Sometimes fans are right and coaches are wrong

Mark Richt has admitted the Georgia coaching staff was wrong to try and make Richard Samuel a tailback. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Mark Richt has admitted the Georgia coaching staff was wrong to try and make Richard Samuel a tailback. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

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.

203 comments Add your comment

Dawg

May 19th, 2010
11:42 am

Thank God Willie is gone. Sorry Anymouse. Rick Won this weekend

whaa?

May 19th, 2010
11:45 am

knoxdawg

May 19th, 2010
11:51 am

We have the right as supporters to voice our opinions. As a fan we see things from the outside that people within the organization perhaps can’t see. This is no different than a business getting an outsiders view of the business. The important thing is that the leader address what the flaws are and Richt has done that. He may have been slow to pull the trigger put in defense of when he did it you have to look at ones performance. We all felt good about the defense heading into 2008. No reason not to and alot of injuries happened that year. Perhaps Willie deserved another chance. However, after 2009 it was obvious he needed to go and Richt did his job. The big thing that hurt UGA in 09 was the turnover ratio.Correct that and perhaps we win 10 games. Should have never lost to UK but we did. So lets get behind the team in 2010 and cheer them on to a great season.

The D

May 19th, 2010
11:52 am

The decision to not play Murray last year and allowing Cox to remain baffles me to this day. CMR is still the man in Athens and it will remain that way!! Go Dawgs, nice article Bill, I sure hope CMR reads this !!!!

Dale

May 19th, 2010
11:57 am

Maybe right about Samuel, but that 80 yard run against AK was the highlight play of last season.

BullyMack

May 19th, 2010
12:00 pm

The D- Murray had arm problems that cost him about a month of practice time in the fall that set him back. I don’t think they thought he was prepared enough to pull his shirt at that point at the end of the year.

RxDawg

May 19th, 2010
12:02 pm

I think part of it is we are not directly involved with the team. In a way, we are outside consultants being brutaly honest about the product on the field. There are absolutely zero reprecussions from what we say. The head ball coach has many reprecussions from what he says and acts on. This could limit how he acts about certain things.

This is also not necessarily a bad thing either. You don’t want a hastey head coach benching your best player for one mistake or firing your assistants for one bad performance. It’s a delicate balance. In hind sight it’s easy to point out how we were right about so many things. There are also plenty of instances that we were not right about, but those are not as clear and up front.

RxDawg

May 19th, 2010
12:04 pm

Dale, I liked Branden Smith’s end around run against USC more.

Me

May 19th, 2010
12:05 pm

Let me give a classic example of when fans were right and even a great coach with an almost impeccable track record at the time was wrong. Remember Steve Spurrier at Florida? Of course you do. During the 1995 and and 1996 seasons, many Florida fans were questioning why Florida never used the shotgun formation in their offense in order to make an already potent offense even more powerful. Spurrier bristled at such talk, saying they didn’t need to do that at Florida and that fans needed to find something better to talk about. Yet the Florida fans still questioned and persisted in asking why. Fast forward to the end of the ‘96 season at FSU when Danny Wuerffel could hardly take three steps back before getting used and abused by a Seminole. Luckily, Spurrier saw that the only way DW was gonna get off a pass against the same Noles team in the Sugar Bowl game was to go to the…shotgun formation. The result? A complete turnaround from the previous game and Florida’s first ever National Championship in a blowout 52-17. After the game, Spurrier somewhat reluctantly gave credit to the shotgun for the startling turnaround.

Citadel84

May 19th, 2010
12:09 pm

The thing is – those outside of the program that make assumptions do so without all (or even most) of the information. Additionally, they are usually making those assumptions based on emotion … We all are entitled to our opinions but it doesn’t mean that we are right.

bigdawg

May 19th, 2010
12:09 pm

Richt has had, in my opinion, the greatest offseason of any in his tenure as a coach.

he dismissed Mettenberger, which is a difficult thing to do getting rid of a potential starting QB because of disciplinary measures, so that just speaks to his character

he fired Martinez, a move that had to be tough considering he was Richt’s best friend (their families vacationed together every year).

and he FINALLY figures out and addresses that he needs to focus the game plan around AJ Green (thank GOD)

bigdawg

May 19th, 2010
12:11 pm

@Dale

what about the tip against SC on the last play. thats got to at least be the Defensive play of the season

dawgfan

May 19th, 2010
12:12 pm

Fans and media have the benefit of 20-20 hindsight. Coaches and players do not. I think that is the kind of thing that Richt is talking about.

I do think that you need to have played this game to really understand what its all about. If that is controversial, I’m not sure why. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have an opinion or be right. It just means that there are things you don’t know about the game because you have never played it. Again, far from controversial. Its just common sense.

learn something everyday

May 19th, 2010
12:13 pm

Wow. Bill, you get paid for this? I enjoyed this article much better when I read it on David Hale’s web site. I can’t believe you just basically copied his article and posted it. At least you gave him credit for it I guess.

You got a hangover or something? Just don’t feel like working? Keep on slackin slacker.

bruce mac

May 19th, 2010
12:14 pm

GO DAWGS in 2010. I couldn’t feel better about things as they look now. Do you love our classic unis as pictured here or what? Why would anybody want to mess with perfection? I love the original (60’s version) Tech unis also.

FedDawg

May 19th, 2010
12:17 pm

Well put there dawgfan, well put….

ca dawg

May 19th, 2010
12:17 pm

good piece, bill. that arena talk never bothered me that much, but i’m very heartened by what has happened this off-season: the grantham hire, the way CMR has dealt with disciplinary issues, and some fantastic early recruiting has me very excited about the coming season. he has made mistakes, but has learned from them. we have a chance to be very, very good this year, and it is in large part because CMR has his hands back at 10 and 2.

Cory

May 19th, 2010
12:21 pm

Why Bill- after reading this it makes me wonder why YOUR not the coach. It appears you have the perfect answers to all the problems. I cant for the life of me understand why you have not be sought after by the likes of UF, Bama, Sc Texas, USC…..how lucky we are to have you in our backyard writing articles for a paper as prestegous as the AJC…

PMC

May 19th, 2010
12:22 pm

It’s difficult to embrace change or to be forced into doing something differently for everyone in every profession. Georgia ran into some issues and negative plays snowballed. They resisted doing things differently probably because those methods had worked in the past. They lived and died by the sword.

We all learn everyday doing the jobs we do. This was an extremely difficult time for all the Georgia coaches and players but I believe they have learned from it, they understand what they were doing wrong and will come out for the better on the other side.

For all the criticism of Mark Richt as being “soft” I believe the guy wants to win as bad as anyone. In competitive industries people who take risks will experience failure and they will learn from that failure and create future successes.

I have the utmost confidence in Coach Richt and the new staff to fix the small things that weren’t going well the last few years.

Change is good, it will help them focus.

kbdawg

May 19th, 2010
12:22 pm

Murray was having arm problems last year.

Holly Rowe is fat

May 19th, 2010
12:25 pm

What the hell’s with that picture???

cyberdawg

May 19th, 2010
12:25 pm

When Richt made the ‘arena’ comments the impression I got was that he wanted everybody to lay off criticizing the players. The coaches are adult paid professionals which can and should be called out when appropriate, but CMR protects his players since they are young kids still developing and criticism can do more harm than good to many players.

Joe

May 19th, 2010
12:26 pm

Bill- thanks for another dose of crap courtesy of AJC Sports. I have a question for you- if you are such the expert and have all the correct answers- why are you NOT a coach????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Coraline

May 19th, 2010
12:30 pm

It’s kind of sad to see all the Dawg fans getting so excited this year (just like the year before, the year before that, etc.). How long is it going to take for UGA fans to realize that UGA is simply no longer relevant in theSEC? In the national picture, UGA isn’t even a blip on the radar, and hasn’t
been since the preseason #1 ranking two years ago.

Sit back and be grateful for the seven or eight wins you’ll get every year. Coaching genius Mark Richt may take you to 10-2 or even 11-1 occasionally, but Florida will still win the SEC, meaning no BCS bowls and no top 15 final ranking. Most years, UGA will be very lucky to finish in the top 25, and only after a big bowl win over a nobody opponent.

It’s a different world now, and Dawg fans, like FSU and Ole Miss fans, need to adjust their expectations downward to reflect reality.

Unfortunately nothing is going to change until UGA changes its mediocre coaching. That’s where the difference is, and that’s why everyone outside Bulldog Nation just laughs at Dawg fans getting so excited year after year about what a great recruiting class UGA gets. It doesn’t matter how many
blue chip high school plays go to UGA, they simply don’t get the coaching they would get at Florida or Alabama, to name two schools whose programs are far ahead of UGA. And that’s not going to change as long as Mark Richt is in
Athens.

Get your heads out of the sand and face reality. And mediocrity and
irrelevance. 

poopdawg

May 19th, 2010
12:31 pm

Rxdawg , you hit the nail on the head.

TallaDawg92

May 19th, 2010
12:41 pm

dale-

UGa did not play Alaska (AK) last year, but the run against Arkansas (AR) was great.

Casey

May 19th, 2010
12:44 pm

I am very happy with the moves. Coach Richt wouldn’t be in the place he is in now, making millions per year, if he was an idiot. I understand the fact that his decisions speak louder than our words and affect way more people than our jabs, but it doesn’t hurt to take a listen and look into the options. We might not know everything, but I guarantee we are less political than some of the information he receives, and we speak from the heart. We want nothing more than the best outcome from our teams. Now, does that mean our way is going to win 10, 11,12 games? Not at all, so I am glad we have a calm demeanor as a coach, and that he hired a defensive coach to get after some ass for once. I am very ready for the Dawgs to start up and hear all of the good news from the defensive practices.

Edd Cunningham

May 19th, 2010
12:46 pm

Mr. King, I apologize for hitting a nerve. As a Dawg fan, I too get upset about losing. But, I do not pretend to know how Coach Richt should do his job. But, then again my life is not based on whether Georgia wins or loses or if Coach Richt listens to me or not. That is precisely why many of us who read the complaints and criticisms about Coach Richt feel compelled to write about things that really matter.

How2fish

May 19th, 2010
12:50 pm

Good article Bill..sometimes even a blind hog finds an acorn as my grandfather would say..do fans do so once in a while YES..but all in all I’ll defer to CMR and his staff. But yes the fans have every right to voice their thoughts that is one of the best thing about college football the discussions , and passion it creates .

bigdawg

May 19th, 2010
12:51 pm

@Coraline

I love how UGA has ONE 5-loss season and everyone thinks that the program is all of a sudden in the crapper.

if you hope and expect mediocre things as you are suggesting we do, mediocridy is all you will ever acheive. however aspiring for greatness, as shown in the past with countless other programs, yields greatness

Vince Dooley is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in SEC history. he didnt win a national championship, heck really didnt come CLOSE to a national championship, until his 13th season or so. Richt is going into year 10 with 2 SEC titles, and 3 years where we finished in the top 5 nationally.

you are an idiot

1eyedJack

May 19th, 2010
12:52 pm

There has never been a human being born that didn’t make mistakes ‘cepting one, and even he had his moment of doubt.

Me

May 19th, 2010
12:53 pm

I think all Bill is saying here is sometimes you can see somethings from the outside that others can’t see from within. The old “forest for the trees” syndrome. Why do you think major comanies hire outside consultants? You dont always have to be a coach or a player or former player to see what’s happening right in front of your face.

Dawg 39

May 19th, 2010
12:53 pm

Coraline ? , Right now, Today, CMR is one of the top 10 coaches in the nation & The Program is one of the top 10 programs in the nation. That is different from being # 1 but it is better than the 20 year period before CMR took over. The players, the coaches, & me: We all expect the future to be even better.

ChuckWDawg

May 19th, 2010
12:55 pm

I recall that last year in the face of fan and media criticism Joe Cox went down the path of questioning the knowledge of people who didn’t actually play college football.. Of course, you never hear players question the wisdom of the fans when they are being cheered for. Whether you play or have played the game at any level or not, if you’re a relatively intelligent person who watches or attends dozens of games year after year you’re qualified to form an educated opinion. There will certainly be things that happen that are better understood if you’re in the huddle and on the field. But Hale’s assesment is right on. There is one fact you can be sure. The opinions of boosters, ticket buyers’ and even the television audience counts for everything in the end.

Dawg 39

May 19th, 2010
12:57 pm

Since I pay no attention to the AJC, (or ESPN I continue to really enjoy this blog. Keep It Up.

TvilleDawg

May 19th, 2010
12:57 pm

Excellent article – there are a whole lot of us season ticket holders who are intelligent and follow football at many levels closely and have done so for many years and not surprisingly have quite a bit of insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the UGA program and how Coach Richt has handled these – we also know the competition – Saban and Meyer – both highly intelligent and driven men who make the hard decisions without flinching and have the results to show for it – we applaud what Richt has done in the off season (though a year or two late) and hope the results will be positive in the next two years – but we are getting a little tired of mediocrity and with the money and support this program has, our expectations should have us competing for a national championship soon. And Richt has to be aware that he has a 2 year window to make things happen. ( Bobo has a 1 year window )

Enjoy your insight and articles – doubt these bozos who criticize you could do 1/2 as well.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

May 19th, 2010
12:57 pm

Sports columnist? I thought you were a laid off copy editor.

Barnacle Bill Bavasi

May 19th, 2010
12:58 pm

Sorry, Bill. Hit submit when I shouldn’t have. Thought it was funny at the time. Please delete these. I really like your blog.

Dawg Man

May 19th, 2010
12:59 pm

Good article Bill because sometimes there are some good ideas of constructive criticism that comes out of blogs

Tommie

May 19th, 2010
1:01 pm

In the news today, the IRS is now all over UGA. It looks like the athletic program is not the only part of UGA that’s infested with low-lifes and criminal behavior.

Ben in Georgia

May 19th, 2010
1:05 pm

I agree with everything you said, just as I agreed with David when he published the same exact thing 2 days ago. However, is the “un-American” comment really necessary? I thought this was about a football program and its fans….? No need to wrap yourself in the flag to defend your argument. Especially when it’s so sensible on its own merits.

Terza

May 19th, 2010
1:07 pm

“… there are a whole lot of us season ticket holders who are intelligent…”

Oh really? Are you counting the sober ones, because if you are, a “whole lot of us” suddenly dwindles to about ten people. I’ve been to Sanford Stadium – I know what it’s like.

Chris

May 19th, 2010
1:10 pm

Yes, Mark Richt has been wrong many, many times eventhough he wont admit it. If we think back to all the wrong decisions he has made, it makes you wonder why he is still in Athens. I hope the changes he has made this offseason helps, but I also feel that more needs to be done. Let’s just take a look at when, WE as fans were right and Richt was wrong.

Fire Martinez after the 06 season Fans (right) Richt (wrong)
Fire Martinez after the 07 season Fans (right) Richt (wrong)
Fire Martinez and Bobo after the 08 season Fans (right) Richt (wrong)
Fire Martinez after the 09 season…..FINALLY!!!
Fire Bobo after the 09 season Fans (right) Richt (still wrong)

Continuing to start Richard Samuel after the first game last year when everyone could see he had no business being in their…Mr. Richt (Wrong)

We can even go back to 07 when Thomas Brown was the starting running back and was getting more carries per game than Knowshon Moreno. Everyone in the stadium and at home could see that Moreno was the best back, but Richt refused to let him carry the load. His excuse, “Moreno is still young and learning.” It wasn’t until Brown had an injury in the loss to Tennesse that Moreno finally go his chance. What happened? We never lost again. One of Richts biggest problems has always been his evaluation of talent. You play your best players! How hard is that to figure out? No, Richt usually decides to play guys with more experience, even when they suck. Brian Evans is another obvious example.

The list goes on but what it boils down to is that Richt has 2 more years to right this ship. If he doesn’t, then he should be given his walking papers.

college is forever

May 19th, 2010
1:11 pm

http://www.collegelunchboxes.com Things are looking bright in Athens, I see a shift in the SEC East on the coming Horizon. Check out the UGA classic tin lunchbox great for Fathers Day. Go Dawgs!!!

Cuz

May 19th, 2010
1:12 pm

Fans gripe when we lose and crow when we win. It is the nature of the beast.

Everybody is entitled to their opinion, I don’t have to like it or agree with it and vice versa.

bwell

May 19th, 2010
1:12 pm

Listen people the bottom line is Coach Richt felt the pressure from fans, booster and the media. He had to change or this year may have been his last. Loyalty to his coaches cause him several games over the last two seasons. Remember Coach Dooley said the only thing that he was worried about was coach Richt tough enough to handle the pressure of being a hard noise coach in the SEC…. can he bring the fire to get his players to play and coaches to coach. Yes Coach Richt regressed the last two seasons. Good he made changes to his staff, Coach Richt got complacency. Now remember when Daivd Greene became the QB as a freshman and we went to BCS games and SEC championship..well the same thing is going to happen again, we will have 3 talented qb’s in 2011 with Lemay, either freshman or sophomore, with a killer instinct defensive coordinator and change to the kicking game and continuing to recruit the best player, guess what? UGA is posed to contend or win a championship in 2 to 3 years. Why Coach Richt understands the pressure to win, HE HIS FOCUS NOW (Coach Richt) So yes time has changed in Athens and its for a good reason. Not to mention FLA and ALA are winning that’s more added pressure. So continue to be supported and when Ga beat FLA, UT and ALA with consistence then we should be rated #1, don’t believe the hype. God bless. Leaving Iraq SOON!!!!! YES, Go Dawgs……….. Bill Keep up with the great columns.

Ted Striker

May 19th, 2010
1:15 pm

When you don’t see the practices every day and you don’t interact with the players as a unit or one-on-one, it’s awfully difficult to know the best way to coach them or determine who ought to be starting.

As for the possibility that UGA might have won 10 games last year had changes been made (wanted by some fans), that is certainly true. However it’s also possible that UGA could have finished with a worse record than they did. If you’re going to build your argument on “what-ifs” you’re only going to convince the people who already think the same thing you do, and you won’t sway anyone on the fence.

Reggie Ball

May 19th, 2010
1:15 pm

whats up wiyh you losers with the long comments. keep it short and csimple.oh yeah GT sux

TheItalianDawg

May 19th, 2010
1:16 pm

good article Bill, great job!

Sam

May 19th, 2010
1:17 pm

Cherry picking in a big way. A coach makes thousands of decisions each season. Let’s see a fan do that as successfully. Face it, if a fan were that good, then he (she) should get a job coaching. Odds are pretty good that a head football coach in D1 is making more money than most fans.