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.

Please follow me on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/MrCFB

706 comments Add your comment

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
7:17 am

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
7:19 am

wow….2nd….

now, what do I say?

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
7:26 am

shelf life

saw it at UT and AU. Successful coaches who lost the edge. Tough row to hoe getting it back.

Don’t know if Richt/UGA Fan base have the stomach for this uphill climb.

Jablonski

October 5th, 2010
7:32 am

Great piece, TB. Problems are throughout the program and it ALL must be evaluated.

UA Alum92

October 5th, 2010
7:34 am

Good article, Tony. I agree that CMR has earned the leeway to right the ship. I’m just not sure the UGA fans are going to be that patient, particularly if the team dissolves to a 4-8 or 5-7 finish.

Joe

October 5th, 2010
7:35 am

Tony, in your exoerience, has another high profile team like Georgia imploded like this without the help of the NCAA?

You Ain't-Know Gaily Whacker

October 5th, 2010
7:38 am

Reporter: Mr. McGarity, what are your plans concerning UGA’s players ?

Greg: They have already been told of our expectations There will be no more of ME first. The ” Viper Pit ” is being cleaned out. There will be no more of this attitude———

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_ZBqpEUbik

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
7:38 am

Yes, I say have the meeting at the end of the year and tell him that there has to be major improvements next year or he is gone. Who would you bring in? Everybody says look to Boise State, remember the last coach from there that was just as hot as the current coach? How well did he do when he left for bigger and better programs? I personally think we are weak, need to work on the strength and conditioning. We have no senior leadership on this team and did not have any last year. We need a player on offense and defense to stand up and be a leader on the field, to get in a team mates face if they screw up on or off the field.

Da Wild Rebel

October 5th, 2010
7:38 am

Mark your calendars: October 16, 2010 – The UGA Bulldogs lose to Vanderbilt at home and are 1 – 6, having lost to Tennessee at home the week before.

Mark you calendars: November 28, 2010 – The day after UGA loses to GA Tech and finishes 2 – 10, a “disappointed” Greg McGarity announces that Mark Richt has “resigned” as the head coach at Georgia.

Mark your calendars: October 16, 2010 – The Ole Miss Rebels shock the world and beat Alabama in a shootout: 45 – 42.

southJaxBeachBullDawg

October 5th, 2010
7:38 am

Tony,

I could not agree with you more. Coach Richt has earned this right. Lets give it to him. BUT, lets also ask him has his level of committment topped off in the past few years. This I am not sure of. It all starts at the top and this is what AD McGarity will say. Personally, I believe the players are tuning the coach out because they sense he has lost his desire and level of committment. If this is the case then changes MUST be made. This type of play might be acceptable at other institutions but NOT at THE University of Georgia!

phil

October 5th, 2010
7:39 am

Is there anybody more irrelevant than “Mr. College Football,” Toby Barnhardt? NO!!!

Big D

October 5th, 2010
7:39 am

Tony, I would agree that Richt has the right to fix the problem. However, it did not start this year it has been coming but everyone put their head in the sand. Too many people in trouble and pentaties on the field and what was said “We will fix it” OK when is what the fans want to know.

JB

October 5th, 2010
7:40 am

Good read, per usual and I agree with the bulk of it.

The thing that is most frustrating to me is that we are about 5 plays away from being something like 4-1. We are probably the last 1-4 team that anyone wants to play.

We aren’t getting waxed and could have easily won but are, as mentioned, just a few plays away from having a much better record. Argh!

Things are not good but they aren’t necessarily as bad as some say they are.

HBTD!!!

UGA VII

October 5th, 2010
7:40 am

Please keep Mark Richt. I would hate to think I left for the other side and things will get better.

Tenn. wins by 30.

Snake Doc

October 5th, 2010
7:41 am

Well, in to each life a little rain must fall. Its falling on UGA at this point. Why delay the hiring of a coach? We went through Goff, then Donnan to find Richt. Its not like we haven’ been through the process before.

This program will never reach the heights all UGA fans hope for. Now we are a third tier team in the S.E.C. East. MR has had some fine years, but, tell me honestly , haven’t we all seen chinks in this teams armor from day one? The inability to beat Florida consistently, Being a world beater for 2 or 3 quarters of a game and all of a sudden the offense will disappear. Defense was good enough to win or keep the team in the game until th O woke up. The fact we start a season ranked number one, and plummet faster than a rock falling from space.

The inability to fire WM when it was apparent he was in over his head. Too loyal. We were promised changes after last year. Hmmm, We changed on D and its a work in progress. O didn’t change, and look where we are. Again, being to loyal? Arrests up, penalties and mistakes on the rise! Its good we had stafford and moreno because without those two this team would have really stunk.

Now we hove no star running backs, no star receivers, no star Defensive players. Recruiting is not as good as we have been led to believe or this coaching staff has no clue how to get the most out of its players. Does not know how to coach them up!

MR is a nice man, great human being, still its time for him to go!

UA Alum92

October 5th, 2010
7:42 am

One other point: As to who would UGA get to replace CMR, if there aren’t too many hard feelings from last year’s failed DC recruitment, Kirby Smart is probably near the top of the wish list.

Mark in Woodstock

October 5th, 2010
7:43 am

When a program goes south RARELY does a coach turn it around…just look at Tenn and Auburn….change needs to happen in order for the program to turn around…

Do you really think the programs at Florida and Bama fear Richt??? Of course not…they see a sleeping giant to the north and east…they want Richt to keep his job.

JB

October 5th, 2010
7:43 am

BTW, I’d also mention that the penalties and TO’s are way down, from last yr. Granted the TO’s we have had have been brutal.

I also think that if we were getting waxed that it would be fair to say that the players were tuneing out the coaches. That’s obviously not the case.

People seem to equate losses with such without really paying attention.

HBTD!!!

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
7:43 am

There are always a few teams that rise to the top in any CFB conference. These will vary from year to year, although there are usually 3 or 4 teams who, over time, dominate more often than do the other 8 or 9 teams. Mark Richt came into the SEC as Florida, Alabama and Tennessee were all on a downward trajectory. Georgia then took their place among Auburn and LSU as the rising stars in the SEC. Notice that the “other” two teams in ascension during that time period happened to be in the Western Division.

You noted that 2007 was Georgia’s “year”. This was when they were expected to make a NC run. And yet, when Georgia came to Tuscaloosa that September the game ended in a tie and Georgia needed a FG in overtime to win 26-23 against a depleted Crimson Tide squad that went on to lose to a middling Florida State team the very next week. It’s been all downhill for Georgia since that time.

Nobody can argue that Richt is incapable of coaching or that he is not a nice guy, but Georgia has already kept him there past his “sell by” date. Don’t make the mistake of letting another team hire your new HC while you decide whether or not this move is fair to Mark. It won’t be easy to start over. Then again, it won’t be easy to continue trying the same thing over and over again — hoping for different results.

turkeycaller

October 5th, 2010
7:44 am

Good write but NO.

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
7:44 am

@UA Alum92 …Kirby Smart is not head coach material yet. He needs to go to a smaller school first. I am not sure how much of control he has in Alabama?

Serenity in the Swamp

October 5th, 2010
7:45 am

Just passing through. Oh, I say give hime an extention.

Little Nicky Satan

October 5th, 2010
7:47 am

Little Nicky will be available in January after I lead ‘Bammer to a 2nd straight national championship.

$8,000,000.00 per year; an office in the Dog Mahal made of gold, that takes up an entire floor of the building; and of course, a buyout of $500,000.00.

If you can’t pony up that amount, I’ll take my act to Georgia Bleccch.

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
7:47 am

A little perspective here.

I remember Bryant’s teams of 1969 and 1970. If memory serves, both were 6-5, or there-abouts. There was no 24/7 internet/media scrutiny at the time, but there was a lot of murmerings at the barber shops in Alabama.

Good coaches, and good programs fall on hard times. Some recruiting classes just don’t pan out. There is little room for error in player evaluation.

My question….if I were an UGA fan…is: has this program made strides in building, and maintaining a program that is competitive in the SEC East?

Looking at UGAs record vs UF over the past ten years, that answer is no.

Changing coordinators, schemes, or anything else won’t fix that.

UA Alum92

October 5th, 2010
7:49 am

82Dawg, Coach Saban is VERY hands on in all three disciplines, but Kirby is calling the shots on defense. He won last year’s Broyles Award as the best coordinator for a reason. He is also an excellent motivator and recruiter and incredibly well prepared. The players love the guy. I would hate to lose him.

FireRicht.com

October 5th, 2010
7:49 am

Wasn’t this last years question???? Of course not! HE has had three consecutive years of terrible performance based on the talent on hand and the expectations! As CEO of the Dawgs he has performed horribly and we fans (the shareholders) expect a new man to restore confidence in our meteoric dropping stock price, Has any coach performed worse with as much talent as he has had the last two years? Aren’t we tired of saying next year we ought to be good? Aren’t we tired of Florida’s dominance? Aren’t we tired of losing to Kentucky, UT (when they are terrible see last year), Vandy, Mississippi State, etc. IT IS TIME! He makes MILLIONS and look at our performance. Either we need to hire some nobody with mediocre expectations and pay them far less or we need a coach worthy of the pay. We NEED CHANGE!

david humphreys

October 5th, 2010
7:52 am

when tennessee fired coach fulmer they had NO back up plan and look who we got! coach mouth and his daddy! whos better out there than coach richt? dont develope amnesia like we did. majors only started consitently winning when fulmer was elevated to oc.thank god hamilton got derek dooley (and no you cant have him!) think about it before you put your program in complete disarray…..

Fleming Island Dawg

October 5th, 2010
7:54 am

Palladin actually in 2007 the game was tied 20 to 20 and Alabama kicked a field goal and Georgia called a gutsy play on first down and Stafford hit Mikey Henderson for a 25 yard touchdown and in that case you don’t kick the extra point. I guess you didn’t see the game and just guessed the overtime from the score.

SimpleDawg

October 5th, 2010
7:54 am

I wasn’t able to watch the Georgia vs. Colorado game live.

People who have fall weddings, and don’t have a TV at the reception are inconsiderate……

I was able to watch the replay last night for the first time……I still don’t know why we lost to Colorado. After the disastrous start, the Dawgs seemed to be the dominate team. After a defensive breakdown here and a few missed tackles there, the Dawgs are in a real fight again. But even after all of the sacks and defensive lapses that happened, the Dawgs still looked like they were going to win the game, only to have a busted play create the fatal fumble that doomed Georgia to defeat.

They continue to beat themselves in games that could’ve been won. I’m more perplexed now than earlier in the season. I think we have good players, although on defense they’re ill-suited to the scheme we employ, and there’s nothing really wrong with the play calling……we have just forgotten how to win.

We have forgotten how to win.

We have snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory, again.

SimpleDawg

October 5th, 2010
7:56 am

Oh, and One Guy can make a huge difference.

But, only if the mistakes stop.

FalconUGAFan

October 5th, 2010
7:56 am

Tony…I think you are spot on …I do think Richt has to be given one more year IF McGarity feels that Richt still has the level of commitment needed for the program. The reality is that our fanbase will call for his (McGarity) head pretty quickly if the next coach doesn’t work out rather quickly.

Fleming Island Dawg

October 5th, 2010
7:58 am

FireRicht since when is 10-3 a terrible performance which is what GA did in 2008? Alabama went 7-6 in 2007 and FL was 9-4 the same year. How can you say it’s been 3 terrible seasons?

Larry

October 5th, 2010
7:58 am

Tony,

Other writers, talk show hosts, and fans have offered their opinions but you are the first to diplomatically offer a well thought out, systematic approach to facing and accepting reality, identifying the problems, and finding the solutions.

Touché!

Larry

#1 BAMA FAN

October 5th, 2010
7:58 am

I hope that UGA makes the right decision, whatever that might be. The SEC needs them to be the traditional strong program that they have been. To Wild Rebel….Ole Miss couldn’t score 45 points on BAMA’s freshman/chearleaders.RTR

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
7:59 am

re: Mark Richt

I’d like to see CMR succeed because I think CFB needs more people like him. We need a few Bobby Bowdens sprinkled around the college landscape.

While there is no dount that Nick Saban is a great football coach, I wouldn’t want to go fishing with him.

One of us wouldn’t come back. And at the end of the day, I’m pretty sure he’d own my boat.

reebok

October 5th, 2010
8:01 am

nice article, tony.

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
8:01 am

Let’s say that conventional wisdom is correct and Richt remains as the Georgia HC in 2011.

It has become apparent that an 8 win season next year will represent a significant improvement. Will that be enough to satisfy Dawg fans that the program has been “turned around”? Would 7 wins be adequate, so long as one of those is against Florida? What do you expect from Richt in 2011 in order to decide whether to keep him for the 2012 season?

Doogsga

October 5th, 2010
8:03 am

Great read Tony. Thanks for an objective perspective. I’m worried about Schultz and Bradley. I don’t think we should go a witch hunt just yet. I, like many others believe this is our rebuilding year. With the new defense comes what looks like confusion in the defendive backfield. I get it – it’s not easy to learn – I’ve seen a D-1 playbook – it’s like a Tom Clancy novel.

The dawg nation has to keep the faith. These players can’t get right mentally if we’re riding them beyond what they can take.

Our fans must hold it together as well. If I were a recruit sitting in the stands and am watching fans boo or curse the home team, I would probably go elsewhere.

Real

October 5th, 2010
8:05 am

I love how Bama fans come on a UGA blog to boast and criticize other football programs when their own program went through 15 or so years of complete and utter failure.

5IML

October 5th, 2010
8:05 am

Yes, Richt should be given the opportunity to straighten things although he’s incapable of doing so. UGA’s biggest problem is talent evaluation. They sign the athlete with the most stars without regard to whether that athlete will fit in their system.

GT Dude

October 5th, 2010
8:06 am

I don’t really have a dog in this hunt, but do have an observation…
A common thread among most comments is that Richt is a “good man”; what the heck does being a good man have to do with being a good coach, I rarely hear the term “good guy” when one speaks of Saban, Meyers, Rodrigues, Kelly,….
What these men have in common, they are hard nosed and detailed oriented control freaks
Something that Richt has seemed to have lost along the way
I know the next obsrvation will seem a little odd, but take notice of Richt’s personal appearance. Until recently he has always been Mr. GQ – fit and trim with the spray on tan, but now he has packed on the pounds and not hitting the tanning booth as much, He seems to have lost control of some asspects of his personal life as well
Just my 2 cents, good luck with the Vols

Palladin

October 5th, 2010
8:06 am

@Fleming Island Dawg

No. I watched the game, but it’s been so long ago that I forgot the details of the overtime play. The fact that you remember this “signature” win over a Bama squad that finished the regular season with a 6-6 record and a loss to LA Monroe tells a lot about where this Georgia program stands.

Remember, this was Georgia’s best year in recent history.

Real

October 5th, 2010
8:07 am

“The SEC needs them to be the traditional strong program that they have been.”

Why? I don’t hear anyone saying that about the Vols and that program has had a much better tradition of great football than UGA.

Fleming Island Dawg

October 5th, 2010
8:09 am

Hey Real I agree with you. One of these Atlanta writers said how it used to be GA could never beat Alabama of Florida in the SEC now it’s any SEC team. The FL part is right but the last 4 games against Al we have won 3 of the 4.

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
8:10 am

@ Real

didn’t realize that this was a UGA blog…..my bad.

Stillman/Fl. Dawg

October 5th, 2010
8:10 am

Told you so. CMR will NEVER get UGA to the promise land. This isn’t the ACC and he level of players are not SEC caliber. With the new defense you’d think he had sense enough to call the plays more because BOOBOO has no clue of how to call a game. You can see it in him, CMR is there to just be there, so just get out.

bdawg

October 5th, 2010
8:11 am

Tony, I had this conversation with a friend yesterday. I will get the answers but Greg can and will. Even with changes and they started yesterday, he went 1s vs 1s for the first time ever at UGA during the season, I give him a 5% chance to be head coach after 2011. The problems run too deep and I don’t think that can be corrected in 12 months. He cannot survive another 500 or below record in the SEC. After the season, if Mcgarity gets the plan he’s satisfied with and gives him 2011 to turn it around, I’ll support that, but if he isn’t happy with the answers and makes a change I’ll support that as well. Go Dawgs

Northern Sympathizer

October 5th, 2010
8:12 am

It’s fair to raise a cautionary note before replacing a proven winner in a program. The problem is that the “discussion” Tony imagines at season’s end should have already happened. UGA has been in steady decline for three years. His is a recipie for non-action. Non-action didn’t work in the waning years of either Butts or Goff. If the hand writing is on the wall, then read it!
I like CMR, but it is clear that coaching is no longer his passion and there are too many qualified candidates out there who ARE passionate about it. The issue isn’t “Does Richt deserve the chance to fix”. The question is can he?

George P Burdell

October 5th, 2010
8:13 am

YES. I am a Tech guy, but I watched enough of the Colorado game to see the obvious: when AJ Green was on the field, UGA was a good team. When Green was off the field, the UGA players alternated between trying to hard and being passive when aggressive playing did not yield results. This is not Richt’s fault, it is the PLAYERS’ fault. I am certain that the players want to play hard and win. But this type of thing happens unconciously, it happens fast on the field, and it happens at all levels of sport.

Michael Scharff

October 5th, 2010
8:13 am

Tony, I have met Coach Richt numerous times over the past decade. As many people have said, he is an incredibly good man. I truly think that he is still a bit naive in that I think he expects his players to adhere to the same standards of conduct that he follows every day in his life. But, in this day and age, there are too many negative cultural influences out there. I think that Coach Richt must install a strict code of conduct and stick to his guns. I do think he desrves another year to try and right the ship. I also think that changes have to made on the field. this is not what the fans have have come to expect as the Georgia brand of football.