Georgia’s Martinez isn’t running from criticism

Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez apparently has convinced Mark Richt he can do the job. Now he just has to convince everybody else. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@ajc.com)

ATHENS — The most maligned football coach in Athens cracked a joke. Or maybe it wasn’t a joke.

“I want to coach on offense,” Willie Martinez said. “Tight ends. A guy drops a pass, so what? That’s my dream job — to coach the tight ends in a passing offense. ‘Hey you: Get in! Get out! Did you block your guy?’ Ah, but my guys tell me I would just get bored.”

He should experience such boredom on defense. Martinez has coached at Georgia for eight seasons. It’s only in the past four, during his term as defensive coordinator, that he has been more like a dart board with ears. It’s the perfect storm for an assistant football coach: Work at an SEC school with a demanding and obsessed fan base; follow somebody popular (Brian VanGorder); and have, frankly, only moderate success.

How would you grade defensive coordinator Willie Martinez?

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Even if everybody got a little dizzy and Georgia was overrated before last season, it doesn’t fully explain what we saw from the defense. There was a lack of discipline and focus, poor tackling, far too many hot-headed moments and late hits that led to personal fouls. Martinez knows this. He also understands why he has taken some heat, and he’s not deflecting any of it.

“You know in this business, [criticism] is a part of it,” he said. “But you can’t let that affect you. You deal with it and you move on.”

Asked if he has ever believed his job was in jeopardy, Martinez smiled. “I’ve been doing this for 24 years. I coach the secondary. I feel that way every game. Whether I’ve been at Central Michigan and Boca [Raton] High, when you coach the secondary, if one guy messes up, you think, ‘It’s over. I’m done.’ “

For what it’s worth, he feels better about things this season. There have been fewer injuries (so far). Certain players have exuded more leadership. Practices have been tougher. Only one suspended player on defense. “Some years here, we’ve have had seven, eight, nine guys out,” he said.

All of which means if things don’t go well, there won’t be a lot of excuses. We’ll begin to find out in Stillwater, Okla., on Sept. 5. The ball will be in the air all day. Zac Robinson-to-Dez Bryant is an endless loop in Martinez’s head.

If nothing else, the game-planning will enable him to forget about four games in particular last season: Alabama, LSU, Florida, Georgia Tech. Three of those were losses, but even the win (52-38) in Baton Rouge was a defensive embarrassment (five touchdowns, 497 yards). In those four games, Georgia allowed 173 points and 22 offensive touchdowns. Martinez’s quick recap:

♦ Alabama (41-30 loss): “They did a good job jumping on us [31-0]. We couldn’t make a play. We settled down, and there was a moment where we had changed momentum, but we just couldn’t finish it.”

♦ LSU: “Poor tackling. Not to make excuses, but we had some bad weather that week and couldn’t practice the way we wanted. We just gave up too many big plays.”

♦ Florida (49-10): “I thought we had a great game plan. We just couldn’t overcome the turnovers [by the offense]. Defense is about changing momentum, and we couldn’t do that.”

♦  Tech (45-42): “We didn’t tackle well. We were there. Everybody knows what they’re going to do in that offense. If we tackle well, we win that game.”

He’ll take the blame for the poor tackling. It’s execution. It’s his job to teach, to motivate. “Everybody wants to do well,” he said. “But all you can do is concentrate on the process because all of the other things you can’t control.” And boredom isn’t part of the equation.

189 comments Add your comment

George C

August 19th, 2009
3:09 pm

RThese pretzels, ARE MAKING ME THIRSTY!!!!

George C

August 19th, 2009
3:09 pm

The sea was angry that day my friends. Like an old man returning soup at a deli.

George C

August 19th, 2009
3:11 pm

World’s are colliding! George is getting upset!

Scout Dawg

August 19th, 2009
3:13 pm

Junkyard Dawgs with an attitude for redemption this year. I pity the nerds.

George C

August 19th, 2009
3:13 pm

My name is George. I’m unemployed and live with my parents.

Eddie Dubnik

August 19th, 2009
3:13 pm

You can call it poor tackling but from what I saw in the Tech game it was also a lot of tough running by the Tech RB’s and then when they were even with the defensive backs they were gone.

Peter de

August 19th, 2009
3:14 pm

Willie Martinez is to the offense as Tony Gonzalez is to the defense. Tony, there may be a job waiting for you at Georgia if you ever retire and want to be a DC.

PMC

August 19th, 2009
3:14 pm

Ha, that is funny considering how many grease handed TE’s have been through UGA the last few years. No one crys when they graduate around here.

George C

August 19th, 2009
3:15 pm

George likes spicy chicken.

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

August 19th, 2009
3:15 pm

Ga had a wonderful defense in ‘07, a ton injuries in ‘08, and will have a very solid defense in ‘09. The coaching staff saw the issues and have dealt with them. Like the man said, if we tackle well we win the game. Simple really.

Eastside jacket

August 19th, 2009
3:17 pm

“Everybody knows what they’re going to do in that offense.”

That’s a good one right there. I can’t wait til Coach Johnson hears about that one.

ben

August 19th, 2009
3:19 pm

I never met a loser that didn’t have a good excuse…Bear Bryant

PMC

August 19th, 2009
3:19 pm

I think he’s got a good shot to look good this year. The pieces are in place, they seem more focused. He’s certainly got the experience, I hope the best for Coach Martinez.

UGA!!!

August 19th, 2009
3:20 pm

America’s Best Colleges in 2009 according to Forbes:

Georgia is the 211th best college.
http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/94/colleges-09_University-of-Georgia_94450.html

Georgia Tech is listed as the 420th best college. I’ll give credit where credit is due in regards to having higher average SAT scores.
http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/94/colleges-09_Georgia-Institute-of-Technology_94159.html

Side Note: Props to all you current Gator students out there! Florida is listed as the 186th best college.
http://www.forbes.com/lists/2009/94/colleges-09_University-of-Florida_94449.html

Tebag and Crier

August 19th, 2009
3:20 pm

Umm, you got this year and that’s it, Willy. The only reason you have that is because of us Dawgs fans loyalty and respect for Coach Richt and what he has done for us. Schultz, you wrote that Willie is not deflecting any of the heat from last year, but I think you should have added that Willie sure as hell hasn’t taken responsibility for it, either, and that is what aggravates me the mose about Martinez…

Green Tea

August 19th, 2009
3:21 pm

Tech's D Blows Too!!!

August 19th, 2009
3:21 pm

Tech Fans,

You’re always talking about how horrible the Dogs defense was last year against your beloved Yellow Jackets. Well, Tech’s D wasn’t too hot either!

I seem to remember Stafford completing 24 of 39 passes for 407 yards, 1 INT, and 5 TDs. Not a bad day at the office.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3l0OIqYkwz0

Scout Dawg

August 19th, 2009
3:22 pm

Happy Greg Blue day to everyone! I can’t wait to get back to shoelace untying safety hits. Get ‘em Rambo!

ACC Football: What a Joke!

August 19th, 2009
3:24 pm

SEC Football…

With a 5-0 record in Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Title games, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has proven without a doubt that it is the best college football conference in the BCS era. To date, the SEC has won the last 3 BCS National Championship games and will be vying for its 4th consecutive title in the 2009-2010 campaign. The Florida Gators will begin this upcoming football season as the #1 team in the land and are the odds on favorite to finish as the #1 team by seasons end.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xq3tLXgEby8&feature=related

Peter de

August 19th, 2009
3:26 pm

The only fan more delirious than a tech fan is a Florida fan.

Teabag and Crier

August 19th, 2009
3:27 pm

The great thing about this year is we will know by the end of week 3 if this is going to be the same old / same old from good ole Willy (and Bobo in the red zone). If so, great. That will save me 10 more weeks of agony of watching my Dawgs…Last year was quite possibly the most PAINFUL 12 games of georgia football I have ever watched in my life, even the games we won. It was as if our team did not come prepared for the big games, or we only wanted to play one half of football.
I Love UGA, but our DC and special teams coach need to show VAST improvement this year.
Oh, and if Walsh kicks more than 2 balls out of bounds this year on kickoffs, he had better be riding pine. Giving teams like Florida and UA and LSU the ball on our 40 is just plain out of the question. Can we not get a kid like all the other 11 SEC schools to kick the ball out of the endzone?

George C

August 19th, 2009
3:30 pm

Are you the master of your domain?

jaxdawg

August 19th, 2009
3:36 pm

“Even if everybody got a little dizzy and Georgia was overrated before last season”

Schultz!! The dawgs weren’t overrated last year, we had 18 season ending injuries…is that too hard for you to comprehend?? Included in those injuries was our best o-lineman and best d-lineman along with a plethora of other solid contributors. You guys kill me sometimes…

Paul

August 19th, 2009
3:39 pm

Schultz, this article reeks of irresponsibility. In talking to Martinez, is he flippant or concerned? Your article seems to portray the former…

Jeff Schultz

August 19th, 2009
3:41 pm

Ben — I like the Bear Bryant quote.
Jaxdawg — So you really believe everything that happened last year was because of injuries? Mis-tackles, late hits, personal fouls — that’s all because of injuries?

2009 - Year of the Defense

August 19th, 2009
3:44 pm

Beside the injuries, turnovers killed UGA in the UF and Tech games. UGA is up 28-6 at half vs. Tech if Stafford did not deliver his patented “bad throw” that is returned for a TD. UGA driving in early 3rd qtr vs UF with a “chance” to close the gap to 14-10 but once again Stafford delivers w/ a bad INT that is taken back. No excuse for the UA 1st half and tackling in the Tech 2nd half. The offense will determine the overall success for 2009… defense will keep them in all games.

Jeff Schultz

August 19th, 2009
3:45 pm

Paul — the man cracked a joke. I think you’re overanalyzing. Obviously he’s concerned– it’s his job. He knows the ramifications.

JB

August 19th, 2009
3:47 pm

Our D will surprise this year………..you don’t think those guys here this stuff. Tech will get pounded by us this year. go Dawgs and THWT………..

Peter de

August 19th, 2009
3:49 pm

Schultz, if not for you there would be no spontaneity at the AJC, period.

rduck

August 19th, 2009
3:52 pm

Keep practicing that great tackling you guys displayed all last season that made you the preseason #1. Personally I hope Martinez stays a long time!

Cuz

August 19th, 2009
3:56 pm

By October we will know if the “Fire Willie” train has left the station. Give him a few games first.

rduck

August 19th, 2009
3:56 pm

Leave Martinez Alone!!!!!

Willie the Fireman

August 19th, 2009
4:04 pm

Hey baby, there aint no easy way out.
Hey I will stand my ground.
And I won’t back down.
(guitar solo)

gratefuldawghead

August 19th, 2009
4:05 pm

Poor tackling is a Direct Reflection on the Coach! VanGorder didn’t have this problem!!!

shannon1776

August 19th, 2009
4:05 pm

“They did a good job jumping on us [31-0]. Really Mr. Genius? I thought the 31 was a score board malfunction.

Voice of Reason

August 19th, 2009
4:08 pm

so our “great tackling” that happened during the year gave us our preseason #1 before the year started. Either there are some psychics voters in the preseason polls or that is poor logic rduck.

And I don’t think that Paul Johnson will be, or should be at least, offended by Willie’s comment. It is not as if that is a surprise. He ran the same play over 50% of the time vs. UGA. Of course you know what’s coming with that offense.

Voice of Reason

August 19th, 2009
4:10 pm

I love how you Techies try and act like the Tech offense is complicated. That is why it is ran by so many high schools. Because it is simple. Surprisingly, it seems to have been too hard to teach a bunch of nerds complicated football plays.

George C

August 19th, 2009
4:14 pm

I don’t want hope. Hope is killing me. My dream is to become hopeless. When you’re hopeless you don’t care. And when you care, that indifference makes you attractive.

Chris

August 19th, 2009
4:15 pm

Well, I’m surprised that 35% (to this point) having given Willie a C (Passing!!) grade.

Every game we lost last year was because of our terrbile defense, and it was terrible against LSU and Kentucky. If not for 55 points by the offense and two interceptions returned for TD’s against LSU, and 42 against Kentucky, we would have lost those games too.

We lost to Tennessee in 07 after giving up 35 in the first half. That translates to a terrible defense and a D.C. to slow to make adjustments. We also gave up 30 plus to Florida and Troy in 07.

In 06, we give up 55 at home to Tennessee.

In 05, we score 30 at home against Auburn but still lose because of a terrible defense giving up 31 to Auburn. Then, we lose the sugar bowl to West Virginia after giving up 35 in the first half. Once again, because of a D.C. to slow to make adjustments.

Willie Martinez gets an (F) in my book. He was our D.C. for all of those games. If you fail, you need to be fired.

Failure = FIRED!!!

George C

August 19th, 2009
4:17 pm

I just threw away a lifetime of guilt-free sex and floor seats to every sporting event in Madison Square Garden. So, please, a little respect, for I am Costanza, Lord of the Idiots.

George C

August 19th, 2009
4:18 pm

I would like to dip my bald head in oil and rub it all over your body.

AltamahaDawg

August 19th, 2009
4:19 pm

I’ve seen a BVG player miss a tackle before.

George C

August 19th, 2009
4:19 pm

Conformity is an obsession with me.

George C

August 19th, 2009
4:21 pm

I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable.

bug

August 19th, 2009
4:22 pm

Stay, Willie, Stay!

Sanford Drive

August 19th, 2009
4:22 pm

Moderate success? You’re being kind.

BigMike

August 19th, 2009
4:26 pm

Rashad Jones came to Athens more heralded than Thomas Jones (UGA fans miss that name)and Greg Blue (that name too) and has yet to put a signature hit on someone. In the words of Larry the cable guy…. Git er done or get off the field. Techies are right wing homo’s by the way!

George C

August 19th, 2009
4:26 pm

Do you ever just get down on your knees and thank God that you know me and have access to my dementia?

George C

August 19th, 2009
4:27 pm

I am so psychosomatic it makes me sick just thinking about it!

AltamahaDawg

August 19th, 2009
4:30 pm

Chris, it sounds like you have a serious decision to make in a couple of weeks.