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

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:03 am

@Game C0ck Here …when was the last time SC won the SEC East, SEC or even the ACC??? Or even won more than 8 games in a year? Until they do something you need to be quite.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
11:03 am

blazerdawg

Thanks for Pat Dye.

G8R GRAD

October 5th, 2010
11:03 am

” . . . what do you need that you currently don’t have? Whatever it is, I’ll get it for you.”

And Greg McGarity is just the man to get the job done.
Now the question becomes, “Is Richt?”

defactodawg

October 5th, 2010
11:04 am

This was the same questions TB asked towards the end of last season. I think the answer should be no. CMR has had 2+years to straighten the program and we’re worse off today than we have been in many years.

The real question is who is the replacement WHEN there is an opening, not IF there is an opening. I want the best coach available, regardless of his alma mater. It’s long past time for the good ol boy network to crumble to be replaced by qualifications and accountability.

c0ck fans are hiliarious

October 5th, 2010
11:04 am

Looks like the annually inevitable downward spiral of the fake USC has already begun. They will probably be battling it out with UGA for the worst bowl game this season. Fake USC will have their typical minimum 5 losses yet again this year. Book it.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
11:04 am

82Dawg

Never. Never ever. That clown has no business being anywhere near a sports blog.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
11:05 am

Hey c0ck

Auburn owns the state of South Carolina.

WE ARE YOUR DADDY!

c0ck fans are hiliarious

October 5th, 2010
11:05 am

btw, am I the only one that finds it offensive that AJC refuses to allow posters to spell out “c0ck” how it should be? Looks like they are the ones with their heads in the gutters…..

The Count of MonteFisto

October 5th, 2010
11:05 am

Heard that Tennessee is coming to Athens Saturday to punch Georgia right in the mouth. This pleases the Count greatly!

UGA True

October 5th, 2010
11:05 am

Best article bar none that I have ever read by Barnhart.

Coach Richt and AD McGarity: I hope you are reading. You might want to print it out and put it someplace and ponder it for awhile.

The gravitational pull of every program is to grow complacent – and after 10 years, it’s time to reinvent. (My 11 year old son sits with me at the games and can often tell me what play is about to be run. Whew… that’s not good.)

GoDawg

October 5th, 2010
11:06 am

Mark Richt is a good christian man. He should be left alone. I’m sure he’s doing his best. It’s a rebuilding year! We have a freshman quarterback! We have a new defense! Just wait until next year! Richt and Bobo will take this team to National Championship! It’s a rebuilding year!

bwell

October 5th, 2010
11:06 am

That Guy:

Easy, the offensive line is rotating players so the experience is there and we will have a veteran line next year. It’s not a forclosure that AJ will turn pro after this season. Murray will get better as the season goes on. The four games and rest of this season the WR’s has gain more confidence and will be a plus for rest of this season and next; plus we have couple wideouts recruits for next year. Not to mention we have 4 very good TE’s. Defense will improve as the season progress, have FAITH yeah it looks bad now but Coach G will get it right, it take a season no matter what conf or level of play to digest and gel. Lakers did not win as soon as coach Jackson came on the scene, neither did patriots when Coach Carroll left. Fla nor Ala won right away. 75% of the defense coaching staff was replaced. The secondary will be back with boykins and B. Smith and Hamilton to lock down the corners and the middle. My problem is CMR did not allow Murray to play last season to gain that experience plus he need to use the TE’s more which the last two games he has. With time and this season Murray will have us back next season to compete. I did not have Georgia winning nor coming close to winning the East this year. BUT NEXT YEAR look out! Now if someone who needs to go would be the strenght and condition coach, to many times the players come off the field after one or two plays, they have to be better condititoned. This is a rebuilding season, we will fly under the radar and win big next year my friend.

Stan

October 5th, 2010
11:06 am

When you get the recrutiing classes ga has the past 3 years and this is the result, something is wrong.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
11:07 am

GoDawg

Richt is the classiest coach in all of the SEC. Hands down.

real fack check

October 5th, 2010
11:08 am

and out of the 17, 15 are from Georgia.

Bama Bob

October 5th, 2010
11:09 am

And we own you third rate aubbies. I am looking forward to the IB this year and another loss by you losers.

Tide 37
Aubbie 10

But you will get shellacked by Mallet before that happens.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
11:09 am

The best football and baseball players in the south come from Georgia. IF any of you watched this years All Star game, there were more players from the state of Georgia than any other state in the union. And no, not all of them were from the Braves.

GO BRAVES!!!!!

Old Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:09 am

Tony, this is great column and I hope CMR and Greg McGarity read it, digest it and make it happen. While I’m the first to say that programs can’t have superior success season after season, it’s obvious there is too much talent in the state of Georgia and too many resources available for the program to struggle like it is.

Making changes doesn’t always include letting coaches/managers go. A few years ago we had a production issue where I work. Our management team made some changes in how we analyze production, set up a team to review every aspect of production and the problems were solved.

The key to our success was that we looked internally at every aspect of what we were doing, we were honest about the issues and be open to suggestions.

I have no idea what the real problems are with the UGA program, though it’s obvious many things have changed from early in CMR’s tenure. If the program can enhance its position without firing folks, that OK. If changes need to be made by bringing in new blood, so be it.

UGA football is special to many folks… the players, coaches and administrators, and more importantly for the fans. Their yearly passion is what fires everything. And right now their fire is fueled by displeasure and lingering questions. I know everyone isn’t always satisfied; that’s a given.

All fans ask is to remain competitive and to be in a position for championships. That hasn’t happened in recent years and some folks are mighty jealous of our neighbors’ success. Until the fans see a move in the right direction, anyone who coaches football at UGA is going to feel an unforgiving heat. It’s not pretty. It may not be right. But it is what many fans demand.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
11:11 am

“And we own you third rate aubbies. I am looking forward to the IB this year and another loss by you losers. ”

Oh goody, another fight.

Hey Bob, we owned your a$$es for six straight years. Go ahead and make a prediction about how you clowns will beat us up. You clowns said the same thing last year and you were saved with .52 seconds to go in the game.

“But you will get shellacked by Mallet before that happens.”

Oh right, just like you guys have 300 national titles. Right.

Vulture

October 5th, 2010
11:11 am

WAR DAMN EAGLE
Interested in a trade?

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
11:12 am

“you third rate aubbies.”

Logic fail. Auburn is currently ranked 8 and Cam Newton has more yards than your Heisman winning running back.

Also, we are the only team in the SEC with three players who AVERAGE 70 yards per game.

Oh, and our defense is getting better, faster and stronger every week.

NK

October 5th, 2010
11:14 am

I think this is a well written article that touches on the issues here, but also shows a reasonable plan of action for CMR and McGarrity. Well done TB!

Dirty Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:14 am

They say ‘bad things happen in threes’, and with Mr. Barnhart’s piling on – combined with Bradley and Schultz, it would appear that we’ve received our ‘limit’ from this bunch of ‘front-runnin’/band-wagon-jumpin’/which way’s the wind blowin’ hacks.

Hopefully Mr. McGarity and even that damned Michael Adams, will have the good sense to try and calm the waters while, quietly, seeing to it that CMR has the plan and latitude to bring about the changes needed. ‘die-hard-braves-fan’s right, it was way too much to believe that the defense could have turned itself around in one season…and who the hell knows that the story is about the O-line – maybe the one that reminded us some weeks ago that the success we had at running the ball late last year was against teams that couldn’t stop anybody. Same with how we were ranked going into ‘07 – we weren’t good enough to begin with – just were lucky enough to have kicked the crap out of a ‘way’ overmatched Hawaii team in that Sugar Bowl – then when you add in the injuries, we were doomed – you forgot to mention those things didn’t you Tony?

So understand something people, the more you pitch fits…the more you ridicule the coaches and players…the more you show your a$$es here, the tougher it’s going to be to turn things around. Players will be even more discouraged…coaches will start to ‘renew’ friendships with other programs…and recruits will say ‘why in blazes would I want to come to that place with all the ‘fair-weather fans’?

Sam

October 5th, 2010
11:14 am

I agree completely with your analysis and clear thinking.

Mean Machine

October 5th, 2010
11:15 am

Tony, I agree with you about evaluating everything in the program, but at what point do you say enough is enough. This should have been done by the Evans and Richt after the 2008 season, when it was clear that the team underachieved. Richt has had ample opportunity to change things, and either he failed to address them, or he made the wrong decisions. The question we as Georgia fans are faced with is; do we believe that Coach Richt will turn things around? If the answer is yes, then we give him how many more years to get an SEC title? If the answer is no, then UGA had better make a change after this season, or it will only put UGA further behind in competing for championships. I was on board with giving Richt the opportunity up until the Miss. St. loss. Enough is enough, losing to Miss. St. and Colorado is unacceptable under any circumstances. I’ve lost faith in Coach Richt to get the job done.

Columbus Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:16 am

Tony, There is a post above saying that Richt cannot foresee how a 5 star or even a 4 star recruit will turn out in college, and I mostly agree on that, but there are a lot of UGA fans, boosters and large money contributors who want to know what credentials some of our asst. coach’s have that would allow them to coach at an SEC level. Tony ball was hired as running backs coach, from a position at VT as just that. Now he is coaching receivers at Georgia. Where are his credentials for that? Mike Bobo played Quarterback at UGA for a couple of years, and McClendon was a receiver. They were both pretty average players at the SEC level, so what would make Richt have them in the roles they are now in? These are questions that have to be answered before a verdict is reached on Richt’s having earned any right to anything at this point.

chicagodawgs

October 5th, 2010
11:20 am

FIRE CMR!…Hes Done

Head Coaching Candidates: (Offer 3.5 million/2 yr contract)

1)Jon Gruden 2)Herman Edwards 3) Pete Caroll 4)Kirby Smart 5) Will Muschamp

Abnerish

October 5th, 2010
11:20 am

Anyone thinking we can have a winning season after watching the last 4 games is completely off their rocker! I’m the epitome of the Richt supporter, but even I am growing weary of this. I can’t believe that Tennessee is a 10 point underdog to us. Vegas usually doesn’t miss a point spread by that much. Why would anyone think we are that much better than the Vols? Makes no sense. There is only one game the rest of this season that we should be 10 pt favorites in and that is Idaho St. We should be underdogs to Tenn, UK, UF, AU, and Tech. I think the only winnable games left are ISU, Vandy, and UK. If I had to guess I would say we will finish the season 4-8. But I still think Richt will get one more season and here’s the reason: 2 SEC Championships and 3 SEC East crowns and a history of being able to turn things around. Comparisons to Donnan are not viable because he didn’t win the SEC and never got us to the next level. Winning the NC has more to do with luck than anything else, just ask Auburn fans. LSU and Florida have lucked out more than anybody. Twice in 10 years, Georgia was in position to play for the national championship (2002, 2007) but luck wasn’t on our side. If Tenn loses to either Vandy or UK in 2007 (and UT should’ve lost both games), we play LSU for the SEC and if we win we play OSU for the NC instead of LSU. In 2002, we only lost 1 game, but Miami and OSU were both undefeated. Richt has earned a chance to fix this.

Columbus Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:21 am

Also, if there is truth to the rumor that Richt will not allow Grantham to scold players when they screw up, then that is extremely unacceptable. To just come out and say Richt has earned the right to straighten out this mess is a little premature without having these questions answered as well as the strength and conditioning questions answered.

Columbus Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:21 am

Also, if there is truth to the rumor that Richt will not allow Grantham to scold players when they screw up, then that is extremely unacceptable. To just come out and say Richt has earned the right to straighten out this mess is a little premature without having these questions answered as well as the strength and conditioning questions answered.

Bama Bob

October 5th, 2010
11:22 am

6 years? We’ve owned you for 16 decades. Aubbie idiots. Cam will get shut down when he goes against a good defense like Bama’s.

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:22 am

War – love Georgia much ?? Man u need to ask out Mark Richt if you feel that strongly, and Cam sux, looks like Les Miles coached him

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:23 am

Grantham needs to lock them in the broom closet when they screw up

G8R GRAD

October 5th, 2010
11:25 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, here, but so far only one of you has suggested WHO would be CMR’s replacement if he waere let go.

Hypothetically, of course, but who?

Harbaugh?

Smart?

Muschamp?

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:25 am

hire Jon Gruden, that would be funny, man your QB’s would cry all day long

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:26 am

Spurrier JR would be the best hire you could make, then Georgia would become our scout team

chicagodawgs

October 5th, 2010
11:27 am

yeah it would be funny while Ga was beating the hell out of FL and Tenn every year..

bamafan

October 5th, 2010
11:28 am

Real – I hope my daughter (a UGA grad and a fan) is reading this blog today. She shouldn’t need any reinforcement of her behavior, but just in case, I will mention yours tonight at the supper table. Clean up your act and get a life.

G8R GRAD

October 5th, 2010
11:28 am

Wouldn’t you know it!
As soon as I posted, I noticed three (count ‘em, THREE) contributors suggesting replacements for CMR.
My apologies.

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:30 am

Chicagodawgs- beating Tenn is not a stretch for Georgia, have you seen them play, they are worst than you this year, still a 50/50 chance though.

MJ

October 5th, 2010
11:31 am

Tony,

Great read and I agree totally TB. Georgia is not going to get anyone better than Mark Richt and Richt deserves the opportunity to make it right. Though this really reminds me of what went on down at Miami when Larry Coker was on the outs in 2005. He was firing assistants left and right and really the reason for the demise was right there in the mirror. I am not sure if thats the case here but its an eerily similar situation.

As for the changes, I know people would be talking about Kirby Smart (unproven) or Will Muschamp (also unproven and his def has been shredded 2 weeks in a row w/ Texas talent) as the next coach but how much better are they than Richt? And realisticly, GA would be looking at 2-4 years before a positive impact is made and even then its not guaranteed. Tennessee is case and point. Its probaly in GA best interest to keep Richt see how next year goes and evaluate things after 2011.

Emory

October 5th, 2010
11:32 am

Tony, I always look forward to your opinion and respect everything you say. I think the whole thing boils down to strength and conditioning. The players can’t win, they can’t compete with better athletes, they are just not ready physically. Isn’t the strength and conditioning coach Mark’s brother-in-law? HUMMMMM!

Feeding The Fire

October 5th, 2010
11:33 am

Isn’t there a conflict between being a Christian and not believing in discipline? I have not been a fan of Richt. He got the memo that Tech is an important game but apparently never got the one for UF. Ten wins is just one statistic.

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:34 am

What coach get top 5 talent every year, and flushes it down the toilet every year………….Times up…Mark Richt

Earl

October 5th, 2010
11:39 am

I say start paying coaches on commission. No win no pay!

Mark Richt

October 5th, 2010
11:39 am

Sorry for the loss, i dont know what to say, our offensive line is young-every year, like the last 7.Maybe we can beat Florida this year, if their team gets the Flu. I have recruited top flight wide recievers but will waste their talent with my QB, i have recruited top flight running backs but will waste their talent with piss poor o-line play and play calling. Next year I’m thinking about putting in something called a defense, maybe ill recruit for that the year after. Your thoughts and prayers are welcomed

Mark Richt

October 5th, 2010
11:40 am

Please give me a big raise and I’ll win one more game a year, i promise

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:40 am

@Game C0ck Here …you still have not answered my question. When has SC ever won a championship of any caliber???

G8R GRAD

October 5th, 2010
11:41 am

i wish we would hire Spurrier JR, he’s better than RIcht is

jellybeandawg

October 5th, 2010
11:42 am

Tony the problem with giving Richt another year to ” right the ship” is that the outlook for next season is worse than this season!

Next year we will have far too many losses at the OL, WR, DL, LB, DB positions. By any and all definitions, next season will be a “true” total rebuilding season and we will be significantly worse than this year. I feel real bad for Richt and the staff but what is the point in having a lame duck coach hanging around for another season of misery?