A UGA question: Is Richt getting tougher or more pragmatic?

Could it be? A less kind, less gentle Mark Richt? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Here we see a tight-lipped Mark Richt. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Georgia enters a put-up-or-shut-up season without its best holdover tailback. Had not the Bulldogs signed Isaiah Crowell, Washaun Ealey would constitute a major loss. But they did, and now skeptics have suggested Mark Richt might have been less inclined to let Ealey leave had Crowell not been inbound.

And here’s where I take up for Richt — you’ll have to excuse me if I wheeze; I’ve gotten out of practice — and say: Don’t think so.

I also say: Remember Zach Mettenberger.

There have been times when Richt’s famous patience seemed unending. (We think of Odell Thurman, the gifted-but-erring linebacker.) There have been years where Georgia’s arrest total approached — and last year even surpassed — double figures. We add those together to reach the obvious conclusion:  Richt is too easy on his players.

But we’ve seen signs that Mr. Softee is casting a colder eye. Maybe this is a response to the direction of his program, which last season achieved the double whammy of off-the-field embarrassment and an on-field losing record. Maybe it’s just the weariness of a coach in his 11th season who’s sick of hearing excuses. Whatever the cause, I don’t believe it’s a triumph of pragmatism over altruism.

Richt had every reason to have tired of Washaun Ealey, whom he’d suspended twice. And I could be naive, but I don’t think Ealey’s departure hinged on Crowell’s arrival. Does it help that Georgia has a new tailback ready to take over? Uh, yes. But sometimes even the famous Richt forbearance reaches its limit.

Let’s recall Mettenberger, who got himself arrested in South Georgia on spring break 2010. Mettenberger was allowed to play in the subsequent G-Day game and was the best of the three quarterbacks on display, but Richt wound up booting him off the team. (It has been suggested that Richt was pushed by Damon Evans, the AD who would himself be jettisoned after his midnight ride in Buckhead. Still, Richt runs the football program, does he not?)

This left Georgia with two scholarship quarterbacks, neither of whom had played a college down. Had the redshirt Aaron Murray gotten injured last season, Georgia had only the true freshman Hutson Mason as backup. (Logan Gray had been moved to receiver.) Losing Mettenberger could have hurt the Bulldogs in 2010, and there’s a chance it could hurt in the future: He’s now at LSU, which could meet Georgia for the SEC title down the road.

The hope when a program signs a player is that he’ll fit athletically and otherwise. The reality is that not every signee pans out on both fronts. It’s a bit heartless to dump a guy if he’s not quite good enough to play for you: That’s not really his fault. If he fails to conduct himself in the way expected of a student-athlete, that’s something else.

Let’s not paint Richt as some scheming puppet-master. He gave Washaun Ealey repeated chances, and apparently Ealey didn’t seize them. This wouldn’t seem a case of Georgia freeing up a position — even if Ealey hadn’t started, he’d surely have been the No. 2 tailback — but of a coach cutting his losses. Had Richt done more of this sooner, he’d have spared himself much grief.

By Mark Bradley

272 comments Add your comment

juvenal

May 10th, 2011
11:20 am

seems that way…….

juvenal

May 10th, 2011
11:22 am

but aren’t tougher & more pragmatic the same thing?

PK

May 10th, 2011
11:22 am

Great take, Mark.

Benjamin

May 10th, 2011
11:28 am

Ealey was a great running back, and will be missed on the field, but I’d rather finish 6-7 again with a crew of good guys than win the conference championship and go to a BCS bowl. And that’s the God’s honest truth.

Good article, MB.

UGA

May 10th, 2011
11:31 am

Mettenberger was arrested in Valdosta I though.

UGA

May 10th, 2011
11:32 am

Still in Jail

May 10th, 2011
11:32 am

Could one of you loyal Dawg fans please come to Auburn and get me out of jail? I’ve been here since the beatdown in Auburn last November. which led me to set fire to the trees at Toomer’s corner. Heck, Harvey Updyke’s Bama friends have come to his rescue. Why can’t you Dawg fans come get me? Go Dawgs!

reality check

May 10th, 2011
11:32 am

The scapel is cutting away those personalities that destroyed last years team….. AJ, Washaun and other “ME” types. Go DAWGS

Uga the Nueve

May 10th, 2011
11:32 am

Lemuel in Ludowici

May 10th, 2011
11:32 am

Are coach Mr Mark Richt is a died in the wool, true blue, Bulldawg…. Even though he did come from Flarda State. I thank he’s gonna be tougher than a ten penny nail frum now on out. Heck, he was about to go broke from bailin them boys outta jail!!!!

UGA

May 10th, 2011
11:33 am

He’s now at LSU, which could meet Georgia for the SEC title down the road.

Ha! Keep dreaming Dawgs!

Worm

May 10th, 2011
11:33 am

Mett was a tough call because his mom works in the AD’s office..This one was alot easier.

UGA

May 10th, 2011
11:34 am

Athens is a special place: Home to next year’s National Champions for the last thirty years.

UGA

May 10th, 2011
11:36 am

UGA can’t even sign their valued recruits before they start stealing from the locker room

GTT

May 10th, 2011
11:37 am

Is that a question, UGA? He was arrested in a little town that is surrounded on all sides by Valdosta.

It's CYA Time!

May 10th, 2011
11:37 am

Mark, it’s called CYA time for the Reverend Richt. The SEC East, as of today, is wide open. If UGA is not contending for the SEC East title in 2011, the Reverend Richt will be going on an extended mission.

Ron

May 10th, 2011
11:38 am

He’s the exact same as he’s ever been.

joe

May 10th, 2011
11:39 am

With a suspect O-line, pinning hopes on a true freshman RB and losing the entire starting WR corps…all means offense not looking good for Richt & Co…but still, championship predictions abound in Athens.

Joshua Barlowe

May 10th, 2011
11:40 am

This whole line of “The Georgia Way” cracks me up. Ealey was the poster boy for the Georgia Way – barely being able to read and getting into trouble more than going to class. That, my friend, has been the Georgia Way for a long, long time. It’s pretty much the SEC way, which explains why they are the best football conference. They can let anybody they want to into “school” to play football, pretty much just as NFL training ground.

Richt’s attempt to pretend like there is a higher standard at UGA is a joke.

Fingers Crossed

May 10th, 2011
11:40 am

Lets just hope IC is a good as everyone thinks and not another in a long line of disappointing highly ranked recruits.

GTBob

May 10th, 2011
11:42 am

There is zero chance that Richt would have let Ealey go without Crowell coming in. I think you are way off on that one. Richt cares much more about keeping his job then about discipline. The only reason that Ealey was let go was Crowell. The only reason Mettenberger was let go was Aaron Murray. These guys had capable replacements so it was ok to punish them.

dbc

May 10th, 2011
11:48 am

Players are interchangeable. With great play calls like a sideline pass for a yard, Carlton Thomas up the gut for two, followed by an incomplete 50 yard pass, how can UGA lose? Our punter is great…

Buck Blue

May 10th, 2011
11:52 am

Will we ever beat Florida again? We seem to always put more players in the NFL than Florida — significantly more — but Florida continues to manhandle the Dogs. Will we ever beat Florida again. I graduated twice from UGA…in late 70s and early 80s. Back then, we manhandled Florida. I won’t be happy with CMR until we beat Florida on a regular basis. Richt needs to show more passion on the sideline, at practices, and behind the microphone. I am tired of this laid-back, I-don’t-get-ruffled-about-anything attitude. I am tired of this passionless personna. I am becoming bored and disengaged from UGA football. I found myself really getting into Auburn. Now Trooper and Gene show some passion. Football is about passion. We need a coach who shows passions, not someone who acts like an accountant on the sideline.

Hey Markie, you like this type of criticism? You like the salary and benefits, though, right? It comes with the territory. Don’t forget that after UGA’s loss to Miami of Ohio in the Tangerine Bowl (1974 season), there was huge “Dump Dooley” campaign. Don’t forget that your former boss, Bobby Bowden, was hanged in effigy in West Virginia.

Herschel Talker

May 10th, 2011
11:53 am

MB:

Washaun didn’t even show up for a penalty run, and Richt didn’t boot him then. What a joke. The man commands no respect from his players, and clearly he hasn’t put any fear in them. If Richt were really what you say he is, he would have booted Ealey the minute he disrespected him by not showing up for his penalty run. Richt is a joke, his players know it. Let’s cut through the BS, shall we?

HT

Troll Power Ratings

May 10th, 2011
11:55 am

Excellent work trolls. Show up early and often. How’s your program looking? Hurry, hurry – scoot on over to the other blog on this topic and get cranking! Oh, and thanks for caring, so much, about the University of Georgia.

DawginLex

May 10th, 2011
11:57 am

HT,

So which is it? You want Richt tough and booting players off the team or keeping them around? With your criticism, he can’t win.

He gave Ealey chances. You gonna bash him for that too?

He is not going to get fired so you might as well support him and the team. If he loses, you get your wish.

SSIgator

May 10th, 2011
11:59 am

“Is Richt getting tougher or more pragmatic?”

Neither. It is called “setting the table” for this coming years debacle. Blame everyone and anyone, except for the over-paid coaching staff of course. And the KoolAid machine keeps humming along.

GeoffDawg

May 10th, 2011
12:00 pm

There you go embarrassing yourself again GTBob. Does the name Montez Robinson mean anything to you? A gifted freshman who was going to be a starting linebacker last year. He was summarily kicked off the team after being arrested and CMR still tried to mentor him after he was no longer part of the program.

You can arguably question his coaching at times but he’s nothing if not a moral and ethical person. You need to know what you’re talking about before publicly besmirching someone of his character.

Mr. Obvious

May 10th, 2011
12:01 pm

Using profanity at a UGA Booster Club Meeting in Macon HARDLY qualifies as “tougher.”

Buck Blue

May 10th, 2011
12:04 pm

We love UGA and we love the Dogs, but we just get tired of getting beat by Florida. It is embarrassing. To tell you the truth, though, I have never been a Richt fan since he didn’t start D. J. Shockley in 2002. He was by far the best athlete and the best quarterback. I believe that Richt was perhaps too concerned about the Gridiron Society on this matter. He, unlike Donnan, apparently plays footsy with the Gnostics who call themselves “Gridironers.”

GeoffDawg

May 10th, 2011
12:04 pm

What does qualify as tougher in your book Mr. Obvious? Anonymously posting dreck on a blog? Is that tougher?

Buck Blue

May 10th, 2011
12:04 pm

“Profanity”? What?! Because he used the word “hell”? Who made the word “hell” “profanity”? Damn! That’s the problem!

Mark (another one)

May 10th, 2011
12:07 pm

It’s so easy to sling mud. As for the article, I believe Richt is showing something else, growth. He has coached or played football all of his life, but the environment keeps changing and I think Richt does as well. As a head coach, its possible he is learning how to judge a person over time and trust his instincts as to how the future would play out.

I have never heard that Ealey was a bad person, only that he did stupid things that kept him in trouble. Richt evaluated the situation taking the past into account, and discussed it with Ealey to determine if Ealey really wanted to be a Dawg. Its not just saying it. It’s delivering every day. Read ‘Discipline Without Punishment.’ From what I read (I have no first hand knowledge), Ealey cut himself loose by not demonstrating that he was willing to correct his ways.

Cutting a kid is tough on a coach. Ask anyone that’s done it. No one was questioning his talent, just his heart and desire to be a part of the team. Making that decision had to be tough and I give Richt credit for being the leader, putting the team first and effectively cutting Ealey.

Being pragmatic has such a negative connotation and I don’t put it on Richt. I also don’t see it as becoming harder or tougher. I believe he has always been tough or he wouldn’t have been successful. He has cut players and fired coaches before and every day he evaluates players to decide playing time. That’s not a job for wimps. What I see I call growth. Something I hope to continue doing until the day our Lord calls me home.

GeoffDawg

May 10th, 2011
12:08 pm

Buck Blue, I’ll agree with you that losing to Florida so often is embarrassing but I don’t see how anyone could favor starting Shockley over Green. One became the winningest QB in college history and one gave you anxiety that he was going to throw an INT every time he stepped on the field. I’ll grant you that Shockley had a heck of a senior season when everything started to finally click for him but before then, he gave absolutely no compelling reason to make him the starter.

Still in the Woodshed

May 10th, 2011
12:09 pm

Still in Jail,

We would come bail you out of the Auburn jail if only the Auburn Family would let the rest of us out of the Woodshed.

Go Dawgs!

Buckeye

May 10th, 2011
12:10 pm

I thought he was Ford tough already. Can one be tougher than Ford tough?

trupert

May 10th, 2011
12:10 pm

Mark, I agree. Richt did everything he could to turn Ealey around and I think Richts statements at the Augusta bulldog club meeting was a last ditch effort to send a message to Ealey which he did not answer.

”It’s a bit heartless to dump a guy if he’s not quite good enough to play for you: That’s not really his fault.” Chip, is this your way of calling Nick Saban out for indeed being heartless?

”If he fails to conduct himself in the way expected of a student-athlete, that’s something else.” Ealeys failure at UGA are on Ealey. I just hope he can learn from his mistakes and turn his career around. Washaun, make the most of your next opportunity, and good luck.

rlinaug

May 10th, 2011
12:11 pm

Richt doesn’t mind grief… What he hates is seeing someone ruin a great opportunity.

EW

May 10th, 2011
12:12 pm

Can we stop acting like Richt made this decision????? Ealey did the dumb stuff, acted like a kid and is suffering the consequences. Richt gave him a chance to be accountable and he didn’t take it. Guys like that are a cancer and have no place on a team of winners.

Dawglasville

May 10th, 2011
12:12 pm

These blogs kill me. Coach Richt is a “loser” because he has not been the best coach in the country. Of all you guys who have been pissing and moaning about Richt how many of you have been the best in the nation in your field? The best salesman, best accountant, best electrician? I don’t know what will happen with Richt but at the end of the day I will be the first to trumpet that he was damn good for the University of Georgia.

Buck Blue

May 10th, 2011
12:19 pm

By the way, I am not a Dooley fan either (well, I take this back; I like Derek Dooley) because of the treatment of Erk Russell. When Dooley danced about on the Auburn offer in 1981, Erk found out than, I do believe, who his real friends were. He was not going to be the one tapped to take Dooley’s place. I don’t think that Dooley was ever in Erk’s corner for Erk to be the Head Coach at UGA. This too left a sour taste in my mouth, although I cheer on the Dogs every Saturday. I just get disgusted at us getting whipped by Florida nearly every year now.

D. J. Shockley…Erk Russell…Herschel Walker…Ben Zambiasi…Knowshon Moreno…Moonpie Wilson…Cowboy Parrish…Willie McClendon…Tommy Thurston…Randy McMichael…Bill Goldberg…Pat Dye…Gene Washington…Bill Krug…Charley Trippi…Frankie Sinkwich…Fran Tarkenton…Andy Johnson…Craig Hertwig…Charley Dean…Tim Crowe…Buck Belue.

I am a Disgusted Dog. I love my Dogs. But, when are we going to beat Florida again?

GTBob

May 10th, 2011
12:20 pm

Montez Robinson. Great example GeoffDawg. Mark Richt really showed how strict he was by kicking a guy off the team who never really did anything for UGA after his third arrest. He may have been promising but every player UGA gets is promising. That doesn’t mean he was needed as a player. He was easily replaceable.

trupert

May 10th, 2011
12:22 pm

Dawglasville, most of these negative blogs are from fans of rival teams and I would bet that 45% are from fans of one of the two schools in the state of Alabama.

I’m glad Mark Richt is the coach at UGA. This team is about to turn the corner and this time next year we will be talking about another SEC championship for the 2012 season.

Buckeye

May 10th, 2011
12:23 pm

Can’t teach an old dawg new tricks……………..

trupert

May 10th, 2011
12:27 pm

Buckeye, Trusell is a old dog, did he learn new tricks or has he been running his program like this the whole time?

Man

May 10th, 2011
12:28 pm

Sure would be nice to see more discussion and true opinions rather than out-and-out name calling and bashing. What team’s fans don’t expect a national championship every year? If you don’t expect the best, you will never get the best! And since when did winning the (mythical) national championship become the ONLY criteria for success? How many of you could win a national championship in what you do?

I am, and always will be a UGA fan, win or lose. I support my team, and always hope for the best. I expect us to win every game, but understand that, realistically, that’s not going to happen. If I were a Bama, Auburn, or Florida fan, I would still feel the same way. I will support Coach Richt until he is no longer coach, and then I will support the next guy.

GeoffDawg

May 10th, 2011
12:29 pm

By all means, please keep regaling us with displays of your ignorance GTBob. As a true freshman, he garnered SEC Defensive Player of the week honors and was projected to be a perfect OLB fit in Grantham’s new 3-4 scheme. Given how thin the Linebacking corps was this season going into the spring, he’s not somebody I would classify as “easily replaceable.” The first rule when you’re in a hole bobbo is to stop digging.

Coach Grohbo

May 10th, 2011
12:29 pm

He is closing the door to the jail after all the inmates have escaped.

Too little. Too late.

Badgerina

May 10th, 2011
12:30 pm

Greg McGarity

Coach Grohbo

May 10th, 2011
12:31 pm

Tressel will have his team back in the National Championship Game this season.

Ohio State is loaded.