Where things stand… now.

I found an interesting echo in Mark Bradley’s love letter to Mark Richt (boy, I bet Paul Johnson feels jilted) of something I once posted.

Namely, how did Mark Richt right the Georgia Bulldogs after going 6-7 in 2010 and starting 0-2 in 2011. And much of it, I’d suggest, had to do with faith. Richt knew what he believed, and he kept believing even when not many fans – and writers, let’s emphasize – shared that belief.

Faith.  That’s something I discussed after that horrendous loss to Junior in 2009.

If I had to put my finger on what’s wrong, I’d call it a crisis of faith.  I don’t mean that in a religious sense.  (By the way, of all the arguments I’ve seen about what’s wrong, blaming Coach Richt’s religious convictions for the slide has to rank as the dumbest.)  Rather, it’s a systemic doubt:  the coaches lack faith in the players to execute and the players lack faith in the coaches’ ability to deploy them efficiently and effectively.

And that’s why I think, admiring though he is, Bradley doesn’t get this exactly right.  This wasn’t some purely internal battle of Richt’s belief system.  This was about getting everyone associated with the program back to buying in to what Georgia football should be – a tough sell, especially since Richt had given little indication up until then that he was willing to look at what was going wrong.  It wasn’t about “knowing what he believed”; it was about recognizing that he either had to adapt credibly or die.  Richt fleshes that out in this quote:

“You really have to know what you believe. You can’t be so stubborn that you refuse to change if you believe you should change. Don’t not change because it’s a prideful act of not letting someone say, ‘I told you so.’ Sometimes your motivation for not changing can be prideful rather than practical. But there are certain things that if you truly believe are the right things to do and the right way to go about it … Regardless of the result, that’s what guides you and what keeps you moving down the track in confidence rather than fear.”

I can think of plenty of coaches who would never admit to something like that, or might say something like that without truly meaning it.  But I can’t think of very many whose ego would let them say it and act upon it.  And that is a remarkable thing.

Any doubts I had about Richt’s ability to turn the direction of the program around from the funk it was in just a few seasons ago were completely demolished the night of the 2012 SECCG.  The outcome of the game was disappointing, but the effort those players and coaches gave in that game wasn’t.  It was light years removed from what I watched in Knoxville.

I don’t know if Bradley’s right to say that engineering the turnaround is the greatest accomplishment of Richt’s career.  But I will say this:  hearing someone like him mention Georgia having a legitimate 2013 national title chance without a trace of mockery sure beats where we were for a while.

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34 Comments

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34 responses to “Where things stand… now.

  1. Jim

    “Any doubts I had about Richt’s ability to turn the direction of the program around from the funk it was in just a few seasons ago were completely demolished the night of the 2012 SECCG.”

    Me too senator, me too. And I had a lot of doubts and had given up on this staff a long time before a lot of others were willing to admit we had problems.

    • Macallanlover

      I think nearly all fans felt we had problems at points between 2006-2010, the degree varied with the W/L primarily so it fluctuated, but not all blamed Richt. I know there are many who feel he should get all the credit/blame because he is the HC, just as some feel the QB should be judged ultimately by the number of rings, but there is a difference between being responsible and being the problem. I never, ever have wanted anyone else to be our HC since the month Mark Richt arrived.

      I felt he should have done some things differently at times, felt his personnel decisions, or non-decisions, could have been better but always have thought those who wanted his head were short-sighted or lacked perspective. Much of the blame was placed on his being too nice, or a misguided perception that “he lacked fire” because he didn’t fit their stereotype of raving fool on the sideline, but MRC, and his partner Kathryn, had a firm handle on the steering wheel, imo. We are very fortunate that their faith didn’t allow them to seek safer asylum when the heat was raging around them. And when the program should suffer a key loss or two in the future, we should remember how much more than W/Ls he brings to UGA as the face of our program. I see him in Athens for another 5 years or so, he will be tough to replace but it will be easier to find an excellent HC because of what he accomplished while at the helm. It has been the best era of football at UGA in it’s history.

  2. Scorpio Jones,III

    “Clear eyes….full hearts”…find a kicker…can’t lose?

    No snark at all, my brother. Once in a while you do reach down to essence of the matter.

    Now….about yer hat…..

  3. heyberto

    Gotta give credit where it’s due.. kudos to you Mark Bradley.. I’m skeptical of your intentions with this piece (it’s pretty hard to troll on Richt in an overall sense at this point, after all), but you are finally acknowledging what the man has accomplished.

    But the faith that I have sensed out of Richt, was after he made the incredibly tough decision to fire his friend Willie Martinez, he maintained faith during the rebuilding. We’d seen this in spurts with him to some degree, but never something so all encompassing as a complete overhaul of defensive coaches and scheme. So in Grantham’s first year, Richt maintained that faith in his decision making. He didn’t get down in the weeds and start micromanaging to save his job.. he had faith in the big picture, and that’s probably the only request he made to McGarity. I always gave him a mulligan for 2010, because I always thought that’s what happened, and we just weren’t there. 2011 started off rough but the team really came together that year, and here we are.

    To me, it’s a fantastic case study in how to redirect. How to rebound in college football, and it was made possible by Richt’s superiors and the fan base (donors) that might have been skeptical but did exercise some patience. No one (?) in the modern age of college football has been given the chance to pull a big time program up and back to where it should be. But I also believe it takes a coach with the right kind of humility and tough self-analysis to do properly, and that’s what Richt was willing to do. This is a monumental cultural difference between Richt and so many of his peers, because not too many of them have the lack of ego that would allow them to pull this off. That, my friends, is leadership at its finest. If Richt didn’t have the fire to win in him, this wouldn’t have happened either, but he kept his ego in place, and I couldn’t be happier that he pulled this off.

    • Governor Milledge

      You could say JoePa had that chance after his early 2000s performance… who would have thought a 5 year run (2000: 5-7, 2001: 5-6, 2002: 9-4, 2003: 3-9, 2004: 4-7) would be followed up by the run Joe Pay had from 2005 until he left?

      And if you say JoePa’s iconic status at PSU saved him, then what about Bobby Bowden?

      That being said, Richt definitely stands in select company regarding his ability to correct course and bring us back.

    • HamDawg11

      +1000!!!

  4. John McC

    Great post! I get the feeling that Richt himself grew in maturity during that turn-around. He really is appearing to be a fine model for any leader.

  5. Rebar

    Well said Senator

  6. sUGArdaddy

    It’s been one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in College Football in a long-time. It’s darn near impossible to do in this day and age, and most coaches (here’s looking at you coach Irving Myers) don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do it or the know how (Mack Brown).

    Richt changed as the conference changed, and that was a tough pill to swallow. I hope he retires in about 12 years with a couple nattys by his name.

  7. Ginny

    Reading through that post from 2009, it’s remarkable how far we’ve come. Going back to the post yesterday about how much credit or blame Aaron Murray should be given, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that at the program’s turnaround has happened under his leadership. Sure, Richt made necessary changes that have had great influence, but I believe Murray has been an integral part of this “righting the ship” as well. I remember when McGarity first took over and Richt said he felt “rejuvenated” as a coach. I chalked that up to happy talk at the time, but you can really see it.

  8. Goodness. That Tennessee game still pisses me off.

    • D.N. Nation

      I think I called half of TN’s TDs before the ball was ever thrown. Crompton rolled out, and you could just hear the various a-oogas and pratfall noises going off in the secondary’s heads.

      Whatever happened to Bryan Evans, anyway? I don’t have the heart to Google.

  9. Hogbody Spradlin

    Pardon digressing, but Lane Kiffin promised his players they’d never lose to Georgia while he was there. I know he did. He said so after the game.

    • Dog in Fla

      Not only that, up until ours against Alabama, Lane® had the Greatest Moral Victory Ever™ in tSEC against Irwin

  10. WF dawg

    Good post, Senator. I genuinely think I want a national championship for Mark Richt more than I want it for myself.

  11. D.N. Nation

    Looking back at that 2009 post, I liked this:

    “Spiking the ball with one second on the clock. I don’t know who made that Reggie-Ball-on-fourth-down-esque decision. But it’s embarrassing that anyone associated with this program did. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of another SEC coach that would try something like that.”

    Les Miles would take your advice to heart just a month later.

  12. uglydawg

    I believe at least one of the keys to CMR’s turning it around has been the hiring of Grantham…not because of his defensive genious, but because he seems to be the piece that was missing to the team’s emotional puzzle. He is firey and competitive…while Richt is introspective and calm (at least in appearance). Kids need both…one to teach and mentor them and one to build a fire under them…There are a lot of aspects to CMR’s comeback, and many of them are mentioned in this thread. …For us, we know that the CMR that we see now is the real thing and the valley he led us through was an anomoly.
    The other coach that comes to mind…as far as reviving a seemingly dead once great program…is Joe Paterno…he did manage it, but the way it ended is so awful that I have to wonder if it’s even appropriate for me to mention it…but before the scandle, it was impressive.

  13. Skeptic Dawg

    The turnaround we have seen from Richt and this program is mind boggling. I know this may surprise you, but I wanted the man gone. I has zero faith in his ability to reverse course. But, he did it. Sitting in the Ga Dome last December completely changed my viewpoint on Richt, this program and college football in general. The guy has turned me into a believer. I am not expecting a national title, or even an SEC title this year. I do expect to pull for a team that provides complete effort game in and game out. GATA!

    • Jim

      “I do expect to pull for a team that provides complete effort game in and game out”

      This is the biggest change we’ve seen the last couple of years.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      “I know this may surprise you but I wanted the man gone.” No sh!t. You only said it 10,000,000 times daily on this blog starting with the first game in 2009 and extending through the first half of the 2011 season. What a surprise!! We never would have guessed!

  14. uglydawg

    (“genius”…not “genious”…admittedly I’m not one)

  15. Mayor of Dawgtown

    EST. I’m OK–you’re OK. Contemplating one’s navel. Psychoanalysis. Transcendental Meditation. We’ve now had our dose of all that for the day. Can we get back to football now?

    • Dog in Fla

      “I’m OK–”

      That’s a split decision

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        Some others that I left off before: Getting in touch with your feminine side. Scientology. Hari Krishna. Moonieism……..

        • AthensHomerDawg

          Meher Baba. Back in the day before the Classic Center was built it was the Athens Flea Market. There was a seafood restaurant run by some Baba followers. Interesting. Great seafood.

  16. Tyler

    Hear, hear.

  17. Skeeter

    Imagine how much better we could have been with Hutson Mason.