Saturday, June 23, 2012

Around the Tailgate: the state of the Richt era

Last installment for the week. So first and foremost, thanks to the guys for being brave enough to share their opinions on the week's topics: 2012's biggest game, Aaron Murray's career, tailback depth and post-season perfection. We'll see if they'll stop by again before the season starts, maybe once camp opens in August.

For today I asked the guys to give us their assessment of how things are looking today in Coach Richt's tenure - Last year this time Mark Richt was squarely on the hotseat. Today, that headline isn't making the front page. Taking into account the entire 2011 season from start to finish, the changes in staff the last couple years and the recent recruiting do you feel about Richt as the head coach at Georgia today?

Take it away gentlemen!

Joe Waterloo - I hate to say it, but I think it's time for Mark Richt to move on.  I think he's a great person and would be a great neighbor, but I don't think he's the guy for a major program with aspirations of winning a national championship.  Georgia is undoubtedly in a better place now then it was when he took over, but I still feel it was all a bit of smoke and mirrors.  His early success in the SEC was at a low point for the league - Tenn and Florida were sliding and Bama and LSU were unacceptably mediocre for what those programs should be.  I'll give credit where credit is due - Richt brought a sense of calm to the team and taught them how to win the kind of games we always blew under Goff and Donnan.  But as the SEC has risen up UGA has done nothing to keep pace.  Can anyone honestly say that other teams fear playing us - even at Sanford stadium?
Richt gets a lot of credit for all the top 10 recruiting classes - but Georgia should be there by default just due to the talent that comes out of the state.  We send a lot of players to the pros, but I'm not sure why that's considered impressive when they don't do anything remarkable while they are in school. Richt gets a lot of credit for being a great guy and a good Christian. Those are both amiable qualities, but when I'm sitting in Church on Sunday I don't care how much my priest knows about football. On Saturday I don't care how close my coach is to God. I care that he represents my school well and has players that do too. At the end of the day my religious beliefs are my own and I'm firm in my faith - that won't change if my team goes 0-11 or 14-0. But this seems to be an issue that is brought up time and time again from the national media and Richt's supporters on why he's good for UGA. It won't keep me or you from getting fired if we aren't living up to expectations.
I went to UGA and bleed the colors, but my honest opinion is UGA is the most under performing program in the country over the last 35 years.  We've had some really good moments, but Georgia should be a top 20 program year in and year out and should be top 10 more often than not. And it's not unrealistic to think that once every 5 years or so we'd be a legitimate National Championship contender. I'm not saying we should win it or even make it to the game that often, but top programs are at least in the mix  - USC, Bama, LSU, Ohio St, Okla, Texas.  Those are programs that UGA should lumped in with, but we are in reality 2 or 3 steps behind.

AthensHomerDawg - Following that disaster of a 6-7 season, if you would have told me CMR was going to follow that season by losing both the first two and the last two  games of 2011 in a row...I would have wondered just who the next head coach was going to be. That did happenyet the Dawgs won another SEC East title in spite of it. That's five SEC East titles and two SEC Championships with a winning percentage greater than Coach Dooley. "Not too bad..... not too bad at all." But here is the rub: Yes I give the coach his due for Auburn and UT and of course the gnats but.......Coach Richt's record against Florida and no national championship. There is still time to turn that around . His contract was extended to 2016!  If he does, then his place as one of the best coaches to coach the red and black is secure. Imho.

Smoke Wagon - I have always liked CMR.  I think he is good face of the franchise.  I think kids, parents, HS coaches, assistant coaches, and administration like him......that is not easy to do.  I think loyalty is huge and it is a 2way street.  I think he made a bad decision with coach Willie M and it took too long to recognize and correct.  I think CMR learned a lot through that with Van Halanger and Willie.  I am happy with where we are with CMR.  I like cool, calm, and collected head coach, but I like intense coordinators.  Love TG.  Not crazy about Bobo, but his numbers (scoring and yardage) have been good.  My biggest complaint with CMR is he is content with patsy non-conference games.  McGarity too.  I want big games.  We wait all year for 12 Saturdays.  The older I get, the more I despise cupcake games on schedule.  I wanted 9 game sec slate, but CMR values the cupcake games.  My game strategy related complaint is too conservative before half time ...... Rarely tries to use timeouts and aggressive plays to put points on board before halftime.  Also think he is content with and sits on small leads.  As you can see, I have my complaints, but overall I would not trade him.  I am proud to have him as UGA coach.

Da Mighty Fred - Oh hell, I was afraid you'd ask this.  I like Richt a lot.  He's won a lot of games and the SEC championship.  I LOVE the sadness in the eyes of the Techies.  He's a fine representative of UGA.  Recruits (and more importantly, their families) LOVE the way he's concerned with building character in the young men under his charge.  He's made some great coaching changes lately.

THAT SAID, this isn't good enough.  As much as I hate to say it, despite putting out a damn good football team almost every year, Richt has not brought the National Championship home to the faithful.  It ain't money, facilities, lack of a recruiting base, lack of tradition or not enough tenure.  Richt is well paid, our facilities rock, the state of Georgia is one of the best states to recruit in, we all bleed red and black, and Richt is one of the old men of the SEC now. We've had tons of talent come through here, but not a lot of hardware and ZERO crystal footballs.  So, what's the issue? Well, kids, it's one of two things:  coaching or fan base.

On the coaching side, look at Alabama and LSU. Less fertile fields for recruiting, especially for Alabama, whose instate rival has won the MNC recently.  (Side note:  that crazy offense in Atlanta is manna from heaven for in state recruiting).  Yet, Saban and the Hatter consisitlently recruit and win big.  Coaching has even turned the Chickens of Columbia into some semblance of a real team.  On the other side of the spectrum, look how coaching issues have wreaked havoc with UT and UF. Coaching matters.  Want to avoid hot seat talk? Win championships.  Got a hot RB recruit wavering on a commit to another school?  Show him some crystal footballs.  Want money for new coaches, facilities, or a new boat?  Yeah, bring up that undefeated season you just had.  Winning fixes everything.  To quote MacArthur "there is no substitute for victory".
Or, good readers, it could be the Fan Base...  Ok, done spitting out your bourbon and talkin about my sainted Mama?  Good, let me explain: I'll bet if you asked Mark Richt what question he's been asked most by the fans, he doesn't hesitate: "Hey coach, when are we gonna beat Florida?"

W T F?????

Is that the sum of our ambition?  To beat the Lizards???  Are you kidding me??? No, that's not good enough.  We all talk about "winning the east".  When the hell has that been a goal?  It's a stepping stone at best.  We have set our goals too small.  This ain't Vandy. Coach Richt need to hear things like "Hey Coach, when are we going to win the SEC Championship?"
"Hey Coach, when are we gonna win the national championship?" "Hey Coach, what kind of a world do we live in when people like Saban, the Hatter, the Visor and some guy named "Gene" are outclassing the Fairest of the Southland?"

You gotta tell folks what you expect of them.  We, the Dawg Nation, haven't told Coach Richt what we expect, at least not loudly enough.  I think McGarity may be upping that volume soon. Coach Richt isn't on the hot seat.  Won't be on it this year. Maybe he doesn't deserve to be.  Maybe ten win seasons should be enough for those of us who bleed red and black.

Or maybe 30 years is too damn long.

The Wrangler - I have never been on the hotseat bandwagon for Coach Richt.  I think he has brought integrity and for the most part, consistency to our program.  Most teams would kill to have as many 10 win seasons as we have had under Richt.  I was as frustrated as anyone during the Martinez era when we were so very soft on defense.  Richt’s loyalty to his friend almost cost him his job.  I think going through that ordeal taught him that his loyalty is to the players, the program, and the fan base.  He made some difficult decisions, and we are poised to reap the benefits.  Coach Todd Damn Grantham is the single most important hire Richt has made to date.  This staff has brought the Junkyard “D” back to Athens, GA, and I am pumped up about it!  Tough D and a great ground attack is what UGA football is all about. 

The end of the 2011 season was disappointing, but I never really expected us to beat LSU.  They were a deeper team that seemed destined to win the SEC title, but I must admit that our 1st half performance was as impressive as any defensive performance I can remember.  Had we not left 2 touchdowns on the field in the first half, we would have blown the roof off the dome en route to another SEC Title.

Coach Richt’s stellar recruiting the last couple of years has us stacked at all of the skill positions.  I do wish we put forth as much effort recruiting the O-Line as we do the skill positions, but I think we are pretty solid.  I am as excited about the upcoming season as I have ever been, and my excitement is fueled by the job Coach Richt has done the last few years.  GO DAWGS!

Namaman - I am a Mark Richt fan.  I still love him as our coach even though some times I question his decisions.  But that is what fans do.  I am just happy that hasn't gotten him run out of town like so many seem to have wanted over the past few years.  Our strong run last year coupled with a great recruiting class is keeping everyone at bay for now.  My greatest wish is for him to take back over more of the play calling.  I hate being around 80-90% right on guessing the "next" play game after game.  Hell, if I can figure it out, I know others can...

Parting shot: I won't echo any of the great points made, but I'll add two thoughts. 1) For all of his charm and grace, Coach Richt is as polarizing a figure as you'll find. This post encapsulates that about perfectly. 2) Richt just inked a nice extension and I think it's safe to say this will be his last contract at UGA. That's just my feeling on it, no inside scoop or anything. Just me and the red and black tea leaves. Although Grantham isn't a HCIW I think UGA wants him to succeed Richt one day (which in and of itself is about a 50/50 shot of happening). Whether that day comes once the head guy's current contract is up or sometime before then...we'll have to wait and see. Like my excellent tailgate guests, I hope he goes out on top. 

Thanks to y'all for reading this week. As with the posts before, it's now your turn. How does Richt's tenure sit with you today?


Bernie said...

Bernie, let me start by saying that my response does not mean I am advocating mediocrity, but people who gauge our success on whether we win a national championship are going to be disappointed at the end of the year more often than not. Even with the tradition, facilities, and talent we have, we have all of 2 national championships. Do I want a 3rd in Athens? Absolutely yes! I believe the only reason anyone says CMR should move on is his record against UF. Frankly, 3-8 is lousy because at worst he should be 5-6. If this record were better (see 2002/2005), we would probably have two undefeated seasons and 1 crystal football already. Let the next few years play out in Jacksonville, and it will be very apparent whether he has turned the series back in our favor. If that happens especially with the 4-team playoff, we'll be very happy very soon in early January when our 3rd national championship trophy is gleaming inside Butts-Mehre. If not, don't be surprised if CMR hangs it up after 2016. For those who are clamoring for CTG to be Richt's successor, that will not happen if we run Richt out of town rather than allow him to retire on his own terms.

Bernie said...

Richt let the entire program get complacent after the Hawaii Sugar Bowl blowout. Martinez and Van Halanger were huge problems. I like Richt as our coach but the entire athletic program is in a state of mediocrity so why not football? The new contract will either give the entire program a shot of confidence to get better or eventually another dose of complacency like post 2007. Richt's first chore now is to get UGA up to speed with 85 true scholarship players to better absorb the inevitable attrition. That and learning how to run the football and getting a few breaks might get UGA another SEC championship, giving them a shot at a NC. The verdict is still out.

Bernie said...

I agree he's a nice guy and good face for the program. I also agree that he sits on to small of a lead. Football is cut throat and when you are to nice of a guy to run the score up to out of reach before backing off you're not getting the job done. I can't count how mant times I've be watching them sit on a small lead and hoping the other team will mess up so we can win. A statement above said he learned from the Willie experience and I don't know if that's true because he didn't learn anything about sitting on small leads from 2010. I think thats a big part of what's holding us back from a big year.

Bernie said...

All good points! I would rather measure the success of the program based on the SEC championship. Win the SEC and you're pretty much assured of a shot in the 4-team playoff.

Bernie said...

In the bowl game, the strategy was to sit on the 16-0 lead and continue to inch it out further. Then, 2 backbreaking turnovers happen that completely change the complexion of the game. When we went away from attacking the LOS on the last possession of regulation, we cooked our own goose.

Bernie said...

It's time for some of you guys to realize that Georgia has been fortunate to have Mark Richt. Look at how Tennessee has fared since deciding it was time to ask Coach Fulmer to leave. Some of your egos get in the way of seeing reality.

Bernie said...

Nice to read an opinion form a Carrollton. Spent a year at West Georgia
before transferring to Georgia. I lived in dorm S-19. I don't think
anyone here would disagree with you about how fortunate we are to have
CMR at Georgia. He was what we needed when he got here. Bowden took
awhile to get his NC ring. Everyone is ready for Richt to get one too.

Bernie said...

True, but you have to feel as a fan/supporter/alum/donor that your program is reaching as high as it should. I love Coach Richt like a brother. No one wants to see a man of his character and leadership win more than I do. However...he made some critical mistakes years ago that he's still paying for. He's lucky to still be around. I'm glad he still is, but were it not for Damon Evans the puppet...well, this post would likely never have come to fruition. :)

More tomorrow.

Bernie said...

We are fortunate to have him. But he's even more fortunate to have us. I'll go into greater depth tomorrow.

Bernie said...

Good points. I know you're a CMR supporter and expect excellence. We did become complacent and thought we would roll the ball out there and win. The staff rested on its laurels, the team had some devastating injuries (Trinton S), and we got away from being physical. Hopefully, we're past the Dark Ages of the Richt era.

Bernie said...

When's the last time a Richt team finished in the top 10? 2008.
Last time a Richt team beat a top 20 team? 2009.