Georgia’s problem is direction, and that falls on Richt

Here's a common sight: A Tennessee receiver (Gerald Jones) making a catch in front of a Georgia defender (Bryan Evans) Saturday. (AP photo)

Here's a common sight: A Tennessee receiver (Gerald Jones) making a catch in front of a Georgia defender (Bryan Evans) Saturday. (AP photo)

KNOXVILLE — The problems just became big picture.

This isn’t just about the quarterback looking overmatched or the coordinators looking lost. It’s not about the schedule or the injuries or maybe some conspiracy theories about SEC referees having an agenda because the team got too excited with an end-zone celebration in Jacksonville two years ago.

Plug in, folks. Georgia just lost to Tennessee like no team should lose to Tennessee (45-19). The offense didn’t score a touchdown. The defense just made Jonathan Crompton look like Jonathan Unitas. Lane Kiffin just schooled Mark Richt.

Six games and they’re going backward. Six games and they’re 3-3, their worst start in 13 years. And you begin to realize: If not for those late wins over South Carolina and Arizona State and surviving mayhem against Arkansas, we could be talking scorched earth at midseason.

This is when you wonder about direction. The same coach who two years ago we were toasting for finishing the season with a No. 2 ranking is now walking off the field and into news conferences looking like toast.

On Saturday, Richt was asked a question one never could have imagined two Januarys ago:  “Are you worried about the state of the program?”

His answer: “We didn’t play very good today. We haven’t had a game this season where we played a really solid football game. So I’m concerned about that.”

Is it just me, or did he not completely shoot down the premise of the question?

Let’s make this clear. This is not a “Fire Mark Richt” column. His body of work speaks for itself. But Florida and LSU and Alabama have boat-raced Georgia in the SEC, and of maybe even greater concern is the lack of separation between the Bulldogs and everybody else.

This isn’t a former No. 2-ranked team that has maintained its level of excellence. It’s a program that has regressed. Significantly. Whatever Richt was doing before is not working now. Either the wrong players are being recruited, or the right players are being coached the wrong way.

Blame Mike Bobo for the offense. Blame Willie Martinez for the defense. Blame Stacy Searels, the vaunted offensive line coach, who, by the way, hasn’t done bupkis. Blame anybody you want.

But it starts with Richt. It’s his program. He sets the tone and establishes direction. He is the one coaching at a school that hadn’t started a season so poorly since Jim Donnan’s first year in 1996 (3-5 on the way to 5-6). Richt is the one whose team committed three more turnovers against Tennessee and ranks as the worst in the conference and among the dregs nationally with 16 giveaways and a minus-11 turnover ratio.

Volunteers quarterback Jonathan Crompton threw touchdown passes on three consecutive possessions in the second quarter and finished with four. He had been largely lampooned in Knoxville and had never thrown more than two in his career. Well, with one exception. He threw five against Western Kentucky.

So that’s where Georgia’s defense belongs: in the Sun Belt.

Asked what he would think if he was a Georgia fan watching this game on television, Martinez said: “Well, I am a Georgia fan. I’m not happy. We just got whipped.”

Things are no better on offense. The Bulldogs have failed to score an offensive touchdown in 10 of the past 11 quarters. Against Tennessee, the offense (field goal) was outscored by special teams (nine points, off a kickoff return and a blocked punt for a safety) and the defense (interception return).

Didn’t Richt make his bones in offense at Florida State?

He somewhat came to Bobo’s defense: “I like his play calling.”

When asked if he felt quarterback Joe Cox was regressing, he said: “I’ve got to look at the film before I start making comments like that.”

Just as well. This isn’t the time to be throwing anybody else under the bus.

“We’ve got a long way to go before we become a good football team,” Richt said.

And he should know. He’s the one driving the bus.

1,679 comments Add your comment

45ACP

October 10th, 2009
6:38 pm

Jeff – I’m speachless, for once.
That’s all I have to say about today.

bob horner had a sweet compact swing

October 10th, 2009
6:38 pm

DITTO……..Jeff wins……..

Bryan G.

October 10th, 2009
6:39 pm

I was worried, Jeff, that with you covering the game we might get a little more sarcasm and a little less analysis in the post-game column.

Mea culpa, sir. Great take on the program. We’ve got bigger issues than the egg we laid today.

Jeff Moron

October 10th, 2009
6:40 pm

Schultz, you seem to enjoy writing these articles a bit too much.

Cuz

October 10th, 2009
6:41 pm

Breathe, just breathe.

pi$$ed off

October 10th, 2009
6:41 pm

Grow a pair and at least get rid of Soft Willie!

Jeff Moron

October 10th, 2009
6:41 pm

By the way, since you are pointing out all of UGA’s problems, how would you suggest they be solved?

uga1989

October 10th, 2009
6:42 pm

DawgFan

October 10th, 2009
6:43 pm

Hate to say it but saw this coming a mile away. Can you say train wreck? We are looking at 6-6 at the absolute best this year. There is only one sure win left on the schedule and my concern is that, having nothing to play for a consistently being outcoached, the team just mails it in. Jeff is correct – we are pretty darn close to being 1-5 or 0-6. If you guys want to tolerate what is fast devolving from mediocrity to being a just plain bad football team, go ahead. Don’t flame me for stating reality though. The thing that kills me is that this is all about playing fundamental football and it all boils down to a lack of coaching.

Dill Dawg

October 10th, 2009
6:43 pm

9th!

whatever number I may be I am hiring than the stank behind dogs!

reebok

October 10th, 2009
6:43 pm

How do you get from a consensus #1 team and a perenial contender to this so quickly?

tenndog

October 10th, 2009
6:44 pm

Good article…..the truth hurts.

Paul H

October 10th, 2009
6:44 pm

I don’t know what to say either. I guess there’s a lot but there’s not enough space on this blog for everything that needs to be said.

Questions

October 10th, 2009
6:45 pm

Thanks for looking at the big picture, Jeff.

We’ve heard the arguments and the excuses. Now the time has come for changes to be made to the UGA football program. Loyalties aside. Is Richt loyal to his coaching staff or the school who pays his salary?

If Richt won’t make the necessary changes, will Damon Evans?

45ACP

October 10th, 2009
6:45 pm

Cuz – I like that song and the girl singing it aint to bad either.
She cranks my tractor, know what I mean?

S.W. Brown

October 10th, 2009
6:45 pm

Well said, Jeff. The past few weeks, it has been evident that the bloom is off the rose and the luck has worn off a bit. But to be trampled by UT that way – UGH! Kiffin is such a blow-hard that surely any UGA team could get up enough just to quiet him a bit. Fulmer is lovable compared to this bone-head.

Pitbull

October 10th, 2009
6:46 pm

As a UGA grad and fan for the past 40 years I have to say that this year’s team is pathetic.

What do the Georgia football coaches do during the week? They sure don’t get the players ready for the game.

What do the Georgia football players do during the week? They look like they have no ideawhat is going on out in the field during the game.

I have never seen so many receivers open as the Vols had during this game.

I have never seen so many players break tackles as the Vols did during this game.

Joe Cox (God love him) looked like Greg Talley who was absolutely the worst Georgia QB I have ever seen play for Georgia.

The Georgia team looked like the run down team that Donnan and Quincey Carter ran in Athens.

Has Mark Richt just quit working? I know he is a good man and all of that, but that does not win games – or even keep you in a game on Saturday.

Somebody in Athens either needs to get their act together or just cancel the rest of the season because this team is an embarrassment to the entire university – and state.

Paul H

October 10th, 2009
6:46 pm

Is it oversimplification to say that Richt’s loyalty to his assistants is becoming his downfall?

bob horner had a sweet compact swing

October 10th, 2009
6:46 pm

Jeff….Jeff Moron called you out…(he’s bitter)….but I suggest John Gruden…….

coach smith

October 10th, 2009
6:46 pm

Schultz

Alabama has “boat raced UGA”????

What has ALABAMA WON????????

Richt is 3-1 vs Alabama

TENNESSEE has not won an SEC Tiltle SINCE 1998!!!!!!!!

Pissed off UGA Student

October 10th, 2009
6:47 pm

Jesus tap dancing Christ! Did he really just say he likes Bobo’s play calling!?!?

GET ANGRY YOU UNNATURALLY TANNED MORON! STOP WITH THIS TIMID B/S. GET SOME FIRE IN YOU, YELL, GET ANGRY!

This guy is of the old school SEC coaches and he is simply getting schooled by Miles, Kiffin, Saban and Meyer. Saban is the oldest of them all second to Richt and the difference between Saban and Richt…Saban adjusted to how the SEC changed from his time at LSU to his arrival at Bama. Mark Richt has not adjusted and, from the quotes you put up from the post-game Jeff, will not adjust.

So that’s it. If he will not adjust then he has to go.

dogcrap

October 10th, 2009
6:47 pm

How sweet it is, how sweet it is!!!

Paul H

October 10th, 2009
6:47 pm

I have never seen a team look so lost against an inferior opponent as I did today.

coach smith

October 10th, 2009
6:47 pm

UGA has played 14 Freshman and True Freshman

and besides Atking, Owens, Weston, Cox, Moore, and Vance

Pretty much everyone is A Freshman, RS Freshman, or Sophomore with a couple juniors sprinkled in

Samules & King= Sophomores
Ealey, Brown, Wooten, Charles, Lynch = Freshman
Tavares King =RS Fresh

Boykin, Tyson, Abry Jones, Cornelious Washington, Dowtin, Dent, B.Smith, Houston, Cuff, Banks, Geathers, Commings, RAMBO are ALL either FRESHMAN or RS FRESHMAN

Rennie, Gamble, Hebron, Jones, A.White, Figgins are Juniors

Ben Jones, Justin Anderson, Boling, Glenn, Sturdivant, Lon, Perez are all either Sophomores or Juniors

Questions

October 10th, 2009
6:48 pm

This isn’t Jeff’s question to answer. It’s Mark Richt’s.

Ferret

October 10th, 2009
6:48 pm

I’ll repeat what I said on an earlier blog. Seems to me that Richt just has never really enjoyed or has ever really been happy at Georgia. I think that’s been part of the problem all along together with his personality isn’t a right fit for the tough SEC. This conference takes a General Patton type of leader who is brash, and, yes, arrogant, confident, and a ‘take no prisoners’ type of guy. Richt just isn’t cut off that way. He’s always going to be stepped on. I just think he wishes he were back in Florida and always has. Watching him coach is like watching someone who yearns to be somewhere else with his life. It would be best if he and the others he has assembled as a coaching staff to hit the trail if there is any hope of a new cowboy riding into town.

coach smith

October 10th, 2009
6:48 pm

Anybody who wants RICHT gone has a SHORT MEMORY

Under DONNAN and GOFF, UGA could count on loses to UT, UF, AUB, and TECH was hit or miss

UGA went 20 YEARS WITHOUT AN SEC TITLE

RICHT HAS WON 2 in 8 SEASONS and played for a 3rd

Richt is NOT the problem, Willie Martinez and Coach Fabris ARE the problem

tenndog

October 10th, 2009
6:48 pm

Where was Rashaad Jones today?

Paul H

October 10th, 2009
6:48 pm

Alabama has not boat raced anyone – I agree, coach smith. Bama has a long way to go before they equal UGA’s track record the past 9 years.

firemarkricht.net

October 10th, 2009
6:49 pm

Thanks for the article, Jeff. It’s hard to defend Richt after today’s showing.

And please, homers, don’t give me “Wait ’til next year.” Unless you’re talking about a new OC, DC, or even a new HC.

Get it together Dawgs.

Paul H

October 10th, 2009
6:50 pm

Coach Smith – it still falls on the head coach. If the assistant coaches are constantly the problem but no adjustments are made, it still falls on the head coach.

coach smith

October 10th, 2009
6:50 pm

Ferret

What you said makes NO SENSE

Richt like UGA so much that he bought a second house to move family into and his sister and brother-in-law (Brad Johnson) bought a house in their neighborhood too

He likes it here enough to sign extra long contracts with impossible escape clauses and MOVE HIS WHOLE FAMILY HERE

Woof Woof wuf choke choke choke

October 10th, 2009
6:50 pm

Crompton just threw another TD pass!

SatchelBuzz

October 10th, 2009
6:50 pm

Coach Smith,…you might want to check on Ramada Inn, Best Western or Days Inn in Shreveport. No need to book early.

THWG!!!!

Courage

October 10th, 2009
6:50 pm

Richt is tired of the fans criticism. Thinks he walks on water and he is God almighty.

Hire Gruden or Cowher. Its time for the backup QB, no NFL playing coach to go to his home state, coch Free Shoes U and let UGA hire a coach with some boulders between his legs, so the top 5 talent we recruit can win some real games!

Yes I’m harsh, but I’ tired of wait till next year and aww shucks.

WE ARE GEORGIA, and w should contend for National Titles, not lose to lowly TN 45-16.

Heads must roll!!!!!!

Pissed off UGA Student

October 10th, 2009
6:50 pm

Pitbull…you want to know what they do?

Richt tries stupid gimmicks. On Thursday they practiced in Sanford Stadium with Rocky Top and the UT cheers going full blast on the PA system to try and get them ready for Neyland.

Students gathered at the bridge and watched. Some liked the ideas while others shouted as loud as they could
“Why don’t you teach them how tackle first and then worry about Tennessee’s band!!!”

I really really wish I making this up…

1600 Corruption Avenue

October 10th, 2009
6:51 pm

Mark Richt Is making $ 3 milion this year Dawg Fans. The Average American is making $ 45,000. That is the true crime.

lawton

October 10th, 2009
6:52 pm

This may sound a little late, but i remember the first play georgia ran against alabama last year: a screen. They showed with that opening play, that richt has no confidence in his players, and they followed suit, having no confidence in themselves. Georgia lost its way shortly after, by doing the one thing that Georgia footbal has never been about: getting out physicalled. They are not a physical football team.

konshawn

October 10th, 2009
6:52 pm

you don’t give up on anything worth a long tradition like ga. We are not going to be a good team for a couple of years. But work together and build the program back to one of the best in the nation. and when we are there you can say I never quit on the team.

Urban Meyer

October 10th, 2009
6:52 pm

Can’t wait to play the bulldogs on Halloween, it will give our 2nd string guys some work.

George

October 10th, 2009
6:52 pm

I think Richt knows changes need to be made. We all said his loyalty would be his downfall and now its become reality. He had the chance to make changes last year and chose not to. No one to blame but himself.I just hope we get the right people in here quick. If not we’re just wasting talent.
Sad Dawg day.

firemarkricht.net

October 10th, 2009
6:52 pm

coach smith, who cares about Tenn’s SEC titles? They’ve beaten UGA at least 2 out of the 3 past years…probably just as bad if you look back further.

They’ve obviously made adjustments. We haven’t. No stat will save you from this fact.

Anyway, keep it coming, smith. Richt and his staff will prove you wrong.

Courage

October 10th, 2009
6:52 pm

Sorry about the spelling, I[’m just really, really P.O’d. I kicked the wife, slapped the dawg, and sprayed RAID on the Yellow Jacket nest! Damn, I’m mad!

coach smith

October 10th, 2009
6:53 pm

Paul H

I agree he has to make some changes BUT “HE” is not the problem

Willie Martinez and Coach Fabris ARE

I think you’ll see WM get demoted to D-Backs coach and Coordinator assistant and KIRBY SMART will come home….he has coached with this staff before and would probably like to get out of SABAN’s shadow and make his own name

Heath

October 10th, 2009
6:53 pm

Well said, Paul. It’s the same thing that happened to The Great Pumpkin in Knoxville.

RomeDawg

October 10th, 2009
6:53 pm

Wow!!! This one hurt today! I have been a loyal Richt supporter, but this ain’t Gawga football! Fix it fast or…..ask Jim Donnan. Anyone know Brian Kelly’s #? Coach, please do a favor to all of the kids you recruited…FIRE WILLIE!

Nick Saban

October 10th, 2009
6:53 pm

Don’t you wish your coach was hot like me? Don’t you…

dawgs30008

October 10th, 2009
6:54 pm

If we have back to back seasons like this, then I will be concern, but I am not. I know everyone wish that we could stay in the top ten, but all programs and I mean all programs go through peaks and valleys. Personal, just like we could be 1-5, we could be 5-1. And with a little help from our friends or rivals in the SEC, we still have a chance to win the east. We just have to win the rest of our games. Can we? YES! Will we, well that is up to the team. I am a die hard dawg fan. And I believe that Mark has earn the right to coach until he see fit not to. Now I do not give that right to the assistance coaches. I will not name names but a change need to be mad. Once again I will be concern if we have back to back seasons like this.

SatchelBuzz

October 10th, 2009
6:54 pm

Courage,….been a long time since 1980. No,…you don’t and should not expect to compete for National Titles. Get over it,…you’re ugag.

THWG!!!

Ferret

October 10th, 2009
6:55 pm

Coach Smith, I believe the only Richt even came to UGA was because Bowden told him he needed to get some headcoaching experience. UGA hired someone as a headcoach who had never been a headcoach. I always felt like Richt’s plan was to stay at UGA a few years and then get hired back at FSU. But now with Fisher in the mix at FSU I sense that now Richt doesn’t know where that leaves him……mostly out of the FSU picture and he just simply isn’t happy here.