Dawgs Online has an interesting take on Mark Richt’s frequent comments lately that last year’s team suffered from too much focus by the fans and media on the “stars” and that this year’s team will be better off because the “the star of the team is the team.”
Asks the blog: “Was leaning on Stafford and Moreno really near the top of the list of last year’s shortcomings?” It points out that the Georgia offense was third in the SEC in scoring and second in yardage, even behind a patchwork line.
Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno were stars, and the media and fans focused on them because more often than not they produced. As Dawgs Online notes, it’s difficult to see what the outside attention paid to Stafford and Moreno had to do with the the Dogs having the SEC’s 10th-ranked scoring defense “or a secondary whose interception total was challenged by the defensive line.”
As Dawgs Online concludes: “The trouble with last year’s team wasn’t so much leaning on some of the biggest stars ever to suit up for the Bulldog offense; it was that not enough of the rest of the team rose to that level of play.”
Now, first, let’s keep all of this in perspective. We’re talking about a team that finished 10-3. While that’s not good enough to get Richt’s program to the elite status it aspires to, there’s a coach over in Columbia who probably would kill to go 10-3.
Yes, Georgia underperformed last season, but for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the media and fans focusing on the team’s two biggest stars. Injuries were a key problem. Special teams play stunk. And more than anything the finger has to be pointed at Willie Martinez’s defense, which gave up more than 30 points in five games and 40-plus in three games.
Richt knows all this. So why is he making the “star” system the bad guy as he makes his speaking rounds in the 2009 preseason? Because he also knows that perhaps the biggest problem with the 2008 team was not just the lack of on-field leadership that a number of returning players have referenced, but its lack of heart. At times last season, some of the Dogs seemed to quit when faced with adversity. They seemed to be waiting for the stars, Stafford and Moreno, to do something instead of stepping up themselves.
It wasn’t the media and the fans’ focus on Georgia’s two stars that helped sink the 2008 team’s national championship ambitions. It was the rest of the team’s focus on the stars.
Georgia’s coaches didn’t successfully address that problem last year. This year, Richt apparently isn’t waiting for the adversity to strike. He’s making the point now by declaring the star of this year’s team is the team.
Let’s hope the players buy into it.