Cognitive dissonance

I swear, I can’t make sense out of this:

“If we’re in there, I’d like just to take the 25-yard line,” Richt said. “I’d be very happy with that. There are some circumstances. If it’s just a low line driver and there’s no hang time maybe. That’s when there’s a little bit of gray area sometimes.”

Mitchell is eighth in the SEC in kick return yardage at 21.8-yards per return. His long is 48…

“Malcolm hits it up in there pretty good,” Richt said. “He’s got good speed and good burst and he’s pretty brave. I think he does a good job there, too.”  [Emphasis added.]

Think about that for a minute.  On average, every time Mitchell fields a kickoff behind the goal line, Georgia is giving up yardage.  Richt knows this.  And would prefer that not happen.  But Mitchell’s doing a good job there.  (If you’re looking for a silver lining, it’s that he’s returned fewer kickoffs than any of the other conference leaders.)

Malcolm is the Roy McAvoy of Georgia kickoff returns.  And Richt is his Molly.

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75 Comments

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75 responses to “Cognitive dissonance

  1. Uglydawg

    “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”…It only takes one long one to turn this stat around. While it is important to be prudent in regard to returns, (it only takes one fumble) there is the potential for a big payout for just three or four yards cost on average. It’s part of the game. Woody Hayes wouldn’t pass because “When you throw the ball, only three things can happen and two of them are bad”….but risks are part of the game.

    • The flip side of the coin to that is that judgment is also part of the game.

      • Hackerdog

        I agree with the Senator. I saw a stat based on touchbacks coming out to the 20, that suggested that a team should return all kicks. Even one that’s 9 yards deep in the end zone. Many won’t be returned to the 20, but a few will returned into the other team’s territory, or perhaps even for touchdowns.

        However, those stats are based on the averages for all teams. I don’t think our return team is as good as average. I don’t have any problems with Malcom as a runner, but I don’t think we have the blocking, etc. to help make those big plays happen more frequently. For us, I think the winning strategy is to take the touchback.

        • Rick

          Heck, we had questionable STs for all of Boykin’s tenure. Didn’t stop him from setting some records and winning some awards.

        • The other thing about that strategy – hopefully – is that it minimizes the chance for holding or blocking in the back penalties to occur.

          • Mayor of Dawgtown

            +1. The strategy should be to take a knee and get the ball at the 25 any time the kick goes into the end zone. On average we would get the ball at a better starting position and it also eliminates the penalty that forces a start inside the 10 which, unfortunately, always seems to happen at the worst possible time.

            • Uglydawg

              I don’t feel real strongly about this one way or the other, but for the sake of not wasting a good argument I’m going to say….
              At half time of the Florida game, we could have looked at the passing stats for AM and said, “we shouldn’t throw it in the second half”.
              Of course, that would have been crazy, but we wouldn’t have had any passing sacks or interceptions (which as it turns out, we didn’t have anyway, which makes my point), you need to keep all of your options on the table, and USE them when it’s prudent.
              Again, I don’t feel real strongly about it…..exept to add that if you face a kicker who can pooch a kickoff inside the ten, it’s out of your hands anyway. Each kickoff return stands on it’s on merit.

        • AlphaDawg

          KO return is the only area in ST play where we’ve been average over the last few years. Its PR and coverage thats been our weakness. IMHO.

          • Scott

            And FG% last year sure was a weakness. Add extra points to the mix as well. We went several years under Richt without a single blocked punt, FG or extra point.

            I think Richt’s attitude about ST is that he wished they didn’t exist. But its part of the game and we are 55th nationally according to FEI index published by Football Outsiders. That stats takes into account the whole gamit of ST stats. Unfortunately, while 55th nationally seems ok, it places us 9th in the SEC and well behind several SEC teams who are near the top.

      • Rick

        Ugly has it exactly right. It’s expectation v. variance. Is it worth sacrificing 3 yds/return for a 5% (or whatever) chance of taking it to the house (and yes, whatever other small chance of fumbling it away)? If it is, then 21.8 yards/return is indeed the result of sound judgement, particularly when said house-taking would turn that average around right quick.

        I’m not saying it’s worth it, but it’s certainly not obvious to me that it isn’t.

        • Scott

          +1. I am sure someone has run the stats and figured it out. I when I say “someone” I am not referring to anyone on our coaching staff.

    • AthensHomerDawg

      “Better safe than sorry”…. ;-)

  2. Uglydawg

    Against Ole Miss, though, I would take few risks. They are a team that may thrive off of a couple of mistakes. With a good running game, Georgia should be content to take it on the 25 when possible, and pound it out and run the clock. Conservative ball control is the key to this one one offense.

    • Rick

      Ugly, you and I – we gots a lot in common. This is also exactly right. The risk may be worth it on average against an equal or better opponent, but when you are the better team you just want to minimize variance.

      • Uglydawg

        Rick, while I’m all for a game plan that takes the touchback (against Ole Miss), the truth is Ole Miss can still force a run by pooching it high inside the ten. That’s what a lot of teams are doing and it works pretty good.

        • Rick

          Agreed – and I don’t know if anyone noticed the first few weeks of the season produced an astounding number of TOs down there all over the country. Maybe MM is still down there because, though his decision making be poor, his hands be good and he’s a threat to break one. Those pooch kicks inside the 10 take decision making out, and I think teams would rather not take their chances on MM running it back from the 5 with little hang time.

    • HVL Dawg

      …. if we do that and win by 8 the “Fire Bobo” crowd will be spitting their Cheetos all over their living room floor.

  3. Billy Mumphrey

    What happened to Todd Gurley in this spot?

    • Heathbar09

      Agreed. Everyone seems to have forgotten what he did the first time he got his hands on an NCAA kickoff.

    • Governor Milledge

      Preserve his legs/body for the 25-30 carries per game he’s going to get. Malcolm can shoulder the load better now that he’s less on D.

      I still want to see JSW be the return man… let’s get some track speed out there!

  4. Love that Movie. That’s the beauty of Golf; you can have a 12 on a hole and it can be the most memorable hole ever.

  5. Sanford222view

    This has been driving me nuts all season! MM makes terrible decisions on kickoff and punt returns. If Richt can’t get him to make better decisions on when to down it then get him out of there or have Vasser tackle his ass in the end zone every time it should be downed. You see Vasser telling him to down it most kicks anyway.

  6. So CMR is gonna play the whole season with a 7 iron………………….

  7. Juan

    Coach Richt is so smitten with Malcolm Mitchell it is getting to the point of being downright weird.

    • Scott

      Yesterday on the Bulldog Roundtable, I heard Tavarres King say that MM was the biggest trash talker on the team during games.

  8. Macallanlover

    Making that decision and coming up short is epidemic in CFB. It certainly looks like taking the 25 yard line for free is the right decision for all returners, it also cuts down on the dreaded/silly block in the back penalty. But Richt is right, unless you have a low, 3 iron type kick, or film shows the other team is slow to cover kicks. I like the new kickoff rule changes for this year, and it has reduced the number of returns. I wish MM would add to that statistic.

    • That 7 iron is the best club in the bag. After the tee shot, then it seven iron and on the green. Three clubs are all you need on a good day. Course that Ping putter is a sweet little club.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      “… epidemic in cfb” – exactly!! What is wrong with cfb coaches? If the KO is in the endzone, take the touchback. Starting at the 25 is a pretty good gift. This is a no brainer. I’d like to see the odds, but seems to me returning the KO to or beyond the 25 has maybe a 10% chance of success.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        I haven’t been writing it down but I have been sorta making a mental note about this. When the KO goes into the end zone and the returner runs it back he almost never makes it past the 25 and usually doesn’t make it to the 20. There are a lot of BIB and holding penalties, too.

  9. Bubs

    I’m not goin’ to the left of Ole Miss or the right of Ole Miss. I’m goin’ over Ole Miss, with a little Malcolm.

    Seriously, let’s start with the ball at the 25 and throw the ball to MM26 instead of letting him return the kickoffs. Put someone back there who will make good decisions. MM26 is always looking for the big play and that gets him (and our O) into trouble with regard to field position on kickoffs most of the time.

  10. HobnailedBoots

    I honestly can’t figure out why it’s not MANDATORY for Mitchell to take a knee if he catches it behind the goal line.

    • Bryant Denny

      MR could assign the other returner to tackle him if he catches the ball in the end zone. :)

      • Uglydawg

        You can see him pausing slighty before he runs it out. It’ almost like his runouts are the result of a re-consideration. Still, as long as he clears the twenty and doesn’t fumble, I’m OK with it.

      • Silver Creek Dawg

        BD, the only problem I see with this scenario is the SEC officials in their wisdom would likely award a safety to our opponent. PWG strikes again!!

        • Uglydawg

          Silver, I’m absoulutly with you on the PWG thing..Even seemingly neutral refs. (see UGA VS AZST, “Jumping while defending a field goal attempt) get in on the act. The SEC seems to thrive on it.
          I still believe AU was off sides on their on side kick against Ga two years ago. Georgia kicks one, and they stare down the line and imagine some Dawg was off sides. It’s so hard to tell, how could you possibly call it? Watch a lot of kickoffs carefully and you will see it’s very often commited but never called…
          In the Zebra’s undeserved defense…usually a coach will let the refs know when they’re going to do something like this. It’s good politics…and when you do, they watch it much closer and if they’re biased, they get a hard on and use it on Georgia….for PWG.

  11. Marshall

    So would that make Bobo Romeo?

    I think someone should send an email to LSUFreek! I’m seeing a moving GIF with the final scene at the par 5 18th…

  12. Here’s what I don’t understand: Clearly, Mitchell has been hurting us at least as much as he’s been helping us in the kick return game. However, Richt is letting him take those risks and pin our offense back deep because of the potential for a great play. OK, fine. But why doesn’t the same logic extend to the punt return game? Trotting Logan Gray… er… Rhett McGowan out there for the exclusive purpose of fair catching or plunging ahead for two yards does nothing for our team. McGowan doesn’t even manage to fair catch it sometimes, he lets it hit and roll to the two yard line. I know we had some setbacks this season trying to be aggressive with punt returns. The Tennessee game comes to mind. However, if we’re not blowing up the kick return game just because we’ve been screwing it up, why are we just completely washing our hands of any aggression in the punt return game? Why is McGowan seemingly the only alternantive to putting Mitchell back there? We have other athletes who can do the job. Why aren’t we trying?

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Great point. This is what drives me nuts about CMR. One hand is ultra conservatism, the other complete disregard for strategy. Just like our old directional kicks, this KO approach isn’t a calculated risk based upon a sound strategy, it’s inexplicably throwing up a prayer and hoping things work out. The question is, how many times will this work against us before CMR caves in and orders MM to down the ball when it crosses into the endzone.

    • Dawgfan Will

      Not that fair-catching punts doesn’t irritate me as well, but could it be because there is more risk in returning punts than kicks? When I think of both types of returns, I recall many more muffs and other mistakes on punt returns than on kickoff returns (for all teams, not just ours). It seems it would go with the territory; most kickoff returners have no opponents around them when they field the kick, unlike punt returners.

  13. Chuck

    Personal pet peeve of mine. The idea that one day, MM is going to take it to the house (without a block in the back or other killing penalty) is a little like saying I am going to buy a lot of lottery tickets because one day, I might win. Meanwhile, I am giving up yardage, risking fumbles, drops and penalties and worst of all, serious injury to a pretty valuable asset. That this is allowed by the coaching staff is a symptom of why we aren’t Alabama: the glory of the game at Bama is about winning even if it means playing it smart and not pursuing some ethereal glory on a kick return.

  14. Greg

    I love that it’s taken till week 9 to determine it might be a good idea to take the ball on the 25 when we catch it 5 yds in the EZ. How many times do bad things happen to us (AM cough cough) when we are backed up inside our 10 after a bad kickoff.penalty.

  15. Cojones

    You all have it wrong. This is special punishment fot Mitchell for fouls and turning his back on the coach. He has to run it back before Richt will take him out. Fair catch? Sure, but you get no credit and have to return over and over to receive for kickoffs.

    When Gurley had to do it he ran it back and got relieved. Now Mitchell has to do it. Richt has placed the fastest feet with the surest hands back there until he runs it back. When Mitchell begs him (out of our sight, of course), Richt will let McGowan go in as Mitchell’s whipping boy, but Mitchell still has to complete his punishment. After he catches and runs it back he gets relieved and not a minute sooner. None of you have caught on as to how mean Richt really is, but you can ask the runback-designates. They know.

    So we just need to let this little melodrama work out for the best way of the team and don’t even trouble ourselves with the details. After all, that’s Saban’s area; the devil’s in the details.

  16. cube

    That is one of the best analogies I’ve seen in a while. Nice!

  17. Joe Schmoe

    Couple of thoughts:
    > KO returns cannot be looked at in a vacuum. Our offense has done very poorly when we get bad field position so we would be better off just taking it at the 25.
    > On punt returns, when are we going to learn to put 2 guys back deep? Since we aren’t setting up returns and not really trying to block punts, why don’t we send 2 guys back so that we can actually fair catch the damn thing and not let it roll an additional 15-20 yards? Given our conservative bent on PRs, this seems like a no-brainer to me.

    • Cosmic Dawg

      Yeah, one way to improve ST overnight would be just to fair catch every dadgum punt, at least. I am okay if we don’t run any of them back for the rest of the season, but surely we can at least CATCH them to stop them from bouncing happily down the field…?!?

  18. bulldogbry

    What I find most ironic – we are all clamoring for CMR to be more conservative, when not long ago we chastised him for not stepping on the necks of his opponents (like slinging the ball around with a 13 point lead – something I would cosider high risk/high reward).

    • Chuck

      It is not a question of conservative/not conservative. Analogize it to poker: the guy that goes “all in” early mostly loses. It is a question of being smart/dumb. When he gets criticized for not stepping on the necks of opponents, it is usually because he has changed what was working on either offense or defense or both in order to protect a lead, and when what he does fails to work, and we lose the lead, that is a smart/dumb criticism, not a conservative/not conservative criticism, imo.

  19. Scott

    Does Damien Gary have a son we can enroll to return punts?

  20. Scott

    I was looking at BCF Toys Data, which looked at NCAA starting field position data from 2007-2010. Starting at your own 44 was worth 2.59 points. Starting at the 25 equaled 1.66 pts. So recall that personal foul we got after our first TD against Florida? UF ended up with with starting field position at our 44 instead of the 25 after enforcement of the penalty on the kickoff, and that roughly equals 1 point given back to our opponents.

    So its not just kickoffs we should be concerned about when thinking of yards lost or gained due to special teams. Those 10 yards we lose when punting (as compared to other teams), coupled with poor punt or kickoff coverage, or a personal foul for celebrating after a TD enforced on kickoff, or letting a punt roll twenty yards – all of these negative plays should be translated into points and communicated to the players.

    Do our players realized that a personal foul after scoring a TD is the equivalent of giving the other team 1 point? Maybe they would not do it so often if they looked at it this way. Or we can show them the LSU tape from several years ago where it cost us the game.

    • Cosmic Dawg

      That is a really great way to communicate just how big a deal the penalties are. Would love for somebody inside the arena to get a hold of this…