One game, victory or defeat, shouldn’t determine the fate of any college football coach or assistant.
That’s why Saturday’s big win by the Dogs over Georgia Tech should not be enough to deter Mark Richt and the UGA athletic association from making the changes that are needed in order for the program to once again rank among the SEC’s elite.
We’re talking, of course, about the future of defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, whose job security has been questioned for the past couple of seasons as the Georgia defense generally has underperformed and routinely has allowed more than 30 points a game. From all accounts, Martinez is a good man and beloved by his players. But the results speak for themselves.
Martinez is not without his supporters, and I will concede to them that he is capable of getting his players to rise to the occasion. He did it late in the 2006 season and again at the end of 2007. And he’s done it a couple of times this season, most recently against Tech.
But getting good defense a couple of times a season won’t cut it in the SEC. Georgia needs consistency in order to succeed, and that’s where the defense has fallen short. The true blame may belong with the players, but the ultimate responsibility is Martinez’s. And if change is necessary in order to get the Dogs’ defense up to snuff, that means a new coordinator.
There’ve been plenty of rumors about Martinez’s departure already being a done deal, but most of those reports sound more like speculation than leaks. Richt might not want to get rid of his longtime friend and colleague, but at this point it seems unlikely that Martinez can stay. And you’d wonder why he’d even want to. It can’t be fun to be Willie Martinez in Athens any more; he gets blamed for everything that’s wrong with the program, even when it’s not his fault.
Hopefully, Richt and Damon Evans will bring in someone who can take the obvious talent that Georgia has on defense and make more effective use of it. That might mean cleaning house on the defensive staff, never a pleasant process or anything to celebrate.
But the good feelings generated by a season finale win over the traditional in-state rival shouldn’t overshadow the way Georgia’s defense has been trending ever since Martinez succeeded Brian Van Gorder.
Bulldog fans are delighted the Jackets were defeated and that a winning season was assured. We’re even pleased that the Dogs probably will get a slightly better bowl. But we’re not happy with 7-5 and getting drilled by the likes of Tennessee and Florida. And we haven’t forgotten the second-half collapse against an inferior Kentucky team.
It’s still time for Mark Richt to make a change. Judging by the noncommittal way he talked about his staff after the Tech game, he appears to recognize that fact.