Has the journey become more important than the destination?

Look me in the eye
Then, tell me that I’m satisfied
Was you satisfied?
Look me in the eye
Then, tell me that I’m satisfied
Hey, are you satisfied?

–  The Replacements, “Unsatisfied”

This blog post of David Ching does an efficient, sane job of summarizing what many people feel about how the ’08 season has played out for Georgia.  As I said in an earlier post, here’s a team that’s on the cusp of another 11-win, top 10 finish, and yet… and yet… we’ve got a fan base that’s to one degree or another, depending on what message board or weblog you read, puzzled, frustrated, angry or ready to run one or more coaches out of town (there’s even a firemarkricht site that’s sprung up, believe it or not).

The puzzlement I understand and agree with, frankly.  The rest of it, maybe not so much.  I’ve never really been much of a “style points” advocate – I remember a 2003 Georgia team gutting out some wins against mediocre opponents and wondering what the fuss was all about, considering what the team had to work with on offense – so the fact that Georgia hasn’t dominated any of the SEC teams it’s played this year doesn’t bother me, given the 6-2 conference record.  But I suspect that, even if I’m not in the minority on this, there are a number of Georgia fans who feel quite differently about this.  So how did we get here?

Here are a few clues, offered as explanations, not excuses:

  1. The psychology of being the preseason #1. In hindsight, this didn’t do the coaches, the team or the fans any favors.  Richt tried to walk a fine line between embracing the opportunity and warning about being too big headed, but it seems clear at this point that many didn’t heed the latter.  The team and its fans knew Georgia was talented; the outside validation may have altered the mindset of the kids.  It was apparent early on that the level of intensity for this season had diminished from how the prior one had finished.
  2. The schedule. It’s funny.  We looked at the schedule prior to the start of the season as both a badge of honor and as an incredible burden for the team to overcome.  As the year wore on and it’s become apparent that some of the schools the Dawgs have played have gone on to disappointing seasons, it seems that we’ve discounted this.  Well, guess what – Sagarin says this is still the sixth toughest schedule in the country.  Nobody ranked ahead of Georgia has played a harder one.  Lost in the sloppiness of the Auburn win is the fact that the Dawgs went 3-1 on that long stretch away from Athens, which turned out about as well as we probably hoped before the year started.
  3. Youth must be served. If nothing else, it’s clear from the way the season has gone that Richt and his coaches have recruited extremely well from a talent standpoint.  That’s been both a blessing and a curse.  There’s a perception – in my opinion, one that’s justified – that this team has coasted too often on its athletic ability this year at the expense of focus.  Given that, plus the injuries and the expectations/burdens put on true freshmen to contribute significantly, it’s been quite the accomplishment to be where we’re at with this team.  Maybe we’ve taken a little too much for granted here.
  4. Failing to show up on the biggest stages of the season. This is the one that bugs me the most.  I can live with losing to Alabama and Florida this year.  In both cases, the better team won.  It’s the complete absence of being competitive for a half at a time that’s hard to stomach.  We fans have been sensitive for a long time about how this program is perceived nationally (the whining about the drop of Georgia’s national ranking to #2 early in the season is cringe-worthy now, isn’t it?);  complete meltdowns like the first half against ‘Bama and the second half against Florida don’t help our self-esteem.  And, as I’ve posted before, this is becoming a troubling habit with this team – troubling not from some sort of negative style points perspective, but rather as an indication that focus and motivation are seriously lacking.

There are no doubt other factors in play as to why the mood of the Dawgnation isn’t as sunny as might be expected from the current 9-2 record.  I invite your comments on them.

*************************************************************************

UPDATE: From David Hale’s evening Q & A with Mark Richt comes this exchange that seems on point -

Q: How different do you think people would view this year if you had started the year ranked No. 24 instead of No. 1?

CMR: They’d be doing cartwheels right now.

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32 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

32 responses to “Has the journey become more important than the destination?

  1. Scott

    Senator,
    The http://www.firemarkricht.com domain (if thats what you are referring to) was purchased by a guy to keep some lunatic from putting one up. It has been up for a few years and states that “This page will not be used to encourage the firing of Mark Richt or other coaches on our staff”

  2. Scott, I’m not going to link to it, but that’s not the site I’m referring to.

  3. dean

    I have to admit I’m one of those in a funk. Even though we’re 9-2 it feels like 6-5. Thank goodness it’s not. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s all the hype this team had coming into the season, or the 2 embarrassing losses we had. I don’t know. The inconsistency on both sides of the ball is frustrating. The personal fouls are unbelievable, especially the timing of most of them and the tackling, oh God don’t even get me started on the piss poor tackling I’ve witnessed (except for Rennie, God bless you) the majority of the season. Considering at the beginning of the year I figured we’d have 2 losses (though not humiliating) I’m still disappointed to be 9-2. I guess that speaks volumes for CMR has done for this program. But I’m still supporting the dawgs and I’ll be there to root’em on for EIAR, B.

  4. Thanks for the Replacements reference. Just happens to be one of the best (under appreciated) bands eva!

    Oh…GO DAWGS!

  5. I think what has most fans disappointed this year is that the team, while 9-2, really achieved what it did this year in spite of itself. Undisciplined, unfocused, and no real identity this year. On the positive, we are still 9-2. The last time we saw a team like this was 2000, and the worst feeling 8-4 season any of us could ever imagine.

  6. We’ve never *really* issued the sterling beatdowns we could have during the Richt Era (remember 13-3 over freaking Marshall?), but this year seems to be more painful in that regard than usual. South Carolina, Arizona State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Auburn…we should have beat these teams all by 20+, some by approaching thirty. And that’s not necessarily just on expectations alone, that’s considering all the chances squandered in the games themselves.

    Wins are wins, but when you’re expecting to coast still on squandered opportunities, stuff like the Florida game happens.

  7. I quote Animal House last week and you quote the Mats this week. Clearly, we have swapped blogs. LMAO!

    If that was intentional, well played.

    BTW — Great post.

  8. Senator, I think points #1 and #4 are what bother me the most. The pysche of being preseason #1 led the fans to believe this was destined to be some sort of special season and nothing was supposed to derail that. After all the hype bestowed upon this team in the offseason, anything less than the ultimate goal was going to viewed as a disappointment, by both our fans and to our national perception which I think irks fans a lot (Gaytors and Techies have a way of rubbing this in our noses). #4 is the one that personally affects me the most. I have to agree with you that this is not an aberration anymore, this just seems like it’s what Georgia does these days. I honestly can live with losing to Alabama and Florida in a season where they are head and shoulders above everyone else in the conference. I can’t live with the lack of competetiveness in both of those games. There’s no way I’ll ever believe that we are 31-0 less talented than Alabama or 49-3 less talented than Florida. I think both of those cases we got absolutely outcoached and it’s a tough pill to swallow to realize that your biggest rival’s head coach can dance circles around yours and there’s nothing he can do about it. That’s at least been the frustrating part of it all to me. It makes the future against Florida look very bleak when the most talented team Richt’s had since 2002 couldn’t hold serve with Urban Meyer’s troops. This season ended all optimism I have for that game in Jacksonville. I realize now that a win in Jacksonville is merely a fluke and we are destined to lose there. Considering that during my lifetime we are 7-18 against Florida I’ve decided from now on to go ahead and mark the “L” on my schedule at the beginning of the season so the disappointment isn’t as big when it happens. That’s just my two cents. I think last year’s win over Florida had me believing that we had broken the spell, but this year brought me back to the reality that as long as Florida has Meyer pacing the sidelines we will always be outcoached and assume our rightful place as Florida’s whipping boys. Sorry if this is depressing, but that’s what the Florida loss did to me this year.

  9. TimeForAFirin'

    Here is why Willie must go. NUMBERS DONT LIE.

    Richt 8 years

    2001-2004 Van Gorder DC – 1 (ONE) time we gave up 30+ points. That was to LSU in the 2003 SECCG. LSU won the National Title.

    2005-2008 Willie Martinez DC – 10 (TEN) times we have given up 30+ points. 7 (SEVEN) in the last 2 years.

    2005- Auburn (31), WVU (38)
    2006- UT (51)
    2007- UT (35), UF (30), Troy (34)
    2008- Bama (41), LSU (38), UF (49), UK (38)

    The total defense and scoring defense numbers dont lie either. We are getting worse every year.

    And i would say we have the worst coached secondary in the conference. It is time for new leadership on the defensive side of the ball. Someone who can balance Richt’s nice guy approach. Someone who will be angry with 4 point victories over teams with losing records. Someone who will teach fundamentals like tackling and finding the ball when it is in the air. Someone with fire in his eyes. This team’s offensive talent matched with an aggresive ball hawking defense would have been a pleasure to watch. Our defense has no attitude, no discipline and NO IDENTITY.

    Without Rennie Curran we would be lucky to be above .500.

    You people do realize that we lost a game by 39 points this year dont you???

    FIRE WILLIE MARTINEZ.

    J

    ps. I love Richt, btw.

  10. If that was intentional, well played.

    pwd – it was in part. But I’ve been thinking of using that song quote for a while. The frustration’s been building for several weeks now.

    But, yeah, the thought of returning serve, so to speak, did cross my mind.

  11. “I think last year’s win over Florida had me believing that we had broken the spell, but this year brought me back to the reality that as long as Florida has Meyer pacing the sidelines we will always be outcoached and assume our rightful place as Florida’s whipping boys.”

    You can leave the bandwagon if you wish.

    (FWIW, if we’re just talking about straight-up coach-vs.-coach, I think Richt’s bested Meyer 3 of the 4 times they’ve faced.)

  12. Uh yeah, was it the worst, most conservative, pathetic gameplan we trotted out in ’05, or luring Florida into a false sense of security by falling behind 0-21 in ’06 that made you think Richt got the better of Meyer in either of those games.

    At best, I’d say the coaching battle in both of those were draws. Realistically, I’d say Richt got outworked and pantsed in game management, ESPECIALLY in ’05 when we maybe could have turned the momentum of that series.

  13. @D.N. – I believe the scoreboard would indicate that Meyer has bested Richt 3 out of 4 times. I’m not talking like a bandwagon fan. Hell, I have two degrees from the university. My whole point included some hyperbole, but that’s just the doom and gloom that the Florida game holds over my head. It’s frustrating to see so much success for your biggest rival and wonder why it doesn’t happen for your team.

  14. Toomdawg

    There is a difference between a team that doesn’t live up to its billing and a team that doesn’t live up to its ability.

    Injuries, inexperience on the OL, and the lack of a standout DE will be the ‘stated’ problems but no one can convince me there isn’t something fundamentally wrong with the attitude of this team.

  15. Dawg85

    I have to agree with much of what has been written here. 9-2 is pretty darn good against our schedule but it is how we lost and some of how we’ve won. As most of us realize, our red zone defense has been pretty awful this year — if you get there you get a touchdown — but our red zone offense has been pretty bad too. I think it’s a combination of play calling and execution but it has hurt. We could survive SC, UT, Vandy and Auburn doing that but not Florida. If we put 21 up in the first half against Florida it’s a different game, instead we put up three. I know the kicker missed two that really hurt but you are not going to beat Florida kicking field goals. Three times in the red zone — 3 points. Not being able to finish drives has kept weaker teams in games and played a big role in the Florida debacle.

  16. Andrew in Atlanta

    I, like many, have such a sick feeling about this year and this is a really good post and well timed. What has been bothering me though (and it has bothered me for several years) is Mark Richt. I’m not talking about X’s and O’s here. He’ll forget more about that kind of thing than I’ll ever know. Rather, I’m talking about discipline. I just don’t see it and have never really seen it. Going back to his early games at UGA, it seems there were constant problems with penalties and maintaining a high level of focus throughout the games. This isn’t piling on folks. My wife will tell you I’ve been saying it for years. He’s a great recruiter, but I don’t think he prepares his teams well and he’s not a good gameday coach. In almost every UGA game this year, the Bulldogs started out moving the ball up and down the field. Sometimes they didn’t get many points out of it, but it was a rare game when we didn’t move the ball to start. Then what happens? The opponent makes adjustments and we stagnate. We don’t adjust back. It’s like clockwork. Further, I have always thought Richt was bad at clock management. While he has certainly improved in this area, I can’t tell you how many times the clock was handled poorly in his first few years. He looked totally confused on the sidelines as precious seconds ticked away before the half or at game’s end. I guess what i’m trying to say here is that CMR is a great guy and great recruiter, but a fair gameday coach at best. I don’t believe UGA will ever win the BCS with him as coach.

    I don’t think his players really fear him either. Every off season a half dozen players are in trouble. I know it happens at other schools too but seems to happen moreso at UGA. I think it’s a lack of discipline. I don’t know if it’s CMRs “born again” mentality or just his personality but he is soft. I hate to say that but its the truth, and I think its a big reason why we laid eggs for half the game against Alabama and Florida. The sad part is, I thought he was really understanding the importance of intensity last year when he ran on the field at Florida. This year it’s like he’s oh so sorry he did it. Hell, I think he should have done it again. Soft.

    This post is probably more cathartic for me than anything but I do think the criticism is warranted. Winning the BCS is not the most important thing in the world (unless you contribute to the school like me :-)), so maybe it’s ok that we finish 9-2 every year. But if you want to see how much of a difference coaches (and the attitudes they bring) can make, look no further than Alabama and Nick Sabin or Florida and Urban Meyer. Both are intense guys that don’t tolerate less than total focus and full effort. Plus, Meyer will use that “running on the field” incident to fire up his team for the next 10 years. I just don’t think CMR has it in him.

    There, I feel better now

  17. 69Dawg

    The problem with the D is that we are playing like 11 individuals not as a team. Over and over you hear the same excuses, “we missed our assignments” well its the end of the season and that says a lot about a TEAM. We’ve got 11 loose cannons running wild and always trying to catch the guy with the ball. Even Rennie has been weak on pass coverage but makes up for it with his great tackling and heart.

    We tackle or should I say hit people and expect them to fall over. Good backs just bounce off and keep going and going and going.

    CWM is at fault under any excuse. If the starting 11 won’t play as a team and do what they are told bench them. If they are doing what they are told then CWM is at fault cause it is not working. If you are so stupid you can’t stop yourself from doing the cheap shot then you are on the bench period end of statement. If you can’t wrap up when you tackle then you don’t play.

    CMR is responsible in full for the terrible play of our special teams. He makes the decision to not have a special teams coach. He assigns the asst coaches the special teams they will coach. He sets the priority in practice time. He allows the coaches to use walk-ons that are too slow to play in the SEC to play on the Special Teams. He allows CJF to continue to directional kick knowing that the kick coverage team is too slow to cover even the sky kicks. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Coach please put 11 of the fastest player on the team on the field and just get after them. Our guys wait on them to run to us.

  18. “@D.N. – I believe the scoreboard would indicate that Meyer has bested Richt 3 out of 4 times.”

    Not what I said.

    Are you happy with the Auburn win? The scoreboard would indicate that we won!!!!!!! But I’d say Tubs outcoached Richt on Saturday, just as Brooks outcoached him last week.

    You can’t let the scoreboard be worth nothing and then the end-all-be-all at the same time.

  19. “look no further than Alabama and Nick Sabin”

    Call me when Richt loses to a mid-tier Sun Belt team at home. Or when, as bad as the special teams are, his player takes a knee on the one. Or when, as bad as the discipline is, his player gets caught as a mass dealer. Or when, as bad as the penalties are, his player makes a gesture to the student section *right in front of the ref*.

  20. “I don’t believe UGA will ever win the BCS with him as coach.”

    Fine. Quit being a fan.

  21. Andrew in Atlanta

    “Fine. Quit being a fan.”

    That’s not going to happen. I expressed my opinion, that’s all. It wasn’t a flame tirade. Just what I see. Not over 2 or 3 games, but over every one of CMRs games (and I have seen every single one). Sorry if I hit a nerve

  22. Will Q

    Saban’s Record at LSU and Bama:
    9-4
    10-3
    8-5
    11-1
    9-3
    7-6
    11-0*

    Meyer’s Record at Florida:
    10-3
    13-1
    9-4
    9-1*

    Richt’s Record at Georgia:
    8-4
    13-1
    11-3
    10-2
    10-3
    9-4
    11-2
    9-2*

    When I look at those numbers, the only difference I see is that Saban and Meyer both hold national championships. They don’t hold those national championships because they are better coaches than Mark Richt, but because they were lucky enough to have the chips fall on the side of their respective one-loss teams and Richt wasn’t. Saban has won one more than Richt head-to-head (although that one was a BAD one), and I’m more willing to give the credit for Richt’s record against Meyer to our tendency to crap ourselves in Jacksonville than to Meyer’s coaching genius (I don’t recall anybody accusing Zook of genius under similar circumstances).

    We’re hurting right now because we got our butts handed to us this season by two teams we thought we could hang with, if not beat. If you look back though, you’ll see that Richt has dished out his fair share of beatings to our rivals and other major teams (see OK St. and Auburn 2007; Auburn 2006; Boise St. 2005; LSU 2004; Clemson, SC, Tennessee 2003; Tech 2002).

    The man’s a winner who’s averaging more than 10 wins a season. I’ll take that kind of consistency over a national championship sprinkled in amongst less-than-fantastic seasons any day.

  23. Dawgfan80

    We need Stafford and Moreno back to finish the drill behind a healthy deep o-line in 2009. Don’t go to the NFL, come back one more season.

    Please sign the guest book for Matthew and Knowshon at http://www.dontgodawgs.com

  24. McDawg

    well said-my only frustration this year was the first half of the UF game where we should have been ahead 13-7 at the half (at the very least)

  25. NM

    “I don’t believe UGA will ever win the BCS with him as coach.” — I think Will Q. hits dead-on why this is nonsense. Please, tell me how Georgia ’02 (13-1) was any less championship-worthy than LSU ’03 or Florida ’06 or LSU ’07. Spurrier (and lots of others) have always said, the goal should be to win your conference because you control that; the national titles really come down to good fortune. So winning the SEC every three years or so, one of these days, it’ll work out.

    That aside, I was thinking about the very subject of this post last night. I think #4 is the main reason for me. Lack of impressive wins are OK. Getting beat by not showing up is not. And when you have the latter on the record twice this year, the former hurts more.

    I was thinking back to our most recent 2-loss seasons and how they felt in comparison. Last year (by the end) didn’t hurt as much because expectations were nil — 2006 was awful by Richt standards, and getting beat by SC and throttled by Tennessee was more of the same. But that/those example(s) of not showing up were erased by a second half of the season where we dominated our other three rivals, and players and fans had fun. We rode with the team to redemption. Beating UK and Auburn by a total of 7 isn’t anything like that.

    Or look at 2005. We were in every game until the end, and that was playing Florida without Shockley, and Auburn with him likely less than full-strength. The team could’ve quit and didn’t, and we won the SEC by beating a very good LSU team. This team may have more stars, but it seems like they have less fight.

    That’s what I think it’s about — the fight. Record aside, you can be proud of a team that shows up ready and plays 60 every week. It’s losing because of indifference that hurts.

  26. Andrew in Atlanta

    “That’s what I think it’s about — the fight. Record aside, you can be proud of a team that shows up ready and plays 60 every week. It’s losing because of indifference that hurts.”

    NM,
    First, I would absolutely love to be wrong about winning the BCS under Richt. I hope we do. I’ll be the first one the yell out I was wrong. But to your point about winning the conference first, why is it we always have that one SEC game we have no business losing? I’ll go back to my original post – I think it’s about discipline. And your quote I tagged above kind of supports my arguement. You say the team shows up and plays 60 every week, then say losing due to indifference is what hurts. Well, you can’t play 60 if you go to sleep for periods of games (or are indifferent to use your words).

    Look, I respect everyone’s opinion. Most of you are right. Losing only 1 or 2 every year is great, but I’m tired of hearing Gator fans tell me our battle cry is “wait ’till next year.” I’d like to win one. We have top recruiting classes every year but just can’t break through. Maybe CMR needs hard ass assistants so he can do his Head Coach/CEO thing. I don’t know. I do appreciate all the feedback though. Thanks

  27. NM

    Andrew — I meant that we COULD be proud of a team that played 60 every week, like (in my opinion) 2005 and the 2nd half of 2007. I don’t think this team does that, and that’s my problem with this season, and why I think we’re so unhappy about being 9-2. Sorry if I was unclear.

    I think most of our losses have been pretty unsurprising though. It’s not like USC’s annual random Pac-10 loss; no Stanfords or Oregon States for us (yeah I know, Rose Bowl-bound Oregon State…). South Carolina last year was an exception of course, as was all of 2006. But outside of those, all of our regular season losses after Richt’s first season have been to legit, SEC Big Six opponents (Tenn x2, Florida x4, Auburn x2, Alabama and LSU once each). The margins are sometimes shocking, but winning or losing is usually a 50/50 proposition against those teams.

  28. NM

    In the six years I considered, we played 25 games against the other members of the Big Six (by my rough estimation). So 15-10. I’m curious if any other program has had a better mark in, let’s say, any 6 of the past 7 years. (I don’t have time to do the research right now…)

  29. TimeForAFirin'

    We were ranked #1 b/c of the talent we have. This should be a top 3 team. The coaches failed.

    What a dumb question for a reporter to ask.

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  31. Dawgfan80

    While we didn’t meet the high expectations set at the begining of this year, we could still end strong! We need Stafford and Moreno back to finish the drill behind a healthy deep o-line in 2009. Don’t go to the NFL, come back one more season.

    Please sign the guest book for Matthew and Knowshon at http://www.dontgodawgs.com

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