I am not big on doing the “inside source” stuff at GTP. For one thing, I don’t have much in the way of it. And for another, what little I’ve got is well placed enough that were I to disclose much detail, it would be fairly apparent where it was coming from and I’m not interested in disclosing a source here.
That being said, I was told one thing that I’ll share in an oblique enough way that I don’t think it’ll get anyone in trouble. As you can probably guess, Willie Martinez’ fate was a constant topic of conversation this past week. And one sobering comment that I got from someone who certainly is in a position to know is that Mark Richt is described as being “fanatically loyal” to his coordinators.
Now that doesn’t mean that changes aren’t necessarily coming after the end of the season, or that Richt isn’t doing some soul-searching this week. But I feel confident in saying that of the vast majority of people who follow the program and saw the Florida game as Martinez’ death knell, Mark Richt isn’t one of them.
On the other side of the equation, while fan support of the program is still good, there’s a palpable ebbing of enthusiasm that was painfully apparent this past weekend. In a time of a weakened economy, that’s not a good thing for an athletic director to have to deal with. I expect the turnout for the Tennessee Tech game to be lacking – noticeably lacking. And if this team struggles to a 6-6 finish with another loss to Georgia Tech, it’s going to be Defcon Level 3 for Evans. Georgia coaching careers with multiple stumbles against Tech don’t have particularly high survival rates.
To be fair, in my mind, Mike Bobo deserves as much heat as Martinez is getting these days. After all, statistically speaking, Georgia’s offense is performing at a lower level than its defense. But the majority of the anger and frustration I heard this past weekend before and after the game was directed in Martinez’ direction. And it’s in his direction that I expect most of the speculation to continue to be directed in the next few months.
Where things go from here is hard for me to say, though. I don’t think anyone in his or her right mind seriously believes Richt’s job is in jeopardy after this season, even if the program finishes with an unprecedented number of losses in the Richt era and even if Richt refuses to make any staffing changes in the wake of that result. But I also don’t think that Evans lets Richt have more than one season to turn things around in a major way if Richt elects to stand pat.
Which means it’s Richt’s call in the short run and Evans’ call in the longer run. And if it gets to the second stage, Evans has proven with Felton (who, don’t forget, was Evans’ first big hire) that he’s not one to dither if things stagnate.
Keep in mind a few things that will be part of the decision-making process for both men as they wrestle with the call (or calls, if you want to think that both coordinators’ jobs are at stake):
- Don’t expect money to be much of an object, particularly if it’s clear that athletic department revenues are likely to suffer otherwise.
- If you clicked on the link to the NCAA stats page, you saw that Georgia is ranked 97th nationally in total offense and 68th nationally in total defense. Trust me when I say that there are plenty of coaches out there who are capable of improving those performances and who will be available for hire, if it comes to that.
- Removing a coordinator is bigger than just that one person. Should Richt elect to replace either man, keep in mind that anyone he chooses to bring in who has a high profile-type reputation is going to expect to be able to assemble his own staff. Richt, should he decide to pull the trigger, isn’t likely to make the same mistake Tuberville did with the Tony Franklin hire. So there will be position coaches who will lose jobs as well.
- Along those same lines, expecting Martinez to accept a demotion in order to stay on is a stretch at best, if for no other reason than it’s highly unlikely that a new coordinator is going to be comfortable having the old coordinator on his staff.
- Timing is going to be awkward. If Georgia goes 6-6, it’ll be bowl eligible. If Richt decides to make a change, does he do it during bowl preparation, when a new coordinator can come in, evaluate personnel and staff and even begin making changes, or does he wait until the offseason?
- If Richt does stand pat, the firestorm from the fan base is going to be white-hot, to say the least. I’ve got no idea how Evans sells that to the fans. He’s going to have to be prepared to take a short-term hit. But he’s still got to give Richt that chance, because Richt’s earned it.
- That being said, remember that buyout clause that we’ve all pointed to for years as proof of Richt’s loyalty? It looks kind of expensive now that the shoe may be on the other foot, doesn’t it?