in the short term history of the program at Georgia. The crowd may be flat. They saw Georgia lose a heartbreaker to Arkansas on Sept. 18 followed by two inexplicable road losses at Mississippi State and Colorado. They are upset and dispirited. Coach Richt, you and your team have to change that with the way you play on the field. We are at the point where the team needs to lift its fans.

Here is what drives fans crazy. They feel that wearing the Georgia uniform and having the chance to play at Sanford Stadium is a privilege. They are emotionally invested in the program and have been for generations.   The fans would like to believe that Georgia’s players feel the same way. Fans that I hear from are starting to wonder if the players care about Georgia as much as they do. And that is not a fun place to be.

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706 comments Add your comment

uga_b

October 5th, 2010
8:13 am

Tony B.

Like you, I fully believed he would be back next season. The reason for that is I thought that even if we struggled, he wouldn’t lose the team. I am not sure he hasn’t. Double Negative FTW!

Anyway, the tipping point for me was the MSU game…arrest. At that point, I decided in my head that 7 was the magic number. If he gets some combination of 7 losses/arrests, I think he is on the “hot seat”. He needs the team to compete the rest of the year and look like they want to win even if they don’t.

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
8:14 am

@Stillman/Fl. Dawg …if UGA’s players are not SEC caliber why were they fighting with Fla, BAMA, Tenn, etc for the players? Don’t buy that theory.

Fleming Island Dawg

October 5th, 2010
8:14 am

Palladin it’s not that long agao and I remember the good and the bad not like some bandwagon fans who forget their down years. I was just correcting the facts not taking a shot but if you must then like I said the last 4 against AL we are 3 and 1. So I guess you can’t brag about the last time AL beat us because we had a bad year? Never said it was a signature win so quit getting so uptight just like the facts to be set right since you were so positive we only won by a field goal.

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
8:15 am

@Real

I would like to see both Georgia and Tennessee regain the respect that they once had nationally. It is good for the overall conference for our traditional powers to be powerful.

You may not like taking advice from a Bama fan — but we’ve been in this situation before. The advice is free and you are free to ignore it — at your own peril.

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
8:16 am

taking a page from the Shula years at Bama.

I have it on pretty good word that Mal Moore asked the same “game plan” of Mike Shula following the 2006 Iron Bowl. Shula politely (of course) told him to go sh*t in his hat. Head coaches tend to think that way. Six weeks later, Saban lands at Tuscaloosa.

I predict a similar outcome at UGA.

jwritz

October 5th, 2010
8:18 am

Tony, I couldn’t have said it better. I am a 30 year plus season ticket holder and if anyone has the right to complain it should be us. I see a football team that does not have the drive to compete at this level. Football is not a one man game, it’s a team sport. I see many problems within this progam. Fundamentals like tackling and blocking are not been executed, to many many penalties, player more concerned about themself than the team (this has been spiralling down for a few years now). Is this just a coaching problem or is it the players we recruit? I think it is a combination of both. Men need to stand up and be men and held accountable. End of story….

secfootball

October 5th, 2010
8:19 am

The SMART decision needs to be made if it continues south for the dawgs.

bad brad

October 5th, 2010
8:19 am

Well said, especially the last paragraph.

I for one am sick and tired of the dancing, showboating, etc that goes on after someone makes a great play. Win all your games then you can dance all you want.

And how in the world do you let one player commit three personal fouls in one game and still be playing at the end.

We need to start playing to win and quit playing not to lose…

And I don’t care what anybody says, it looked like a flea-flicker to me.

Fleming Island Dawg

October 5th, 2010
8:20 am

Palladin again not trying to blow out of proportion a win against a lowly AL team but that year I was in AL at my Aunt’s 100 year birthsday party in the Hotel lobby watching the game with a room full of AL fans getting all kinds of grief so of course I remeber how it ends. Didn’t say it was signature. If you base seasons on only beating teams with winning records most teams wouldn’t have much of a season.

5IML

October 5th, 2010
8:21 am

Mark Richt = Bobby Bowden

Both probably genuinely nice guys who win due to talent not strategy. Both are lackadaisical when it comes to discipline. Richt cannot change who he is.

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
8:21 am

@Fleming Island Dawg

You won that game in overtime — by three points.

Your last four games against Alabama cover a rather long (and dark) period in Alabama’s history. When a fan base starts to choose selective time frames in order to justify their record, then there is a problem. It’s your problem — not mine. Do with it what you will.

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
8:21 am

changing the subject

did anyone notice that the LSU Center (I think his name is Herbert), saved Les Miles’ bacon against UT?

The game was chaos. He had the presence of mind to realize the clock was running out, and snapped the ball. Had he delayed, it wouldn’t have mattered if UT had 20 players on the field.

Red Panties

October 5th, 2010
8:23 am

Unfortunately the dawgs have gone from AKC Champion pure breed dawgs, to a bunch of flea bitten mutts from the dog shelter.

5IML

October 5th, 2010
8:25 am

@ Palladin and 3rd,

Let’s step away from the Richt stuff for a moment. Regarding our discussion yesterday, McElroy is just not thinking:

Greg McElroy said he was still sore Monday from some of the shots he took against Florida.

“I think I definitely need to start sliding,” he said. “It’s not that I don’t understand the importance of sliding and staying healthy. When I’m out there, I have a hard time going down. You can see myself slow down before I take a hit, almost as if I’m thinking of sliding, but it doesn’t really process, I guess, within my mind.

“It’s something that I probably need to start doing. It’s a long season and we’re five games in. I’ve gotten lucky not to take too many huge hits up to this point. I might not be so lucky next time.”

Hopefully, this can be fixed.

drew

October 5th, 2010
8:25 am

nope, he won’t fix it. he can’t fix it

Ole Ball Fan

October 5th, 2010
8:25 am

Alabama, UF, USC, Arkansas, and perhaps Miss State all have better coaching staffs than UGA. Even the Mad hatter’s staff in LSU might give them a run for the money. That’s scary!

SimpleDawg

October 5th, 2010
8:25 am

A lot of good points being made……

I could argue both sides of the debate, only I’m not sure who would be the solution if Richt is let go. We would certainly have to steal a coach from another successful program…..and they would not want to lose him. It would still be a crap shoot. There just aren’t many Sabans or Meyers out there, and are they at their pinnacle of performance, or are they still learning and growing?

As much as I hate watching Georgia get embarrassed, I’m glad that I don’t have the responsibility of making the decision that will positively or negatively impact the program for many years.

All I do know is that the status quo is not acceptable.

The bar has been raised. It’s a high jump, not a limbo.

atlvol55

October 5th, 2010
8:25 am

Yes,

While for some reason, it does seem like coaches hit that wall at 10 years; Richt certainly deserves a chance to get things back on track. Its not like Georgia has been getting blown out. They have been in every game to the end…

I predict Georgia finishes 7-5 or 6-6 at the very worse….Murray is just a freshman and will some experience could be a very good qb

Ole Ball Fan

October 5th, 2010
8:26 am

Oh – I left out Auburn!

Stillman/Fl. Dawg

October 5th, 2010
8:27 am

82Dawg–If they were SEC type players once they got to UGA and UNDERCOACHED then you are not SEC type players. When you leave our front 7, they DO NOT LOOK SEC TYPE…..

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
8:27 am

@3rdn8

Regarding the end of that LSU game, I think it was jumbeautiger who pointed out that the Quarterback dove on the ball with 0 seconds left on the clock. Nobody that stupid should be put behind Center in a major college football game.

[...] Has Richt earned the right to fix the problem at Georgia? asks Tony Barnhart of the AJC. [...]

Red Panties

October 5th, 2010
8:28 am

Richt needs to teach his player to act like they have scored a TD before, made a good catch and made a good run for a first down. All you see from the clowns playing for Richt when they do something right, is look at me! look at me! look at me! It’s all me and not team.

TONY B ROCKS

October 5th, 2010
8:29 am

Ole Ball Fan

October 5th, 2010
8:30 am

I see this all the time in business. Manager’s that don’t hire smarter people then they are and who have strengths that offset their own weakness eventually fail.

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
8:30 am

@5IML

I agree. Greg needs to take better care of himself. After all, he’s no Cam Newton.

richham

October 5th, 2010
8:31 am

Can we please get off the notion that Chris Peterson (Boise St) is a viable candidate for an SEC school. He will run into major head winds at any SEC school because he is a scientologist. It’s probably the reason he is still at Boise State.

Ole Ball Fan

October 5th, 2010
8:32 am

I should have said it this way – if you don’t constantly work to surround yourself with the very best people – you are doomed to failure.

Northern Sympathizer

October 5th, 2010
8:33 am

Agree with SEC football. We need the SMART decision.

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
8:33 am

argument for conference parity.

I can’t see a way to come up with an objective poll in college football. Conference power rankings are a farce. There simply isn’t enough inter-conference play over the course of a season to make informed judgements.

I’m a Bama, and SEC fan, but don’t see a huge difference between here and there. “There” being the Big 10, or PAC 10. I look at Oregon, and OSU, and think they could play with anyone. I even agree with Brando on the Boise State issue.

The only real solution to this quagmire is to disband the major conferences. But they own CFB, so that won’t happend in my lifetime.

Alphare

October 5th, 2010
8:33 am

“Vince Dooley and Jeremy Foley, two of the best ADs ever”.

Tony, you have a wrong sentence here. It should be “Vince Dooley and Jeremy Foley, the worst and best ADs ever”.

Red Panties

October 5th, 2010
8:34 am

If Richt is fired, we will have the same problem we had hiring a DC, 3 turns and finally anybody who would come. Who would want to come to:

U

Get

Arrested and coach these undisciplined player, It would take a really good coach 5 years to weed out all the trouble makeres and half hearted players.

Please....

October 5th, 2010
8:34 am

Most head coaches at elite SEC programs like Auburn, Georgia, Florida, etc. are paid so much money they’re all set for life after a few years. They’ll never have to work again if they don’t want to. Their jobs become hobbies. They lose their edge. That’s not necessarily true for all of them, but I think it’s definitely a factor. I know if I made that kind of money I sure as hell wouldn’t be too worried about what the boss thinks, says or does. CMR seems to be a good man and a good coach, but what’s his motivation? At this point in his career it has to come from within. He must want success not only for himself and his family but also for his players and the UGA faithful. Maybe all that is just not as important as it used to be. He’s already acheived massive financial success. His kids and thier kids will never have money issues. Maybe, just maybe, the tremendous pay these coaches recieve is coming home to roost.
In the mean time, War Damn Eagle! It’s Great to be an Auburn Tiger!

SOGADOG

October 5th, 2010
8:35 am

Mr. Barnhardt,

You said it all. I agree 100%.

Keith Strawn

October 5th, 2010
8:36 am

Richt has the same problem as Les Miles — He looks bad even when the team is winning.

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
8:37 am

@GT Dude – “A common thread among most comments is that Richt is a “good man”; what the heck does being a good man have to do with being a good coach, I rarely hear the term “good guy” when one speaks of Saban, Meyers, Rodrigues, Kelly,….”

Coach Saban is a good man. He’s actually a very nice guy — off the field.

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
8:37 am

@ 51ML

I suspect McElroy is hearing from the QB coach this week over this issue. I know he is a competitive guy, and that’s a good thing. But, it is still a long season, and Bama’s best chance to run the table is with an experienced QB. The risk-reward of getting an extra two feet on a throw-away down is just not acceptable.

Gen Neyland

October 5th, 2010
8:39 am

Many of us post our feelings based on the current situation. In that regard, I can only imagine the ire and frustration in the Michigan blogs over the past few years. Being it is what it is, we have two programs meeting up Saturday that has one looking to a hopefully, better tomorrow and one which is wondering what happened to today, today. Their overall respective and objective sentiments are based on the right now. Can we blame us..? Nope. We’re fans.

Noboby rides the crest short or long term without a price. All experience it along the way. I just hope I live long enough and remain young enough to enjoy another National Championship Atop Rocky. **Note to CDD–Please Hurry..! Good luck to us both. GBO…

Gator Mike

October 5th, 2010
8:39 am

I am a die hard Gator, and I do not have a right to speak up on the situation at UGA. What I will say is that the SEC needs the DAWGS to be a power in the conference and nationally. In my opinion, Coach Richt will fix it. I t would be a travesty to see UGA make the same stupid decision that the idiot AD at UT made when he fired Phil Fulmer. I believe the VOLS would still be in the hunt efvery year if Fulmer were still the UT coach.
Sayingall of that, note that McGarity was at UF for many years with Jeremy Foley. He saw the results of hiring a coach like Zook. Spurrier walked out on UF, and Foley knee jerked when Stoops and some others turn down the UF job. McGarrity is a smart guy, and he will make the best decision for the DAWGS. Everything runs in cycles (look at the way UF is struggling). We all need the DAWGS and VOLS to be in the hunt every year.
Just my opinion.
Go Gators!

Tom, Resident Georgia Fan

October 5th, 2010
8:40 am

Hey Phil: Learn to spell and realize that you are the most irrelevant person in the world. Now get back in the closet.

Red Panties

October 5th, 2010
8:41 am

richham

October 5th, 2010
8:31 am
Can we please get off the notion that Chris Peterson (Boise St) is a viable candidate for an SEC school. He will run into major head winds at any SEC school because he is a scientologist. It’s probably the reason he is still at Boise State.

I doubt that’s true, it is just posted on blogs with no credible source

guy

October 5th, 2010
8:42 am

It's simple...

October 5th, 2010
8:42 am

beat Tenessee, Florida, Auburn, and Tech and CMR keeps his job. He at least has to go 3 out of 5….with Florida being one of those 3.

It's simple...

October 5th, 2010
8:43 am

I meant 3 out of 4.

JB

October 5th, 2010
8:45 am

Fire Bobo………Spend $750,000 on a New OC with a NEW offense ( Mark’s is tired). Hire the best Strength coach money can buy. reevaluate recruiting. I agree with some on here that a 3 star with heart is better than a 5 star who puts out no effort. Play younger players who deserve.Let Grantham be Grantham. Mark needs to look in the mirror and make some decisions. He needs to t Or, he needs turn up the heat on coach’s and players. or, he needs to go……I think if he comes back, some of this will happen………….Tubbs left Auburn because he refused to tweak all the things they told him to do, mainly, firing coach’s.

Whopper Dawg

October 5th, 2010
8:45 am

Tony,

The argument to keep Richt because you are afraid the AD can’t hire a quality football coach is a pretty weak one. There are many quality candidates out there that would love to be UGAs head football coach, make that change and move on. The time to fix it was last year when we scuttled the entire defensive staff and now we are the worse team in the SEC.

RAMBLE ON!!!

October 5th, 2010
8:47 am

Spoken like a true homer

Max Sizemore

October 5th, 2010
8:47 am

A lot of thoughtful comments this morning — an above average blog for sure. I think GT Dude hit on something, that Richt appears to have lost control of some aspects of his personal life. That makes as much sense to me as anything. GT Dude, I’m guessing that you make your living evaluating people in some way, like personnel.

ColumbiaDawg

October 5th, 2010
8:47 am

You make good points, Tony. I think it will depend on how this season finishes out. If Georgia finishes like 5-7,then McGarity might do as you suggest. But, if the team finishes worse than that, he might consider the program beyond repair and in need of a new coach.

Loyal Homer

October 5th, 2010
8:48 am

I wrote this last week and while it sucks to lose to Colorado, I still think he deserves a chance to turn it around.

http://thesportsdebates.com/2010/09/29/the-fire-mark-richt-debate-verdict/