Remembering Richard Bell

I don’t know if you saw Tim Tucker’s post at his AJ-C blog yesterday, but the gist of it was short, sweet and compelling.

• Georgia has allowed 25.6 points per game this season, just one point per game shy of the worst mark in school history (26.6 per game allowed in 1990).

• Georgia’s defense went from first to worst in sacking quarterbacks — from an SEC-leading 42 sacks in 2007 to a last-in-the-league 18 sacks this season.

• Georgia is minus-2 for the season in turnover margin, a telling drop from plus-nine in 2007.

• On a positive note, Georgia players continue to lead the SEC in passing, rushing and receiving yards per game. If that’s still the case after the bowls, it’ll be, according to the SEC, the first time since the 1966 Florida Gators that one team has had the league’s individual leaders in all three categories.

Every one of those stats tells a story.  Actually, two stories.

First, going back to VanGorder, Georgia’s defenses during Richt’s tenure have been built on pressure from the d-line.  That didn’t happen this year, especially in the second half of the season.  That stat line for sacks is bad.  Epic bad.  Unfortunately, the SEC doesn’t track that info prior to 2003, but in the five years prior to this one, Georgia only finished outside the top three in the conference once, and that was a fourth place showing in 2006.

Do I think that factors in to the other two stats related to the defense that Tucker lists?  Absolutely.

The second tale to be told is what an embarrassment of riches on offense was wasted this season.  Think about it for a minute:  this year’s team has a better core group of skill position players relative to the conference than the ’92 team did.  (And two of those guys went on to all-Pro careers in the NFL.)  And just like in 1992, this year’s team didn’t even sniff the SECCG, let alone anything bigger, and wound up the season playing in Orlando.

But even during that year, as painfully as it played out (and, damn, it was painful), and as much as I cussed Richard Bell, we never saw that defense get blown out for a quarter here or a half there as often as did this year’s squad.  Like it or not, 2008 is the gold standard for that.

So while Mark Richt is pondering the state of the program this winter, it might behoove him to think about the lessons to be learned from 1992.  That was as good as things got under Goff.  The recruiting fell off, Ray played with a succession of ever more mediocre defensive coordinators and he also had his fair share of bad luck towards the end.

Do I think things are as bad now?  Of course not.  But if Richt thinks he’ll be able to carry on with a defense (and we haven’t even mentioned special teams) that performed this poorly without making some changes that result in significant improvement, history strongly suggests that he’ll be fooling himself into thinking the end product will be better.   And we’ll all be having a much harsher debate about the program at the end of next season.

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25 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

25 responses to “Remembering Richard Bell

  1. peacedog

    Pollack had 14.5 sacks in 2002. I’m 90% sure Will Thompson’s stat line – recall he only started 4 or 5 games but spelled Geathers a decent amount – was to the tune of 40something tackles and 6ish sacks (a very, very underrated peformance that year, given that Pollack was accumulting nearly 100 tackles and IIRC Sullivan had 70+). I’ll wager that we as a team had at *least* 10 more sacks. And I could easily see it being 40+.

  2. I have no doubt that the ’02 line was dominant.

    All the more reason for MR to realize that the d-line is where rehabing this team has to begin.

  3. peacedog

    Well, they clearly do since we’re pursuing another Juco DE. Yeah, I know, that didn’t work out so well the last time (with all due respect to Vince Vance. It’s no crime to be unspectacular, and I should know!).

    Obviously there are alot of eyes on Toby Jackson up at Hagrave right now. I’m not clear what we can do with the Ends we have, besides the redshirts. Hope they get better and work them hard in the mean time. Hope Owens comes back and is healthy too I guess.

  4. HVL Dawg

    Hmmmm. And who coaches D-line? Is it one of only two of our coaches not to get any heat from the fans? Is it the coach people are talking about being head coach material?

    I’m not trying to bring the man down, I’m just saying sometimes our fans are too hot and too cold about our coaches. Its not like we have Marion Campbell coaching for us.

    • I don’t think you can fault just the position coaches here, HVL.

      The coaching staff knew going into the season that the d-line was going to be a problem area. Remember MR’s comments about how much the team was going to miss Howard.

      I think the coaches from MR on down were hoping they’d catch lightning in a bottle again, just like they did with Howard in ’07. That’s not exactly a game plan. And while I give Martinez a lot of credit for realizing what he could effectively do against spread offenses utilizing Howard’s skill set last year, I have to knock him just as much for not coming up with an alternate strategy when it became painfully apparent that he didn’t have an elite pass rusher on the line this season.

      You have to adapt to the talent you have. And if the d-line slippage was the biggest problem on defense this year, as I think it’s been, you’ve got to hold Martinez accountable for that as much as anyone.

  5. Bryan Carver Dawg97

    Senator, sorry for the double post of comments, so feel free to delete one or the other. But between the quote about our S&C program and the story of our season stats, I now need to be talked in off the ledge about the direction of the program and in particular whether CMR is the one to lead it. Yes, I know that there are only about 3-5 better “known” head coaches like Carroll, Tressell, Stoops, and Meyer. So no, I’m not calling for his head (we aren’t AU for goodness sake) because short of taking a chance on an assistant, CMR is one of the top proven coaches in college. I just wonder if we are going to have a 20 year run that is the same as the last 8 years. Sure mostly 10 win seasons and a couple of SEC titles over the next 20 years would be worth more than being South Carolina. And I am aware that most programs would love for an 8 year run that we’ve had. But does he have what it takes to lead the program to the next level? This “let’s just win the game by any means and see how things play out” mentality is what got us a 9-3 season. I just wonder if the “Richt” way will ever get us over the hump to the NC.

  6. Bryan Carver Dawg97

    And let me add that it is things like “hoping to catch lightning in a bottle”, “not having an alternate strategy” that are the things that worry me. I’m not putting this on Willie, I’m putting it on Richt to make the overall decisions necessary for the ultimate success – which might include a tough call to fire/demote a friend who might just not be up to SEC DC material. Or tell a special teams coach with an undying loyalty to the “directional kick” that maybe we ought to try something new. Again, my idea is that Richt is waiting for things to fall into place for the team rather than taking the bull by the horns and putting them into place. Wasn’t that the whole point of the “Celebration” and the “Blackout” – to unleash the players and play with some swagger?

  7. Dog in Fla

    All Coach Richt needs to remember about this season are these points in descending order:

    (1) the most explosive Georgia offense ever assembled did not even win its division;

    (2) credit for his years past history of not getting blown out in games and staying competitive even in losses was obliterated in five quarters this year: first half Alabama, second half Florida and third quarter Tech;

    (3) apparently, he is so comfortable with his job security even while still losing to UF, that he values loyalty to his staff over competence. While blowing up staffs consistently is not the thing to do, see, e.g., Tuberville, rewarding loyalty over competence is not good. A lot of Gator fans down here were going berserk and calling for Dan Mullens’ head after UF lost to Ole Miss who is now head coach in-waiting at Mississippi State;

    (4) Coach Richt’s results seemed to be better when he was calling plays and did not have as much time to concentrate on being the head coach. This statement is made with all due respect to Mike Bobo who does a great job himself calling plays; and

    (5) Coach Richt needs to get back to coaching and not being the CEO although he patterns his style including the Oakleys and straw hats after his mentor, Bobby Bowden. Richt’s teams also follow the undisciplined FSU style of play, too.

    To me a good indicator of this lack of focus is that when Saban was coaching the Dolphins three years ago, he turned down an invite to dine with President Bush at Joe’s Stone Crab (not for political reasons which would have been understandable) but because Saban was too busy with his team. And this was during exhibition season. Justice Thomas visits Athens in mid-season and has Coach Richt as his guide around Athens for a couple of days.

  8. Ubiquitous GA Alum

    As for the D line, it’s awfully hard to replace a first team SEC linemen – Jeff Owens. His presence alone demanded a double team and that freed Atkins up to go man up and it gave a linebacker a clearer path to the rushing/passing lanes.

  9. “Coach Richt’s results seemed to be better when he was calling plays”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  10. PNWDawg

    Let’s not forget our great offense was no-show for the big games. The first half against ‘Bama and the entire Florida game tell that. And let’s not forget how great our offense was at gaining yards only to implode in the red zone. I think we need to all cool down and accept buying those tickets to Miami just didn’t work out. Coach Richt is still doing a fine job and doesn’t need our advice.

  11. JFerg in NC

    I find myself very torn on Mark Richt. I’ve met him, talked with him, and we’ve all seen his interviews. I belive him to be a great Christian man who truly wants to improve these young boys’ lives and help them become great men.

    But the arrests and penalties completely contradict this. He may be helping some, but there is an obvious lack in discipline that needs to be addressed more than just a sit-down in his office and heart-to-heart chats.

    I’d like to see UGA hire a Special Teams Coordinator who actually gives this his complete time and attention. I’d also like to see UGA hire a few drill sargents from the Marines for the Summer. These Marines would be responsible for the “toughening up” of our team and real “discipline”.

    Just my thoughts….

  12. peacedog

    Senator, this comment is problematic:

    “The coaching staff knew going into the season that the d-line was going to be a problem area. Remember MR’s comments about how much the team was going to miss Howard.”

    That’s not true, I reckon. What’s true is that the Coaches almost certainly thought they’d find someone to step into Howard’s shoes from Lomax, Wynn, Houston, and Dobbs (and/or some combination thereof). Richt’s statement is 100% factual – we were going to miss Howard and we likely would have done so even if several people did a solid job filling in.

    The coaches didn’t find a replacement. The why of that is complicated and not necessarily their sole responsibility. It starts with recruiting. There have been some misses here and there (e.g. Corey Moon, Brandon Sesay). Some guys haven’t really panned out (Lomax played well in spots in 2007, but ulimately was nothing more than a backup; Wynn). And some guys haven’t developed so far like we had hoped (Dobbs, Houston, who both show flashes of being solid if not productive). Maybe that latter is on the coaches. Maybe it’s only partly on them.

    As for fans harping on assistants, I’d note the Strange Case of Tony Eason. I’m not convinced Martinez is the answer any more (I’m ok with Richt giving him more chances, though, and pleased Evans backed Richt here). Before this year, Eason was by far the most villified assistant (moreso than Janceck because WRs dropping balls tends to be more of a crystalized failure than sloppy, uneven LB play). Not so any longer.

    The WR corps were snakebit in 2006. It happens. 2007 was very good; we didn’t throw it a ton but most guys were reliable (Chandler was even reliable down the stretch) and we made big plays in the air consistently. The blocking was superb. In 2008 the WR play was tremendous. Part of it is talent – Durham is a solid player who is finally comming around, ditto Mike Moore. They are better options than some of the backups in 05/06. MoMass was a tremendous WR. AJ Green needs no introduction. Part of it was probably a correction to an unusual period of bad luck (even MoMass had some struggles in 2006, where he was sure-handed in 2005). Part of it was getting the right combo of guys healthy.

    I’m not saying this to note that Eason is a great WR coach, though I’m pleased with the play this year (with the curious caveat regarding AJ – terrific year but he’s not really fully up to speed yet. I hope we get him there, as he’ll go down as one of our all time greats). And I ultimately think Martinez will end up moving on.

    But there are probably some corrections heading our way in the mean time. Fewer injuries, a couple of new players, and a few less short fields and suddenly the defense doesn’t look so bad. And that could easily come together.

  13. I’ll wager that we as a team had at *least* 10 more sacks. And I could easily see it being 40+.

    pd, according to georgiadogs.com, Georgia had 45 sacks in ’02. I don’t know how that ranked in the SEC that year, but that number would have led the conference in any of the years 2003-2008.

  14. That’s not true, I reckon. What’s true is that the Coaches almost certainly thought they’d find someone to step into Howard’s shoes from Lomax, Wynn, Houston, and Dobbs (and/or some combination thereof). Richt’s statement is 100% factual – we were going to miss Howard and we likely would have done so even if several people did a solid job filling in.

    pd, I’m gonna have to disagree a little back at ‘ya.

    The coaches saw this coming – that’s why they felt the need to dip into the JC ranks to shore up the d-line.

    Maybe we’re just arguing over semantics here and I could come up with a better choice of words than “problem area”, but the fact is that they went into the season without having a clear idea of how they were going to make up the lost production on the d-line.

    Anyway, by the middle of the year, what was coming into focus was that, for many of the reasons you cite, the d-line wasn’t going to be the dominant factor it had been in years’ past. That’s not meant as a criticism; it’s simply a reality to which Martinez needed to adjust.

    Maybe there were factors that crippled his ability to do so. (Ellerbe becoming a shell of his former self after his injury sure didn’t help.) But it’s his job to figure something out that doesn’t leave his charges doing their best Keystone Kops impression.

    My gut feeling is that the coaching staff got a little too complacent with the level of talent they had at their disposal and took it for granted that, just as in ’07, things would sort themselves out during the year. No doubt injuries screwed some of that up. But so did a lack of focus.

    That’s why I think the first and most important lesson the staff needs to learn from this season is that you can’t rest on talent alone to win. Take that to heart and Georgia will be a better team for it next year.

  15. HVL Dawg

    When an ACC offensive line has its way against an SEC defensive line…. I’m looking at the position coach for a few answers. GT had OLs hitting safeties. I think that means there were a lot of one on one matchups at the point of attack. I expected our DL to win more of those matchups and blow the play up before it got outside.

    Our DL guys aren’t smaller, weaker, or poorly fed compared to GT. Why didn’t we win those matchups.

  16. HVL, part of that against Tech is just their blocking scheme. They leave some DL’s unblocked to get to the next level because the QB’s reads will essentially count as blocks for those left unblocked.

    My bigger concerns are 1) is Richt too reliant on simplified schemes and just “out-executing” everyone, and more worrisome 2) is he just getting outworked. I get the feeling the Saban and Meyer are sleep in their office types that aren’t going to go bowling with their players during the week when they could be working on 3rd and short situations.

  17. PNWDawg

    To the Senator I say fair enough. Let me re-phrase my thoughts. Given that our god-awful, underachieving, inexcusible season ended with us still ranked in the top 20 with a not-t0-shabby bowl game I’d say Richt is still a fine coach. This year sucked but I have faith in him to do his best and that it will be good enough.

  18. peacedog

    Yeah, 40+ sacks is going to put you near the top of the conference every year when all games count, I reckon. I can’t forsee 40 sacks ever being a bad count unless we move to 11 defenders versus 9 offensive players.

    I’m not denying they saw it as a problem area – I agree I think we are having a semantic argument – I’m just noting they probably thought they could get it to work out, and that’s hardly an unreasonable expectation. Fabris’ DE’s have peformed well pretty much every year he has been here. The worst performances were everyone opposite Howard in 2007 (and they were hardly awful; just adequate) and the ends this year. Moses’ senior year was a letdown based on his JR campaign but it wasn’t a terrible year and he was facing more double teams. Thinking that you can mold more playmakers is hardly a stretch. Failing to do so does not indicate a problem with method necessarily (but see below). We didn’t have as much time to mold some of those guys, granted. Dobbs and Houston shouldn’t have been above 2nd string (and ideally they’re not in the top 3 or even top 4, Houston especially, unless they play their way there).

    As to complacency, it’s possible they carried things over from 2007 pertaining to the “losening up” and those things no longer worked (it looks that way to the untrained eye). Staying away from bloody Wednesdays this year as also a mistake, injuries be damned. Those are both fixable, however. And to the former point, the team can return to making discipline the core of everything it does (I know you’ve read several throughs from a certain poster on this subject in the last month). That won’t make new talent manifest itself, or existing talent refine to the point where it becomes something more; those things may not happen as the natural course of things.

  19. AlphaDawg

    FIRE, FIRE, FIRE; can anyone name a coach on our staff that has FIRE in his gut during the game? We occasionally see it from CR(usually to late) we occassionaly see it from Garner, and occasionally see it from CM. One thing OU, UF, and BAMA have is a coach with FIRE. Richts laid back approach has bled over to each and everyone of his assistants(anyone catch Bobo’s interviews he sounds just like he’s half asleep just like Richt) and even his players, particularly his QB(anyone seen his interviews?, not thats it a terribly bad thing for Stafford, he’s been great) the only player who regularly exibits that inner fire is Moreno, and he has a tendency to loss it if the team isn’t doing good to feed his inner furnace.

    FL State had Richts level headedness calling the plays on O, they had an extremely intense and Fire Filled D coordinator in Amato, and then they had a HC who wasn’t scared to deliver a killer blow when needed. What UGA needs is an equal to what Amato(something BVG was) was for FL St, even if we have to go outside the program to do it, and HC who’ll deliver that ice pick to the Jugular.

    Oh, has anyone seen the type of D, the Falcons have been playing lately? It looks really familiar to something we once had at UGA, on the Falcons note, they’ve been getting better every week, something we’ve failed to see between the hedges.

  20. NebraskaDawg

    Wow Senator, way to light the fuse on the powder keg. No use putting in my 2 cents, looks like everything has been said already.

  21. Dog in Fla

    Is Markie Mark is the Bobby Cox of major college football coaches?

  22. Dawgday afternoon

    I have had a thought, Chavis as DC? I always thought he did a tremendous job at UT.

  23. The Realist

    Mickey Andrews was the DC at Florida State. Chuck Amato was the linebackers coach.

    But, still, the point is valid. Mickey Andrews breathes fire and chews through steel for Bobby Bowden. Willie Martinez plays with My Little Pony and gets an allowance from Mark Richt.