Hot Button: Is UGA’s Martinez a good defensive coordinator?

He's no Kevin Ramsey, but who is? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

He's no Kevin Ramsey, but really, who is? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The answer to the above question depends on definition. If by “good” we mean, “Way better than Kevin Ramsey,” the answer is yes. If by “good” we mean “one of the finest defensive coordinators in the nation,” the answer is no.

Willie Martinez suffers most by immediate comparison to his predecessor. In 52 games under Brian VanGorder, Georgia yielded 30-plus points only in the 2003 SEC championship game against an LSU team that would win the BCS title. In 52 games under Martinez, Georgia has yielded 30-plus points 11 times.

The average score of a Georgia loss in four seasons under VanGorder was 21-12. Not once in any of the 10 losses with BVG as DC did the Bulldogs score 20 points themselves, meaning those defeats were more related to offensive failings. Now look:

The average score of a Georgia loss in four seasons under Martinez has been 32-23. Five times in those 12 losses the Bulldogs have scored 30-plus points, which means the offense has been holding up its end.

The offense has waxed and waned under Mark Richt. (Last season the Bulldogs ranked 22nd nationally in total offense, their best showing since finishing 21st in 2001.) The defense has slipped. In four seasons under VanGorder, Georgia ranked among the nation’s top 10 in total defense twice and scoring defense three times. In four seasons under Martinez, the Bulldogs have ranked among the nation’s top 10 in  those categories once apiece.

Over time, the yardage figures are almost congruent. Opponents averaged 305 yards per game against BVG’s D; they’ve averaged 302 against WM’s. What has changed is more problematic:

Georgia now has to score big to win, and that’s a tough way to travel. Forty-two points weren’t enough to beat Georgia Tech last season, and 41 wouldn’t have been enough to beat Alabama or 49 sufficient to unhorse Florida. And before we dismiss 2008 as a function of injuries and penalties and suchlike, let’s note  the Bullogs lost 31-30 to Auburn and 38-35 to West Virginia in 2005 and 51-33 to Tennessee in 2006.

In two of the biggest victories of the post-VanGorder era, Georgia beat Florida 42-30 in 2007 and LSU 52-38 last season. The Bulldogs used to win because their defense served as a safety net. They now work without that net.

Rate Willie Martinez as a defensive coordinator.

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Martinez’s defenders — not to be confused with the men who play his defense — say his units make key stops (against Kentucky and Auburn last season, for example) and that he plays the defense Richt wants played. But it’s tough to imagine any head coach prefers a defense that collapses periodically, and it’s difficult to argue that, given Georgia’s gaudy rankings every single Signing Day, this coordinator is working without talent.

The aforementioned Ramsey lasted one season (1999) as Jim Donnan’s defensive coordinator. His undoing was a 38-21 loss to an Auburn team that entered Sanford Stadium 4-5 but led 31-0 at the half. (Quarterback Ben Leard passed for 416 yards that bizarre night.) Bulldog fans take pride in both their stadium and their history of stalwart defense, and they filed out early on Nov. 13, 1999 believing that hadn’t ever seen and wouldn’t again see such a thing.

On Sept. 27, 2008, Alabama scored on five consecutive possessions against the nation’s No. 3 team. The halftime score in Athens was 31-0.

353 comments Add your comment

Speechless

August 27th, 2009
10:50 am

Why, I don’t know what to say.

dtanner

August 27th, 2009
10:50 am

needs to be fired,but richt is to nice of a guy

CatsFly

August 27th, 2009
10:52 am

“If you got the ball, we gonna get you. If yo mamma got the ball, we gonna get her” – Marvin Austin, UNC

Saint Simons

August 27th, 2009
10:54 am

45 – 42 !!!!!!!!!! hahahahahahahaahahahahahahahaha

TrueDawg

August 27th, 2009
10:58 am

Richt is too nice a guy to fire him, and that’s why Damon Evans has to be the one to make that call for Richt. Georgia has too much defensive talent year after year, to give up the points they do under Martinez’s direction.

MoDawg

August 27th, 2009
10:59 am

Better at position coaching (DBs) than coaching entire defense. I think he’s in over his head (note that Jancek is co-defensive coordinator now), but this year will tell the tale. If we have another year like last year, he should be let go or demoted.

GeoffDawg

August 27th, 2009
11:05 am

CMR’s one major drawback is too much loyalty to his staff. While this is the kind of trait you’d want in a brother or a friend, it ignores the business aspect of the football world. This year will be telling because Willie Martinez will have been given every advantage and opportunity to excel as a DC. If we have another down year (with fewer injuries even), then I hope Coach Richt will be able to finally pull that trigger. In any case, I’m pulling for him to make it. This has been his first DC assignment and it is possible that he’s still growing into it but by anyone’s standard he better hit a big growth spurt this season.

H.T.

August 27th, 2009
11:06 am

willie doesnt know who to teach the fundamentals of the game. thats why are guys dont know how to tackle. except rennie curran and jeff owens and marcus washington, i think willie is just afraid to tell those guys how to do something. haha

jrmdvm1

August 27th, 2009
11:06 am

Mr. Bradley,
This is a real question. I don’t have the answer, and you probably have better resources to find the answer. Is there a difference in the average points by offenses in the Martinez era vs. the Van Gorder era, both nationally and in the SEC? I have a feeling that offensive production has gone up, but the comparison I want is whether or not Martinez’s defenses rise in points allowed is greater than the national and SEC average increase in offensive production. Fewer times at the top of the list for overall defense ( yardage ) and scoring defense would seem to indicate that despite increased offensive production overall ( and after “adjusting” for this ), our defenses still have slipped under Martinez. As a Dawg fan, I truly hope that last year’s defensive performance really was about injuries and “softer” practicing. The defense’s performance in the bowl game ( after full speed and tackling practice ) gives me some hope.

H.T.

August 27th, 2009
11:06 am

I agree with GeoffDawg

W-Dawg

August 27th, 2009
11:07 am

Martinez blaming the offense’s failure to protect the ball against UF is what alarms me the most. He won’t take responsibility when his guys go out there and play terribly.

Key stops against last years Kentucky that put 38 on us and last years 5-7 Auburn team aren’t making me feel better about WM. Where was the key stop when we needed the ball back against Tech at the end of the game, or against Bama in the first half to stop the bleeding?

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

August 27th, 2009
11:07 am

I think Martinez is a good, but not great, DC. Despite all of our defensive shortcomings last year, I think we were still in the top 25 in terms of overall defense (correct me if I’m wrong on that and cite your source).

That being said, I think this year’s defense will be head-and-shoulders above last year’s. Everyone’s more seasoned, we’re getting Owens and other key players back from injuries and they all feel they have something to prove to both the fans and themselves. Look for big things from the Georgia D this year. Bank on it.

CLTDawg

August 27th, 2009
11:09 am

Average at best…I was hoping we would go after Chavis when he left tennessee, now we have to face him at LSU.

BigDawg

August 27th, 2009
11:09 am

When everybody at the 2009 UGA-UF knew Tim Crybow was going to run the ball and we couldn’t stop him, what the F? Richt should have gotten rid of this guy last year, UT’s former def coordinator is much better, ask LSU!

JB

August 27th, 2009
11:13 am

The blow outs make me mad, but don’t forget games like Vandy marching down the field on us with 2 minutes left to play and we had like 2-3 point lead and “them” fumbling saved us. If we ever have less than a 7 point lead and the other team gets the ball back with 2-3 minutes left, it’s 50/50 of us stopping them. Watch our DB’s when a team is storming down the field passing on us late. They’re 15 yards off the receiver and start back peddling when the ball is snapped. Geez. One Game a TE was catching Every pass on us, every possession. Willie NEVER made an adjustment. I think it was S.C. Stats tell it all. We have gotten worse every year…Still winning 10 I know, but the D will shorten your life. I’m hoping year he proves us wrong. We NEED the D this year.

UGA English Dept

August 27th, 2009
11:14 am

dtanner – use “too” in place of “to” when describing excess. Back to Gainesville College!

Sam Robards, Dawg Fan

August 27th, 2009
11:14 am

I’m also curious to see how Van Gorder’s defenses would have performed against the all-too-trendy Spread Offense that’s become so popular over the last few years. I personally hate the spread (I an a traditional SEC guy through-and-through: three years and a cloud of dust!) but recognize that in the right conditions, it can work pretty well.

Mark Bradley

August 27th, 2009
11:14 am

I wondered the same, JRMDVM. But I took the yardage figures from VanGorder’s four seasons and Martinez’s four seasons, which are almost identical, and then took the national rankings as an indication that the has indeed slipped under the latter. Georgia ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring and total defense a total of five times (of a possible eight) under BVG and was in the top 20 twice more. Georgia has ranked in the top 10 twice (again of a possible eight times) and has been in the top 20 a total of six times under WM.

It’s not a fall-off-the-mountain slippage. But it is, in my opinion, slippage.

Hunkerin' down in Jax Beach

August 27th, 2009
11:22 am

What concerns me the most about WM is that he flat out REFUSES to accept any responsibilty for his defensive shortcomings. He’s very good at throwing our defense under the bus by stating that “they did a poor job of tackling”. HELLO, whose responsibility is it to stay on these yong men. BOTTOM LINE: WM has ran out of excuses. I also don’t buy the theory that we don’t recruit as well on the defensive side of the ball. That is another lame excuse!

BIG UGLIES WIN GAMES!!!

August 27th, 2009
11:22 am

MARK!!!If the O had scored 2 touchdowns int he first half against Bama, the score would have been 17-14 or 24-14..Some of those points were scored from blocked punts and returns and very bad throws from Staff (UF game last year and GT game last year)…No doubt there were problems last year but you are not looking at the whole picture…

athensgeorgiadogsfan

August 27th, 2009
11:23 am

Yeah, hard to argue with the column. CMR got rid of Callaway without having to fire him, if you recall. Creating a co-coordinator position for Jancek may have been a set up for the same thing to take place. Time will tell, but Willie adjusts fine at halftime, see the second half in the Alabama game, and the West Virginia debacle a couple of years ago. Seems that his problem is adjusting on the fly during the game, between series’, which was one of BVG’s strengths. Time will tell, but until it does get behind Willie, as long as he’s our dc, pull for him.

Teabag and Crier

August 27th, 2009
11:24 am

Mark, Willie has one more year, and that is it.
He is not being raked over the coals right now because of my respect for Coach Richt and his wishes, but the writing is on the wall.
The thing that bothers me the most is the people that defend willie and say that we fans who are non-coaches couldn’t do any better and to stop criticizing. Well, to that I say : Our defense coached by Willie were making the same mistakes in week 9, 10, 11, 12 that they were making in weeks 2, 3, and 4. Huge, glaring, horrible mistakes. Fundamentals are naturally suppose to get better with time, and 10 weeks is ALOT of time. But what did Willies defense do? Got steadily Worse and Worse.
Mark Bradley, that is coaching. No if’s, and’s, or but’s about it. I don’t want to hear CRAP about injuries this year.

Diamond Dave

August 27th, 2009
11:25 am

Just block and tackle.

Kendawg

August 27th, 2009
11:26 am

This year should confirm whether the UGA defense has slipped under Martinez. If we have another bad year on defense, Richt should pull the trigger. It will be interesting to see the outcome.

Dog Days

August 27th, 2009
11:28 am

Simple answer to a simple question. No, CWM is not a good DC. The trademark of his defense is giving up at least 38 points to everyone. There absolutely were injuries last year but whenever he discusses last year, he never takes accountability, EVER.

To hell with him.

DawgGirl32

August 27th, 2009
11:28 am

Mark, would you venture to say that the defensive “slippage” also might have something to do with the type of offenses we’re facing now that might increase the number of yards and points we’re giving up? I feel like we’re playing more spread and option offenses than we used to but maybe I’m totally wrong on that.

blitzmo

August 27th, 2009
11:28 am

blitzmo– blitzmo–blitzmo. Good qb’s need the heat.

Teabag and Crier

August 27th, 2009
11:29 am

Hey Mark, how many quotes do you have from Willie in the past 9 months where he just “Man’s up” and just takes responsiblity for last year’s Embarassment, then says Hey UGA fans, We will perform much better on Defense this year!???

Waiting…Waiting… Willie would get a much more optimistic side of me this year, rather than pessimistic if he would have just taken responsibility for his horrible product and play calling he put on the field last year.
Instaed, all I see are lots of BS excuses.
No excuses this year Willy!

Carl

August 27th, 2009
11:32 am

I believe the defense is good enough to hold teams to an average of 38 points per game; we just need to average 40+ and we will win 10 games.

dap01

August 27th, 2009
11:32 am

If he is a good defensive coordinator, I can’t tell it. What evidence can we point to.

This year is the year, either he gets the job done or he needs to leave.

Z.Itchy

August 27th, 2009
11:34 am

Coach Richt has ultimate responsibility for the performance of the defense. The meer fact that Martinez is still coaching it says that Richt is ultimately satisfied with it. And I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Wil Walton

August 27th, 2009
11:35 am

Win or lose, if Okie State demolishes the UGA defense, what’s the over/under # of games will Martinez is toast?

Wil Walton

August 27th, 2009
11:35 am

that’s “till”

W-Dawg

August 27th, 2009
11:39 am

A teabag and a crier indeed.

We will know right off the bat against the Cowboys if anything has changed, and what we can expect the rest of the year from the defense.

Gator Fan

August 27th, 2009
11:43 am

Willie has cost ya’ll chances at National championships and SEC Championships. IMHO, the longer Willie stays, the longer the Doggies stay a good team, but not a great one able to get the championships b/c they lack a great DC. See Charlie Strong, Will Muschamp, Chavez.

Hot Dawg

August 27th, 2009
11:44 am

Richt’s loyalty is, on balance, a very good thing. We kept Searles and Garner last year for that reason alone. The downside is that we have CWM who, sorry to say, is substandard (and will be here a long, long time)

Dawg fans are no longer surprised if our defense, when totally hearty and healthy completely collapses a few times a year. We also learned last year that when less than healthy, CWM’s D will collapse most every game.

Dawg fans have learned that it is pointless to dream big with CWM coaching our D.

Joey

August 27th, 2009
11:44 am

I read the Loran Smith op ed about Martinez a while back. Loran scolded Willie-doubters and raved that Willie “is hard working, has a wonderful family, and absolutely loves UGA!” I believe all of that but, he is not getting the DC job done! My suggestion has been for Richt to keep him on as DB coach, at the same pay (if that is the issue), but hire a good defensive schemer. Saban and Myer don’t settle for mediocrity. To take that next big step (a NC game) in his career, he has to make hard choices, like demoting your college roommate when the evidence is clear that he needs to…

RAMBLE ON!!!

August 27th, 2009
11:46 am

It really wasn’t Martinez’s fault. Bad officiating, injuries, sooooooo far to travel to Jacksonville, so much pressure on being Preseason #1, getting up to play a high school offense, too many 1st round stars on the team, so many 5 star recruits to juggle.

You know, it’s really not fair being a dawg.

Old Guy

August 27th, 2009
11:47 am

I’ve been going to Georgia games since 1976. I know here are many of you that have been going longer, but I thought very seriously about not attending games until CWM was let go. Then I thought he may never be let go. CWM biggest problem is the option. He does not have a package to stop the option. The bottom line is each player has a role to play in defending the option and they must execute it. You can’t free for all this kind of thing and expect speed and talent to win out. That kind of play is why the option was invented. Teach these guys to stay at home and play their parts in team defense. If you can’t do that CWM then you can’t be a coordinator.

smashmouth

August 27th, 2009
11:48 am

Another pile from the AJC

Clifdog

August 27th, 2009
11:49 am

FREE WILLY – FIRE MARTINEZ

Joey

August 27th, 2009
11:49 am

…and, in an off season when virtually every assistant coach on Richt’s staff got a job offer from other major universities, it would seem a little embarassing for Willie no one, including his own alma mater, Miami, wanted him for anything?

TJM

August 27th, 2009
11:51 am

HE CAN’T STOP A BAD COLD, HIS D-FENCE IS AVERAGE AT BEST. IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE OVER TIME. GEORGIA BETTER GET USE TO SCORING OVER 40 POINTS A GAME IF IT WANTS TO WIN 10 GAMES A YEAR…..

Principal Skinner

August 27th, 2009
11:51 am

The fact that Willie is still DC proves that Richt cares more about himself than the program. Our defense is an embarassment and Richt should be held accountable for this constant debacle.

chazzo

August 27th, 2009
11:52 am

Say what you will. the Florida loss last year is on the offense. 3 picks and a fumble return all leading to TDs. The D had the short side of the field constantly or the O scored fast and put them right back on the field. When you are short handed, that aint good.

We will see what happens.

Old Dawg

August 27th, 2009
11:53 am

WM is a great guy and an average DC. In this business unless a great guy does a great job he’s history.

It appears that CMR and WM have worked to correct defensive mistakes and short comings of the system. If the results improve this season, perhaps he deserves another chance. If not, it’s time for him to go.

UGADawg83

August 27th, 2009
11:53 am

Mark what you leave out is what Willie’s defense did against Boise St., Hawaii, and OK St.; teams that were supposed to have these high flying offensive attacks….the Willie picture isn’t as bleak as the one you paint by the numbers.

Gman

August 27th, 2009
11:54 am

Would Willie still be employed at Alabama, LSU, Florida, Tennessee or Auburn? Hell no!

These are the teams we measure ourselves against and none of them would long stand for CWM incompetence and excuses.

Most dawg fans are tired of him explaining how great his schemes are and how successful we’d be if we only had better players.

CWM sounds like a complete loser. His results suggest the same.

Maybe CMR will wake up when our passion eventually fades because over time, what realistic hope does a rational fan have that we will be better?

takedowndawg

August 27th, 2009
11:55 am

Several bloggers have pointed out the lack of adjustment to the defensive scheme during the ball game by Martinez. Maybe, we should also focus our attention on the defensive coach(s) located upstairs who are making recommendations to Martinez. They must really suck!! Fire them as well if our defense under performs again this year. Not making adjustments during the quarter when your opponent is having his way with you but you decide to continue with more of the same game plan is just plain stupid. Maybe, you need a new set of eyes upstairs Willie…….??????

Reality

August 27th, 2009
11:58 am

When Willie martinez leaves, hope will return!

It doesn’t matter what we are ranked because we’ve learned the hard way that we aren’t going anywhere anyway with CWM.