Judging from the comments here after the Auburn game, it’s fair to say that the fan base is still conflicted about where things stand with the program. I thought I’d add my two cents worth with a couple of observations.
First of all, it’s a mistake to read the Auburn game, or, more accurately, the last three quarters of the Auburn game, as a binding referendum on Willie Martinez’ career as the Georgia defensive coordinator. Whatever good we saw Saturday night has to be balanced by what we’ve seen out of the defense for the past two or three seasons. Even with what’s been done on defense in the last two games, statistically speaking, Georgia is still awash in a sea of mediocrity.
It’s fine that the defense is starting to believe in itself a little. But there’s still a ways to go with a Kentucky team that shredded this same defense last season and a Georgia Tech offense that, frankly, no one is giving Georgia a shot in hell of stopping. Tech’s been held under 30 points three times in eleven games this year; jump in with that crowd, and maybe we can start talking.
Second, pardon me if I chuckle a wee bit after reading comments to the effect that the results Saturday night weren’t impressive because Auburn was a poor team. Please – where were all those curt dismissals in the week leading up to the game? I’m not telling anyone that Auburn’s a great team, but then again, neither is Georgia. Yeah, Auburn lost to Arkansas and Kentucky, but the Tigers also went up to Knoxville and won. And the fact is that they’ve played quite well on offense this season. Auburn is ranked in the top twenty nationally (and second in the SEC) in rushing offense, total offense and scoring offense. So it’s not like the Dawgs kept a Tennessee Tech or even a Vanderbilt out of the end zone on offense for three quarters. Something good happened.
But I return to my first point, except that it’s narrowed to the perspective of one man. I’ve said it before – Mark Richt has certainly earned the opportunity to right the ship. Dumping a head coach who’s accomplished what he has is, well, prematurely premature. And I don’t expect him to make any hard calls in the midst of the season. That being said, if he’s taken what happened Saturday night for more that what it is right now, it’s a ginormous leap of faith that in my mind isn’t justified.
Based on quotes like this,
“The thing I would have really liked to have seen is what kind of defense would we have played all year long if we weren’t constantly turning the ball over deep in our own territory or throwing the pick six or having the kickoff returned for a touchdown,” head coach Mark Richt said. “All those things can deflate the energy of a team, not only a defense. If you could magically take away all the short fields we’ve put them in and all that, it would be interesting to see how it would have all stacked up.”
Rex Robinson is convinced that Richt has already made up his mind to stick with Martinez. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do believe that Richt is hoping that the defense shows enough in the last two regular season games to give him enough of a reason to avoid making a decision that I have no doubt is personally distasteful to Mark Richt. And, again, that’s his call and I’ll support his right to make it.
But he’ll be the guy that will have to live with the consequences. There are plenty of examples of good people at the top being undone by their subordinates. One thing we all know from following this program is that Georgia can’t be a successful SEC program with a second-tier defense. And one good night against a better-than-average offense doesn’t change that.