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