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

Valdosta Slim

October 5th, 2010
8:50 am

One a Dog, always a Dog, how sweet it is! And, just sayin’, Tony: drop the hair color. Looks weird and unnatural and fans actually can trust a writer with silver haired wisdom.

JB

October 5th, 2010
8:54 am

Gator Mike………………..Thanks, but going 9-3 and losing to you guys every year is getting old.
And this is why……………..The State of Georgia is #5 in High school talent every year according to Rivals, and Georgia, according to Forbes is the second most profitable Athletic Department in the Country ! That’s why we are sick of being mediocre. Mismanagement and underachieving is old.

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
8:54 am

Tuberville’s situation at Auburn has little in common with Richt’s situation at Georgia. Georgia never sneaked out in the dark of night to attempt hiring another coach without Richt’s knowledge. Tubby got revenge on Auburn. He kept his “BBQ boys” from Ole Miss on staff until they got their retirement from the state of Alabama, and then he quit coaching and dared Auburn to buy him out.

Snake Doc

October 5th, 2010
8:54 am

Most of you forget that MR was a no name OC before taking the HC position at UGA. We took a chance on him when he was hired. Whats the problem with taking a chance on another coach now that our team is down and out and sinking faster then the Titanic?

Remember Donnan was fired after a 7 and 4 season.

The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Could we suffer through something worse then we are now? Sure! However, do we not try to improve or is the status quo acceptable? Do we not attempt to build something better or do we continue to let the UF bash our brians in every year? Is beating the little juco/trade school all that matters anymore? Do we not aspire to greater things?

Ted Brogan

October 5th, 2010
8:55 am

Off Topic but:
Dear Rich Rodriguez,

Just wanted to thank you again for not choosing to be the Alabama football coach or else we would probably be in the same situation we had been in for the past several years. No Saban no championship.

To all the GA fans, hang in there it will get better. Not sure whether firing Richt is the right move or not. I think if he can pull of at least 2 of 3 wins against Tenn, FL and Auburn he should stay. He just needs to find a way to motivate his players and keep the disciplinary problems on and off the field down.

RTR!

Ugakev

October 5th, 2010
8:55 am

i think the main point was missed when we lost to colorado. . Even if we would of won that game we should not be playing teams like colorado close!!!!

Red Panties

October 5th, 2010
8:56 am

You want the lock bet of the year, Georgia is a 10 1/2 point favorite over Tenn—————————————————-TAKE TENN AND THE POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dooley the Vol

October 5th, 2010
8:57 am

I would not let CMR gp wiyhout a plan, after Peterson, Harbaugh and Patterson turn UGA down where do you go. As a UT fan it was painful to get rejected over and over, I am happy with Dooley, but I see UGA in the same shoes as the Vols.

Vols win this weekend by 6.

DawgByte

October 5th, 2010
8:59 am

Tony -

Excellent article… I agree with all your points. Moreover, I’d like to share one other note. Richt is in a bind, if he get’s rid of Bobo and brings in a new OC, it will take a year or so for the existing players to fully grasp the new playbook and for the new coach to recruit the players he needs to execute the new system. See Grantham’s situation for a case study. Richt doesn’t have another 2-3 years to right the ship, so what does he do?

Richt has to look at all the things you suggest, but in reality he’s going to be very limited in what he can do, because as you suggest change takes time. If there’s anything that can be done without a total disruption in operations is to adjust the method for evaluating talent and possible hand over the recruiting lead to another member of the staff. Garner’s reign has been FAR TOO LONG!

Dirty Dawg

October 5th, 2010
9:01 am

I absolutely believe that Richt deserves the opportunity to fix his mess. Having said that, I have to wonder if he has it in him to do it.

Richt’s success was when he was actually involved with this team. He had a kick-@ss DC and he was running the offense. The slide started with Martinez taking over as DC and Bobo as the OC… Richt took too long to make a change on Defense (now we have a good scheme but the wrong players for it) and no change on offense, or in his involvement with the team.

I don’t see that there’s anyone else out there who would be any better than the coach we have right now… I just don’t think Richt has the desire to be a head coach if it means he has to live and breath it.

Anyone know where he can find a part-time job coaching job??? Maybe after next season he can start looking.

DR J

October 5th, 2010
9:03 am

Very well written TB. The problems at UGA have been well defined by even casual observers…coaching or lack of….schemes whether antiquated or just new…recruiting philosophy for those schemes…lack of discipline, desire, focus and the list goes on. The problem that really irks me is the lack of blocking inside gaps with strange blocking schemes when you want to to run first…just TiVo a game and look at that aspect…gee…this isn’t rocket science. And the list goes on…when did making sure a punter actually punted the ball before having your contain guys turn upfield get deleted? Anyway, I do think CMR should have the opportunity to make the obvious changes. We all remember the late 60’s and early 70’s when a certain coach with mutiple NCs under his belt ran into trouble when the football landscape changed…different players and schemes. This was one time when a leopard changed it’s spots… and when he embraced new athletes and a new scheme that old Bear won a few more games and that’s one of the things that made him a great coach. I guess I am wondering if CMR can make the changes to restore UGA to this level. I don’t know.

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
9:03 am

@Dooley the Vol – “I am happy with Dooley, but I see UGA in the same shoes as the Vols.”

I don’t. I see two programs crossing paths. One is on an upward trajectory — the other is not.

I’ll let you guess which is which.

Here’s a hint: The fans of the heavily favored team have more doubts about which team will actually win this contest.

JB

October 5th, 2010
9:03 am

DawgByte…………you make good points……….I don’t know if he has the talent or time to turn it around………..Him being gone is a matter of time, i hate to say.

Diamond Player

October 5th, 2010
9:04 am

Hey Tony-

I double dog dare you to pick against Georgia the rest of the season, every game?

Put your money where your mouth is.

VA DAWG

October 5th, 2010
9:04 am

Richt will and should be given one more year to right the ship, but if he fails to do so likely candidates should be Dantonio, BVG, Whittingham (highly unlikely) or another defensive minded head coach. Peterson is a pipe dream and I would rather not experiment with Muschamp or Smart (good coordinators don’t has make goo HCs). Hopefully the scenario will not play out and Richt will begin winning again. GO DAWGS!

MURPHY

October 5th, 2010
9:05 am

To answer your question Tony:

Yes he does deserve to try and fix it-but I have no confidence he can.I guess time will tell. Saturday sure would be a good start at it. The real question is what is the timetable to show he can fix it?

RxDawg

October 5th, 2010
9:05 am

“We are at the point where the team needs to lift its fans.”

That’s the best statement I’ve seen yet.

This is the best article I’ve seen yet. 100% agree.

George

October 5th, 2010
9:06 am

Richt’s skills at repairing programs arn’t up for debate.

See the 2001/2002 turnaround, also see the 2006/2007 turnaround.

These writers simply don’t know what they’re talking about, they’ve never coached a team, never done anything practical, and ar ein love with their theories, which have nothing to do with the real world.

bamafan

October 5th, 2010
9:06 am

Simple Dawg – well said about Fall weddings. There is a story recounted in the recent best selling book about Bama’s motor home caravans during the 1999 season (Author = Warren St. John – Book = “Rammer Jammer”) about the Bama fan whose daughter scheduled her wedding on the (then) Third Saturday in October. The fan/father did not attend the wedding. ‘Nuff said.

Real – Lighten up – Almost all the Bama fans on this blog are sympathetic to UGA. As I told my UGA graduate daughter who is miserable, it has been 57 years since UGA lost 4 consecutive games. The last time Alabama lost four consecutive games was in 2007. Since losing those four games in 2007, Bama is 32-2. Better times lie ahead for UGA……….

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:06 am

Palladin

I think it’s hypocritical for Bama people to come in and give “advice” on what to do with their football program. Before you guys bought Saban, Alabama was a second tier football program on probation.

joe

October 5th, 2010
9:07 am

If you answer Tony’s question now…fine. But if the Vols whip UGA on Saturday, will your answer change? Take it to the bank…yes. 0-4 could easily turn into 0-6 heading to Jacksonville. Ouch.

Kool Breeze

October 5th, 2010
9:07 am

If Georgia finishes 9-4, a lot of writers gonna look so dumb.

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:08 am

bamafan

UGA fans could care less what Bama fans think. Your football program has been on probation more than we have and has had 15 years of utter failure. People respect UGA way more than they respect Alabama.

Frank

October 5th, 2010
9:09 am

Tony:

Have you earned the right to give Mark Richt or McGarity advice about coaching? Ever coached a Div 1 team in the SEC?

MURPHY

October 5th, 2010
9:10 am

Dooley the vol,

Its gonna be almost impossible to hire a big name coach here at UGA. We have a black cloud hanging over this program right now. We are really going to have to pay big dollars to get a big name,successfull coach in here. It will probably be the richest contact along with buyout ever in the NCAA.

Gator Mike

October 5th, 2010
9:10 am

JB, I totally understand your complete frustration. Best of luck.

dbc

October 5th, 2010
9:11 am

I agree we need an experienced OC. But I doubt anyone with those credentials will take a chance to come to a program with a lame duck head coach. Why come to UGA for a year when there’s a good chance your HC and the entire staff will be let go? It’s a roll of the dice that most candidates won’t be willing to take.

Blah, blah, blah ........ gone to seed it has

October 5th, 2010
9:12 am

A solid program takes about two good years or three to die. This UGA football death began during the Matt Stafford and Moreno, Massoquoi years. Richt has not continued to recruit solid SEC caliber linemen on D and O. Addiotionally, he has not gone after the really solid running backs because his old 90s FSU model never really had any of them, so why have them at UGA?

He has not fully grasped that in the SEC you are very physical on both sides of the ball and on O, you have tough, hard nosed running backs. You do IF you are top tier within the SEC.

Watch UT Saturday …………their back named either Toole or Poole form Toccoa, will run right up the UGA middle time and time again. Keep in mind that UT is so depleted and they will still PHYSICALLY DOMINATE UGA.

We can go on and on and on ……….but Richt has hired sub standard position coaches and co ordinators, and his players ( not the skill players ) are all substandard for the SEC.

Things work in cylces and UGA for now is in a down cycle. Alabama was and Floirda was for most of my 62 years and GT has been since Dodd was run off by Dooley and now UT and so we have to hang on.

If UGA has a new coach within 2 or 3 years and winning, very likely the other schools will be undergoing what UGA is right now. Cycles affect ALL schools. Coaches leave, quit, move on. CUM and Sabin and Miles and Spurrier will all be gone within two years. It is the way that it is.

Need all new blood in Athens, gang. It is the way that it is. Richt let it go to seed. Not you and not I.

Go Dogs.

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
9:12 am

@DR J

Yes. Fifty some odd years ago Bear Bryant deserved a chance to turn around a program that had two or three bad seasons in a row.

Then again, I don’t think Bear ever coached for a ten year period without winning a National Championship.

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:12 am

Palladin

About Auburn. Yes and no. Tuberville is not exactly a loyal coach. He threw Ole Miss under the bus to head for Auburn in hopes of national presence, which he got by the way in 2004. Auburn got sick of him because before 2004, he could not take them to a national title game. He did however warn the coaches about not ranking Auburn high in 2003. Now, as far as Richt goes, he’s been way too lenient on his staff and players. Hiring Bobo as offensive coordinator is just stupid since Bobo was a sub par quarterback.

TheItalianDawg

October 5th, 2010
9:12 am

I agree with Wopper Dawg “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 …” and I also agree with Gator Mike that Georgia and Tennessee should be strong programs for the sake of the SEC.
I will say this in order for Mark Richt to save his job, we, the fans, starting from this week earn the right to see a different Georgia team that actually winning and winning with style. our team is not physical enough and lack mental toughness if coach Richt can bring his team back and beat the crap out of Tennessee, I will say things might be getting better and probably changing some mediocre assistants like Bobo could eventually bring Georgia to the elite level other wise fire the clowns and hire Jim Harbaugh or Kirby Smart

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:13 am

MURPHY

UGA has a black cloud???? Ever see Alabama just 4 years ago? They were on probation!!!!!!! We could go out and hire anyone we wanted to.

mark

October 5th, 2010
9:14 am

I don’t think Richt knows how to fix what is wrong with this team and that’s why I think he needs to go. If he could fix it, we would see some signs of improvement already. Instead we see the same exact problems that have plagued the Dawgs for three seasons now.

Carolina Dawg

October 5th, 2010
9:15 am

It may have been stated above, but Colorado had great d backs. the rest of the teams we play cannot stop AJ Green without doubling him. We can still win out in the SEC and beat Tech. Stranger things have happened.
South Carolina loses three more and we win the East. that will right the ship. I know it’s a longshot but it starts this weekend. If we lose,the ship starts sink and down with it goes the Captain. just my opinion.

turkeycaller

October 5th, 2010
9:15 am

For 3 seasons we have looked like a lost man that tries to keep walking and hoping to eventually come out somewhere. I don’t see a future for the OC and staff. Apparently Richt and Bobo felt we could overpower these teams by a strong running game. That conclusion was derailed even in the LL game. We simply don’t have what it takes to operate as a power team. Now we are left to try other schemes that we may or may not be able to run either. They didn’t accurately judge capabilities for one thing. That now apparent shortcoming has led to frustration in other parts of the team.

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:16 am

Carolina Dawg

There is no way we beat Auburn, who is pretty pissed over the last 4 years. We won’t beat Florida and we won’t beat Tennessee. We will beat Tech.

01HAWK

October 5th, 2010
9:17 am

BARNHARDT……………………….You are dead on about how BAMA players fill out there uniforms. They are bigger, and faster. Look at INGRAM and RICHARDSON. They are physically imposing compared to UGA running backs.

Look at Julio Jones and most of the team. BAMA’S conditioning coach is probably the best and he is always on the sidelines right by the coaches.

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:19 am

“BAMA’S conditioning coach is probably the best and he is always on the sidelines right by the coaches.”

I wonder if Mark McGuire is their medicine supplier.

Reality Check

October 5th, 2010
9:19 am

Since I am not a UGA insider, I agree with Tony and think that the AD will have to evaluate everything at the end of the year and make a decision. Barring a miracle finish to get to 7-5 or 8-4, if we keep CMR another year the recruiting class will fall apart with most recruits realizing that CMR will only be there another year. Next year will be bad either way most likely, but with a change at least you speed the rebuilding process along. Since 2006 every year has seen decline except 2007. The 2008 team started #1 but had three horrible losses.I can except losses if it looks like the Dawgs are actually well coached and prepared, but several times over the last few years it looks like the team is not prepared. This is not an easy call but probably best if CMR resigns at the end of the year.

Miles

October 5th, 2010
9:20 am

Mark Richt will be fine this year even if he looses all his remaining games…

Next year, if the Bulldogs look as horrible as this year, he’s gone…

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
9:21 am

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:06 am
Palladin

I think it’s hypocritical for Bama people to come in and give “advice” on what to do with their football program. Before you guys bought Saban, Alabama was a second tier football program on probation.

No. Alabama was a better team during their long time lost in the wilderness than Georgia is right now. They had a 10 win season and a Top Ten ranking under Coach Shula in 2005. Every one of the 6 losses (in a row) to Auburn were close games. I was one of the folks who thought that Shula deserved a chance to turn things around at Alabama — but I was wrong.

You should probably just keep Coach Richt and hope for the best. What’s the worst that could happen?

AH

October 5th, 2010
9:21 am

Great article! Hopefully McGarity will force Richt to do what needs to be done.

MURPHY

October 5th, 2010
9:21 am

Real,

I agree! Now look at were you are today-The elite prgram in the NCAA. It will take a ton of money to get the right coach just like Bama paid-But is was worth it-right?

Preston

October 5th, 2010
9:22 am

That’s a good question Tony. And its a tough one but I believe the answer is no. We lose 3 games in a season that began with a pre-season #1 ranking, then lose 4 the next year, and now we’re looking at a season that will be the worst in decades. He earned the chance to stay the past couple of seasons by winning a couple of SEC championships (which is more than we can say for Goff or Donnan) but he hasn’t earned the right to stay longer and continue to watch the program suffer further. The recruiting is there and has been there so there’s absolutely no reason for this pathetic showing. We’re obviously being out-coached and out-motivated and that responsibility lies squarely on the head coach. I’m glad that coach Richt was here but its time to make a change and get a new fire started in Athens. I love coach Richt but I love the program more.

black bee

October 5th, 2010
9:22 am

Agreed CMR will be alright, mark my word! But he does have to look at the Program honestly. He has had 4 straight great recruiting classes, so something is not going well. For one UGA has had that dominant back lately.

404

October 5th, 2010
9:22 am

I suppose UGA fans feel better now after Barnhart’s “therapy” session.

The REAL is simple to see.

They’ve run out of Kool-Aid.

Preston

October 5th, 2010
9:22 am

Oops, meant to say 5 the next year. Even worse.

Otto

October 5th, 2010
9:23 am

CMR needs to take ownership of the offense this week. Planning/play calling needs to change. UGA could be 4-1 or 5-0 with better play calls, which would add a few long drives that were common 2002 to 2005.

If CMR ends the season aloof and not knowing why certian players were not in the game, the AD should not have to force a coach to chage the staff. Forced coaching changes lead to a very divided staff which leads to the train wreck that was Tubbs last season at Auburn.

IMO if CMR does not put in place changes by the end of the season, UGA needs to look for a new coach.

AP

October 5th, 2010
9:23 am

Michael Adams and Mark Richt have ruined the greatest time of the year. Tailgating isn’t the same in Athens. How many other universities try to dissuade their fans from being on campus. Have you walked by Sanford Stadium lately 2 hours before kickoff— zero atmosphere. I had a friend of mine from a Pac-10 school visit to experience the SEC. I was embarrassed. And by the way, UW shouldn’t compare to UGA, but they have us licked in tailgating and an exciting new coach! Up and coming program that also calls themselves the DAWGS.
I’m having a hard time handling the poor performance, but the nail in the coffin for me is the ineptitude of our boys in regards to the law. I never thought I would say this, but I’m not going to be making the trek to Athens again this fall. You can say I’m a bandwagon fan, I’m not, season ticket holder, once a year away game weekend fan, alumni from 88, Dawg fan to the core. They have made it just too hard to put forth the effort. I used to plan my tailgate on Wednesday’s and would leave Saturday AM at 5:00 for a 7:30 ESPN game. Their would be 50 of us tailgating, responsibly. Not anymore, we are having a hard time deciding between our kids 11U soccer games and tailgating in a parking deck and then watching a poorly coached football team. I’m seeing better football on Friday nights in Fayette County for goodness sakes. Sorry, it will take a change at the top to get me interested again.

MURPHY

October 5th, 2010
9:24 am

Real,

sorry thought you were a Bama Fan. I mean look at were they are today.