UGA in Shreveport: A low point, but also a needed jolt

Here's proof Willie Martinez realized rushing the passer was legal. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Here's proof Willie Martinez realized pass-rushing was allowed. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Winning doesn’t educate. Winning endorses. Human nature holds that a winner doesn’t ask, “What can I do better?” but says instead, “Why change what works?”

Mark Richt is human. Even in the disappointment of 2008 — Georgia started as preseason No. 1 and landed in the Capital One Bowl — he had his talking points down. And when the Bulldogs beat Michigan State on Jan. 1, 2009, to finish 10-3, he trotted out TP No. 1: Six 10-win seasons out of the past seven was “pretty stinkin’ good.”

In his self-defense, Richt missed the obvious: That something was rotten in the House of Bulldog. All you had to do was screen a video of Richt’s 2002 team followed by one of the 2008 aggregation to see the difference. In 2008 Georgia had more talent but wasn’t as good.

The 2009 season will go down as the worst under Richt, but it many ways it was the best thing that could have happened. As the losses mounted — blown out in Knoxville by a Tennessee team working under a new coach; blown out again in Jacksonville; beaten at home by Kentucky for the first time since Herschel Walker was a sophomore at Johnson County High — it was clear the rot had spread. It took an upset of Georgia Tech for the Bulldogs just to finish above .500, and by then there could be no more pretense.

We’ve known all along Richt is smart. We weren’t sure how demanding he is. Firing three of his four defensive coaches provided the answer. As much as Mark Richt enjoys fellowship among his coaching staff, he enjoys winning more.

We don’t yet know the names of the replacements. We know the Bulldogs head into the Independence Bowl with a defense coordinated by Rodney Garner, the lone holdover, and some grad assistants. (Now watch Georgia shut down Texas A&M. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?) But no matter what happens in the game, there’s cause to believe there’ll be no more Shreveport jaunts in the Bulldogs’ immediate future.

It’s possible Richt could hire someone less adept than Willie Martinez as coordinator. It’s also possible — theoretically, anything’s possible — the sun could rise in the West tomorrow. What’s more apt to happen is an upgrade at the position that can galvanize a program more than the arrival of any five-star recruit.

Steve Spurrier had won four SEC titles and reached a national championship game, but it was only after he hired Bob Stoops to coordinate his defense — a defense that had just yielded 62 points to Nebraska in said championship game — that the Evil Genius took his national title. Mack Brown had posted five consecutive 10-win seasons at Texas, but it was only after he hired Gene Chizik from Auburn (which had just gone 13-0) that the Longhorns were able to win a BCS title. Yes, defensive coordinators matter.

With the right defensive coordinator, what can UGA do in 2010?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Defensive coordinators matter even more than offensive coordinators. A team that scores on every possession but can’t stop anybody feels vulnerable. (Yes, Georgia Tech, I’m thinking of you.) A team that knows it can stop somebody feels invincible. Offensive success is a function of skill and technique. Defensive success involves physical domination. Georgia used to play that brand of ball — ever heard of Erk Russell? — but had come to dominate nothing under Martinez.

That could well have changed by the time Georgia plays its first post-Shreveport game — Sept. 4, 2010, against Louisiana Lafayette. Even though Bud Foster chose to stay at Virginia Tech and Vic Koenning wound up at Illinois, there are good men out there who will see Georgia as the place to make a name by making a difference. There’s no reason to believe Richt won’t find one.

The tough part is behind him. It took some doing for this coach to convince himself that change wasn’t an option but a necessity, but finally he did it. When you’re accustomed to 10 wins and nice big bowls, nothing slaps you harder than a trip to Shreveport. This wasn’t the destination anyone associated with Georgia wanted, but it was, in the grand scheme, the destination Mark Richt’s program needed.

526 comments Add your comment

VR Jacket

December 24th, 2009
12:28 pm

dawglover

December 24th, 2009
12:29 pm

Mark Bradley

December 24th, 2009
12:29 pm

Kudos, VRJ. First on Christmas Eve is a major achievement in my book.

Ernest T

December 24th, 2009
12:30 pm

Can’t be first

jimmy

December 24th, 2009
12:31 pm

great article

yep

December 24th, 2009
12:31 pm

Driver 8

December 24th, 2009
12:31 pm

Of the many things to be thankful for on Christmas Eve, I am extremely thankful that Frank Wren is not trying to locate our next D coordinator.

Eat It St. Simons

December 24th, 2009
12:32 pm

((((30-24)))) hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Windale

December 24th, 2009
12:34 pm

Dang good article Mark! Merry Christmas! Go DAWGS!

Mark Bradley

December 24th, 2009
12:35 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Windale. You too, Jimmy.

mark olsen

December 24th, 2009
12:37 pm

Good article, Bradley. St. Simons, take a lap!!
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

DAWG65

December 24th, 2009
12:38 pm

Carlos

December 24th, 2009
12:39 pm

Mark, M. Richt needs to take over the play calling, he is so much better at it than Bobo. What a waste of talent…

Kevin

December 24th, 2009
12:42 pm

Kirby Smart will be the next DC. Heres what I think went down. Kirby Smart first said no to the opening and then Richt contacted Koenning who was going to Illinois and Koenning was going to take the UGA job and then Smart called Richt and said he wanted the job and then Richt told Koenning he was going to pass and then Koenning went to Illinois and Smart will be in UGA after they beat Texas to win the NC.

collegeballfan

December 24th, 2009
12:42 pm

I agree with Windale, good job of writing. Well thought out piece.

Richt will hire a quality DC, but I believe when the name is announced we will all say – “Who?”.

lanier

December 24th, 2009
12:43 pm

winning 10 games is no big deal. it means you lost to your 2 most imporant rivals

kj

December 24th, 2009
12:43 pm

i expect nothing but great things from CMR and UGA as a whole next year. This season has opened our eyes figuratively and literally. At the end of the GT game when the team tried to gatorade bathe him let me know that there are big changes on the horizon and he is committed to getting back to the basics. Mark my words mark. Next year we will see the old hard nosed, bone jarring, intimidating dawg team that we were accustomed to pre CWM.

Gdawg 84

December 24th, 2009
12:45 pm

Mark,

Merry Christmas to you and your family. Thanks for the constant effort to provide out 3X/day reads. I’ve always appreciated your perspective (since way back in the fro days of the early-mid 80s).

You're OK Mark

December 24th, 2009
12:46 pm

We both know alot of my fellow bulldawg fans aren’t to awful fond of you Mark. But I actually think your one of the better one’s that work for the Atlanta Urinal and Constipation (no, I’m not to fond of the paper itself). You just tell the truth and sometimes the truth hurts. I don’t see a GT slant in your writing like some like to point out, but even if you are a closet GT fan…who can blame you? You work for an Atlanta paper. Anyway, just asking…you really think the Dawgs have a shot at Smart? Alot of rumors are flying around like it’s a done deal. And have you heard anything about Dick Bumpas from TCU getting any attention for the job? Alot of rumors have flown around about him, but I haven’t officially heard his name mentioned at all. At any rate, Merry Christmas and keep up the good work.

fred

December 24th, 2009
12:46 pm

You can always tell the folks the just discovered “that there world wide internet thingie” and blogs. Their contribution consists of ‘first.” Here’s your signs………

Nice article MB. Although, along with getting a decent DC, Richt needs to grow a set and actually instill some self discipline in next years’ team .

Einsteindawg

December 24th, 2009
12:48 pm

Thanks Mark, and Merry Christmas! Do you know if CRG has signed his contract yet? And a Happy New Year, too.

dawgfan13

December 24th, 2009
12:48 pm

As a faithful dawg fan, I really would like to win a national championship, however I am not sure if the expectations are a little too inflated here in Athens. Our schedule is really tough compared to the other teams in our conference and we have had an influx of players at key positions that has hurt us.If anyone thought Joe Cox was the answer for a national championship or even a conference championship then you are wearing blinders. He was what he was and that is a marginal qb who had more experience than anyone else at that position. Murray will be young next year and he will make mistakes and Georgia will not win any titile next year so stop pumping this team up to do all of these wonderful things when you know they have youth at the most important position, QB!

Michael

December 24th, 2009
12:50 pm

If the Dawgs win all their games next season will they be national champions? Yes? No? Improve slightly?

Corrine Brown (D) FL

December 24th, 2009
12:50 pm

mackdad

December 24th, 2009
12:51 pm

Mark….what’s your hunch on this DC selection, someone from the college ranks or the NFL?….I’ve heard the DC from NC is really solid, any info on him?

Pi$$onaDawg

December 24th, 2009
12:53 pm

Why would a real High Profile DC want to come to UGA? UGA CAN’t Beat Bama, Florida, LSU, or Tennessee and has been luck you escape USC the last 2 years.

ACE OF HEARTS

December 24th, 2009
12:53 pm

Hello Mark, Merry Chritmas to you and yours. I talked to Santa I asked for a good DC for the Dawgs. A big bat and no stupid moves by the braves, you can’t get everything. The Hawks to resign Joe and Woody. The Falcons to have two winning seasons in a row. My God bless us all.

dawg4life

December 24th, 2009
12:55 pm

Mark,

Great column, and by my estimation you’re exactly right. Even after last year when Richt was lamenting the injuries and going ‘thud’ in practice instead of tackling to the ground, it was evident that something was wrong. I believe the right coordinator (and, subsequently, the right hires that this person makes) will do a lot to right the ship. I don’t think it happens in 2010, but maybe the year after that we will start to see the fruits of this tough season.

As for who that D-coordinator will be, I’ve heard rumblings that we should get to know Todd Grantham. Have you heard the same? I don’t know much about him other than the fact that he’s been an NFL D-coordinator and has worked under Saban at some point. Any opinions or thoughts on this guy?

Pi$$onaDawg

December 24th, 2009
12:56 pm

Add to that just escape Kentucky a year ago and lose to the Wildcats this year. Last year as you DAWGS like to say you had 2 first rould draft picks and you were lucky to survive the UK game. The Dawgs are over their heads in the SEC east and would be to bottom of the SEC west.

innocent bystander

December 24th, 2009
12:56 pm

Thanks for working on Christmas Eve and writing something this good.I hope you’re right that Shreveport can be a needed humiliation which leads to better things. One thinks of Alabama getting beaten by La. Monore in Saban’s first year or being humbled by Utah in the Bowl.. I’m not comparing the two programs or the two coaches but just the two experiences which can be catalytic in a positive way. In spite of all the hand-wringing by our fans I’ve never lost confidence in Mark Richt.Any coach can be second guessed. What do you think Florida fans are doing as they look back on the play calling in the Second Half of the SECC? Merry Christmas. Go Dawgs

Not so fast my friend

December 24th, 2009
12:57 pm

Hey “Dawgfan13″ The winningest QB (well actually 2nd winningest now) in NCAA history (David Greene) started at UGA as a RS freshman. Don’t county out Aaron Murray my friend. He don’t have Stafford’s arm, but the insiders will tell you he’s a better overall athlete. He’ll have a better supporting cast around him than Greene had and, no offense to Greene, Murray is a far better athlete than he was as a RS freshman. Write it down, 2010 will be a good year to be a UGA fan.

PDawg

December 24th, 2009
12:59 pm

Doc

December 24th, 2009
12:59 pm

“A team that scores on every possession but can’t stop anybody feels vulnerable. A team that knows it can stop somebody feels invincible. Offensive success is a function of skill and technique.”

Right on the mark with that statement…………Mark.

Eric

December 24th, 2009
12:59 pm

You’re wrong, Lanier. Winning 10 games is a big deal. If UGA had 10 wins this year, they’d be spending their holidays in Florida, not Shreveport. And they’d be ranked in the top 10. 10 wins is a very big deal.

$1.4 million Shreveport vs. our $14 million BCS Orange bowl

December 24th, 2009
1:00 pm

Merry Christmas and Happy Shreveport to the entire, azz hole dog nation!

1. Please be careful as you begin your trek across Northern Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
2. If you hit Texas or Arkansas please stop and ask for directions.
3. Please invest in a new road atlas. I hear they have them marked down at all Fred’s and Wal Mart for $4.88. And only $4.99 at Dollar General.
4. Please, before leaving, turn your watch back one hour and your calendar back 30 years. This should be pleasant for you as it will put you near the early 80’s which you own!
5. Please play your Harry Munson Glory Years 8 track tape the entire way over to get your juices flowing so to speak.
6. Please change your oil before you go.
7. Please remember to leave some road kill for those traveling behind you that are more needy.
8. Please DO NOT cook your road kill at any of the rest stops along the way (at least the first ones you come to in each state).
9. I know Georgia travels “well” but please also try to travel discretely.
10. Please, if anything falls off of your truck, just leave it. Remember, there are TWO Wal-Mart’s in Shreveport
11. Please try some of the crawdad stew at the west bound rest area in Vicksburg MS.
12. Please clean up your tailgate trash before entering the Shreveport stadium
13. Please do not leave the stadium in the 3rd or 4th quarter if your team is taking another BEAT DOWN
14. Please do not drive into Kirby Smart’s Birmingham subdivision on your way home.
15. Please do stop by Legion Field in Birmingham and claim your Papa Johns bowl victory for next year.
16. Please refrain from calling or emailing President Adams and Damon Evans until you get home
17. Please make sure your Cable bill is paid up so you can watch real teams play in real (January) bowls.
18. Please make sure your Rivals bill is paid up so you can feel better about yourself and your program before signing day.
19. When spring gets here, please share with us how great your new weedwacker is
20. You are always preseason national champions in my book!
21. Hahahahahahahahaha ((((( Shreveport ))))) Hahahahahahahahaha

Dawgs73

December 24th, 2009
1:00 pm

Good job Mark. The defense is what carried the Dawgs under Van Gorder and it’s what will carry UGA moving forward. They have enough talent on the “O” now, that all they need is a DC that is willing to bring a brand of football that imposes it’s will on every opponent.

I am hopeful that Richt will bring the right person to fill this position.

Darindawg

December 24th, 2009
1:01 pm

Hey Pi$$onaDawg….we didn’t beat UT or UF or UK this year….But we sure beat GT pal. Go back and read Bradley’s article and tremble my friend. It’s gonna be a looooooooong time before GT beats UGA again.

Grandad

December 24th, 2009
1:02 pm

Mark:
Awesome article.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Vick=Dog killing Thug

December 24th, 2009
1:02 pm

Merry Christmas everyone. Even you stinking Tech fans……

"$1.4 million" is Saint Simons

December 24th, 2009
1:05 pm

This guy is either Saint Simons….or we can crown him, in place of Saint Simons, as the new, reigning most immature, whining, pathetic, World of Warcraft playing, “hey m come over and let’s have a private tickle pile”, “I can’t come up with anything bad to say about a team that steamrolled my team, so I’ll put them down for going to a lower bowl”, nerdified, sore-losing, pacifier sucking, GT fan on this forum.

Vick=Dog killing Thug

December 24th, 2009
1:05 pm

Hey Pi$$ I noticed you took quite a few weeks off from posting right after the UGA/Tech game. Were you sick or something? Not feeling well? Didn’t have much to say perhaps ?

LOL 30-24 We run this state. THWGT

defactodawg

December 24th, 2009
1:07 pm

Mark,

Thanks for another in a long line of interesting blogs. I think you’ve adapted to this format very nicely and I enjoy reading as much of your work as possible.

Now that he has initiated the changes, I trust Coach Richt to make the right choice and agree that we will see a more disciplined team next season.

Merry Christmas to you and yours and, even though I don’t care much for basketball, I look forward to your informed hoops opinions.

shreveport vs BCS

December 24th, 2009
1:07 pm

sounds like you have plenty of experience traveling to non-BCS out of the way lower tier bowls. Thanks for the 21 pieces of advice. It will come in handy for fans who are not as accustom to this as GT fans

LJ of UGA

December 24th, 2009
1:10 pm

Merry Christmas to fans of the Yellow Jackets, runners-up again in the state of Georgia. You’re always Number Two in our book!

Pi$$onaDawg

December 24th, 2009
1:11 pm

After the Tech UGA game there has been no football played. I was on the Blog after Uga Won. There is nothing to talk about right now. Oh did you find a new mutt that is ALL WHITE to represent for you Black Players?

frank james

December 24th, 2009
1:12 pm

I saw where Coach Fabris was going to Louisville and Coach Martinez may be going to Miss. St, I do not know about Coach Janoucek. I do hope they end up with good jobs. I appreciate what they did for the program, but I guess it was time for a change. The biggest change has already been seen by the reaction of Coach Richt from the gatorade bath at Tech. I’m not big on predictions, but I do feel that this wake up call will really pay off. I am tired of people downing the bowl in Shreveport. Let the kids go play hard and enjoy it. I also saw where even with a down year, UGA is still in the top ten as popularity goes. That says something about the total athletic program and all the alumni that appreciate and enjoy being and supporting the DAWGS. Like Coach Russell said JUST DO RIGHT! and I feel like UGA does it the Right Way. Great foundation laid by Coach Dooley. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Ealey&King.

December 24th, 2009
1:12 pm

“$1.4 million Shreveport vs. our $14 million BCS Orange bowl”

Your a trip you really are. Just remember you lost to georgias worst team in years.

59bulldawg

December 24th, 2009
1:14 pm

Right on Mark! Living out of state I depend a great deal on the AJC online for my Dawgs and Braves news. Thanks for another great year! Merry Christmas to you and the AJC.

MaconKnight

December 24th, 2009
1:14 pm

Well said…. Merry Christmas, CMR is guilty of being to dang loyal.. I’ve seen the Murrary kid and he is good… CMR just wanted so badly for cox to have a good year after sitting behind stafford. The defense was very bad at times but cox was bad at times as well. the int’s , the fumbles is what killed UGA.. i don’t care if you are the New England Patriots if you turned the ball over as much as we did your defense is going to suck because you’re on the field 85% of the time, getting rid of martinez was great but cox leaving will be better for UGA!!!

Gratefuldawghead

December 24th, 2009
1:17 pm

Our Bowl game was beating the ACC Champ 30-24 in the ATL!
GO DAWGS
Merry Christmas!