With program declining, Richt had to do something

Yes, it all sounds great in theory.

Maybe Willie Martinez had a plan, but it seldom worked the last two seasons.

The problem is not just when a defense misses too many tackles.

The problem is not just when coverage is over here but the receiver and the ball are over there.

The problem is not just the 90 points scored by Florida in the past two trips to Jacksonville, or the 80 points scored by Tennessee in the past two games in Knoxville or the 10 games — 10 games — over the past two seasons when opponents have scored 34 or more points.

The big problem: Nobody fears playing Georgia anymore.

The Bulldogs need more than a solid game plan on defense. They need a pulse. They need the passion and aggressiveness and bone-jarring collisions we see, hear and practically feel when Florida and Alabama play — when almost any consistent national power plays.

That’s what they were under Brian VanGorder. That’s not what they had become under Willie Martinez.

“I want to make sure we’re playing Georgia ball,” Mark Richt said Wednesday night after announcing the firings of three defensive coaches, including Martinez, his friend and defensive coordinator. “Playing with the type of speed and intensity that it takes to be champions. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Richt made the right move Wednesday, even if a couple of days late. Had the announcement come Monday, as many anticipated, rumors would not have spun out of control over the next 48 hours.

When ESPN reported via Twitter earlier in the day that Martinez had been fired, it was not received well in the Georgia football offices. Why? Because several members of the coaching staff had not been informed yet. No announcement had been made. Even though Martinez’s eventual firing had been expected for weeks — at least since the 45-19 loss at Tennessee in October — that kind of blindside Wednesday could have been avoided, especially during this recruiting period.

Richt didn’t say when he finalized his decision, only that he didn’t inform coaches until Wednesday. “It was definitely not a one-year knee-jerk reaction to this season,” he said. “It was more of a decision that was made over the course of time.”

That course: at least two seasons, maybe three.

Martinez stepped up from secondary coach to coordinator in 2005, when VanGorder left. In his first three seasons, the Dogs allowed 34 or more points four times in 39 games. But in the past two years, they’ve seen opponents roll up 41 (Alabama), 38 (LSU), 49 (Florida), 38 (Kentucky), 45 (Georgia Tech),  37 (South Carolina), 41 (Arkansas), 45 (Tennessee), 41 (Florida) and 34 (Kentucky).

That’s significant erosion. Teams can’t win like that. Programs can’t compete like that. They become second-tier, and that’s were Georgia is right now. Evidence? This season’s record: 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the SEC.

Richt made the right choice, the only choice.

Nobody likes to see people lose their jobs. But the Dogs’ defense has slipped too far. Attitude has slipped too far. How opponents perceive Georgia has slipped too far. The Dogs had become passive, soft, even predictable. They seldom dictated. They mostly reacted.

Richt clearly felt the problem ran deeper than just Martinez. So defensive ends coach Jon Fabris and linebackers coach John Jancek also were let go. But he also must realize that problems usually start at the top. Richt needs to demand more accountability among coaches and players.

In a statement released immediately following the firings, he said, “In the final analysis, I’m charged with providing the leadership and direction for the Georgia program and sometimes that means making difficult decisions. This was one of them.”

It was long overdue.

635 comments Add your comment

Sonny Clusters

December 2nd, 2009
4:19 pm

beau vighn

December 2nd, 2009
4:20 pm

Dink

December 2nd, 2009
4:20 pm

So who will be the new DC, Kirby Smart?

Dawgs '02

December 2nd, 2009
4:21 pm

If I’m Martinez on the recruiting trail…I’m trying to get guys to come with me to my next job.

thom

December 2nd, 2009
4:23 pm

Isn’t it wonderful that Mr Schultz is so knowledgeable and wonderful! If we could get him to follow Bisher and T. Moore ( which will soon happen when this rag folds), life would be so much harder for all of us who can’t think on our own!

ramblingbuzz

December 2nd, 2009
4:23 pm

OK all you Dawg fans can start purchasing your SEC Champtionship tickets for 2010. This should solve all your problems, right?

virginia dog

December 2nd, 2009
4:23 pm

i think watching his father(bobby bowden) be run out at FSU showed CMR that anyone can and will be fired if they fail to win.
the sad thing… even my 80 year old mother knew this should have happened last year.

Bobo's Staying? Are You Serious?

December 2nd, 2009
4:24 pm

How is Bobo staying with his hideous year committing 3-4 turnovers in 4 out of 5 losses this year?

Is Richt nuts keeping Bobo? How can ANY defensive coordinator win with an OC who turns the ball voers 3-4 times a game.

Bobo is the worst in the SEC at:
Possession
Giveaways
Running plays per game
Rushing yards

JB

December 2nd, 2009
4:26 pm

We need to a clue from Bama and not pussyfoot around and go get who we need and want.
i’m sick of florida’s crap, and they will be exposed big time next year. Go get the MAN. money is not and issue.

augustadawg

December 2nd, 2009
4:26 pm

About time……….Now de-mote Bobo to a div.2 school…………………………

chazzo

December 2nd, 2009
4:28 pm

Tell us immediately everything that is going to happen. LOL

Twitter sucks. What a hack. That guy deserves a punch in the nose.

southsideDAWG

December 2nd, 2009
4:28 pm

look for some of the FSU coaches to come to UGA the timing says it all

EB

December 2nd, 2009
4:28 pm

ramblingbuzz: No we won’t plan on purchasing SEC rings for next year….and we won’t give our guys rings for beating GT this year. Sad things is those rings Tech gave out last year for beating UGA are the only rings they are gonna get for a long time.

ncdawg

December 2nd, 2009
4:28 pm

ramblingbuzz,
This won’t affect you…we beat you WITH Willie…we’ll beat you without him too.

ricardo

December 2nd, 2009
4:29 pm

The End is near.

Paul H

December 2nd, 2009
4:30 pm

Hey Ramblinbuzz – we already solved one problem. And we did it WITH these guys.

Where's my crack pipe?

December 2nd, 2009
4:30 pm

Two years too damn late!!!!!

Gratefuldawghead

December 2nd, 2009
4:30 pm

Richt finally grew a pair! Glory Glory!

GO DAWGS!

birddawg92

December 2nd, 2009
4:30 pm

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, no more Mexican defense in Athens!

http://www.saturdayinathens.com

Matt B.

December 2nd, 2009
4:30 pm

Tell us a story Sonny!!!

Flowery Branch Dawg

December 2nd, 2009
4:30 pm

I look forward to finding out which great coaches Mark Richt will add to his staff! GO DAWGS!!!

kirby smart

December 2nd, 2009
4:30 pm

I would love to coach at georgia.

Does the body good

December 2nd, 2009
4:31 pm

SOUNDS LIKE RAMBLINBUZZ HAS A CASE OF THE SOUR GRAPES! DON’T WORRY, I’VE GOT JUST THE REMEDY! A NICE, HOT BOWL OF…

30-24!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

ramblingbuzz

December 2nd, 2009
4:31 pm

OK boys, now solve the Gators.

Really?

December 2nd, 2009
4:31 pm

Dawgs ‘02 – It would be hard to say to a recruit I have no idea where I am going to be coaching at but will you come play for my team. Do you really think these kids would be like yes I will follow you wherever you coach at even if it is Idaho State! I mean Really?

[...] Jeff Schultz (AJC) says Richt was right. [...]

Shultz's Girlfriend

December 2nd, 2009
4:32 pm

Rambling Buzz, we have more potential then you do for next year. We kicked your arse’s with a mediocre team and a bunch of underclassman. The only saving grace you have is that you are in the ACC. Chance are good for you to lose another this Saturday.

bobo bobo, a pirates life for me

December 2nd, 2009
4:32 pm

yes bobo is not great, but you can’t directly blame him for a qb throwing an interception or running back dropping the ball…

JBinD'Ville

December 2nd, 2009
4:32 pm

What’s the difference between Monday and today? You did a whole story on that without ever explaining why it would be so bad, only that it was bad to drag it out. Why? Does it affect recruiting? You didn’t say. Does it affect bowl placement? You didn’t say. does it affect his ability to hire a replacement? you didn’t say. You basically didn’t give any concrete reason for why it was bad to wait except that, I guess, you thought it was.

And who cares about what happened this afternoon? It could have happened Monday just as easily. And again, why is it bad, and what difference does it make?

RunningDog

December 2nd, 2009
4:32 pm

Declining? This was a bad year, and there are obvious problems with the defense, but one 5-loss season does not represent a program in decline for Georgia no more than it does for Oklahoma. Several years represent a trend; one year does not.

Hank

December 2nd, 2009
4:32 pm

Coach Richt had to throw some red meat to the nasty rabble that UGA has as fans. Martinez’s ass had to be sacrificed to save Coach Pretty Boy’s job.

ELR87

December 2nd, 2009
4:32 pm

Most fans (myself included) don’t know anything about football beyond the names of the players and the positions that they play. The average UGA fan needs to be less critical and more supportive of CMR. Fans expect to win 11 or more games each year with no down years. That is not a realistic expectation.

Coach Mike Smith

December 2nd, 2009
4:32 pm

Great insight on the FSU coaches. However Mr. Andrews retired already. Who else may be possible? I know there O Line coach was supposed to be outstanding but that doesn’t help our D.

matt

December 2nd, 2009
4:33 pm

What will this do to recruiting? I can’t see it helping.

Bryan G.

December 2nd, 2009
4:33 pm

I want to hear Sonny’s take

Georgia will allways dominate GT!!!

December 2nd, 2009
4:33 pm

With your columns declining,,,I suggest you do something as well.

Georgia will allways dominate GT!!!

j-dawg

December 2nd, 2009
4:34 pm

I hope we don’t hire kirby smart. He may be great but I think he’s a risk. i gotta believe saban calls the shots on d. Here’s a log shot – Tommy Tubberville! he’s richts boy and he can def run a d. He wants to get back into coaching. Mights only have him for a year if he comes.

BOOGIES THE MAN FROM HARTWELL GA

December 2nd, 2009
4:34 pm

GOOD BICYCLE ………………………….
WE KNEW IT WAS COMING……….
OPEN UP YOUR WALLET, GO GET KIRBY SMART
GOOD MOVE CMR….

Deep Ball

December 2nd, 2009
4:34 pm

Great decisions from CMR. The thought of improved defense is nice, but special teams was desperately needing change as well.

As for Bobo, I think he’s getting better. He did a brutal job against Ok St. and called a terrible 2nd half against Ky. But once the rushing game picked up toward the end of the year his job got a lot easier. This was his first year to call plays w/ out Staff & Co. and most of the year he dealt w/ a lackluster O-line and backs that wouldn’t hit the hole (this obviously changed later in the season). He needs to get better on 3rd and short calls and he needs to overcome his desire to be “balanced” next year. Run it up everyone’s pooper in 2010! An effective running game makes it a lot easier for the freshman qb to hit the studs at receiver. can’t wait for 2010!

allan in texas

December 2nd, 2009
4:35 pm

Jeff, Any word on who might be replacing these gentlemen? Is there anyway they could lure Will Muschamp back to Athens from here in Austin? Thanks and have a good day.

Shultz's Girlfriend

December 2nd, 2009
4:35 pm

As far as recruiting, this may hurt short term but this will help long term. That is the way you lead.

Michael Scharff

December 2nd, 2009
4:35 pm

This is a very sad development, even though it is typical of the coaching merry-go-round. I would not want to be ini this profession where you typically have to pick up and move your entire family every four years or so (and, for that matter, the military, either). Yes, it was Hawaii, but it really looked like CWM had figured things out at the 2008 Sugar Bowl. I think the Hawaii QB may still see Dawgs in his nightmares. Unfortunately, CWM’s stubborness in sticking with that soft cover two zone ultimately has proven to be his downfall at UGA.

bobo bobo, a pirates life for me

December 2nd, 2009
4:37 pm

and i would love kirby smart…but in all reality why would he come to UGA when he has such a great thing going at Alabama? I don’t think he’d go just because its his alma mater…

Tifton Tom

December 2nd, 2009
4:37 pm

To Coach Willie, Coach Jon and Coach John: thanks for the hard work you put in for the Dawgs Nation. We’ve had a great run together (2 SEC champs, Sugar Bowls, etc.) and we really do appreciate it and are sorry it didn’t work out better. Best of luck to you and your families. I have no doubt that you’ll fit in well with another great programs. Sincerely,
A Dawg Fan

Slice

December 2nd, 2009
4:37 pm

sorry Schultz that it took Richt a couple of days to make announcement. Didn’t realize he worked for you.

74Dawg

December 2nd, 2009
4:37 pm

Jeff, thanks for your great coverage of the only major college football program in the state. Much appreciated.

Cherokee

December 2nd, 2009
4:37 pm

Bobo’s Staying? Are You Serious? Bobo is the worst in the SEC at:
Possession
Giveaways
Running plays per game
Rushing yards
Haven’t seen Bobo on the field in about 10 years how is he the worst???

AJ

December 2nd, 2009
4:38 pm

Rodney Gardner will be the next DC. He has earned it. Plus he is one hellava recruiter. If Kirby Smart comes in, that will would be good as well. But I do not seeing that happening.

kirby smart

December 2nd, 2009
4:38 pm

no really I start the day after the chik bowl.

ICMIII

December 2nd, 2009
4:38 pm

You know, Martinez looks like a doofus, too.