Richt isn’t commanding Georgia players’ respect or attention

Mark Richt's biggest problem? Players may be tuning him out.

Mark Richt's biggest problem? Players may be tuning him out.

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.

Earlier posts:

Now that Braves are here, how far can they go?

Braves make it back to the postseason in typical dramatic style

♦♦♦

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

839 comments Add your comment

5150 P.O.A.D

October 4th, 2010
11:32 am

5150 P.O.A.D

October 4th, 2010
11:36 am

UGA players don’t respect their moms and dads why the hell would they respect Richt? The type of students Richt is getting are the same type of students in High School that threaten their Teachers.
Look at Richt he is getting a lil fat. Maybe he is the strength & conditioning coach and that is the problem.

Dwayne

October 4th, 2010
11:40 am

Winning out, which they wont, should not allow richt to keep his job. see?? I have no respect for him as a coach, I won’t even give his last name a capital “r”

Jeremy Knipe

October 4th, 2010
11:41 am

5150 P.O.A.D

October 4th, 2010
11:41 am

Pompii great call because the fans are erupting for sure.

Benjamin

October 4th, 2010
11:41 am

Much as I hate to say it, Jeff, this article was dead-on. I’m a Georgia fan and have been since I was old enough to walk — and, further, I have TREMENDOUS respect for Coach Richt as a person — but I have flinched for several months now as the fanbase have called for the heads of coordinators, knowing full well that the gorilla in the closet is Richt himself.

We’ve still got time to turn around the season, but Georgia’s expected standards for excellence go well beyond 7-5 seasons. This is a team that, at the very least, is supposed to be in the conversation for SEC title hopes year in and out, and right now, I’m honestly wondering if we’re going to lose 9 games this season, which would be a terrible blow for a coach that saw so many off-field incidents this past offseason leading into 2010’s football campaign. If Georgia does go something like 3-9 or 4-8, the guy with such a strong winning percentage for his career might be out of a job.

Would be a surreal sight in Athens to see someone else walking the sidelines next year…

PMC

October 4th, 2010
11:42 am

I don’t for a second doubt the athletic talents of the players… but to say that these guys are playing as hard or are as good as past players is ridiculous. This team is SOFT. Terribly incredibly Soft.

SEC teams are supposed to be hard, physically dominating and punishing.

Georgia’s team is weak minded; weak willed and soft. 1-4 is about right unfortunately.

Vixzilla

October 4th, 2010
11:42 am

Jeff – well said. We suck because we are allowed to suck!

joe

October 4th, 2010
11:43 am

Vols wax UGA on Saturday…0-4…who would have thought that at the beginning of this season…

Benjamin

October 4th, 2010
11:43 am

…and for those who want to go the other direction and disrespect Coach Richt as a man or a coach, I’m not sure I could like someone who didn’t like Mark Richt. And that’s about the highest compliment someone could pay an individual, I think. Our ball coach is a heck of a human being, through and through.

Ted M

October 4th, 2010
11:44 am

The Dawgs total inability to tackle Latimore was astonishing. I know that was a while ago but I still can’t get over it.

ELVISKL

October 4th, 2010
11:45 am

I HATE THE BULLDOGS, GOD I WANT IT TO HURT

ugafan86

October 4th, 2010
11:45 am

Why not let Figgins play… he can block, they have options in the passing game, but you can get the same production out of a backup …Bruce Figgins, who despite starting as a freshman and sophomore now don’t see the field his junior yr….plus the ability to make them a vertical threat in the passing game. I think Bobo has something against this kids I really thought it was Lilly…but another player(a good source) told me BOBO Hate Figgins

Ted M

October 4th, 2010
11:46 am

Everybody likes Richt, thats not the point.

Michael Scharff

October 4th, 2010
11:46 am

Jeff, I appreciate you being rational here. I am very concerned about the direction of this team. I was out in Colorado, and it was a very painful experience. I have no idea how Coach Richt lost control of this program, but I fear that many players on this team believe that they have carte blanche to behave badly and not play disciplined football. I am hoping that Coach Richt can regain control, but it may be too late, at least for this year.

es54

October 4th, 2010
11:47 am

I think you may have been out of line with the mission trip comment

Jeremy Knipe

October 4th, 2010
11:48 am

I’m going to go back and read ‘5 reasons the Georgia Bulldogs are better off than you think’ by Mr. Bradley and see if I feel any better.

I get stuck on the number 2 reason though. : ( It’s not working.

BigWheat

October 4th, 2010
11:49 am

Jeff,
I couldn’t disagree more. Georgia has a lot of problems right now, Richt’s leadership of his players isn’t one of them. The players haven’t quit or given up. If nothing else, they are playing hard a full 60 minutes every game. The Dawgs just aren’t very good. You could write a series of articles for the rest of the season on why and still have more to write when it’s over. Richt’s leadership in his ability to manage a staff could be called into question, no doubt. But for the players, I haven’t seen the disrespect or lack of effort that would come from not believing in their head coach. Richt didn’t have “fire” on the sideline when he was winning in the early 2000s. He was the stoic ship captain, always in control. He was applauded for that. The fact that he has maintained his demeanor in the face of success and adversity provides consistency – it lets the players know that he isn’t panicing.

I’m not saying he shouldn’t be held accountable. The program has slipped dramatically in just two years, and he should have to answer to that at the season’s end. I don’t envy McGarity’s position and the decisions he has to make with less than a year on the job. But I strongly disagree that Richt is not a good leader.

Benjamin

October 4th, 2010
11:50 am

The concerns for me started last year when we were getting penalized about every third play. That’s a tell-tale sign of an undisciplined group of young men.

I know one of the starting players semi-personally — grew up with his father knowing my father — and he’s personally a good guy, but is also one of the guys who got caught breaking the law this past offseason and wound up on the suspension list. We have to remember that these guys are still kids — and they are, because none of them are older than 22 or so — but at the same time, you have to have a guy at the top who is willing to go the full mile to discipline and control these kids.

On the field and off, this team hasn’t performed well for a while now, except for in flashes [...the Tech game last year], and we’ve looked downright bad against very beatable competition [i.e. Colorado last weekend] in the meantime.

PMC

October 4th, 2010
11:53 am

I don’t think it has anything to do with Football not being important.

He made some poor decisions on some linemen both offense and defense, they’ve had very average linebackers and he hired the wrong guys to replace guys that were working well.

It’s not like he forgot how to be a good coach, he simply hired the wrong guys and they got thin or guys just didn’t work out in a lot of key positions. Much of the failures do lie in not being able to get the most out of the players they have…that comes from making the wrong decisions on who to hire. The coaching staff that he’s had for the last several years just wasn’t up to par.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 4th, 2010
11:53 am

Would you let richt be a Marine D.I.? No! Richt doesn’t instill fear or demand respect as a COACH. You can like Richt and go on a mission trip with him, but I am not following him in to a battle and Football is a BATTLE.

ELVISKL

October 4th, 2010
11:55 am

GA FANS ARE LIKE COCKROACHES, TURN ON THE LIGHTS AND THEY SCATTER…….I HAVE BEEN RIDING AROUND THE STATE FOR OVER TWO WEEKS LOOKING FOR AROGGANT GA FANS FLYING THEIR FLAGS ON CARS, DECALS, TIRE COVERS ETC….. NONE TO BE FOUND…..COULD THIS ALL BE KARMA FOR THE GA PLAYER PLANTING THE BULLDOG FLAG INTO THE MIDDLE OF GRANT FIELD LAST NOV? JUST SAYING………BY THE WAY, GOD I WANT IT TO HURT

REALLY?

October 4th, 2010
11:55 am

It took us till the 3rd possession to get AJ the ball!! That says all I need to know about this staff!! Did they not have anything for him on the first play of the game when we were inside the 20????? Really???

Intensity Needed

October 4th, 2010
11:56 am

Break out the $$ and bring me Will Muschamp!!

Benjamin

October 4th, 2010
11:56 am

5150, there are coaches on all levels of football [high school, college, and pro] who win and have won by following the standard Richt model, Richt included. You don’t need R. Lee Ermey to win football games.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 4th, 2010
11:57 am

Stop with the they are KIDS. Hell they can VOTE. Damn they can carry a M-16 and serve, fight, and die for the US. The difference is the Disciplineof UGA KIDS.

Munson's Toupee

October 4th, 2010
11:59 am

What Would Damon Do?

Scott

October 4th, 2010
12:01 pm

Jeff I have been saying for 2 yrs now that it was time for Richt to go! Even when they went to the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii I was saying they needed to make a change, remember the absolute blow out to Tennessee that year and the loss to South Carolina? Richt’s teams do not seem to have the edge of the other great teams and under Richt always lead the nation in penalties. The arrests are another issue all together, it is my belief that these kids are just not afraid of what will happen to them if they get in trouble. Now we are 5 games into a season and each game this teams comes out looking like they have no clue of the game plan. It seems to get worse each week, the time has come to find a new coach. That being said, I will support the program each week and hold out hope but it sure it hetting hard to watch!

WAKE UP

October 4th, 2010
12:02 pm

Mark Richt is simply not good enough to coach in the SEC.
Who seriously thinks this man can compete with Urban Meyer or Nick Saban? We have slipped from a team that expects greatness to one that considers winning against South Carolina and GT a great accomplishment.
Bible beaters may say what they like about what a great christian he is, but he isn’t paid to convert his players into himself, he’s paid to make them into great football players. He simply cannot do this, nor can he make the decisions necessary to bring this about (Stacy Searels? Mike Bobo? THIS is what the second most profitable program in America suffers with?) This has been a problem for years, not just this season; I ask you all, when was the last time UGA went and out and won a game no one expected them to win? That we beat a truly elite team? Unlike truly great teams, we are incapable of greatness under Richt. Now, we cannot even measure up to the mediocre teams of the world…and is any of this improving? Of course not. In fact, every problem we had two years ago exists today, only worse.

UGA is a great school and was once a great football team, but Mark Richt has besmirched both with the embarrassing display on the field and the Florida-State approach to the myriad problems off the field, kicking Baker off the team only to alleviate the pressure put on him by angry fans. The players don’t respect this man because he doesn’t expect anything from his staff or from his players, so why should they?

We need someone who will clean up the trainwreck that Richt has wrought upon this school. I don’t know who that is, but there are college teams that go out every day and don’t have the consistent disciplinary and on-field issues we have that attain a modicum of success. Someone out there can do better than 1-4, 2-7 vs. the SEC, and UGA needs to go out there and find that person!

5150 P.O.A.D

October 4th, 2010
12:02 pm

Damon would do waht all the UGA coaches are doing! Pleading NOT QUILTY to how is at fault.

Limeydawg

October 4th, 2010
12:03 pm

Georgia’s worst start ever? 1-5. Know when that happened? 1905 and 1904. Worst losing streak in a single season? 5 games (1914 and 1915…admittedly tough years in the world.) One more loss, which will happen, and this team is historically bad. Lose to Vandy and we’re looking at a program of legend. My greatest fear is that Coach Richt will get a chance to do it all again next year.

I don't get it.

October 4th, 2010
12:03 pm

I keep hearing “But, but ….he’s a great man” So what? This is about coaching in the SEC & he is paid a ridiculous amount of money to do that. Its too obvious he’s more concerned with being a Bible thumper than coaching the dawgs. Richt, take your millions & go start some Bible commune in Jackson county & resign.

matt

October 4th, 2010
12:03 pm

Calling it right now…we finish 3-9 by beating UF and GT. All is forgiven and Richt gets one more year.

Cobb Dawg

October 4th, 2010
12:05 pm

You nailed it. This didn’t start this season. It started before we had to fabricate enthusiasm in the Gator endzone. Vince Dooley didn’t try to “rah rah” players, he busted their butts and benched them when they screwed up. His players didn’t necessarily like him, but they respected him. And they played hard for him. Richt is a really nice guy. And there are lots of places in this world for really nice guys. Head coach of UGA football isn’t one of them.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

October 4th, 2010
12:05 pm

I sure hope they don’t let any of these lunkheads carry my crate. Sure as the paint can’s coming on Friday morning, they’d drop it and a pair of 300-pounders from the opposing team would drop on it and recover it—and crush me. I don’t know why the fans are so upset. Some of these guys can’t put the correct shoes on the correct feet more than 50% of the time, but the fans expect them to do three things at once—run, take a tackle, and hold onto the ball. I mean, take one from the menu but don’t order all three.

Benjamin

October 4th, 2010
12:06 pm

To those wanting him gone so quickly, what were your thoughts on him prior to last season?

savannadawg

October 4th, 2010
12:07 pm

Lets not make this more complicated than it is!!!!! The dam defensive backs have no wordly clue too where they are or what is going on, on the field with the exception of Rambo. I have never seen so many guys out of place. And yes that may just include Willie Martinez’ Defenses’. I cannot believe it. 5 games in and the defense is betting worse. WHAT IS GOING ON?????????????????????

saban

October 4th, 2010
12:08 pm

Please keep Richt.

You got rid of your superstar, Willie and you can`t have Kirby. He is too smart for the cesspool in Athens.

Vince D.

October 4th, 2010
12:11 pm

Hi, Kansas State fans. Or is it Kennesaw State or maybe Georgia Southern fans? I’m ready to return us to the glory days. Sure, there’s no Hurshel, but if we’ve got a good, strong remedial studies program, I can get us back on track. Just don’t expect my kids to play hard and be smart too. Anyhow, now that Barbara’s flying all around the country while wearing orange and cheering the Vols on, I have plenty of time on my hands. Just ring me up. I’ll see if I can find the phone amid this clutter. This moving in to a remodelled house sure is messy.

GIVE ME A BREAK

October 4th, 2010
12:11 pm

Richt needs to thank God that UGA doesn’t play ” ALABAMA ” this year.

Cofan

October 4th, 2010
12:13 pm

I was in Co….talk to alot of parents…they hate Richt and most of the players do as well except the ones that he show favor to..
one mom can be on the field with her camera and only take pictures of her son and his friends…a dad that can walk on the sideline..Richt can

savannadawg

October 4th, 2010
12:13 pm

I’ll go ahead and put my two cents in if there is going to be a coaching change. Dan Mullin as Head coach and Manny Diaz as Defensive Co-ordinator.

They Say

October 4th, 2010
12:13 pm

Who cares what you’re calling for or not calling for. Obviously this is a worst case scenario with a freshman QB and new defensive scheme. Let’s not forget the Twilight Zone known as the offensive line. While the young QB isn’t losing games, he’s not winning them either. It’s tough to watch.

savannadawg

October 4th, 2010
12:17 pm

Cofan. You need to explain a little better than what you just put up on your last post !

Ray

October 4th, 2010
12:17 pm

Looks like the AJC bloggers had a conference and decided to pile on Coach Richt. Talk about short-sighted. Jeff, you are WAY out of line on the missions trip comment. Way. You owe Coach Richt and all of your readers an apology. There is an effort to get 5,000 letters of support for CMR to the AD. Join the effort.

Dawg_with_papers

October 4th, 2010
12:19 pm

I for one am glad you put it on paper Jeff. All this needed to be said.

Finish the Drill?—right — we can’t even seem to finish one play.

Jeff Schultz

October 4th, 2010
12:19 pm

POAD — Yes, many Mt. Vesuviuses across the land.

hunnahuna

October 4th, 2010
12:19 pm

Lose this Cuff kid..he’s just freaking awful! I think he’d have a tought ime breaking Sprayberry’s line up! The penalties? This guy is the poster child for the ills….Richt? If I had a coach that all he could do after a bad play or missed assignment would be to run his fingers through his thinning hair, I’d probably walk all over him too! You don’t have to be a Woody Hayes, but good lord man, show us you care…hey wait a minute! Why care anymore when you’re financially comfortable for probably the rest of your days?

Bobby P

October 4th, 2010
12:19 pm

Somethings up. Sounds like the decision for Richt to move on has already been made by the powers to be. How come? In articles today, the two biggest UGA homers are questioning his ability to lead this team. It can’t be coincidence!

Jeff Schultz

October 4th, 2010
12:19 pm

Thanks Benjamin. Agree — standard at Georgia is higher than 7-5 and it certainly should be.