Can Richt again lift UGA the way Johnson has inspired Tech?

Here's the man who has changed football in this state. (Photo by Stephen Jensen)

Here's the man who has changed football in this state. (Photo by Stephen Jensen)

Georgia has a problem. Actually, Georgia has several problems, but for today we’ll concern ourselves with one. His name is Paul Johnson. He coaches Georgia Tech. And he continues to prove just how much of a difference one determined man can make.

Tech was a notch above mediocrity when Johnson took over. Today it is 5-1 and underrated at No. 19. It is coming off its first-ever victory in Tallahassee on a night when the Jackets might have lost a dozen different times. But it won because Johnson has both a clever plan and a personality large enough to make large young men do his bidding. Which brings us to Mark Richt.

There was a time when Richt was the man with the plan. He arrived from Tallahassee and promised to Finish The Drill and proceeded, in Year 2, to Knock The Lid Off a long-frustrated program. His men began to believe in their coach — P-44-Haynes in Knoxville and 70X Takeoff that cold day at Auburn made believing easy — and soon Georgia was the rising power in the nation’s best conference.

Today Georgia rises no more. Today Georgia keeps tripping and falling. The Bulldogs are 9-6 over their past 15 games. They have lost to Florida by 39 points and now to Tennessee by 26, meaning the two worst losses in Richt’s nine seasons have come within a 49-week span. This is not a program getting better, or even holding its ground. This is a program in decline.

Georgia is 100th in the nation in scoring defense, 97th in total offense, 116th in penalties, 118th (of 120) in turnover margin. With those numbers, it’s lucky to be 3-3.

But now we check the recruiting rankings, as offered by Rivals.com. Georgia was third nationally in 2002, sixth in 2003 and 2004, 1oth in 2005, fourth in 2006, ninth in 2007, seventh in 2008, sixth in 2009. Yet the Bulldogs did not receive a single 25th-place vote in this week’s Associated Press poll. And now we must raise the issue Steve Spurrier hoisted on Nov. 11, 1991, in Jacksonville:

“Georgia gets all these recruits. I don’t know what happens to them.”

The loss in Knoxville on Saturday was the worst, perception-wise if not number-wise, of Richt’s career. It was, not to be unkind, a Ray Goff-like loss. Georgia lost to Tennessee by 26 points with the Vols in Year 1 under a coach of uncertain portfolio. His offense managed three points. His defense yielded 472 yards. Which brings us back to Tech.

Can Mark Richt fix what's ailing Georgia?

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The Jackets yielded 44 points and 539 yards to Florida State on Saturday. Difference was, Tech won. Tech had the strength of will — a strength fueled by its coach — to keep fighting. Georgia got a bad call for excessive celebration against LSU and seized it as that week’s excuse. Tech and Johnson accept no excuses. You fumble the ball, you go get it back.

If you’re seeking a play that defines the growing gap between Tech and Georgia, it was Josh Nesbitt re-stealing the ball from Nigel Carr, who’d recovered a fourth-quarter fumble. The Tech quarterback — the Tech quarterback — made a great play from a terrible one. Georgia makes the occasional play because of its talent, but talent alone has ceased to be sufficient.

Paul Johnson rolled in and refused to settle for so-so. At issue now is whether Mark Richt, who elevated Georgia to the pinnacle of the SEC, will stand and watch his program deteriorate. He needs better coaches around him. He needs to connect with the Bulldogs in 2009 the way he did the Bulldogs of 2002. He needs to do something this minute because he’s the guy with the TV show and the Ford truck ads and the $2.8 million salary.

Georgia fans aren’t oblivious. They see the difference being made by one forceful man at the North Avenue Trade School. What they need now is to see their coach again make that sort of difference. That’s assuming their coach still can.

926 comments Add your comment

davidbaker

October 11th, 2009
8:20 pm

davidbaker

October 11th, 2009
8:20 pm

buzzzzzzz………..

RAMBLE ON!!!

October 11th, 2009
8:21 pm

YEP

October 11th, 2009
8:23 pm

YEP

October 11th, 2009
8:23 pm

WHY DO MUTTS BARK? CAUSE BEES STING

October 11th, 2009
8:23 pm

1ST IF YOU LIKE A PREACHER THEN GO TO CHURCH COACH RICHT,CAUSE HE COACHES LIKE A PASTOR,PRAYING FOR A WIN,INSTEAD OF COACHING HIS TEAM UP! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK ST MARK RICHT!

defactodawg

October 11th, 2009
8:24 pm

First…The true measure of Coach Richt will come in the off-season. If he makes the changes that must be made, he may well hang around for a while. If not, 2010 will likely be his swan song in Athens. It seems 2007 was a fluke because we’ve struggled for 3+ seasons. It’s time for serious changes with cream of the crop coaches being hired or we’re doomed to more of the Goff-Donnan type years.

YEP

October 11th, 2009
8:24 pm

Chris

October 11th, 2009
8:24 pm

If Richt doesn’t make changes after this year, 2010 will be his last year coaching the Georgia Bulldogs. It is as simple as that.

I hope you are listening Mark Richt because you failed to do so last year, and look at us now.

N-TROUBLE

October 11th, 2009
8:25 pm

As a long time UGA fan we look pathetic and I am embarressd. This has to stop excuse me this will stop with or with out CMR. He has this year with no worries – if it continues next year then Houston he has a problem and will be the richest man in the unemployment line.

blazerdawg

October 11th, 2009
8:25 pm

CMR can fix the problem, but will he? Kirby…

Cosmosdawg

October 11th, 2009
8:27 pm

The talent is there but the dawgs got out coached vs Tenn. A bad game for Bobo. Mark, what’s happened to the offensive line? The same personnel as last year but totally different results. Defense made the worst qb in the conference look like he’s All SEC.

RAMBLE ON!!!

October 11th, 2009
8:27 pm

Chan Gailey’s available.

Jersey Jacket

October 11th, 2009
8:28 pm

Why is this on the Tech page?

Stuckey's Asst Mgr Dawg

October 11th, 2009
8:28 pm

But Paul Johnson is just so mean and loud and yells and stuff. That’s not very nice.

Brandon from Warner Robins

October 11th, 2009
8:29 pm

Terrible comparison, Mark. Get a good night’s sleep and rethink this… lol kidding.

Ginger

October 11th, 2009
8:30 pm

We can do better…CMR can do better. It remains to be seen if CMR makes the right moves. I hope he does. Some thioughts on how we can get better.

1 Develop character as team….Team Captains need to call a players’ only meeting and lay down the law…Demand excellence in all phases and play hard every down…Players hold themselves accountable…The team leaders should be the hardest working players….Get to practice early and stay late…Meeting together without coaches if need be with practice rules–limited hrs….Team Captains need to set a tone and a standard.

2. CMR needs to demand excellence from players and coaches & not accept anything less…Don’t be satisfied…Look for ways to do better.

3. Consult with bright football defensive people…Fresh eyes to look at the defensive problems and help CWM out….don’t think CMR would demote CWM in midseason….Be we can get some solid football folks to come to Athens and consult….Defense has to improve now or we are going to lose a lot more games and lose a lot more recruits…Lane Kiffin wants state of Ga. players bad.

4. CMR take over play calling duties and coach more on offensive…Let’s face it CMB needs help.
very bad offensive showing Sat…..we have to find ways to run the ball.

5. Strongly consider rotating QB’s in game…J. Cox made some really terrible–no excuse plays
We need to find a QB to step up to the plate and not make mistake after mistake….Hopefully, by getting some other QB s in game—1 will really step up and shine.

The biggest thing is demand excellence.

Mark Bradley

October 11th, 2009
8:31 pm

I am going to get a night’s sleep. Some night.

Stewed Tomatoes

October 11th, 2009
8:32 pm

If you don’t like Richt that is fine. lay off his Christian life as that is not the reason for the team problems. Only an ass would stoop so low to make fun of a man’s religious convictions.

Not Happy Dawg

October 11th, 2009
8:32 pm

Richt most important evaluation should be of himself. He created this mess yet continues to condenscend the UGA fans with lame excuses….one after another. He needs to check his own ego and take accountability. He should say “This is on me. I will get it corrected. Maybe not in 1 or 2 weeks but by the time we KO in 2010, it will be fixed. I am sorry to the players and the fans. Please stick with me through this.” How hard is it to be a man and be honest with people? The fans would stand behind him in force if he would just acknowledge the mess. But he doesn’t and we are left trying to figure out whether he is an idiot or an ego-maniac.

malibuGT

October 11th, 2009
8:34 pm

I’m sure our friends in Athens will figure it out. Meanwhile, I’m just happy we found the right guy for our program and can’t wait ’til Saturday night. Go Jackets!!

Matthew

October 11th, 2009
8:34 pm

I think Richt needs to make some coaching changes. Yes, this is a down year; however, LSU went 7-5 last year and Florida lost 3 SEC games in 2007. Bad years happen and it gives opportunities for perseverence. I think the idea that Georgia is in decline based on a year when 3 offensive weapons left and are now starting in the NFL is a little short-sighted.

Again, there needs to be changes in Georgia to correct the ship.

And then, to suggest that Tech (who is having a good year in a mediocre conference) has improved and surpassed Georgia just adds insult to injury. Neither team has played a complete game. The game GT played against FSU last night was the same one Georgia played against South Carolina… and Arkansas.

And excuse or not, the LSU defeat was handed to them wrapped in a worthless yellow flag. Did LSU make the touchdown to win? Yes. But they only needed a field goal and that field position was handed to them from the officiating crew.

With that blow, the team gave up. They didn’t show up in Knoxville because they’ve written 2009 off.

If Georgia has an off year next year and Tech continues to improve, then you can talk about decline… but you need a trend to define a decline. This year is an abberation.

N-TROUBLE

October 11th, 2009
8:35 pm

Here’s the funny part – when the North Avenue Trade School sucks (which is often bTW) if you go their blog you don’t see any dawg fans out their ripping their team because we have better things to do but when we suck i.e. 2009 they are all over this blog. go back and study your calculus 4 idiots so you can come work for UGA grads as programming nerds.

Paul Williams

October 11th, 2009
8:35 pm

CMR’s choices are clear. He must man up and deal with Martinez and Bobo’s deficiencies. He can send them packing or wait a year and go with them.

FLA DAWG

October 11th, 2009
8:35 pm

You’ve described the problem acurately in my opinion. May I offer a solution?
Richt stays on as HC and takes over Offensive Playcalling as he did when he arrived – that is his specialty. Bobo and Martinez are demoted – or more preferably released.

Tubberville is hired to takeover the Defense. I’ve already heard the early rumors of this. I can tell you that if that kind of scenario comes to pass The Dawgs will be a fearsome force again in the SEC – Gator Killers!

He might change

October 11th, 2009
8:35 pm

but not in mid season.

Note…he did not get this far being …not smart. If non football whiners can see it, you just know a smart coach sees…the “it” factor.

David

October 11th, 2009
8:36 pm

Great article, Mark, and yhou’re spot on. Even in our bad games, I’ve loved that CPJ seems passionate, in control, and never “at ease” with a loss (rather, he’s chewing someone out for missing a block, dropping a pitch, not making the right read, etc). Mark Richt, on the other hand, doesn’t seem happy after losses, but he doesn’t seem upset in the way he should, especailly after a lackluster performance like Saturday. Great article.

Paul Williams

October 11th, 2009
8:37 pm

Not Happy Dawg-

Amen, you are dead on-

Paul

The Lone Trumpeter

October 11th, 2009
8:38 pm

Good Article Mark. I don’t pretend to know what will fix uga at this point. There seem to be so many issues that im not sure they can all be fixed in one season. The lack of discipline is just unacceptable. That play to spike the ball with one second left in the first half showed me that there is a REAL problem with the uga staff. What needs to be done? Regain the edge of UGA football. How do we do it? I just don’t know.

route66

October 11th, 2009
8:38 pm

Mark Richt on Bobo’s play calling.I like Mike’s play calling. Hello, are you watching the same game we are?

b.davis

October 11th, 2009
8:39 pm

Have to say your comments are pretty much right on.

I have been a Tech fan for many years. It was never easy being a fan because we were mired in one problem after another.

What Johnson has done is change the paradigm for Tech. Tech now has a way to win.
Before we spent too much time being like everybody else but with talent that was not the best.

This kind of offense makes so much of the talent gap irrelevent. Folks now have to do their job when they play Tech, before they didn`t.

Too much was given away.

Swear I saw Boddy Dodd smile Saturday night. Great smile and Gentleman. Will never forget him.

I imagine Paul Johnson will never get the overall talent Georgia does. He will do more with it.

Joe M

October 11th, 2009
8:40 pm

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There will be no changes unless a coach leaves on his own.

Troup Dawg

October 11th, 2009
8:40 pm

When you don’t require discipline then you don’t require excellence. I was reminded of how ugly the lost was yesterday to TN when I watched the Raiders just get blown out by the Giants. Difference in the 2 teams? One coach demands excellence from his players while another punches out his own coaches.

Till Richt requires a standard to be met by players and coaches, then NO he can not re-store what he has allowed to erode.

Discipline hones a team and makes a team..i.e. U S Marines….No discipline creates “me” players…

The bible he so strongly believes also teaches discipline of one’s mind and body. Maybe he should listen in SS class rather than teach.

Justin

October 11th, 2009
8:40 pm

2007 was not a FLUKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

T.O.S.S.

October 11th, 2009
8:40 pm

St. Richt will die on his sword.

ratherBgambling

October 11th, 2009
8:41 pm

Best part of this article is the Spurrier quote. Couldn’t win with Stafford/Moreno, what makes anyone think he can with marginal talent?

Bozo owns Richt and UGA……….hahahhahhahahhahahhaha

GT-'93

October 11th, 2009
8:41 pm

Mark,

Please remind you partner Jeff he owes me a commemorate article titled “The Sonny Side of Things” to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of The Goober’s infamous trips to Knoxville.

He’ll know what I mean. That sarcastic piece of work is a classic!

GT-’93

zorba

October 11th, 2009
8:42 pm

Mark, great column. Please send it to St. Mark and have him sign for it. Save the heathen in the off season, preacher. Step up and lead with some passion during the season. Loyalty has its place in friendship, not competitive athletics. Wake up Mark from your meditation and lead!

G Man

October 11th, 2009
8:42 pm

Another great column Mark; yor’re 2-for-2 the last 2 days, so you’re on a roll also. It alwys amazes me how much difference one man can make to a program, Examples on the plus side are Ross at Tech, Richt at UGA, Saban at LSU and now Bama, Spurrier at Fla, even the Bear at Bama and Dooley at UGA, etc. By the same token, average coaches – Goff, Bill Lewis and Chan Gailey, Weiss at ND and the ASU coach that went to OSU – show how programs can decline. I think the job PJ has done in the last 22-odd months at Tech is as strong as any I have ever seen. Tech now has no quit in it – I can not wait to see the game with VT (who also has a coach that ultimately turned that program around).

College football is primo.

Big Fat Elephant

October 11th, 2009
8:43 pm

What exactly has Paul Johnson accomplished?

Stinger

October 11th, 2009
8:43 pm

I believe Chan would make a great Offense Cordinator for Mark Richt. He could run the type offense that no one can figure out in lieu of the High School offense that we run that won’t work in Divn 1 . I kept reading how everyone had caught up with our high school offense. They don’t get up early enough to out coach Paul Johnson. He is the best at making adjustments.

Michael Adams

October 11th, 2009
8:44 pm

Is Georgia struggling? Yes. Do we need a new OC and DC? Yes. Is the program in trouble? No. To all the Tech fans, yes Georgia is struggling but it is nothing a couple of asst coaching changes will not fix. If Georgia gets a DC like Muschamp all will be forgotten and Mark Bradley will be writing a completely different article. Money is not the problem. UGA has plenty of it and believe me I will spend what it takes to get Georgia back on top. Enjoy it while you can.

Bat Masterson

October 11th, 2009
8:45 pm

I don’t know what the problem is with Ricth, he seems disconnected. Our guys do not seem to play with a purpose, nor are they disciplined. I look at Saban, Urban Crier, and Less Miles and think they have pulled away from everyone else. Is Ricth going to be happy as an also ran. Something has to give.

I have never really cared about the Tech game, no disrespect but it’s not a conference game. I have always believed if The Bulldogs are playing well enough to challenge for the conference, the Tech game will take care of it’s self. I will say I have always pulled for Tech in every game but one, It’s a state pride thing with me. That said after having read a lot of the comments on these blogs lately, and all the hatred, I found myself pulling for the ‘Noles last night. Well I did not like that and said the hell with this I’m going to bed. I’m glad Tech won, anyway.

lawton

October 11th, 2009
8:47 pm

simple, one of the most talented teams in the nation, but one of the worst coaching staffs, top to bottom.

GTman

October 11th, 2009
8:48 pm

I love the article but your missing something Mark….Tech would probably lose to LSU and Tennessee too…this year….We will be lucky to beat UGA in November…..thats the truth and that is this year…I firmly beleive that if Paul Johnson stays at Tech and Mark Richt stays at Georgia we will be a better team and win 3 out every 4 games agianst UGA in the coming years.

I have never liked Richt but has’nt he won 10 games a year for 10 years or something crazy like that. UGA you should be a National Power like FL and Texas…you need to get some damn football players and quit giving scholorships to tarzans who play like jane. There are so many kids in the state of Georgia who would play like hell for UGA and you turn them away for some guy from New Jersey who runs a faster 40.

rhynster

October 11th, 2009
8:48 pm

Honestly, I just don’t see where Richt would ever fire anyone.

He’s the NCAA version of Bobby Cox.

CPJhomer

October 11th, 2009
8:49 pm

who was it last night that CPJ jerked up on the sidelines and rattled around?

Bat Masterson

October 11th, 2009
8:49 pm

Did my comment get eaten because I used the word hell, or ………………..

Matthew

October 11th, 2009
8:49 pm

Mark Richt needs to make changes with his coaching staff.

However, LSU went 7-5 last year. In 2007 Florida lost 3 SEC games before losing its bowl game. Teams will have sub-par years. This year Georgia is playing with an offense that lost 3 NFL starters and that would be a blow to any team.

Georgia’s year is off to a dreadful start.

Georgia Tech is off to a good start. Granted, they play in a mediocre conference. And, of course, the game they had against Florida State was the same exact game Georgia had against South Carolina… and Arkansas.

Add that to the fact that the LSU loss was gift-wrapped in a worthless yellow flag. True, LSU scored the winning touchdown… but they didn’t need a touchdown. They needed a field goal, and the field position to make that score was handed to them with absolutely no effort.

You can talk about Georgia being in decline when it is a trend. A bad year is an abberation.

Buford T Justice

October 11th, 2009
8:51 pm

Willie Martinez, Mark Richt needs to BBQ your a**!