Sunday, June 24, 2012

Coach Richt's Love Connection

So we re-spilled the bucket yesterday. It didn't make a complete mess. Still there's some tidying up to do I think. As I said, Mark Richt is as polarizing a figure as you'll find. He may not have the abrasiveness of other love em or hate em personalities, but he divides the Dawg Nation like few have before him have. Therefore, I'm not surprised by any of the opinions we heard from in that post about his legacy thus far. However, let me at least attempt to summarize my viewpoint in an effort to get us all on the same page again.

Opening argument
Coach Richt's blood runs red and black. I love Coach Richt, as much as my heterosexual identity allows. He's been kind to me and my family on a number of occasions. I'm never embarrassed by his actions or personality. He's taken the program to higher levels, as well as the expectations of the fanbase. Instead of going on the road in the SEC expecting to lose we have a competitive chance if not a distinct advantage. We've won division and conference banners that eluded the coaches that preceded him. He's sloppy kissed his wife on the field in Jacksonville, and that's always something I've wanted to do (with Mrs. Bernie, not Kathryn). He has the best interests of each of his players in his heart, from the 5 star phenom to each and every walkon that contributes to the program.

Coach Richt is a rock star. He's as cool as he is calm. My wife and my mom and my kids will probably tell you that it wouldn't hurt for me to emulate him in day to day operations a little more than I do. Around the dinner table my little girls understand that his name is one that suggests attention. His name is one of importance, even moreso than Carrie Underwood. I'm sure it's the same or at least similar in a lot of homes across the southland. So looking forward, as we take just a sample of evidence we'll see that despite the faults, the successes and the issues at hand, we all have the same goal.


The Evidence
Richt's road record is nothing to just glance over. It's a barometer by which I think all head coaches at UGA should be measured going forward. Richt's 38-9 overall true road record is impressive and is a hallmark for getting players and fans energized. It has helped give the program a new identity, one in which the expectation each and every game (regardless of location) is to win. We didn't have that under either of the previous two coaches. Donnan flirted with it; Goff...well, we were just happy the bus driver got the team to the right place on the map.
The date's going pretty well Chuck, but what'd
the audience say?

The neutral site record (including bowls, SECCGs, Boise State and...) however is abysmal, bolstered by a deep hole in Jacksonville. The WLOCP has been just as distasteful under Richt as it has under his predecessors. Three wins versus eight losses doesn't cut it down there. And while it's true that things have changed dramatically down at the University of Florida, they've changed there before and it seems to have made no difference in our luck at AllTel. (read: Zook'd)

The reality is that were it not for a puppet with red panties in the office of AD at Butts-Mehre, Richt would likely not still be in Athens. Even the most ardent Richt supporter has to remember that he completely lost control of the program. He both refused to acknowledge the defensive ineptitude and the institutional flustercluck that was our strength and conditioning program. Friendships got in the way of better judgment. And while that's something most of us can relate to at some time or other, I think this is where many fans began to separate their love for the man in charge from the love for the program as a whole.

Closing Statement
I've cried like a little school girl during the wins in Jacksonville and as the red and black confetti has trickled from the rafters of the Georgia Dome. Mark Richt has held my hand and told me it's okay that Tennessee just scored pretty late in the game, we've got a steady hand at quarterback, Damien Gary, Randy McMichael and Verron Haynes. In short, I've been more than pleasantly surprised by where Richt has taken the program from where it was 12 seasons ago.

But...program before coach y'all. Just because he's undefeated in Tuscaloosa and seems to have turned things around against the gators, that doesn't mean I'm giving the guy carte blanche and freedom to take the tackle football program at UGA just any damn where. That's a leash I'll always have a grasp of as tightly as I please. While Richt eventually addressed the problems on the defensive side of the ball, the insanity that was Coach Fabris and the kickoff teams and the utter shambles the S&C program were in, the jury's still out as to whether he waited too long to do so.

Like Richt, my blood runs Georgia red too. Although our investment has come from different directions, our end goal is the same. Some see it differently. They put their love and admiration for the man ahead of the institution. In the end I guess I understand the infatuation. Again, he's a cool guy and drives a big red truck. However, I can look up to him without putting him on a pedestal.

It's certainly true that we're lucky to have Coach Richt on the sidelines in Sanford Stadium. However, if you don't believe that he's even luckier to have us you need to get your eyesight checked. Regardless of how much we adore Coach Richt or how much room we see for his improvements, 69 days from now we'll all be there. Right behind him. United in the same goal.

Athens. Atlanta. Miami.


Bernie said...

Man this piece made a semi-old dawg cry!! I'm ready for some football!!! Let's go! GATA!

Bernie said...

Bernie, good point that there is no one bigger than the program because then you get results from Bobby Bowden at the end of his career to the Penn State scandal and its aftermath. My only problem with your roundtable yesterday was that some of the participants gave the impression that CMR's record was nothing but smoke and mirrors. I think we both agree that's not the case. If last year had become a dumpster fire, I don't think anybody would have been hesitant to sever the ties. 4 SECCG appearances with 2 wins and 2 losses to teams that played for national championships. For those who say it's time to move on, I say Nick Saban isn't walking into the Butts-Mehre Building as the head coach. For on the field performance, he's the only guy I would trade our guy for right now. I'm just not sure that moving the current staff out for the hot assistant is the right answer for this program at this time.

Bernie said...

Coach Saban
certainly has raised the bar for college coaches. We have seen him
move college coaching to the semi-pro level and those that don't get on
that train are going to get run over by it. "Accommodare vel peribit."
Coach Richt
clung to a coaching style based on loyalty and an old fashion notion
of dancing with the one that brought you. Unfortunately, that ship has
sailed and there is a new era in coaching. The verdict is still out on CMR
. He has received criticism for taking his eyes off the prize. We all
think he deserves a championship...... and we know the fans do! I'm with Ed I don't see anyone out there I covet as a HC and certainly don't envy the coaching circus that the hillbillies find themselves in. I think CMR turns it around and we have some more great games to enjoy under his watch. (Until the TV puppeteers screw it all up)

Bernie said...

AHD, you are spot on. Let's go win 13 in the regular season and see what happens. :)

Bernie said...

The difficulties in winning at the level we all want to extend much higher than the man on sideline. There are barriers and obstacles for Richt that his peers just don't have to worry about. That's a post for another day I guess.

Last season was fun, I think 2012 could be even more so. I believe we've addressed RB depth. I think we have a tremendous fullback to complement an workhorse at TE. The OL has no where to go but up. The defense should have more depth this year.

I think that just leaves special teams. I remember when McGarity came in he "relieved" Richt of some extra duties so he could focus on football related aspects of his job. I hope to see better results from this all important part of the game.

Bernie said...

Good post man. I will say we probably see the defensive change perhaps a little differently as to the timing and whether or not it should have been done sooner. If you'll humor me I'll explain briefly. In '07 we finish ranked #2 in the nation and many thought not only that we could have but should have played for the national championship, this was with CWM and a defense that ended up in the top 5 in just about every category. A big reason for the #1 ranking coming into '08. I read an article by Dennis Dodd (I believe it was his) after that season where everyone in the national media was killing Richt for going 10-3, finishing 10th with a #1 team such as that. What Dennis pointed out though was that '08 was perhaps Mark's best coaching job ever, considering the team lost 18 players during the year to season ending injury, 11 of them heavy contributors on the field, 7 on defense. For comparison, LSU and Alabama each had 1. UGA hadn't had 18 cumulatively in Mark's previous 7 seasons. So for me, realizing that these things don't happen in a vacuum, I was ok with giving CWM another year to shake it off. Hindsight is always 20/20 and it didn't work out, or did it? We fire CWM after '08 do we get Grantham? Probably not and I'd suggest we've got our guy. Might even have Mark's replacement when Mark does step aside. We're spoiled in Athens now and in some ways like many others Mark has become a victim of his own success, now we expect more. We've seen our brothers win national championships and we want a piece of that pie. Never mind that we've sniffed it 3 times, and if the national media would bend the rules for us the way they did for LSU & Bama (LSU w/ 2 losses & Bama w/o winning their division which were both unconscionable when UGA was a candidate) we'd probably have played for one or two. Even with the 2 putrid years, BCS NC notwithstanding, we still have a 12 year record 120 D1 schools would trade for tomorrow including Alabama because although we've missed the NC, we've also avoided the grease fires that have taken place at the other schools because of the man we've got at the helm. Sure I'd trade with Bama in this moment, but not from 2001-2007. Sure as hell wouldn't want to be a UF or AU fan today. Miles had his 8-4 seasons and was lucky they weren't 6-6s. We're just fine, we hang in there, get the recruiting back to where it's been, hang onto Grantham and fix the little nagging things that hamper every team and we'll be even better. I'm usually pretty cynical when folks say this is our year, but something about this one does feel a little different. I think we're loaded, got the right schedule and enough bitter pill from the way last year ended to make a special run this year. We'll need a break along the way, every team that wins the NC has to. But I won't be a bit surprised to see UGA playing for it all in 2013! It's a great day to be a Dawg!

Bernie said...

I like your points. Well stated. As for Willie, I was pointing to the fact that overall he wasn't cut out for the job in the first place. I think the talent we had in 2007 helped mask some of the problems, especially when it came to LB where Jancek sset us back several decades.

I too believe Grantham could be the guy. And that this could be a special year. I just wish it would get here faster. :)