Sometimes it’s not about whether somebody is a good coach or certainly a good man. Sometimes it’s just about whether players are even listening to him.
Mark Richt preaches to his players, “Finish the drill.” They don’t.
He admonishes them about missed blocks and blown coverages and stresses the importance of playing with discipline, passion and a sense of desperation. They don’t respond.
He states the obvious: Don’t get arrested. They do.
I am not calling for Mark Richt’s firing here. Not yet. There are still seven games left in the season. That’s enough time for Georgia to turn its season around, play in a respectable bowl game and most importantly send the message that this program isn’t going down like Pompeii.
But right now, I’m just not feeling it.
Needing to bounce back after a loss at South Carolina, the Bulldogs lost to Arkansas at home for the first time in 17 years.
Needing to play with a sense of urgency to avoid falling to 0-3 in the SEC, they fell behind after two minutes, 43 seconds in Starkville and lost to Mississippi State for the first time in 36 years.
Needing to regain some measure of respect just on their own campus, the Bulldogs lost at Colorado — which had lost to California, 52-7, only a few weeks earlier.
You thought Shreveport was the bottom? Shreveport was just the flashing yellow light.
They used to attack. They used to play with confidence. They used to have resolve. They used to win road games. They used to win any games.
Now the Dogs are 1-4, and there’s probably someone at Louisiana-Lafayette thinking, “How did we lose to those guys?” They’re 2-7 in their last nine SEC games, and Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky are thinking, “We can beat those guys.”
That’s where Georgia is. What does that tell you?
This is about leadership. Either players aren’t following Richt or he’s leading them in the wrong direction. It is becoming clear that he doesn’t command their attention or their respect because, if he was, Georgia wouldn’t be sliding into oblivion.
When college teams lose, certain things get over-analyzed. Here are two of them:
♦ 1.) Recruiting: Some believe Georgia isn’t getting the athletes it used to. Bunk. Watch the games. The Bulldogs are no slower or weaker or smaller than their opponents. Recruiting services have had Georgia’s classes in or near the top 10 annually. If you believed them before, don’t stop believing them now just because it’s convenient.
♦ 2.) Strategy: Football is about toughness and discipline, blocking and tackling. It’s not about the offensive coordinator not calling enough short passes. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo may not be the next Mike Shanahan on offense, and Willie Martinez certainly wasn’t Brian VanGorder’s equal on defense. But Georgia’s slide is not about X’s and O’s. It’s about focus and determination and knocking people down.
Richt’s job should be in jeopardy. Why? Because not only are the Bulldogs not very good, but there is no sign that they are getting better.
The offensive line, expected to be the strength of this team, has been less than average. Freshman quarterback Aaron Murray, the biggest question mark, has been one of their best players. A.J. Green reaffirmed in his first game back from suspension that he is a special player but his presence in Colorado also pounded home the obvious: This isn’t about one player.
Richt gets criticized for not showing enough emotion on the sideline. That might be unfair. But here’s something worth asking: Is he obsessed enough?
There’s no question Richt wants to win. But he has a lot more things important to him in his life now, like taking mission trips to Honduras. It doesn’t mean football isn’t important to him. Anybody who has seen him after losses knows otherwise. But college football coaching, particularly in the SEC, has become a 24/7/365 job.
Richt in a conference with some truly obsessed coaches: Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bobby Petrino. Watch Derek Dooley and you can almost see sparks coming off his head. If we see that, you know Tennessee players see that.
Do you get that sense with Richt’s players? Are they ready to jump at his every command?
Georgia has players. Georgia has facilities, money and certainly fan support. But right now, there is no direction, and if Mark Richt is leading, the problem is that nobody is paying attention.