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

http://www.keepmarkricht.com

October 5th, 2010
9:53 am

Coach O

October 5th, 2010
9:54 am

And I think you are a blog moderator.

PALADIN DEATH DEALER

October 5th, 2010
9:55 am

Tony:
All these discipline problem escalated when the NCAA or maybe it was the ACLU did away with dorms exclusively for football players and other college athletes…When I was there John Kasay was bedchecking at 11:30 pm…With players living now wherever they want to all over Athens, checking on the players and what they are doing is out the window…It is no wonder the coaches can’t keep the players in check…Lot of places to get in trouble in Athens….The only thing I don’t understand is why the players won’t call a cab when they have been drinking and know they are under the influence. Players on every campus are going to go and drink some beer. It is the getting home part that must be handled to avoid the DUI and the possibility of injuring someone in a serious car accident while driving impaired….Coach Richt should give them some cab numbers to put in their wallet and tell any player who does not call the cab and insists on driving while impaired that if caught they will be sent away for good, no matter who they are….I wouldn’t want to be responsible for 100 18-23 year old kids who live where they want and come and go as they want…All a fan base can expect of the Head Coach is that if they are stupid enough to drive while impaired, they are on the next train to Clarksville….Think that is what CMR has decided….TONY, CHECKING IN FROM GREENSBORO, GA…..

Coach O

October 5th, 2010
9:55 am

Scratch that. You ARE a jealous Auburn fan! ;-)

ECB

October 5th, 2010
9:55 am

To all of you Al Bundy’s of the world obviously your coaching careers are better than CMR. So I expect that you will apply for his job if it comes available. I am sure that you are more experienced since you scored 4 touchdowns in one game, and have won a league championship in the Gwinnett Football League. None of you have a clue what it takes to coach in the SEC or at any college level for that matter. So keep living your dreams through the blog!!

MississippiDawg

October 5th, 2010
9:56 am

Hey Phil (from earlier)…if TB is so irrelevant why the heck are you reading his article and posting on this blog?
As for all the CBB comparisons, holy cow, if CMR turns out to be Bowden how lucky will we be? He is a legend and has the NC…Also, Bowden weathered some stormy seasons along the way (before and after the NC)…
Nothing wrong with a devout Christian HC…we just need more Fire and Brimstone !!

Nancy Pelosi

October 5th, 2010
9:57 am

ITS BUSH IS FAULT

coachx

October 5th, 2010
9:57 am

Tony,
Thanks for adding some balance to the AJC shock-jock style writers (Schultz / Bradley).

I’ll be in Athens Saturday supporting both UGA and Coach Richt.

Go Dawgs !

Alphare

October 5th, 2010
9:59 am

One thing I learned thru the years: never listen to UGA fans about predicting UGA’s season. I started out this season predicting a 8-4 season for UGA. And then I got influenced by UGA fans and changed it to 9-3 and a possible 10-2.

If I stuck with 8-4 and changed it to 6-6 after Green was out, I would be in good shape right now.

Dontavius Supremo

October 5th, 2010
9:59 am

This is exactly what I have been saying. Anyone who says differently is an idiot who has never had to hire anyone to do anything.

Yellow is the color of p**s

October 5th, 2010
9:59 am

Let me get this straight, most of you on this board want to fire a coach who may have his 1st losing season after winning 90 games in his previous 9 seasons (10 wins/year). He is 7-2 in bowl games with 2 Conference titles.
Look at that paragraph again and ask yourself this, what coach would want to come into this situation where those stats get you fired?
The only type of coach I can think of would be someone who is just biding his time until the job he really wants opens up.

Bud

October 5th, 2010
9:59 am

Without it turning into a chinese firedrill, maybe put 1 or 2 more experience play callers in the booth ( offense & defence). Maybe one of the senior injured players. But you still got to execute.

AJC Sports Section

October 5th, 2010
10:00 am

These problems will all work themselves out if we just ignore them long enough.

What?

October 5th, 2010
10:00 am

What is this earned the right garbage? Richt is paid darn near top dollar to get these idiots ready to play and frankly, he isn’t doing it.

Who cares what happened 5 years ago? Richt earns 2.5 million dollars each year. So in 2010, we have paid him $250,000 per arrest and $2,500,000 per win. Wow.

In business, he would have been canned 3 years ago.

There are a whole bunch of clowns that would jump at the chance to coach at UGA…for half of what Richt earns! We need a better HC Salary to Win Ratio…and we need it fast.

Burdell

October 5th, 2010
10:01 am

This Tech fan thinks that CMR has earned the right to get this team back on track…this year and next.

I’m currently reading Bobby Bowden’s book…there is some good stuff about Richt in there. I have always had a high regard for CMR as a coach but the book gives a little more insight into CMR the man. Good read overall…was never much of a Bowden lover just because his teams always pounded the Jackets so regularly but I guess now that he’s gone I can appreciate what he did for the game itself.

blazerdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:02 am

Classy comments Burdell.

AJC Sports Section

October 5th, 2010
10:03 am

Just wait ’till next year!

Gatorzone

October 5th, 2010
10:04 am

PMC, I agree with you on the loss of fundamentals. If the Defense wrapped up on tackles, and less fumbles UGA would be undefeated. Why is Grantham not doing a better job with this?

TheItalianDawg

October 5th, 2010
10:05 am

UT96- you are right on the money, I think the coaches change at Georgia if it happens will be a smooth process. Kiffin actually did good in his first year at UT, they beat us very bad, beat south carolina they almost beat Bama and played Florida tough and recruited extremely well. Im sure if he stayed, Tennessee will win at least 10 games this season.

Alphare

October 5th, 2010
10:05 am

What?

Good point. I can take 1/10 of what CMR is making, and probably do as good a job as he is doing now. My team can definitely beat LA-La I think.

Hatfieldgeoff

October 5th, 2010
10:06 am

Tony, having the AD talk to Richt as you explained would be good, but Richt has to be objective enough to see the problems and make the changes. That is where I think this idea fails. He was long overdue in admitting Martinez was the wrong choice at DC and he seems to be just as stubborn when it comes to Bobo at OC. Competition in the SEC is too high to promote from within. Look around the country and find one of the best men for the job and get him here. Your colleague Jeff schultz seems to think the quality of players at UGA now is the same as in the past. I could not disagree more. The 2002-03 teams had much better players. Caleb King, Logan Gray, Israel Troop, Brandon Wood and their are many others, were signed as top recruits but none has made any impact on the program. I agree Bama’s players do look stronger and faster and UGA probaly needs to address it Strength & Conditioning program, but Saban is making better choices on who he recruits. His DBs are larger and more physical and he plays pass defense by pressuring the QB, not by trying covering WR with small fast DBs. There are many top recruits in Georgia that UGA ignores, I use to think it was due to character issues that Richt was aware of. But as UGA’s arrests pile up I guess that wasn’t the case. So why do we not recruit players that go on to be stars at other schools, while many of the top recruits we sign graduate after anonymous careers in Athens. Between his Faith, his wife’s past illness and now wanting to see his son play college football, Richt is pulled in many directions. Life happens, as it does with all of us, but he is paid a lot of money to successfully lead this program and currently he is not doing it. Dooley supposedly asked Bowden 10 years ago if Richt was tough enough to make the tough decisions in coaching. it took 5 or 6 years for those question to arise, but it appears the answer is “No.”

Crazy

October 5th, 2010
10:06 am

Tony, This weeks game can’t be a barometer of anything. My goodness we are nearly two touchdowns picked to win by Vegas. The only barometer from this game is that if we lose to this inept team Richt should be fired – Period! And no….there would be no reason to wait until the end of the season. Fire him with games left…appoint Bobo to man the team until the end of the year and immediately get searching for the new headcoach so they have time to shore up recruiting. No way this team with this talent should lose to a team with nearly no talent.

George

October 5th, 2010
10:06 am

Wow, how will Richt hold on to his job?

Here’s his record:
8-4
13-1
11-3
10-2
10-3
9-4
11-2
10-3
8-5

Ton’y so right, isn’t that record horrible.

So much to fix.

Gator Mike

October 5th, 2010
10:06 am

DAWGSTER, Thank you , and best of luck to UGA. It will get better. UGA has too much pride and deep tradition for this problem to malinger.

UT96, I stick by my opinion. If Hamilton thought Fulmer was that bad, why didn’t he have a plan in place instead of settling for kiffin? Perhaps the UT problem exacerbated itself when Doug Dickey retired from the AD job. Also, I agree that Fulmer made a mistake in hiring the idiot offensive coordinator you had during his last year after Cutcliff went to Duke. When Spurrier walked out on UF, Foley knee jerked and we got zooked. We are lucky to have Meyer, and timing seems to be everything in getting the right coach. BAMA was also lucky with their timing in getting Saban.

At any rate, the SEC needs UGA and UT to be among the elite.

Big Red

October 5th, 2010
10:06 am

…..also this week we got a retired coach and AD pulling for Tenn. That don’t help but I understand. Now if it was my wife coaching the Vols you would’nt believe how hard I would be pulling for the Dawgs, but if it’s your children that’s different.

collegeballfan

October 5th, 2010
10:07 am

Couple of thoughts.

Why is it necessary for Richt to “fix” the “problem” at UGA? Why did he allow the “problem” to appear?

If player conduct off the fields is a problem why is he planning on signing a high school QB who was suspended from his team and school?
Why has he not pulled the offer?

It is never the scheme, it is never the play calling. It is always the execution or the talent level.

If it is talent level, then Scout, Rivals & ESPN recruiting services are a joke. UGA always has top 10 classes.

If it is execution, then that is a player attitude problem. And that is ignoring Character in recruiting.

PALADIN DEATH DEALER

October 5th, 2010
10:07 am

PLAIN TRUTH FROM GREENSBORO, GA, HOME OF TONY BARNHART:::::
ALL THESE NAYSAYERS FIND IT EASY TO POINT THE FINGER AND HURL INSULTS….WHO ARE THEY THAT WE SHOULD PAY ANY ATTENTION TO THEM..WHAT DID THEY EVER ACCOMPLISH??..DID THEY BUY A $42 TICKET AND EXPECT TO RUN THE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT….CMR HAS DONE MUCH GOOD AT UGA, THIS GROUP HE HAS NOW IS OBVIOUSLY LACKING LEADERSHIP AND TALENT….THE ONLY THING I COULD FAULT ANY OF THESE COACHES ON IS MAKING SOME MISTAKES ON RECRUITING…IT WAS P.W. “THE BEAR” UNDERWOOD, WHO WAS THE DC AT AUBURN, WHO TOLD ME ONCE,”SON, DOCTORS CAN BURY THEIR MISTAKES, BUT WE COACHES GOT TO PLAY WITH OURS”….THINK THAT IS WHAT THE DOGS ARE DOING NOW…COACH BRYANT, THE BEST THAT’S EVER BEEN, HAD 2 BACK TO BACK 6-5 SEASONS IN THE EARLY 70′S…IT HAPPENED TO PATERNO, BOWDEN, DOOLEY, ETC, ETC. WE HAVE SOME OF THE MOST FAIR WEATHER, BANDWAGON, BUNCH OF BABIES AS FANS WHO NEED A PACIFIER AND NEED TO GET A LIFE….THE DOGS WILL BE BACK….THESE GUYS DIDN’T FORGET HOW TO COACH, IT IS THE ATHLETES THEY ARE COACHING….HAVE SEEN BETTER RUNNING BACKS ON HIGH SCHOOL TEAMS THAN WHAT WE HAVE A UGA….WHIP TENNESSEE……

Lowcountry Dawg

October 5th, 2010
10:09 am

Great article, Tony! I went to the SC game in Columbia and was really disappointed to see how much enthusiam the USC players had and how much our players had…NONE!

I like Richt and don’t want to see him go. However, he’s got to make some changes to himself and his coaches. More accountability, integrity, and fire…right now, we just don’t have it!

What?

October 5th, 2010
10:09 am

There is no way we beat Tennessee this Saturday. No way. After the game Richt will tell us all how “close” the team is to being good. He will follow that by saying we were missing our spark because the kids were tired from practicing in pads on Monday.

After this next embarassing beat down, Richt will go from not earning his salary to downright stealing it!

Meatlake

October 5th, 2010
10:10 am

Thank you Tony and I totally agree. He’s earned the right to fix this. Hopefully someone will light a fire under their asses. 92′

bamafan

October 5th, 2010
10:11 am

Real – it was not my post that claimed the six losses were close. That was someone else. I am glad that you clarified that you are a UGA fan – my apologies to the AU bloggers for thinking that someone who was putting hate into the blog would be an AU fan. My comments about respect were not clear because of my sentence structure. Bama fans do have some respect for UGA fans except in one area: that is the area that UGA fans seemingly believe that their program is top tier. It is not. I am surprised that you as a UGA fan have such deep seated feelings against Alabama and Coach Saban.
Not sure why since UGA and Bama play infrequently……..Again, I recommend you go back to bed and get up on the right side this time.

Don

October 5th, 2010
10:11 am

If you can’t execute basic plays, then you aren’t giving EFFORT! Duh
This team is bad on all fronts and it starts with the coaching. Next year there is no aj to go to. Even with him back we still can’t beat a crap big 12 team. Two years in a row we lose to a big 12 team that isn’t texas or ok.

Einsteindawg

October 5th, 2010
10:11 am

Tony, Baroni…thanks for stating the obvious. All you need to do is watch one of UGA’s football games from Richt’s first six years to see what is now wrong.

PALADIN DEATH DEALER

October 5th, 2010
10:11 am

Crazy:
Who is all this talent that you speak of….Name me some names….You keep throwing that talent thing out there, but who are all these guys??? I see very ordinary athletes when I watch the Dogs….Forget all this 4 star and 5 star jazz, what matters is what you do on the field….

Earl

October 5th, 2010
10:12 am

Tony… and you want to be my latex salesman.

GADevildawg

October 5th, 2010
10:13 am

why do you keep beating the drum that Richt has earned the right to fix whats wrong when that was supposedly what he was doing at the end of last season…..3 assts fired!!!! Why should he get another season with changes? Why didnt he make offensive changes last year or did he just want to blame Joe Cox?

gomdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:13 am

Come on Fans, I love Georgia and yes it hurts , you know the coaches and players are hurting . It’s hard times when you pull together so quit your bitching . iF You are a Dawg fan you will PULL FOR US COME SATURDAY WIN WE PLAY TENN. GO DAWGS.

Preston

October 5th, 2010
10:15 am

Has Richt earned the right to fix the problem at Georgia? Does this question reflect common sense?

Is Tony Barnhart showing common sense by asking this question?

Here’s Richt’s record:
8-4
13-1
11-3
10-2
10-3
9-4
11-2
10-3
8-5

How does this compares to others in their 1st 9 seasons?
Only 9 coaches, in the HISTORY of college football, won 90 games in their 1st 9 seasons.

Conclusion:
No, Tony Barnhart is not showing common sense.

Facts are facts

October 5th, 2010
10:15 am

You’re bowl record is what it is because you play against horrible teams. A&M, losing record
Hawaii? Come on.
And you’ve played at least 3 games at the dome where it’s a total advantage.

Chris

October 5th, 2010
10:15 am

Tony, you made one comment that says it all. “In 2007, Georgia may have had the best team in the country.” Yes, and look how well we did. We could’nt even make it to the SEC championship. We couldn’t beat a medicore S.C. team, and never even showed up against Tennessee.

This problem isn’t something new. We have always had a problem showing up for big games in the past. Now that we have a group of players that aren’t quite as good as the players of the past, these problems are amplified.

Richt has had plenty of time to make changes to improve this team, and he has waited too long. It’s time to bring in someone new.

Do you honestly think that things we’ll get better next year? Yes, it will take us a while to get back on top, but we need to go after a coach that can get us there. Richt can not.

aarh

October 5th, 2010
10:16 am

Joe- Yes, AU did twice while Tubberville was there. Now we may end up having a worse season, but it’s not over yet…so we don’t know that yet. The 1st time they tried to run him off (Jet Gate), & in their unsucessful atttempt to try to run the spread (when he was fired). Both times seemed to result in atrying to change coordinators & it not working out. Both times the team changed coordinators after that…they made a dramatice improvement.

Otto

October 5th, 2010
10:16 am

I will be there Saturday pulling for the Dawgs but stand by my prior post CMR needs to make changes on his own or the trend will continue.

hornblowermg

October 5th, 2010
10:18 am

the players at the level where they are starters care about the money in the NFL. the NFL should be required to either start their own farm system or subsidize every college football program in the country. that is my opinion, and i have been a uga fan for 45 years. yep, no school loyalty whatsoever in the student?/athletes of Athens today. just ask ajg.

Einsteindawg

October 5th, 2010
10:20 am

Preston,
Ninety wins in nine seasons used to mean something back when a season was ten games and maybe a reward to one of seven Bowl games. Maybe Richt should be coaching like he did while winning those first fifty games.

gomdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:20 am

LOOK AT TEXAS THEY PLAY NEB. NEXT WEEK THEY WILL HAVE 3 LOSES SHZT HAPPENS.4 PLAYS AND WE ARE 4-1 .

Dawgs73

October 5th, 2010
10:20 am

I find it humurous that a man making $2 million a year, that is paid at the upper echoleon of the SEC, is givin a pass and “he has earned another year”…REALLY?????????????????????????????

If this was any other realm of work or politics would any of us say that as currently situated, Richt has “earned” his level of pay and should remain as coach? I would say no, not because I hate Richt or have anything but the highest respect for him as a man and PREVIOUS accomplishments. I say this because I see a steep decline at the very essence of football (tackling, blocking, game management, in game adjustments, special teams, lack of player development and on and on and on).

I believe Mark to be tremendous human being and I appreciate what he has done for UGA, I just believe that he is in over his head and his message has been lost in translation. I see too many mistakes in areas that are alarming and very little ability to adjust.

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:20 am

bamafan

No one here gives a crap about Alabama. Do us all a favor and head on over to a Birmingham newspaper blog.

John

October 5th, 2010
10:21 am

gomdawg
it hurts? they’re hurting? really? man some of you are pathetic. losing a loved one hurts. getting fired from your job hurts. my college team having a tough football season once in a while? it sucks. that’s it.
sheesh

joe

October 5th, 2010
10:21 am

If the wheels fall off and UGA is 0-4, 0-5 or 0-6, the recruits will jump ship and that will signal the end of this current UGA coaching staff.

Steve H

October 5th, 2010
10:21 am

GOMDOG
Texas also has a National Champ last decade. That gives you a pass.