OK, we’ve established that I’m part of the vast majority of Bulldogs fans who support Mark Richt and think hot-seat talk about a coach as consistently successful as him is ridiculous.
But, as also has been established many times in the past, that doesn’t mean I think Richt is always right. On matters ranging from Willie Martinez to directional kickoffs to various decisions over who should be starting and who should be riding the bench, I’ve been among many fans critical of Richt in the past (and, conversely, encouraged by off-season moves he’s made this year to address some of those problems).
This raises an interesting point, however, about college football fans discussing their favorite teams. Every time I write something even remotely critical about the Georgia coaches or players, not only do I get my loyalty to UGA questioned by a few unnamed folks, but someone invariably puts forth the idea that if you haven’t played or coached college football, you have no right to voice an opinion.
OK, besides being downright un-American, that premise ignores the fact that most sports columnists have never been coaches. Most movie critics have never acted on the screen. And so on. …
And fans, who support the programs with their money, should be able to critique what they see on the field.
Yet even Richt, generally the most reasonable of men, ventured briefly into this territory last season when he got all prickly about some media criticisms and made his infamous statement that “if you’re a leader or a player and you are brave enough to be in the arena, there’s going to be people outside the arena that want to throw things at you and say things about you. But there’s honor in being in the arena, and a lot of people don’t understand because they’ve never been in there.”
The main problem with that idea is that often the collective wisdom of the folks sitting in the stands proves to be on the money.
David Hale of Bulldogs Blog touched on this recently when he noted that Richt had admitted to mishandling Richard Samuel by insisting on trying to make him into a tailback when all evidence pointed toward him belonging on defense, one of a number of instances over the past couple of years where Richt and his staff seemed a bit wrongheaded and inflexible.
Summed up Hale: “For all the ‘never been in the arena’ talk from the head coach, it sure seemed like the folks on the outside had a lot right. The fans understood the defense was headed in a bad direction, and the result was five games in which UGA allowed at least 34 points. Fans knew the kickoff strategy was flawed, and the result was a loss to LSU because of a bad kickoff late in the game. (And, to be fair, a ridiculous penalty on A.J. Green.) Fans knew that personnel changes needed to be made, and while Bacarri Rambo helped save the Auburn game, far too many big plays also occurred while Bryan Evans chased futilely after a receiver destined for the end zone.”
It’s reasonable to conclude that had those changes been made, Hale said, Georgia might have won at least 10 games last year.
And, he noted, “the problem wasn’t so much that fans recognized those problems last year. It was that they recognized them in 2008, when Georgia actually did win 10 games. And like with the Samuel situation, Georgia’s staff knew better and stubbornly stuck to philosophies that utterly frustrated fans.”
Hale goes on to point out that just about all of those complaints now have been dealt with by Richt. Which means we have good reason to believe things are back on the upswing in Athens.
I’m not deluding myself into thinking that Richt was swayed in any way by what my blog or anyone else’s had to say about his decisions over the past two seasons, though I do think the overall fan consensus on Martinez needing to go was a factor in that decision.
But I do think it’s fair to say that there have been instances where those of us outside the arena have made valid points about changes that needed to be made.
So maybe there’s some value in what we do here beyond the obvious enjoyment we all get out of discussing them Dawgs.