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

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:24 am

“They had a 10 win season and a Top Ten ranking under Coach Shula in 2005.”

Oh, so you had one good year. Whoopie. When Auburn was on probation, they went undefeated. Whoopie. You don’t hear the War Eagles shouting about it.

“Every one of the 6 losses (in a row) to Auburn were close games. ‘

No they were not. Last years game was the closest in the past 10 years. Look it up.

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

It’s not my decision.

Otto

October 5th, 2010
9:24 am

black bee, UGA recruits scat backs and runs them like power backs. Recruiting does not match the play calling.

Happy Valley patience

October 5th, 2010
9:25 am

The best coaching record today of 397-131-3 belongs to Joe Paterno.
Between 2000 and 2004, Coach Joe Paterno had seasons of 5-7. 5-6, 3-9, and 4-7.
Paterno became the target of criticism from some Penn State faihful. In 2005, Joe Pa said, “If we don’t win some games, I’ve got to get my rear in out of here, simple as that”. However, Penn State finished the season at 11-1 and were Big 10 Champions in 2005.
Paterno is 54-15 since the 2004 season.

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:25 am

MURPHY

Yeah, anyone can be great with the right amount of money. It works for the Yankees, Florida, Bama……..

NEXT #14

October 5th, 2010
9:25 am

@REAL 8:05A.M.,ENJOY THE KARMA EXPERIENCE & LEARN FROM IT!!

jeff

October 5th, 2010
9:25 am

someone explain how georgia is a 13 point favorite over tennessee? tennessee ain’t good but neither is georgia. tennessee played florida fairly tough, and lsu very tough. not sure i get it.

404

October 5th, 2010
9:26 am

THe other big problem UGA has is
that “gimmick” pro-style offense they run.

What a joke.

Everybod has the “blueprint” for that now.

Bobo is gone after the season. Guaranteed.

404

October 5th, 2010
9:27 am

I wonder when UGA fans will start demanding a refund for their $10,000

01HAWK

October 5th, 2010
9:27 am

I thank RICH RODRIQUEZ, JIM LEAVITT (Former coach at South Florida), and Mike Riley of Oregon State for turning down the BAMA job.

These coaches thought there was no chance of BAMA getting back to where they are.

Neither of these coaches would have done what SABAN has done. Coach Fran skipped to TEXAS A&M and then got fired. Good Riddance. Rough first year for SABAN with Shula’s players, but he has done the job.

To Coach Ron Middleton of DUKE: …………You left the BAMA staff to go to DUKE of all places in 2008 and I know you wish you had not. What a sorry looking team DUKE has.

One day BAMA will not be the best and UGA maybe. It all goes around for I do not know of many coaches that could have done what SABAN has done.

jeff

October 5th, 2010
9:27 am

happy valley are you happy where penn st. is right now? they are at best the 4th best team in the big 10 after osu, iowa, and wisconsin. maybe not even that considering michigan and michigan st. look fairly good. next year nebraska joins the conference. psu is a very average team and going backwards i think.

George

October 5th, 2010
9:28 am

Hi There Mr. College Football:

See, here’s the thing. Writers create theories. They don’t do anything practical. They don’t do, they think about doing. Ok, coaches do, they don’t think about doing, they do. So, let’s say you create another of your million theories about football, based on no practical experience. You’re theory is based on second hand knowledge. It’s not valuable. So, when your theory is tersted, and verified to be wrong, if you’re smart, you don’t need to be rehashing your theory, because it makes you look like you’re an impractical person. For the 1 millionth time, your theory that Mark Richt can’t turnaround a program and take it to the top of the SEC, has been disproven in 2002 & 2007. Now, if you want, you can keep trying to talk about that theory, which has already been tested, and was found to be false. But it doesn’t make you look like a practical person. Just giving you a little advice, since you guys are so into advice.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

October 5th, 2010
9:28 am

Coach Grantham and I are going out to lunch to see if we can put some things behind us and bond for Saturday’s game. Coach is making $750,000 a year and I am temporary. It has caused some difficulty for me, I admit. Seeing him drive by with a box of doughnuts on the dash reminds me that I am a little out of shape myself.

PAT

October 5th, 2010
9:29 am

TB….I agree that most of the players & coaches (to some extent) don’t appear to have the sense of urgency that you’d expect. But if you do dump Richt, whom would and could you get to replace him? After seeing what I’ve seen the last few years, I’d certainly hope that if they did decide to hire a new coach, that the new coach understands that SEC is getting tougher every year and you’ve got to be on top of every aspect of the program at all times. That he needs to micro-manage and look over his assistants shoulders a awful lot to keep the program headed up hill.

jj

October 5th, 2010
9:30 am

Jeez Tony. Shut up about kiffin. LET IT GO. Everytime you speak you say something about the “boy wonder” the guy sucks and we all know that…get over it he is gone

01HAWK

October 5th, 2010
9:30 am

ACC………………………..All Cissy Conference

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

October 5th, 2010
9:31 am

Thank goodness for Tony Barnhart.

This is the most accurate and level-headed take on our situation I’ve seen, and I agree with it 100%.

I could understand talking about UGA being completely in the tank if we’d been blown out in several of these games, but we haven’t been blown out. We’ve been competitive in EVERY game this year well into the fourth quarter. As someone earlier said, we’re only a couple plays away from flip-flopping our record.

We’ve got the pieces. Look at Aaron Murray, AJ Green, Kris Durham, Justin Houston and even Caleb King (sans the fumble against CU).

We’re just not making the plays, and Mark Richt deserves the chance to right the ship. McGarity will choose the cautious approach after this season. The last thing he wants to do so early in his term is fire a highly successful head coach, replace him with a Lane Kiffin and tank the program for years.

Besides, what if UGA wins out, UF loses to LSU and SC loses to Bama, UT and UF. That would leave UGA in the SECCG. Am I betting on such a wacky scenario? Heck no! But stranger things have happened…

NEXT #14

October 5th, 2010
9:32 am

@ FLEMING ISLAND DAWG,IF YOU COULD EVER PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL & GET PAST THEM GATORS YOU COULD HAVE A SHOT @ BAMA!!! WONDER HOW THAT GA. RECORD WOULD LOOK THEN??!!

Honky Talkin'

October 5th, 2010
9:33 am

You think it’s bad now….after UGA loses to Kentucky and Vanderbilt, the angry mobs with torches will surround Athens. The only bright spot for UGA is Murray (who Bobo threw under the bus).

Pathetic

dap01

October 5th, 2010
9:33 am

Yes there is a mess at UGA but if CMR does not deserve an opportunity to get it right, who does? He has been with the program 10 years, he has been loyal, he has the highest character (Not Saban, Not Pete Carol), he is one of the winningest coaches in HISTORY. If he does not deserve a chance who does?

How about...?

October 5th, 2010
9:34 am

Agree with comments by southJaxBeachBullDawg on page 1. However, should CMR decide to become a full-time missionary, where does UGA turn? Lots of names being bandied about, but I don’t recall seeing Mike Leach mentioned. Is he too tainted to be considered? Don’t remember the exact reason(s) why TT let him go. Would McGarity embrace his “pirate” style? Would the fans?

Preston

October 5th, 2010
9:34 am

JB, your 8:54 am post was spot on.

CBS Announcer

October 5th, 2010
9:34 am

“but it’s a 1 and 4 SEC team”. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Revel in your pain.

PMC

October 5th, 2010
9:35 am

Yeah but Fulmer actually won a National Championship at Tennessee did he get a chance to right it? Did Johnny Majors? Did Tommy Tubberville?

He’s got a fine track record, really good. He did a great job turning the entire program around from middling to contender but then they went back to middling and then they are well below that now.

Coaches tend to say they keep doing the things they are doing that got them there. Maybe those things aren’t good enough in this environment anymore?

I certainly hope he can get it turned around. I think he’s an excellent head coach, but he’s really got to lock down the dicipline which isn’t his forte and he’s got to get the team to play with more focus, fundamentals and energy. This group of players has lots of talent but it’s disjointed and they still haven’t found out how to get them to play as a team. I wonder if he can actually turn it around in a reasonable amount of time.

Big Red

October 5th, 2010
9:35 am

Everybody wants a quick fix. Let’s just fire everybody and start over. College football is getting way “out of whack” altogether. Think it’s a lot of off the field crap that’s effecting players & coaches attitude . Metzinberger, Damon Evans, all these misdemener arrest (a lot of which is just stupid crap like expired license, taking somebody’s helmet, selling jersey’s, etc.) We got a young quaterback doing great things but making stupid little mistakes. Completely don’t understand all this fumbling and penalties at the worst possible time. Clean it up don’t fire everybody.

kirk herbstreit

October 5th, 2010
9:35 am

sam robards they have medication that can help your hallucination issues.

gunter

October 5th, 2010
9:36 am

Excellent piece Tony, Coach Richt has earned the right to turn this around and he will. Lot’s of distractions this year with all the arrest, AD embarrassment, new defensive coordinator.

redneck 61

October 5th, 2010
9:36 am

FIRE RICHT he is not even worried about winning a game he is more worried about fixing his hair.

dawgster

October 5th, 2010
9:36 am

Gator Mike..classy comments, very appreciated by true dawg fans and not the fair weather fans that want to be on the bandwagon when everything is rosey, but only no how to criticize when things are not going well…You are correct, the gators went thu a similar thing and got it right with Meyer..the Vols, same thing and of course Bama…look how long it took them to get it right…You know someone posted earlier that “Mark Richt”=Coach Bowden”..they were beiing sarcastic, but i’ll take that anyday as Coach Bowden is the 2nd all-time in Div 1 wins…and look at Penn State…they wanted to say that Coach Paterno was thru and that he couldn’t coach…well guess what a few very good recruiting classes and all of a sudden he can coach again…I wonder why he forgot how to coach for a few years…Anyway, Gator Mike, thanks for the classy remarks…go dawgs

How 'bout This, Dawgs?``

October 5th, 2010
9:36 am

Maybe CMR is too ethical to allow his players to bulk up on body “supplements” like they do at other schools. Maybe that’s why we’re getting beat on the line of scrimmage. And maybe he knows that if he brings it up he’ll be ostracized as someone grasping at straws. whaddyathink

McDawg

October 5th, 2010
9:37 am

this team reminds me of some of the Notre Dame teams that had the 5 star offensive lineman who gets his butt whipped play after play from some kid from one of the service academys-just seems like a dispirited group to me

Gordon

October 5th, 2010
9:38 am

I agree with everything Tony wrote, but if I were a Georgia fan I would be asking why it wasn’t done after the 2008 season, and certainly after the 2009 season.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 5th, 2010
9:39 am

Richt always beat the weak teams on the Dawgs schedule, but now his team can’t do that. I have to admit it is fun seeing UGA going down the toilet. UGA fans were so nice to Tech when we had Chan & Nix, If Bobo doesn’t fall on his Sword then Richt will have to force Bobo out. The trend seems to be a coach starts works 4-6yrs building a winner then moves on to a different job for more money. Joe Pa and Bowden like coaches are a thing of the past. It seems to stay FRESH a coach has to move to keep his edge.

UT96

October 5th, 2010
9:39 am

Gator Mike, you are way off about Fulmer. He had two losing seasons in four years. The program had been in a steady decline since the ‘99 season except for two years that Cutcliffe came back and instilled some discipline. Of course, he left for Duke and everything went into the toilet again. Fulmer had gotten complacent and lazy.

Now, I’m not for or against the firing of Richt, but sometimes change is good even if you have to take a step back. Our ad’s problem, as a poster mentioned, was he didn’t have a solid plan in place once Fulmer got the ax and we wound up with boy blunder-Kiffin. Georgia’s ad from what i know about him won’t make that mistake and UGA has this going for them: they can rebound from a coaching change sooner than we will will because they have a ton of great players in their own back yard.

bamafan

October 5th, 2010
9:40 am

Real – I guess it is clear now that you are an Auburn fan? But on the off chance you are a UGA fan, I will tell you that almost no one in college football has more respect for UGA than Bama. Quite frankly, UGA has been a player on the national scene only three times over the years: once in the 40’s with Trippi and Sinkwich; once in the 80’s with Walker, and in 2007 when UGA finished 2nd. I am not sure what your problem is but you don’t need to be ugly to folks who are sympathetic to the UGA situation. On the other hand, your negative rants about Alabama are the same ones usually posted by Auburn fans (Bama probation/6 losses to Auburn/etc/etc). Auburn is not a better team because you criticize Bama.
The Bama fans on this blog were not criticizing UGA; we are quite sympathetic having been there and done that several times.

Buck Belue wears a toupee

October 5th, 2010
9:41 am

I would rather have a JERK coaching my team and win games instead of a NICE GUY who loses games. No wonder it’s been 30+ years..

Keyser Söze

October 5th, 2010
9:43 am

“Grasping at straws” sums up your entire comment, How about this. Delusional would also apply.

PMC

October 5th, 2010
9:44 am

I guess the question I’d like to hear Coach Richt discuss is…. Coach how does it get to a point where guys under your tuteledge can’t do the most basic fundamental elements of football and not embarass the university with arrests? Yes they are young but they are old enough to be treated like adults are we expecting too much that they perform the fundamental elements of football and the fundamental elements of life (IE not being arrested) on a day to day basis?

juvenal

October 5th, 2010
9:44 am

not really any of my business, & i apologize in advance to anyone i offend for posting here-but isn’t your recruiting co-ordinater supposed to 1 of the best in the game?

PMC

October 5th, 2010
9:45 am

I mean, Vanderbilt tackles well. You don’t have to be an elite athlete to have good technique.

AU Alum 85

October 5th, 2010
9:47 am

UGA has a good man and a good coach. Richt just didn’t suddenly forget how to coach. Back in the days of Dooley, Jordan, and Bryant, schools didn’t fire coaches so quickly. Before he installed the wishbone and went on the huge run in the 1970s, Bryant struggled with a couple of sub par seasons and some wondered if he had lost his edge. Alabama stayed with him and history proved it was a good choice. UGA should keep Richt.

GeorgiaGuy

October 5th, 2010
9:48 am

I agree with every single word of this, Tony. Except it should have been done two years ago at the first sign of trouble in the organization. Good organizations don’t wait until things are spinning out of control to start evaluating the problem.

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:48 am

bamafan

You brought up the 6 straight losses to Auburn. I just clarified that those games were not as close as you stated. Also, I couldn’t care less if Bama fans respect UGA or not. Trust me, we UGA fans/alum don’t a crap about UA. As for the rest of your comments about me being an Auburn fan, no I am not. I do however have more respect for Auburn because they have to take crap from Bama people even when Bama loses to Auburn.

Bear's Ghost

October 5th, 2010
9:49 am

JB, Tubs threw coordinators under the bus multiple times to save his own skin. He left because the kitchen was gettin too hot. He wasn’t willing to step up his effort to try and keep pace with Nick. Since the Bama blackout game in 2008, when the dawgs were ranked #3 and undefeated, Richt is 15-12, 9-9 in the conference. He’s apparently a quality person, but like Tony mentioned, the bar has been raised.

Sean

October 5th, 2010
9:50 am

If Georgia forces out Richt, I hope they end up like Ole Miss or Tennessee. What a joke, the guy has been the best thing that has happened to Georgia since Herschel Walker and they want to fire him? DELUSIONAL!

The Miss. State loss was bad but Arkansas and South Carolina are both very good and Colorado is 3-1.

http://thebubblescreen.blogspot.com

Coach O

October 5th, 2010
9:51 am

I think that the blog moderators should block all comments that are negative toward Coach Richt.

Just Sayin’…

Rooster

October 5th, 2010
9:51 am

At the end of the day it will be the big time boosters that decide Richt’s fate. Is he covering the spreads? People wonder why Les Miles is under siege at LSU – how about being a 16 point favorite at home against a rebuilding Tennessee squad and needing perhaps the weirdest series of events to end a heart wrenching game. Local Baton Rouge TV cut into their lunch broadcasts to televise Miles Monday presser. Point is, if the deep pocket guys decide that Richt has done all he can it won’t matter what the AD thinks, they will just start pulling their checks from the Georgia Athletic Fund.

By the way, I agree with TB that the program will regress before going forward despite whoever they bring in, including Vince Dooley himself if UGA could pry him away from Kansas State errrrhh, Kennesaw State.

johnny reb

October 5th, 2010
9:51 am

Hey Tony, How did Cutcliffe do against the big boys when Eli wasn’t the qb? Before and after Eli? How did Cutcliffe do on the defensive side of the ball or recruiting? Cutcliffe real genius and innovator at Duke. If, he was that great why did he turn down TN? At least the man know’s his limitations.

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:51 am

“I think that the blog moderators should block all comments that are negative toward Coach Richt.”

I think you’re a fascist.

Real

October 5th, 2010
9:53 am

AU Alum 85

This is the difference between Saban and Bear.

Bear: Talented coach who could take his team and beat yours and then take your team and beat his.

Saban: Media loving money slut.

blazerdawg

October 5th, 2010
9:53 am

Coach Richt is a good representative of the university, a great coach to the players, and a politely stubborn individual. (alot like Coach Dooley) It seems like he is coming around on the practice intensity issue, and improving the tackling and exposing players to being tackled will yield benefits. Richt is smart enough and experienced enought to figure this out. Dooley, Bryant, Dodd all went through down years as well. The continuity of sticking with Richt will benefit UGA tremendously, if he has the will to win. To me this is the question with Richt – does he want to spend time with his family or GATA? I trust McGarity to know.