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

chank a long

October 5th, 2010
11:43 am

Tony, I couldn’t agree with you more. Great article. Especially the last paragraph. I think that epitomizes our frustration and sentiments. You are a true DAWG.

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:44 am

Our game this year with you, thats all i need, are you still living in the past-1980 LMFAO , 82Dawg-man that was over 30 years ago, let it go, visit your grandchildren or something.

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:45 am

@G8R GRAD ..if you are a UF grad (I get that by your name) why would you want Spurrier Jr over Richt?

ugaclassof2004

October 5th, 2010
11:46 am

I disagree that Richt should be given leeway. From 2008 until now, this program has been going downhill fast. What Richt did in 2002 doesn’t buy him a lifetime! Richt is not Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno, he didn’t build the UGA program! Dooley had years where he struggled, but he was always able to turn it around with a good season when he needed one. But there is a difference between a team that is struggling through injuries/inexperience and a program that is just bad. And the UGA program is just bad! And its not going to get better until Richt leaves. The problem for the last 3 years hasn’t been Willie or Bobo, its been Richt. He’s the one that has stuck by these guys even when they have proven themselves to be utterly incompetent! His ambivalence is what has led this program to this point. And if UGA wins Saturday, and finishes out 7-5 or 6-6, I will guarantee you that he keeps his job: which will really piss me off! If that happens, then the UGA alumni and fanbase are to blame for accepting mediocrity. What will it take for us as fans to change our mind? Will the program have to totally bottom out and go 1-11 or 2-10 before we make a change? Richt has been good for UGA. He’s the second best coach UGA has had after Vince Dooley. But he clearly can’t cut it anymore. His run is over! Allow him the option to resign, and lets move forward, even if that means 2-3 years of rebuilding.

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:47 am

82Dawg- Are you seriously gonna bring up 30 years ago to combat your loss this year to a superior team, running back, QB, coach.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 5th, 2010
11:47 am

Auburn owns the state of South Carolina? Well I guess you had to own something because nobody wants to own Auburn except the cows and BAMA.

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:48 am

@Game C0ck Here… I have never posted anything about 1980, you are correct that is history. I do not live in the past.Glad you think your game with us was a championship game. Really shows your intelligence.

Dawgs73

October 5th, 2010
11:48 am

I don’t understand some of the illconceived logic that I am reading. “Mark Richt deserves another year”, “UGA will win a National Championship next year”, “Mark Richt deserves another 5 years”, “be careful for what you wish for”…and on and on and on and on.

I guess by some of the above logic (or lack there of), Vince Dooley should have never retired, Ray Goff should/would have been impossible to replace, and Jim Donnan should have been signed to a 30 year contract…HUH??????

Again, I love what Mark Richt HAS done for UGA, but the program AS CURRENTLY SITUATED, is in STEEP DECLINE. It’s not a one year thing, it’s been a gradual downward trend. It’s not fair to say that in the recruiting the first five years of his tenure was any different that the last five. That’s just not an acceptable excuse anymore. All you can ask of your recruiting coordinator, is to go out and bring players that are physically skilled at their position…It’s the COACHES JOB TO DO JUST THAT, COACH.

Please stop with the bind homer posts, and be objective. We love Mark Richt, but he is not providing for a bright future for our beloved Dawgs.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 5th, 2010
11:48 am

Florida owns Athens but they just sold the lease to Kentucky.

David

October 5th, 2010
11:50 am

Tony I love you man, but you can’t be objective when it comes to Ga. All jokes aside, you are emotionally invested in Ga. The program has hit rock bottom and CMR is the captain of the ship.
I think in the coming weeks you guys might find out he is not the saint you guys make him out to be.

Mike Smith

October 5th, 2010
11:51 am

Good article, Tony. I definitely think there are organizational problems under Richt. Grantham was a good hire. I would stick with him. Outside of the Colorado game, the defense has done a good job so far keeping UGA in the game while the offense does nothing. They are undersized at D Tackle after losing their top 3 to the NFL, so there are some growing pains right now. Still, the defense has given the offense opportunities to win, they just haven’t taken them.

I would question the conditioning, recruiting, and offensive coordinator positions. Richt has most definitely earned the right to fix this. I don’t believe there is someone better waiting to replace him. Change for the sake of it rarely turns out for the better.

The biggest piece to me is offensive coaching. These guys look lost on that side of the ball. If the offense was even clicking as well as last year, then UGA is looking at maybe one loss right now.

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:52 am

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

82dawg- is this not implying that your team won something when the wheel was invented, lets talk about today punk, do you feel lucky

Coach R

October 5th, 2010
11:53 am

Fleming Island Dog,

Georgia’s all-time record vs. Alabama: 35-25-4

I’ve known for some time that there is a disgruntled Auburn fan propping up a variety of childish, rude sockpuppets on this blog. I didn’t realize until this morning that said AU sockpuppet actually moderates the blog for the AJC.

Sensible arguments for firing Coach Richt will be blocked. That’s about the only thing that gets blocked in Georgia these days — or tackled, for that matter.

Topp Dogg

October 5th, 2010
11:53 am

Mike Leach for OC hire him now and see what happens next,nuts but a genius without doubt.

Game C0ck Here

October 5th, 2010
11:54 am

lockem up in the broom closet, you would be better with jon gruder

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
11:56 am

Why dont we just put up the money for Myer while he still has a couple of good years left, he’s probably done at Florida pretty soon anyway

G8R GRAD

October 5th, 2010
11:57 am

A new low for this forum:

I’ve been HIJACKED @ 11:41!!!

G8R GRAD

October 5th, 2010
11:59 am

82Dawg:

Not me, my friend.
Trust me, I’m deliriously happy with Coach Meyer.

UGAAluminCalu

October 5th, 2010
12:02 pm

Well done and said, SIR.

Snarlin' Dawg

October 5th, 2010
12:03 pm

Coach Richt has been given many opportunities, more than most. I will not list all of them here but you all know the list anyhow. I want to plant a seed here for a potential coaching replacement… Kirby Smart. As a UGA alum I would love to give Kirby a chance to lead his alma mater to the promised land. His resume speaks for itself.

G8R GRAD

October 5th, 2010
12:03 pm

I know, I know, I can’t stand Bianchi either, but he echoes 5IML’s point made yesterday.

See:

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/sports_bianchi/2010/10/memo-to-gators-urban-meyer-let-john-brantley-be-john-brantley.html

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
12:04 pm

@G8R GRAD I was wondering…..

Doug the Jacket

October 5th, 2010
12:05 pm

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA !!!!

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
12:05 pm

“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”

Gotta love stupid people. Cam sucks huh? He leads the SEC in several categories and is now tied with Mark Ingram in the Heisman race.

Dude, you are RETARDED.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
12:06 pm

“Are you seriously gonna bring up 30 years ago to combat your loss this year to a superior team, running back, QB, coach.”

USC has never had a superior team. Ever.

Auburn OWNS USC and the state of South Carolina.

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
12:07 pm

@WAR DAMN EAGLE …Cam has looked good so far, BUT how are they tied for the Heisman? Didn’t think they voted on this until later this year.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
12:10 pm

Game C0ck Here is stealing names.

Tony, could you please ban that clown.

NC Dawg

October 5th, 2010
12:10 pm

I read a post by someone earlier talking about some of the “showboating” going on after a play. I totally agree. For example, A.J. Green is an awesome player. However, after that touchdown catch on the sideline, he stood staring at the crowd as though he deserved a parade down Main St. right then and there. This is one of the main problems with this team. One play…and they want the game to stop so an award can be presented at midfield. Come on! Play the game…TO WIN! I don’t care about a highlight film catch if the final score has Georgia losing. Got it!?

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
12:11 pm

“Cam has looked good so far, BUT how are they tied for the Heisman?”

His numbers.

“Didn’t think they voted on this until later this year.”

The race.

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
12:12 pm

“Well I guess you had to own something because nobody wants to own Auburn except the cows and BAMA.”

Guess you’ve never been to Tuscaloosa. Woof!

WAR DAMN EAGLE

October 5th, 2010
12:13 pm

“you would be better with jon gruder”

Who is jon gruder?

Julian

October 5th, 2010
12:13 pm

Really? Do you seriously believe AJ Green loves Georgia as much as the loyal fans? Of course not – he’s just getting his ticket punched until his pay day in the pros. Richt didn’t forget how to win. You want change – be careful – for every Nick Saban there are 5 Ray Goffs

ol' balls coach

October 5th, 2010
12:16 pm

Tony, nice job. Richt should have the opportunity to turn this around. The question is will he take the opportunity, and will he start taking action this year. If things continue, he cannot wait til next year to make changes. (And I have a list if he needs help getting started.)

Bama Owns Aurburn

October 5th, 2010
12:24 pm

always have, always will, NUFF SAID

Bama Owns Aurburn

October 5th, 2010
12:25 pm

Cant wait to show what a punk CAM is, he will be set straight. Ingram will adjust the votes soon enough

aggie94

October 5th, 2010
12:27 pm

Richt for Sherman…no then no one wins.
disgruntled TAMU fan

David Granger

October 5th, 2010
12:27 pm

Hard to pin down my feelings on this, Tony.
Coach Richt does two things extremely well: He’s a clean-cut, nice-looking guy who says the right things–represents the university well. And he’s a very good recruiter, which is probably the best single asset a coach can have, especially in a talent-laden state like Georgia.
And after that, the positives are about over. He’s a horrible game coach, and…even worse…the team seems to have lost all discipline.
In recent years, we have seen:
1. Georgia players draw foolish penalties at crucial moments of the game.
2. Georgia players in all kinds of legal troubles.
3. Georgia players dancing and boogeying on the sidelines in the late 4th quarter of a game we were losing.
4. Georgia players running off the field to get to the locker room at halftime…with time left on the clock.
5. Georgia players shouting back at coaches who are correcting them.
6. Georgia players stomping on an opponent’s logo at midfield after it took a last-second field goal to beat…Vanderbilt. (To paraphrase Allen Iverson: “We talking ’bout VANDERBILT!”)

To maintain discipline, both on and off the field, a coach can’t be a friend to his players. The players have to have that kind of deep respect that almost approaches fear. And Tony…have you ever seen a coach LOSE discipline and ever really get it back?

Bama Owns The KKK

October 5th, 2010
12:28 pm

The U of Alabama has put more Klanners in office than Ole Miss! ROLL KLAN ROLL!!!!!!!!

AUBURN FANS UNITE!!!

October 5th, 2010
12:28 pm

To save Mark Richt’s job!

After all, we have to play these guys every year. We let Shula get away — we can’t make the same mistake with Richt!

Bama Owns The KKK

October 5th, 2010
12:29 pm

Ingram will adjust the votes soon enough and get Bama put on another 5 years of probation.

ROLL KLAN ROLL!!!!!!!

tiger7_88

October 5th, 2010
12:33 pm

@AUBURN FANS UNITE… you do realize that Richt has won a whole lot more against AU than he has lost, right? As far as I’m concerned, if UGa wants to take a flyer on a new coach, it’s all good to me. :-)

AU Bandwagon

October 5th, 2010
12:34 pm

You’re so right AFU. Mark Richt deserves a few more years to turn this thing around.

He’s the best possible coach for Georgia. Take it from me, I live very close to Georgia — so I should know.

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
12:37 pm

@AUBURN FANS UNITE!!!…that is pretty funny, isn’t Richt’s record 6-3 against Auburn?

The Truth

October 5th, 2010
12:40 pm

CMR will never beat the big boys, but that doesn’t matter so long as he keeps his overall winning percentage high enough. He’s grown fat and happy with a mediocre football program and I’ve grown fat and happy with bragging about how good our Dawgs will be NEXT YEAR.

You just wait!

We’re gonna win the East next year. Florida will be down. You’ll see!

83Dawg

October 5th, 2010
12:43 pm

Yeah. Well, I’ll take a 6-3 win over Auburn this year. Might be the only other game that we DO win.

greg

October 5th, 2010
12:44 pm

well said Tony

Paul Johnson

October 5th, 2010
12:45 pm

how did you boys like my Mark Richt impersonation above? Pretty cool, ehh?

NC Dawg

October 5th, 2010
12:45 pm

This team needs a blowout win…something like 44-0. Unfortunately, Idaho State might be the only team in which that’s possible.

Real

October 5th, 2010
12:46 pm

I want to apologize for my rudeness toward’s BAMA FANS, i’m a bit cranky due to the fact I STARTED TODAY!!!

1eyedJack

October 5th, 2010
12:46 pm

Watched the rerun last night and one thing stuck out to me on defense. We are playing too fast. We are overpursuing the play most of the time. We’re not playing disciplined assignment football. I did not see a lack of effort.

On offense it is clear that we are a different team when AJ is on the field.