Richt’s plan should be based on Georgia’s start, not finish

Mark Richt is intent on keeping everybody focused on the last few games, not what happens next. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Georgia coach Mark Richt is intent on trying to keep everybody focused on the season's last few games, not what may happen next. (Brant Sanderlin/bsanderlin@AJC.com)

ATHENS — In Mark Richt’s let’s-salvage-what-we-can-out-of-this-season nirvana, Georgia closes the year with five straight wins, the coach adds a 9-4 season to his resume and the panicking masses calm down just enough to stop waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, screaming something about the triple-option.

Maybe 9-4 wasn’t the dream in September. But it became the dream in November.

There’s only one potential pitfall to that scenario. Wins over Tennessee Tech, Auburn and even Georgia Tech (rivalry game) can send out false signals. A strong finish says something about the character of young players who didn’t quit on a season that unraveled early. But it doesn’t explain a year and a half of disappointment in the program.

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Players know this. The assumption is Richt knows it, too.

With the Dogs preparing for their season’s final home game against Kentucky, Richt will tell you he can’t see past Saturday. He obviously can. And he probably does — every day. He is doing everything possible to douse speculation about the future of his coaching staff and what changes he might make in the program. The latest evidence came Tuesday.

When asked if he would factor in how the team finishes the season into his off-season plans, it was as if Richt pushed a button and interview autopilot kicked in.

“I’ll say this: It’s definitely good policy for me not to answer you,” Richt said. “My main focus again is Kentucky. That’s where I have to keep my mind. That’s what I have to focus on. Focusing on anything too far down the road is not healthy for me or the team. So my goal is really to make sure we’re ready to play against Kentucky.”

This week’s game is against Kentucky. Both teams are 6-4. Both teams beat Auburn by a touchdown. That’s really the only reality check Georgia needs.

If the Bulldogs win Saturday, it will be a nice memory for the seniors.

If they beat Georgia Tech in two weeks, it will return bragging rights to Athens.

If they win whatever bowl game they ultimately land in, it will create a talking point for spring football.

But that’s it. When a season loses its meaning, decisions can’t be based on the games that follow.

The hard questions haven’t changed. What happened in Stillwater after an entire off-season of preparation? What happened in Knoxville? What happened in Gainesville? Again. Why does it seem like so many of the nation’s top recruits are not being coached up? Why does Georgia too often lose physical battles? What happened to the mental toughness? Whatever became of the impact of the vaunted mat drills?

Any changes Richt makes need to be based on why the air went out of the season so soon, not where they may be in a few weeks.

Players are  aware there may be changes. Flanker Israel Troupe  said, “You never want to see anything dramatic happen. We want to play hard every day for all of us, players and coaches. We’re a tight knit family. You hear the talk. You read things in the media. But you can’t worry about that. You have to worry about what goes on in house and on the field.”

Finishing the season strong, Rennie Curran said, “would show we can still do great things and we’re a program that’s still on the rise, despite what happened early. It’s still about how you respond to adversity. But I do think the whole season should be taken into account.”

Three more wins would  make the record nicer to look at. But it wouldn’t erase two months.

641 comments Add your comment

Heath

November 17th, 2009
4:09 pm

If Richt shows a little fire like he did against Auburn, we could win out. Will Richt have a pulse the rest of the season?

Mr C.

November 17th, 2009
4:10 pm

cajdawg

November 17th, 2009
4:12 pm

2008

Alabama 41 pts

LSU 38 pts

Kentucky 38 pts

GT 45 pts

2009

South Carolina 37 pts

Arkansas 41 pts

Tennessee 45 pts

Florida 41 pts

Heath

November 17th, 2009
4:14 pm

That’s one giant leap for mankind. And against idiots who post “first.”

E

November 17th, 2009
4:14 pm

9-4 = more Willie!!!

gratefuldawghead

November 17th, 2009
4:15 pm

While Richt works too save Martinez FSU is talking to Smart! We need some coaching changes and its time Richt grew a pair a put The University of Georgia Over his friendship with Martinez!

bali smith

November 17th, 2009
4:16 pm

very good article. I totally agree with what I just read. Georgia needs to fix alot of problems before next season. Mental toughness , better preparation, better focus are just a few. things that i believe need to be looked at.I believe in family and teams being close, but maybe a wakeup call is needed at UGA

jaxdawg

November 17th, 2009
4:19 pm

What happened in Gainesville? Huh?? I must have missed that one.

BugKiller

November 17th, 2009
4:22 pm

Jeff,

Richt has shown again and again and again that he will refuses to do the right thing.

He will continue to put his personal relationship with Willie Martinez and Martinez’s best interets ahead of the best interests of our program.

Mark Richt is therefore unfit to lead this program.

It is time to FIRE MARK RICHT.

And it time to hire Brian Kelly, before Notre Lame does.

collegeballfan

November 17th, 2009
4:22 pm

To all you Richt doubters, maybe Notre Dame will hire him off your hands.

Football Ken

November 17th, 2009
4:24 pm

Jeff,
If Richt drops the ball this off-season ,he is setting his self to take WHATEVER comes next year. You are right on brotha!! Two months of this crap is enuff. Bye-bye Willie, Fabris and make sure you dont forget strength coach, too!!

20 wins in a row

November 17th, 2009
4:28 pm

Cajdawg – you forgot Florida’s 49 point total in 2008. How about those Florida Gators? 20 wins in a row, send them a card or a gift basket to show your appreciation.

Norton

November 17th, 2009
4:30 pm

Jaxsonville not Gaisville. But what ever and where ever. Same old story with the pups every year. Did you notice Richt beaming and interacting with the crowd after the SC game? He acted like they just won the the SEC championship. Sad. I think Kentucy with beat them and know GT will bury them. Hey how about that ol song, “next year”. Jeezzz

Bob

November 17th, 2009
4:31 pm

BugKiller,

You are certifiably insane. Jeff, things really that slow that you have to come up with these type stories two and three times a week?

B Davis

November 17th, 2009
4:36 pm

Hopefully the dawgs will keep Willie and Richt for many years to come.

Chan Gailey here we come.

lefty fielder

November 17th, 2009
4:40 pm

Firing Richt is certainly not the answer, but giving up 30-40 points a game . . . in the SEC . . . makes 6 wins a miracle.

Touchdown Georgia, Baby!!!

November 17th, 2009
4:40 pm

I hear ya Patton!!!! You tell’em!!

cajdawg

November 17th, 2009
4:42 pm

I forgot about Florida’s 48 points in 2008. I just threw up in my mouth.

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

November 17th, 2009
4:43 pm

I agree that we should evaluate our staff (mainly Martinez) based on the season as a whole instead of in pieces. And I think it’s time for Martinez to move on. There are sparks of him doing a good job, but when he blows it, he blows it BIG TIME. Van Gorder’s defenses rarely give up the kinda points that Martinez’s have. Yeah, the offensive game has changed in the five or so years since VG left, but good coaches adapt. No offense is undefendable.

However, what happened in Gainesville? Nothing related to us because we played Florida in Jacksonville and have been for decades (a couple years in the 90’s excepted).

BDAWG

November 17th, 2009
4:45 pm

I don’t think Richt will be mandated to make any changes this off-season but I do think that if he does not make any changes and we have the same results next season the big change everyone is wanting will be the HC instead of the DC. With that being said though, I believe Richt sees the writing on the wall and he will fire/demote Willie at the end of the season. I would love to see Smart as the next DC but I don’t see that happening and it sure as heck doesn’t need to be Garner.

LHardingDawg

November 17th, 2009
4:46 pm

Bugkiller is an idiot.

George P

November 17th, 2009
4:47 pm

I think the UGA nation is getting a little too confident after a lackluster season. The Jackets are strong, much better coached, are actually playing for a leader, and are producing on offense week in and week out. It’s probably best for the dawg fans to be worried for what’s after Kentucky

ncdawg

November 17th, 2009
4:48 pm

Make that 49.

SoCal Dawg

November 17th, 2009
4:48 pm

WE WANT SMART!

lefty fielder

November 17th, 2009
4:48 pm

LHardingDawg
Diazinon?

Joe

November 17th, 2009
4:56 pm

There is one thing for certain…whatever Richt does it SHOULD NOT be based on what any of the so called sportswriters from the AJC think- thats for sure!

MoDawg

November 17th, 2009
4:57 pm

Willie was the def. backs coach during the VG era and did a nice job. He’s obviously overwhelmed handling the entire defense. Let’s let him go back to that and bring in one of “our own” in Muschamp or Smart. Both are DGD, but I’m not sure they’d take the lateral move.

Joe

November 17th, 2009
4:57 pm

Smart??? You have to be kidding me. Give Bama a few years- they will be in trouble with the NCAA again. Kirby spends to much time in the “gray” area and it will come back to bite bama. No thanks!

Brad

November 17th, 2009
4:58 pm

Jeff,

I’ve been pretty hard on you at times. But lately I find myself agreeing with you more often than not. I still think that you like to antagonize a fanbase that you look at with a mixture of bemusement and condescension. But my opinion of you has improved. You still like to get your digs in (see the tripple option comment) but I guess you have to do something to make this a bit more fun for you.

Anyway, good job on this one. I think you are spot on. I, like a lot of other UGA fans, am concerned about how costly that win against Auburn might have been for our program. It’s a shame to have to qualify a win like that. Especially one against a rival. But there was something in Richt and Martinez’s deameanors at the end of that game that makes me think they believe they can justify Willie returning next season. There was a look of triumph about the whole thing that seemed to be about much more than a victory over Auburn.

In Richt’s post game comments and the comments that he has made this week, he seems to view that game as a referendum on Martinez rather than what you rightly described as two seasons’ worth of dissapointing football. Would winning out be nice in and of itsself? Yes. But why does it always come down to this? Why do we have to always suffer through losses in which the team just seemed uninterested or unprepared? Meltdown In Knoxville I and II, the loss to OK State, the blackout gaffe, the folding of the tent against LSU by our D, we all remember these games and those are just a few. We always seem to have to either lose our season or go right to the brink before we start playing with any fire or sense of purpose. And in the end, it always seems as if it’s good enough for Richt. The attitude seems to be, “Sure we have nothing left to play for but gee, look how we responded to adversity.” Call me delusional but this will never be good enough for me. We didn’t hire Mark Richt to get beaten by mediocre and just plain bad teams. We didn’t hire him to continue to be dominated by Florida. We didn’t hire him to struggle with perrinial middle of the pack conference foes such as South Carolina. And we sure as heck didn’t hire him for moral victories. Coach Richt seems oblivious or indifferent to all of this. Changes are in order and Martinez is just the beginning. The strength and conditioning program (spare me any nonsense about how well respected Van Halenger is) needs an overhaul. But I doubt CMR will do anything. I think we’ll see the same cast of characters and similar results next season.

Jeff's brain

November 17th, 2009
4:59 pm

Folks, I believe Jeff means Jacksonville, not Gainesville.

A suggestion

November 17th, 2009
4:59 pm

Hey, I hear Chan Gailey is available.

UGA Fan

November 17th, 2009
5:00 pm

BugKiller – really? I mean, … really? That may be the first time the sentence “Richt has shown again and again and again that he will refuses to do the right thing.” has ever been written.

What color is the sky in your world? Surely you must live in some sort of alternate universe and found a way to hack into ours. Do you actually follow UGA football? The most redeeming quality Richt has (and there are many) is that he clearly strives to “do the right thing” with every decision he makes.

Joe

November 17th, 2009
5:04 pm

BUGKiller….Please become a BUGLover- with your logic, we dont need you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Denver Dawg

November 17th, 2009
5:06 pm

yeah yeah yeah, but what does L-DAWG think????

Jeff

November 17th, 2009
5:07 pm

BugKiller- you’re a complete loser. Go kiss up on the Jackettes- they are in needof stupid fans like you to fill their stadium

SOUTHGADAWG88

November 17th, 2009
5:10 pm

So your point is lay it down for the rest of the season?You lose two of the best offensive players ever to play at UGA and 9-4 is a huge letdown?To who?Why is OK state so bad…they have not had Dez Bryant since their 3rd game and are still ranked(imagine us without AJ since our 3rd game)maybe FLA and Lsu are simply better this year.What rational person expected a great season after seeing Joe Cox play?Sure the senior class was ranked highly when they signed but the best players are already gone.

Tom

November 17th, 2009
5:11 pm

A spot-on piece, if you’re able to see the two inches past the Jacksonville-Gainesville slip.

Really, a 9-4 finish could conceivably do more long-term harm than good. It could very easily lead to another year of stagnation while Tennessee gets stronger in the East and, over in the West, Alabama cements its return to national powerhouse status. Florida will have big turnover but they have such a psychological edge over UGa at this point that even with wholesale replacement on both sides, they’ve got a really good shot at winning again next year.

While there are plenty of teams out there that would love to finish 9-4 in any year, Georgia isn’t one of ‘em. Vandy, SC, Arkansas, probably a lot of ACC teams…not Georgia.

stu-meister

November 17th, 2009
5:11 pm

i think they’ll end up 9-4 with a decent bowl game.outback win against penn state or iowa.with that said.thet need to take care of the severe problems they have with their coaching.these are way too talented not to dominate a ton of games and win a lot more games than they have since van gorder left.it shouldn’t be that hard to get a stud defensive coach with some fire in his gut and some guts to be aggressive.when you’re bigger;faster;stronger;more skilled and deeper than your opponent every single week and you don’t whip some arse.there’s a major problem here somewhere.i love coach richt but he needs to show that georgia winning is more important than friendship.you can atill have both but if one isn’t working then fix it.

One tin soldier rides away

November 17th, 2009
5:13 pm

Ok guys here is the ticket. If you look at the season, you should want to know this:

What happened with between 3 minutes left in the first quarter of the Ok State game, and the start of the 2nd quarter of the Auburn game? You see though it is not that simple. We are not playing flag football. This is SEC football on the highest level. I don’t doubt that Willie, Bobo,Searles and Fabris are fine coaches. The fact is this, they are not getting the job done.

The defensive stat that sticks out is that they have improved to #39 in the nation. IMPROVED to an unaccpetable level. The offense is in the bottom 10% in the country, and the line, up until last weekend, and the first half of the Ok State game have not blocked anyone. We gave up a TD on a kickoff against Auburn. We could not stop UF, LSU, ASU, or UT.

I’d say this change the DC, change the OC or line coach, and change the special teams coach. That will get it done. Notice, I didn’t say fire anybody. Bobo is a good QB coach, Willie is a good DB coach, Searles is a good line coach, and Fabris is a good moral leader. Without some change because we need it not just to change, we will be writing the same stuff next year. The good news is that Tech has an inferior defense to UGA, and Kentucky can’t stop the run. My suggestion for us against Ky is run 4 yards and fall down, take all 45 seconds on each play and keep our defense off the field. Rather simplistic, but it might work for us. Against Tech, pray for rain. It works to the recievers benefit.

Joe that is the best comment I’ve read all year.

GO DOGS

bob horner stayed hurt

November 17th, 2009
5:13 pm

If the Dawgs win out I think no changes are made in the coaching staff…that’s a HUGE if….we are not good enough to over look Kentucky…take it easy on BugKiller…he bleeds red and black…he’s just opionated and has a quick trigger finger….time will change that…

Dominick

November 17th, 2009
5:14 pm

Mr. Schultz I know this is not the right blog, but I wanted to give some credit to Glanville. You called the man a clown. Now If I remember correctly “the clown” took over a powerhouse 89 3/13 falcons team that was playing infront of 8,000 fans to a 10/6 record with a road playoff win in New Orleans in just 2 seasons! If Glanville was a clown what does that make Patrino?

MikeJones

November 17th, 2009
5:15 pm

That was exceptionally obnoxious. Terence Moore is smiling. Go write about Paul Johnson dipsh*t.

Brad

November 17th, 2009
5:16 pm

I agree Tom. While winning out would be nice if examined simply on the merits of whatr it would mean right now, I wonder about the long term affects. I had a fan of another team ask me recently, do you ever wonder how different things might be for UGA right now, or by next year, if Gamble hadn’t forced that fumble and yall hadn’t gone on to beat Vandy in ‘07. I never like to think that way but it really is something to consider. Willie would be long gone.

Country Boy

November 17th, 2009
5:17 pm

Good read Jeffy Boy. Sadly the best thing for our program would be to lose to Ky., Tech and Rice in the Shreveport Bowl. Probably only then would Richt make needed coaching changes. I think our season is already lost. Dawg fans, players and coaches should never consider a season anything but a bad season if losing to Fla. Tenn. and LSU.

chiefdawg

November 17th, 2009
5:18 pm

If Martinez is really a friend of M. Richt hw will resign at the ennd of the season.

outkasted

November 17th, 2009
5:18 pm

yeah it was willie’s fault that the defense dropped 5 picks againt oklahoma st… yeah it was willie fault that his players missed tackles against Ga tech….the thing that has hurt the dawgs the most r crucial penalties on 3rd down and short and turnovers on their side of the field… Last yr 2 prime examples of penalties that hurt were an opening drive by alabama that they fumbled and we recovered but a bogus penalty kept the drive going and aginst florida we got an int on Teebow but was called for a penalty of something like a hand to the face on an offensive linemen…..all this talk about getting rid of willie is crazy… everyday fire wille fire willie… none of u know football its funny b4 the season all u hear is 7-6 or 8-5 and now that the season may end just like that its get rid of willie…. its not his fault the o line had false starts in mostly all the crucial plays or holding after picing up the first down…. i just know that things will be on the up for years to come with sooooo many red shirt freshmen true freshmen and sophmores contributing alot….plus the schedule sets up nicely next yr….wonder no talk of ga tch d coordinator and they give up 40 a night lol…………

One tin soldier rides away

November 17th, 2009
5:19 pm

Country boy, you are right about UF UT and LSU. However, you are not much of a fan if you think that losing 3 games would be the best for the program. We need to retool, not recreate.

Get Along Little Dawgies

November 17th, 2009
5:22 pm

Well, you Thugdawg….uh, I mean, Bulldawg fans….are stuck with Willie and “Special John” Fabris and penalties and directional kicks and coaches checking expiration dates on driving licenses and checking diapers while sideline dancing is the norm.

Richt won’t change a thing until he has to – and Evans won’t force it until probaly next season, when Richt becomes only THE 2ND UGA COACH TO LOSE TO TENN, FLA, AUB and TECH IN THE SAME YEAR.

P.S. – The first and only coach to do that? Jim Donnan.

SOUTHGADAWG88

November 17th, 2009
5:22 pm

Tom when you combine the last 5 of Dooley,all of Goff and Donnan’s tenures you can’t find 2 back to back 10 win seasons period.so your comment about… Not UGA …is ridiculous

Tom

November 17th, 2009
5:22 pm

If scrambling to win out over minor-league teams, inferior conference foes, and middle-tier bowl opponents and thereby finishing with nine wins is good work to you, by all means, feel free to be pleased if that does happen. Like I said, 9-4 is darn good in a lot of places. They’ll name the stadium after you if you go 9-4 at some schools.

Is Georgia one of those schools? It’s in danger of becoming one of them if this goes on much longer…it doesn’t take as long as you think for a program to find itself in a deep, dark hole, particularly in a conference as cutthroat as the SEC…