UPDATED: What happened to change direction of Georgia football?

The most significant change in the last four years has been Mark Richt's decision to relinquish offensive game-planning and play-calling duties. (AP photo)

The most significant change in the last four years has been Mark Richt's decision to relinquish offensive game-planning and play-calling duties. (AP photo)

I’m not sure how many people were watching College GameDay this past Saturday morning and saw the piece they aired on the Georgia football program. It was titled, “Discontent in Georgia” and I was among the individuals interviewed for it. Here’s A LINK to the video clip if you haven’t seen it.

But the real fireworks, I thought, came in the ensuing debate among the College GameDay panel, including regulars Lee Corso, Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit and a new castmember named David Pollack, who some of you may have heard of.

In any case, it didn’t paint a very pretty picture of the direction of the Bulldogs’ football program, and that was before they went out and lost to South Carolina 45-42 on national TV.  I thought it could have been a little more balanced — surely they could have found some folks that would have defended head coach Mark Richt — but the general theme was that Georgia fans are unhappy with the way things are going and want a coaching change. That’s what set off the debate among the GameDay guys.

The problem when you do television interviews for something like this is, typically, they ask you questions for 15-20 minutes and they may use 30 seconds of what you say. That was the case here and that’s fine. I knew that going in.

But one of the things they asked me about that didn’t make the airwaves was what I thought had taken place that precipitated Georgia’s downturn. It was a tough question and, honestly, one that I kind of struggled with. But after rattling it around in my brain for awhile, I came up with the best answer I could at the moment.

The only thing I could think of that changed from 2007, when the Bulldogs won 11 games, to 2008-10, when they won 10 then 8 then 6, was Richt relinquishing control of offensive game-planning and play-calling responsibilities.

If you recall, it was after the Georgia Tech game at the end of the 2006 regular season that we found out that Richt discreetly turned over those duties to quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo for that contest. Bobo also handled the responsibility in the bowl game and, after being bestowed the title of offensive coordinator in 2007, has been in charge of the offense ever since.

Now this is not to say I think Bobo’s offensive strategies have been the reason for Georgia’s demise. That was not and is not my point. In fact, Bobo’s offenses on average have actually out-gained (387.21-377.76 ypg) and out-scored (31.28-28.13 ppg) Richt’s. It has more to do with the resulting fundamental change  in the way Richt directed the program as head coach.

Think about that for a minute. For 11 years before Richt came to Georgia, he was quarterbacks coach and/or offensive coordinator at Florida State, which happened to finish in the Top 5 nationally every one of those years. For the majority of that time, he was game-planning and play-calling for the Seminoles. Then he comes to Georgia in December of 2000 and, after doing calling the national championship game with FSU, he hits the recruiting trail for the Bulldogs and assumes the same offensive responsibilities at UGA in addition to being head coach.

That goes on through the 2006 season, when he finally entrusts the Xs and Os to somebody else. It was an exhausting run, I’m sure.

But again, more than not calling all the offensive shots, this represented a profound change in how Richt went about his business, both on a weekly and daily basis all the way down to game management. That must have had some sort of effect on the way things have gone.

Anyway, I’m not sharing all this to say I’ve figured anything out. This is much more of an observation than it is a hypothesis. But it’s something I’ll continue to look into going forward. And, of course, there are so many other aspects that go into running a college football program. Evaluation, recruiting, coaching, training, injuries, academics, luck, they all have something to do with it.

But that’s what I’m asking you guys today. Here is the cold reality: Georgia is off to an 0-2 start this season. It is 14-14 overall (12-14 vs. FBS) and 7-10 in the SEC since the 2009. So, what do you think happened?

UPDATE: I asked Coach Richt at his presser Tuesday what he would point to as the main reason for the recent downturn. Here’s what he said:

“Last year we went through all that, and we talked about things that are a year old. Those are old. This season is the only thing I’m really concerned about, and obviously, we turned the ball over. Not only were they turnovers, they were turnovers for points. I guess there was five yards they had to track one time. Our defense basically gave up 17 points to a pretty darn good football team. They had no responsibility for the fake punt, the pick six or the fumble for a touchdown. They could have stopped them on the five yard line going in. Sudden change – that’s their job to turn it into a field goal. We just gave that one away.”

– Chip Towers

734 comments Add your comment

interesting

September 13th, 2011
6:37 am

interesting

September 13th, 2011
6:38 am

I think we are a average team in a weaker SEC East. Being 50-50 is about average.

Freedawg

September 13th, 2011
6:48 am

The slide started when he failed to keep Brian Van Gorder. Biggest coaching blunder of his career.

MassiveDawg

September 13th, 2011
6:49 am

Bill- I tend to agree with you… But, I feel the Dawgs have gotten “soft”. Too many injuries, etc,. We don’t have the stronger/bigger players like we had early in the Richt regime. For example, where are players comparable to Richard Seymour, Charles Grant, Marcus Stroud, Boss Bailey, etc… Richt won early on due to our blistering defense and better personnel on the defensive side of the football.

CMR

September 13th, 2011
6:50 am

The downturn seemed to happen when I changed tanning salons.

RED

September 13th, 2011
6:50 am

We recruit athletes at the same level as UF, Ala, LSU, and Auburn but cannot get them to become a cohesive, fundamentally strong team. Too many penalties in recent years, lapses in big moments and big games. Simply put…….Coaching

MattStorm

September 13th, 2011
6:50 am

Tim, sounds like you are backtracking a bit. Seems like you kinda shared your thoughts in the interview, then suddenly figured out that you gave a sound bite or two. Maybe they won’t be too upset with you and you can appease both groups (the fans and the coaches) I imagine it would be hard to pretty much question the coaching tactics on a national stage and then go back and buddy up to them. Wonder if they question which side you are on? Reminds me of the saying ” which side is your bread buttered”.

MattStorm

September 13th, 2011
6:52 am

I meant Chip instead of Tim.

Mike Mobley

September 13th, 2011
6:55 am

I think we lost too many offensive linemen and I think Van Gorder made a huge difference in our defense.UGA has lost their swagger and confidence in winning close games.I do not believe replacing Richt is the answer.We need to get more linemen because that is where you win football games.

DaQuan Leroy Smiff

September 13th, 2011
6:55 am

BoBo draw, pass to the flat, BoBo draw, pass to the flat, BoBo draw, pass to the flat, ever wonder why the defenses seem to know whut UGA is planning next?

достоевский

September 13th, 2011
6:56 am

UGa players buy into their hype. They play for “flash”, not results. You want see this happening at Bama.

Tolstoy

September 13th, 2011
6:57 am

You mean changing uniforms every other game, along with other gimmicks. CMR needs to knocks some heads.

Hasbeen

September 13th, 2011
7:01 am

I think it’s fair to say that the fans are not happy with the slide, but you don’t speak for me. I’m behind Richt and have no doubt he will make the changes we need. He is doing better than Dooley did at this stage in his career and has proven he can compete on a national level. People seem to forget that the SEC has won 5 straight Nat’l Championships and we were in the hunt when LSU last won it. It’s been one tough conference and you will have seasons like this when you coach more than 10 years in the SEC. Give it a rest tech fans posing like loyal dawgs with your silly posts.

rosezeee

September 13th, 2011
7:02 am

A FRAUD IN THE SEC

rosezeee

September 13th, 2011
7:03 am

The hype is starting to sound like desperation.

This says it all:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=6950882

Beast from the East

September 13th, 2011
7:04 am

The offense is better under Bobo than is was under Richt. You posted the numbers to prove that fact.
I think it boils down to Richt has not surrounded himself with the best coaches out there. Look elsewjhere at the top programs and see how many of their coordinators have been hired on as head coaches. Richt lost one (Van Gorder). Look how many other coordinators are courted every year. At UGA under Richt? None are even on the radar. Let’s not forget that Grantham was his 5th choice and he had to pay him handsomely to get him. If Richt is to survive this downturn, he has to upgrade the staff. Otherwise, he’s toast. It may be too late already.

georgia87

September 13th, 2011
7:04 am

I think they have lost the visionary edge that drives off-season preparation. Every year since 2006, Georgia has looked awful in the early season games and jelled as a team late. We finished 2nd in the nation in 2007, but two ugly early season losses kept us from the NC game. We were ranked number 1 in 2008, but lost it the first week despite a win because we looked so unprepared. We were better prepared this year, but still not ready for Boise. The Louisville game would’ve been a better choice for a recovering program. That one decision might be the reason Richt loses his job. If so, that would be a tragedy.

Homer

September 13th, 2011
7:07 am

H Walker graduated. Attitude. Quit being their friend CR, Sit their a– down if they dont follow rules

savannadawg

September 13th, 2011
7:09 am

No.No.No, Bill. After 2007 Coach Mark Richt and the rest of the coaches, “because they follow their leader” got lazy and complacent, They thought they had everything rolling their way. Biggest example of this was the quarterback position. It dropped dramatically while we had Stafford. Either they quit recruiting or no QB would come because Stafford was here. Running backs, Offensive lineman, Defensive lineman and on and on. And we have been taking too many risks on marginal kids trying to help them become good citizens and what not eventually to loose them in some manner. There are still too many kids on this roster who have not played and for reasons I would like to know. In the end it is football records that keep your job. The ley work is great, But winning is more important in this conference. They finally got off their butts and recruited last year eventhough I still thought the class could have been much better than it was. But it may be too late. We will see.

Kenny

September 13th, 2011
7:11 am

His life perspective has changed maybe. Maybe he just got tired and lost his edge. He is the dean of SEC coaches and 11 years is a long time but it also shows much change happens at the head coaching level. Georgia someone new just for the sake of energy and drive.

gabeaux

September 13th, 2011
7:11 am

It is a lack of discipline. That is the coache’s fault.

FLA DAWG

September 13th, 2011
7:12 am

Despite our inconsistent O Line execution and below average O playcalling we’ve scored enough points to win both games.

The D has given up 80 points in 2 games.

But I think our problems lie much deeper than just bad D. Too many mistakes, gameplans seem confusing, overall execution is below average, etc.

But this is all my opinion only.

Win P

September 13th, 2011
7:14 am

Chip, agree with your assessment of when and how the downturn in UGA football occurred. After the big pay raises, Richt became CEO and delegates OC duties to Bobo and makes his friend Willie DC.

Prior, in the bowl game against West Virgina, I detected a “senior momment” amoung UGA coaching staff. In that game UGA was behind in the first half, found themselves in the second half and make the game close. In the final 2+ minutes, neither teams’ defense was doing much. UGA’s defense finally stopped West Virginia. It was apparent that whichever team had the ball last was going to win. I was shouting fake punt at the TV. West Virginia did and went on the win. The first MAJOR flaw I recall in Richt’s reign.

MAD DAWG.

September 13th, 2011
7:16 am

What happened was the top SEC teams got better while Georgia got worse. Love it or hate it Richt is the worst tenured coach in the SEC. the last two years won-lost records don’t lie.

1) Alabama 26-3 (.897)
2) Auburn 24-5 (.828)
3) Florida 23-6 (.793)
4) LSU 22-6 (.786)
5) Arkansas 20-8 (.714)
6) SCarolina 18-11 (.621)
7) Miss St. 15-12 (.556)
8) Tennessee 15-13 (.535)
9) Kentucky 15-13 (.535)
10) Ole Miss 14-13 (.519)
11) GEORGIA 14-14 (.500)
12) Vanderbilt 6-20 (.230)

Win P

September 13th, 2011
7:18 am

…went on to win…after recovering their fake punt.

cmac22

September 13th, 2011
7:19 am

richt & the whole program got complacent & thought that the program was on autopilot. They thought the successes would just keep coming, they were wrong!

FBI

September 13th, 2011
7:22 am

No one else seems to have noticed, but to me the slide began when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. That was when we lost 4 that we should have won and it has been without fire ever since. I would have been the same way. Just saying.

Satchmo

September 13th, 2011
7:23 am

Difference makers. Pollack and Greene. One played with high contagious energy on defense. The other’s game management never lost a game on offense, Enough said.

Dream Weaver

September 13th, 2011
7:25 am

I am not one of those to say Richt has to go, but something does need to change. I’m tired of the downward direction of the Dawgs. Lack of heart, preperation, execution…. whatever the problem is, I can’t point my finger and say that’s it right there. Spurrier said years ago “I don’t kow what happens to players who go to Georgia, why they can’t play well, we recruit the same ones”. It seems as though they have forgotten how to win. As far as Bobo goes, you made the comment that his stats are better than Richts, and that may be true from a statistical point, but what I see is we jump out early on lesser talented teams and play catch-up on equally talented teams after they have the game won. This does not make him better. It’s misleading at best. His play calling is very predictable. So maybe it is Bobo? That’s McGarrity’s call to make. I think we are in good hands with him. I trust that if things don’t get better this year, he will make the tough neccessary decisions. We will see….

Skydawg

September 13th, 2011
7:26 am

You might perhaps want to look toward the other side of the ball. It’s called a steady decline in the defense. UGA average over 30 pts per game last year, 32 pts I believe to be exact. It’s not the offense, it’s been the defense.

Jerry

September 13th, 2011
7:27 am

At some point you just have to face the facts. Georgia is just not that good. That is hard to accept sometimes. I know many parents who have trouble admitting that their children are just not that good. Like the dawg fans, they love them and want them to be the best they can be, but sometimes despite the parents best efforts, the kids just turn out to be trouble makers or lazy and dumb. You just have to keep loving them, sometime with tough love, and hope that they learn from their mistakes. Georgia will get better someday but right now the Bulldogs are just not that good.

Dogknot

September 13th, 2011
7:27 am

Boise showed us lesser skilled, but players who are coached better can play football at it’s best because it’s still about blocking, tackling and getting after the other team. And coaches and players who want to win. How many times has Georgia went into a big game and showed no effort.

Gdawg

September 13th, 2011
7:28 am

I wish I had my post from the end of the 2009 season. I said right then that if we did not do something to attract those interior lineman with an attitude the program was going to continue to slide. I talked about how the games are won and lost in the trenches, and how weak our lines have become on both sides of the ball. Some of this misfortune has been to bad luck but a lot of this misfortune can be attributed to poor recruiting. CMR puts out a lot of hype for the 4 and 5 star dred-lock 4.25 in the 40 guy from Columbus or Atlanta, but you never hear anything extra from him for the 6′7″ 320 lb quiet boy from nowwhere, who is not used to the spot light and is usually shy and quiet. No CMR has taken these guys for granted and unfortunately they have said see you later UGA, I’m going to a school that is known for treating its line like first class. We win and lose games in the trenches. I wish CMR would have listened to my post from 09.

Elementary My Dear Watson

September 13th, 2011
7:29 am

What happened? Meyer, Saban, Miles, Mullen, Petrino, Spurrier. That’s what happened. All raised the bar significantly over the years and UGA got surpassed in all phases of the game, especially coaching. Richt was able to win two SEC titles without the above coaches at their respective schools at the time……save possibly Miles. Great defenses win championships…….along side a superior running game to keep the other team off the field.

ramblingbuzz

September 13th, 2011
7:29 am

The difference I see is that UGA is not making the big plays at the right time to win games. The pups used to find a way to win in close games, now they find a way to lose. Whether that’s due to coaching, players, lack of discpline, or something else I have no idea. But somehow I suspect lack of discipline is involved.

nevilsdawg

September 13th, 2011
7:30 am

Who cares the season is over. Once again 2 weeks into the season and out of the BCS race.
It doesn’t matter if your not in the BCS race the rest is runner up or loserville.
See you next year!

WesDawg

September 13th, 2011
7:30 am

We stink. The results, 14-14, don’t lie. Love CMR but eventually his performance is going to get him fired.

Trojan

September 13th, 2011
7:31 am

The change occurred when CMR decided to coach like a CEO. UGA has not been the same since. Also, Bobo has been a horrible offensive coordinator.

change?

September 13th, 2011
7:32 am

Sometimes change is good and the Dawgs do need to make some changes. We talk a good game like this past off-season with all of the “bigger, stronger, faster” nonsense, but at the end of the SC game, they(SC) seemed to be all 3 and the Dawgs still couldn’t make a play(stop) when needed. More discipline is needed and the players HAVE to learn the system. On the other side,change for the sake of change can be disastrous if a poor and uneducated choice is made. Just look at our current government.

Dave

September 13th, 2011
7:33 am

CR has never been the same since he was forced to let Martinez go, and he was forced. Also the year GA should have played for the National Championship and was jumped over. I think this took a lot out of him.

lagadawg

September 13th, 2011
7:33 am

Maybe they couldn’t find somebody that wanted to defend Sir Mark.

Herschel Talker

September 13th, 2011
7:34 am

1. Brian Van Gorder left
2. The rest of the SEC got better, while Richt jogged in place
3. Richt doesn’t hold clueless, bad assistants accountable.

Paddy

September 13th, 2011
7:34 am

We have better players we don’t win enough. Mike Ditka said it best this past Sunday. You usually don’t win championships with a full team of all-star players. You need team players.

The Man

September 13th, 2011
7:34 am

Its real easy to say Richt and staff has to go but who replaces him?

1st & 10

September 13th, 2011
7:36 am

достоевский, please have you already forgotten what happened at Alabama for the last 10 years. Same thing!

Junkman's Daughter's Brother

September 13th, 2011
7:36 am

Answer = Brian VanGorder
his absence has been the difference in this team. He is a great coach and instilled a personality on defense that has been lacking since his departure. It is not how many points UGA has scored that has changed it is their defense, both in scheme and toughness.

01HAWK

September 13th, 2011
7:37 am

MAD DAWG…………………………………Your post states it all. Steady decline.

When you are grouped with VANDY, OLE MISS, KENTUCKY, and TENNESSEE……………………….You are in trouble.

Lower Tier of the best conference in football.

JB

September 13th, 2011
7:37 am

I think it’s very simple. Too simple. The SEC is now a tougher place than Richt found it….and we’re not as good as his first four or five years at UGA. We could argue all day as to why we’re not as good. But having Richt run the offense and Van Gorder run the defense is a big big, real big part of it.

lanier

September 13th, 2011
7:37 am

cant have been the loss of BVG. he left after 2004.

i truely think the staff became fat cats without realizing it

Dubose Shula

September 13th, 2011
7:39 am

Hey Guys;
If you want to put things in prospective, take a look at this from the not so distant past:

Following Gene Stallings’s retirement in 1996, defensive coordinator Mike DuBose was promoted to the head coaching position.[57][58] In his third season, DuBose won the SEC Championship.[59] With the success, Alabama began their 2000 season as high as #3 in some polls. The expectations went unfulfilled as the Tide slumped to a 3–8 record. Following the season, DuBose was replaced by an up-and-coming coach from TCU, Dennis Franchione.[60]

Franchione led Alabama to two winning seasons in 2001 and 2002, with a combined 17–8 record. Late in the 2002 season, rumors began to surface about Franchione expressing desire to leave Alabama for other coaching jobs, including Big 12 schools Kansas and Texas A&M.[61][62] On December 5, 2002, Franchione was formally introduced as the head coach at Texas A&M.[63]

On December 18, 2002, Alabama announced that Washington State head coach Mike Price would be the next coach for the Crimson Tide program.[64][65] However, in May 2003, Price was removed from his position as the head coach, following a scandal.[66][67][68] Less than a week later, Alabama hired Mike Shula, a former Alabama quarterback and then-quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins.[69] Alabama had reportedly been searching mainly for former Alabama players, including considering Sylvester Croom.[70]

With the difficult offseason, the Shula-led Crimson Tide finished 4–9 in 2003. Bama’s 2004 team finished the regular season with a 6–6 record and made their first bowl appearance in three seasons.[71] It was also the first season the team began playing all their home games exclusively at Bryant-Denny Stadium. In previous years, the Tide had played many of their biggest home games at Legion Field in Birmingham. During the offseason, Alabama once again was able to gain a “full” recruiting class, following a probation by the NCAA which occurred in 2001 resulting from recruiting violations that occurred during Dubose’s tenure. In Shula’s third season, Alabama rolled to a 10–2 record, ending with a 13–10 victory in the 2006 Cotton Bowl. However, the following season, Alabama struggled to find consistency. The team ended with a 6–7 overall record, losing every road game of the season. Shula was terminated as head coach of the program,[72][73] having been the only head coach at Alabama to lose four consecutive games to Auburn.[74] However, the Tide was later forced to vacate the ten wins in 2005 and six wins in 2006 due to NCAA violation from athletes reselling books.