Let me be the first to congratulate Mark Richt, and not because he just figured out the quickest way to settle a potential quarterback controversy (kick one guy off the team.)
When Richt first arrived in Athens, he was soft on crime. I guess that’s not surprising since he came out of the Bobby Bowden/Let’s Just Make Them Run Steps On Tuesday And Hope This Blows Over School of Discipline. It certainly didn’t make Richt an evil person. But it just took a while before he seemed to realize that punishment in Athens sometimes required more than a slap on the wrist.
Now, I don’t know what Georgia’s freshman quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, did that led to Richt kicking him off the team Sunday, as our Tim Tucker reports. But my sense is that if this was five years ago, there’s a better chance the player would’ve skated.
I give you two words: Odell Thurman.
Thurman was one of the football players ever to pass thr0ugh (or pass out in) Athens. But he had issues. Drinking issues. Discipline issues. Being as dumb as a box of rock issues. There was one time in 2003 when the linebacker was arrested on five misdemeanor charges, including underage drinking and driving while unlicensed. I criticized Richt for doing nothing about it at the time and some members of the Bulldog Nation threatened to firebomb my house.
Well, Thurman didn’t learn his lesson. One year later, Richt suspended him for the first three games of the 2004 season for “unspecified violation of team rules.” I’m not sure but I believe Thurman still holds the school record for “unspecified violations.”
You know the rest. Thurman turned pro in 2005. He was a train wreck. He was suspended for the first four games of 2006 for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. That turned into a full-year suspension when he was arrested for drunk driving that September.
Problems continued. In 2007, he and his brother were sought in questioning in an assault case, but charges eventually were dropped. There was another case in 2008 when he was indicted by a grand jury on charges of breaking a man’s jaw in Ohio. Those charges also were dropped.
He ultimately was reinstated by the NFL in April of 2008 but was released by the Bengals three months later after failing a drug test. No need to go on.
Zach Mettenberger may not be Odell Thurman. But we learn from our mistakes and clearly Richt has learned from his. Keeping the quarterback in the program would be a mistake. He already had been suspended for at least the first game of the 2010 season after being arrested on five misdemeanor charges ranging from underage drinking to disorderly conduct and obstruction. That rap sheet has a familiar ring to it.
Now, something has happened that led Richt to believe, “We can’t keep this guy.”
That’s good enough for me. We’ve seen what happens when you look the other way.