There’s a basic question that most fans of the program have been asking of late, and will continue to ask through the winter. It may differ a little from blog to blog and from message board to message board, but it’s some variation of what the hell’s happened here?
I think it’s fair to say that the initial reaction has been fairly negative, looking for targets to point fingers at. One target in particular has stood out. The tenor of the conversation has ranged everywhere from Bring Me The Head of Willie Martinez wrathful to Kyle King’s calm rationality about why a change is needed.
Of late, I’ve noticed a differing tone brought to the debate. Two examples of that can be seen in this post of Paul’s and this lengthy examination of the season that was by David Hale. Both point to the huge number of season-ending injuries that the team suffered through on its way to a 9-3 record. Is the injury situation enough to offer as total absolution for the disappointment of this year? No. As David writes in conclusion,
… injuries aren’t the only excuse, but you would be hard pressed to find a team that had a better reason to use them as one.
But I guess that’s what I’m getting worried about. I find myself in an awkward middle ground right now – not ready to run anyone off the reservation, but uncomfortable with the idea that there’s something unique about what the team faced this season, sort of a non-excuse excuse that will allow the coaches to write off the experience.
Yeah, the injury situation was brutal this season. David does a thorough job of outlining the ripple effect it had on the program. But I also agree that it doesn’t explain everything.
One of the things it doesn’t explain is what I’m referring to in the post header – the alarming tendency for this team to disappear for a quarter or a half, with disastrous results. And the primary reason for that is that this isn’t something that we saw just this season; you can trace it all the way back to the ’05 Sugar Bowl. It’s cropped up steadily each year since then. The only notable thing about it this year is that it was more pronounced than ever.
I don’t pretend to have the answer to the question above at this point. The only thing I’m convinced of right now, though, is that there’s a problem that Richt needs to address. I’ll give any head coach with an 80% winning percentage the benefit of the doubt this offseason, but if the only lesson he takes from 2008 is that the team handled the adversity of injuries and scheduling (which, while credible, wasn’t nearly as ominous as we feared at the beginning of the season) as well as could be expected, color me skeptical that Georgia comes roaring back in 2009.