This isn’t an unfair characterization.
“Let’s face it, we’ve had the best winning percentage in the history of Georgia football,” Richt said Tuesday. “We’ve done pretty well. This year we have not, OK. So we’re averaging 10 wins a year and won the SEC twice and they hadn’t won one in 20 years. It’s not like we’ve just been floundering around. This year we have been, let’s face it. And I don’t like it.”
And I think it’s fair to say that Mark Richt has banked a lot of good will with the fan base as a result of his track record. He certainly has with me.
But here’s the thing. It’s not a positive that he’s now at a point where he has to defend his record, because that indicates that he’s already spent some of that good will. And it’s also troubling to see him cast this in the context of one down season. Many of us saw the canary in the coal mine over the past two or three seasons with the utter disappearance of the team for significant stretches in games here and there – something that was unthinkable during his first five seasons in Athens.
I’m not buying this Richt’s-too-nice-a-guy narrative, though. Coaches don’t claw their way towards the top of their profession – and say what you will, until a year or two ago, Richt was widely seen as being there – without being sufficiently competitive. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see the man as someone who suddenly lost his desire to win.
So there’s much of Jeff Schultz’ argument that resonates when he writes this:
The problems at Georgia are similar to those that can afflict any long-time success story. The Bulldogs have declined partly because they’ve grown stagnant. Autopilot doesn’t work in sports. It’s why coaches get fired so often, particularly in “emotion” sports like football and hockey. Old messages and old methods have a limited shelf life.
Georgia doesn’t need a new voice. It just Richt to raise his voice — or his foot. The program needs some tension.
Question: Do you think anybody in Gainesville or Tuscaloosa feels “comfortable”? Ever. Or do you believe like I do there is always some tension in the air? And do you believe like I do that the assistant coaches who work for Urban Meyer and Nick Saban, and the athletes who compete for them, always are on edge? There’s never a chance of things getting stale.
I don’t get that feeling at Georgia. Didn’t have it last year, either. There has been too much comfort. There has been too little accountability. Richt will tell you that he’s a different guy out of public view, that, “People who know me know I have an edge.”
There’s an article I read a long time ago that I wish I could find now, written by somebody like Bill James, that discussed in-game adjustments. In essence, the author’s point was that teams that were winning were less likely to make adjustments to what they were doing than teams that were behind. On one level, that’s a stunningly banal observation (why change what’s working?), but the article went on to show that the really good coaches/managers were the ones who were observant enough to recognize that the other fellow would likely make changes and that the winning side needed to be prepared to adapt if that happened.
That’s where Mark Richt is at, just on a bigger level. Schultz refers to it as autopilot, and in a sense, it’s only natural for Richt to look at his accomplishments and question why changes are needed. The problem with that kind of thinking is that he operates in a highly competitive world where rival programs drop coaches, spend unbelievable amounts of money on replacements and push until somebody achieves a level of success that ultimately comes at Georgia’s expense. It’s not a place where a guy like Richt can afford to stand pat, SEC championships or not.
That’s one thing I truly respect about Urban Meyer. Sure, he believed his offensive scheme would work in the SEC, when many people, including me, were skeptical. But Meyer has also been wise about the fact that coaching in this conference is significantly different from life in the Mountain West or the MAC. That’s why he’s pushed hard since his first day to emphasize speed as a way of maintaining advantage. He’s not complacent, even with his track record. So, if that’s what Richt and Schultz mean by “edge”, then, fine, I’m on board with that.
The program’s current malaise isn’t something that can be fixed by Mark Richt becoming more fiery on the sideline. As Schultz writes,
… the major changes need to be bigger picture. Coaches and players need to be worried more about playing to a standard. Fearing the head coach wouldn’t hurt. They’re sloppy. They’re undisciplined. That’s not talent. That’s coaching.
Where’s the accountability? Why don’t these problems exist at Florida or Alabama?
To Richt’s credit, I think he knew there were underlying issues after last season that needed to be addressed. Unfortunately, the steps he took this past offseason to correct those weren’t the right ones. Whether that’s because the staff underestimated the toughness of this year’s schedule, misevaluated the returning talent, failed to adapt to changing schemes around the conference, or because of other issues, I couldn’t say. What is clear is that Richt has allowed his program to drift off course and that the corrections he’ll have to contemplate at the end of the 2009 season are going to be far more significant and likely more painful ones than he’s been willing to face up until now.
Like it or not, Richt’s more than earned the right to make that call. The flip side of that coin is that there only so much good will on deposit left for him to draw on. It’s up to him to decide how big a withdrawal he wants to make.
UPDATE: Orson thinks Richt is two years behind schedule, and essentially overdrawn at the bank already.
… It is one thing to replace assistants immediately: both LSU and Texas make quick work of plugging and unplugging assistant coaches if they don’t perform, and have done so successfully. Delaying it for two years running as Richt does, though, sets up an unpleasant power struggle, since he’ll have appeared to have caved to pressure if he does pull Martinez, and won’t be seen as proactively replacing a faulty part.
I see his point, but I’m not sure it’ll matter if Richt makes the right choice of a replacement at DC.
38 responses to “Now is the winter of Mark Richt’s discontent.”
You know Senator, Schultz and everyone else has called for Richt to “change” and become “evil Richt” and so forth. I’ve got news for you, he’s not going to change. He’s in his late-40’s, worth millions, is going to make millions more, and is simply not going to change his demeanor, tact, approach, or whatever you want to call it.
Is it a sense of entitlement? No. Complacency? Perhaps. Stubborness. Yes, it seems so.
In this era of “what have you done for me lately”, a coach in his 9th year with much success behind may not want to glance into the future, b/c the future is rarely inviting. The era of a 25 year tenure is over. It’s about constant change and constant evolution. Even the great Urban Meyer will experience this, perhaps as soon as next year.
Mark Richt may not be willing or capable of changing himself. And in fairness, changing yourself is one of the most difficult things a person can do. We are what we are, at least that’s the way our minds are programmed.
So if we can agree that he’s not going to change, then let’s assume that he can, at least, change what’s in his control – that is, his surrounding coaches. If he cannot do this, then he is not meant for this business as the Fulmer model has been proven to fail time and time again.
And the Fulmer model doesn’t only apply to sports, it’s true with any organization. Certainly Richt is intelligent enough to realize this.
Jax, you’re right, he may not change. Clearly, when you hear him talk about the 2006 season as context for how he evaluates what’s going on this year, he’s reluctant.
But if this squad goes 6-6 instead of turning things around over the last third of the season, he’s going to lose that security blanket.
At that point, it’s not about being “evil Richt”. It’s about being smart and honest with yourself.
every coaching staff needs a good cop and a bad cop. Someone has to be the guy the players respect, but fear, and someone has to be the guy the players respect, but love.
Sometimes, players need an arm around their shoulder and an encouraging word. Sometimes, they need a foot in the ass. Sometimes, they just need the threat of a foot in the ass.
Bobby Bowden was the good cop at FSU. Chuck Amato (for example) was the bad cop. Or maybe just the crazy cop. When Coach Richt first got to UGA, Van Gorder and Calloway were the bad cops, or at least, the tough cops.
I dont know how Martinez and Bobo stack up as firebreathers, or who on else on this staff would qualify, but from way out here on the outside, it seems like what this team lacks is a little intensity at the top. I don’t think Richt has lost anything off his figurative fastball. It’s just not as effective without the coordinator changeup, so to speak.
oops. Left this part out. Sometimes, the head coach is the bad cop. Nick Saban, for example. Sometimes, the head coach is the good cop. Pete Carroll comes to mind. Either way, you have to have a little emotional contrast at the top of the staff. Nick rages, and the assistants are the ones who pull the players together. Pete Carroll strums the guitar, then turns his assistants loose to enforce precision, discipline, etc. It can work either way.
Unfortunately, people are made uncomfortable when they see others around them lose their jobs.
Schultz could have cut his article way down by simply saying “Bryan Evans is still seeing the field over Bacarri Rambo.”
I have never been in the “arena” outside of high school football, but I have watched *millions* of hours of football.
There cannot be one, single, legitimate reason why Bryan Evans sees as many or more snaps than Rambo.
The argument that the young guy does not know all the plays holds no water, because Evans is out of position over 50% of the time.
So, what does that bring us to? Seniority. And to piggyback on your thoughts on Meyer, he does not kowtow to seniority, and neither do most of the innovative younger coaches who have infiltrated the college ranks in the last half-decade.
It is difficult to stay fresh for a decade. “Finish the drill” was revolutionary when CMR first stated it, but has become cliche and hollow.
Van Hallanger’s schtick about this summer being “the hardest I have ever seen a group of guys work” just does not really seem true anymore.
The ubiquitous “swim day” halfway through camp has lost its luster, and the players seem to know to wear their swimming trunks a couple of days beforehand.
Yesterday’s comments were the first time that CMR has been forthright with the fans this year, and I find that encouraging. He still went on that little rant about the ball bouncing the wrong way, but there may be a kernel of truth in that.
Schultz is right that the methods that brought the program to the upper echelon have become stale and cliche. However, the man who came here with those ideas is still at the helm, and the attitude and the prowess that he brought with him is still in there.
Bear Bryant had a couple of bad years in the late 60’s and changed his offense. Dooley had a couple of bad years in the late 70’s and got Herschel. JoPa was terrible in the early part of this decade and went to the spread offense.
CMR is facing his first spate of adversity, and I believe that the self-confidence, drive to win and passion for UGA that he showed when he first got here will manifest themselves in his off-season decisions this winter.
You believe. I believed. Now I don’t believe.
I think CMR is delusional and has no earthly idea that so many people have turned against them all.
What started out as a Tsunami for CWM now includes Bobo and many people think Richt should go too. I am one of them and I’ll match my Georgia credentials with anybody.
I know in my circle of Bulldawg friends both inside and outside of Georgia have moved 180 degrees from where they were at season’s start.
I’m astounded by this.
In short, CMR sat on his fanny. And while we’re at it, we have a kid, Gray, who has been in Athens nearly two years now. Obviously he hasn’t met the coaches desires for him else he wouldn’t, of all things, be a punt returner/QB. Absurd, ridiculous and outrageous. No, it’s embarrassing and of great concern to me.
He hasn’t been coached up if he could have been coached up at all. Either way that’s a loser for Richt and company. Now, please, why couldn’t that have been determined waaaay before now. Murray and Zee have been in town since the first semester in January 2009.
We are dealing folks with coaches, like it or not, who are out of touch and can’t coach anyway.
Whoever said that Richt is overdrawn from the reservoir of good will has hit it right on the head.
If Richt were a mortgage, he would be in foreclosure.
If we lose to Tech and another, the doo doo is really going to hit the fan like nothing anybody has ever seen in all the years of Georgia football.
The Internet will make it so.
And, I might say, this obdurate, stubborn man is going to burned to a crisp if he doesn’t do something to right the ship. But what can he do?
That Joe Cox is going to start and that Gray is problematic is outrageous. These coaches make promises and forget they made them.
Cox tried his heart out. He just hasn’t got it.
Now we go into 2010 with not anyone having any kind of significant football time. And this is a good coach and staff?
Please. If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale, cheap.
My “belief” is that Schultz hit it right on the head. They believed that the least effort would be good enough.
“We’ve done pretty well. This year we have not, OK. So we’re averaging 10 wins a year and won the SEC twice and they hadn’t won one in 20 years. ”
Who exactly is “they”? Isn’t it “we”
Not to read too much into one quote, but as a person who has routinely worked in a profession of turnaround businesses – where we work hard to avoid that we/they sort of language – that word speaks volumes about mindset to me.
Probably just a slip of the tongue. I know what you mean though. he should have said somehting along the lines of “Georgia had not done so in 20 years.”
Still though, it’s not just championships, and the lack theroeof, that people are upset. It’s about how we play, win or lose. When Petrino was with the Falcons, you could easily see the team was unprepared and the staff did not get all they could out of the players. To me, this is what is most frustrating.
If we had hung with UF, given them their best shot and still lost (which all was very possible), then I think people could even take solace in the fact that we gave them our best game yet they were the better team. However, I have yet to walk away from a game in 2008 or 2009 with the feeling that we have gave our best effort. Over time, that is what will get coaches fired.
Or a misquote.
We are at the point where we are really going to get to see what Mark Richt is “made of”. It’s like the Pat Dye question, are you man enough? Man enough to make the really tough, hard calls to turn his program around, and perhaps ultimately to save his job. I hope he is, and I hope he can and will. For Georgia football and for himself. I like CMR and he has been good for UGA football. The day after the Tech game, he will either begin to earn that big salary, or begin the trek towards losing it altogether. It will be daunting, but that’s why we pay him those big bucks.
Richt promoted a linebacker coach this past year and gave him a raise to retain him. Our linebacking has been subpar during his tenure. How could someone like CMR then turn around and dismiss him less than a year later? It does not seem like something he could or would do, despite the pressure and calls to do so. What say you?
Richt’s decision will be at the coordinator level. I think if you bring a new guy in as the DC, you’re going to have to give him the opportunity to assemble his own staff at the position-coach level.
The problem with allowing a new DC to assemble his own staff is that it creates divided loyalties. If you are the new LBs coach, who are ultimately most loyal to, the head coach or the guy who brought you here?
That’s why I agree with Orson that CMR is way behind the curve in repairing the program. As you point out, problems which could have been corrected with less disruption a year or two ago are now going to require major changes to have a chance at being successful.
Coaching history shows most coaches, even great coaches, can’t catch back up to the curve once they fall substantially behind. It’s why I now think the unthinkable: next year is most likely Richt’s last.
What could Richt have done a year ago to repair the damage that would have been less disruptive than now?
I don’t think the problem Orson alludes to is a staff with divided loyalty. It’s that Richt looks weak by caving in to pressure from the fan base.
Is it really “caving”? Or just admitting to realities in the game?
I don’t recall Miles getting called “weak” or any talk of caving when he replaced LSU’s DC last season.
I think Richt may have been a little more cagey in making that move than people give him credit for. Jancek and Willie are now equally on the hook for this season’s defensive performance, and if change comes at the coordinator level, it would be unfair not to change both defensive coordinators.
Many people deride Richt for his “fairness,” but I don’t think he’s “fair” solely out of altruistic (read: “nice”) motives. Obviously, we’ll have to wait to see what happens, but the path has been cleared for both of these guys to be someone else’s problem next season.
3GenDawg, unless Richt is dumb enough to do what Tuberville did and hire a new coordinator with an existing staff (which I don’t think he is), the scenario you say he wouldn’t do would likely happen when Martinez goes.
Look , Richt is defensive because these changes are monumental and you don’t know what you’re going to get later. You don’t just hire a new DC, you’re (more than likely) hiring a whole new staff on that side of the ball.
Which, to my mind, would be fine, but I’m not the one who has to work with the new guys.
I have a friend who really thinks Coach Richt will chuck it all , take his millions and go do missionary work . I guess the moves he makes this off season will say a lot . “An insider” also commented earlier that CMR is “intensely loyal” to his assistants, implying he would not fire CWM even after this year’s defensive long national nightmare.
If that is true, maybe he doesn’t need to be our head coach. And please , coach, no more gimmicks, just win, baby.
The decision to keep Cox as starter saying he gives us our “best chance of winning” is easy to defend, he hasn’t let anybody else take any snaps, and why more people aren’t questioning that decision does not make much sense, but after a while it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy due to lack of PT by any other players. Joe Cox > Aaron Murray ? Doubtful . But, what do I know, I have never been in the arena .
We’re not questioning the Cox thing because we have no choice but to trust the coaches to know that, and we have no idea that it’s wrong. Come on, you’ve been at practice and seen what these guys do, and you know if they know the playbook or not? Please.
Things to do while your head coach counter-punches:
For everyone who did not know – and especially for those who did know – that the “Let’s face it, we’ve had the best winning percentage in the history of Georgia football,” history lesson was coming, go to your bag of toyes, pull two out and…
I can easily envision Richt saying, before the season started, that this is the last chance year for subpar assistants. Here’s my train of thought:
— 2005 was a championship year.
— 2006 was a rebuilding year, with a hugely talented freshmen QB, and hey we beat Auburn and Tech and won the bowl game after being down by 17 points.
— 2007 was a hugely successful year.
— 2008 was only unsuccessful because of preseason expectations.
The consistent negative factor in all these years is getting killed in a big game or two each year, just disappearing, but the program has still been successful. I know I’m gonna get flamed, but that’s a plausible big picture evaluation.
Thus, why would Coach Richt put loyal assistants on notice that their performance is a long term weakness until after 2008, when we were plain awful in three games? The big game disappearances were only West Virginia and Tennessee until 2008. I can see 2008 being the trigger year for a warning, and this year being the decisive year. I won’t know if I’m right until after the season.
2008, in my mind, was a disaster. We weren’t competitive at all against the best two teams that we played and we lost a game to an overwhelmingly inferior Tech team… at home… in which their QB completed 1 pass. And we squeaked out wins against crap Kentucky and Auburn teams. All of this occurring with one of the most talented offenses UGA has ever had.
Last year’s performance was terrible.
Dude, I see your point of view, but no head coach is ever going to view 10-3 as a disaster. Not Mark Richt, not Urban Meyer, not Bear Bryant, not Bud Wilkinson. They might see those three losses as a sign of weakness that must be rectified or else, but 10-3 will allow a coach to keep his job forever.
I agree that Richt has certainly earned some goodwill, but I think he knows he’s got to make some staff changes, whether he wants to or not. I’m sure he’s loyal to his assistants (which says a lot of the man’s character), but he’s not dumb, either.
Every big time program has down years. Saban lost 6 games his first year, including that inexplicable loss to UL-Monroe. Les Miles lost 5 games last year. It happens. But if Richt knows somethings got to give if he’s going to bring the program back to earlier success levels, and all evidence points to inferior defensive play.
It would’t hurt to bench any starters for the Tennessee Tech game…see how their hungrier second string players do. Or you could always have a Bull Durham moment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLMl0CLIDLg
firing an assistant to show you mean it wouldn’t hurt either.
Can we stop stroking Bama for a second and actually look how they’ve played the past few weeks? There’s a team on auto-pilot if there ever was one, and Saban’s done nothing but stroll around looking constipated during this mini-malaise.
Yeah, they’re still beating demonstratively lesser teams- sometimes by the skin of their teeth- but really. This whole idea that Bama is purring machine is ridiculous. They’re in serious trouble; we’ll see if Saban can adjust (as he absolutely did not in 2004, at the end of last year, etc.).
“Saban’s done nothing but stroll around looking constipated during this mini-malaise….we’ll see if Saban can adjust (as he absolutely did not in 2004, at the end of last year, etc.).”
He didn’t get it done at the end of last year because he was strolling while looking constipated. He didn’t get it done because he was tired. Let’s give the guy a break. It’s not because he was actually constipated. It was his method acting portrayal of a Leader who ‘looks’ like he is irregular. That’s his scht!ck, he’s good at it and that’s why he gets $10-20 million gross a year for it before Jimmy’s cut. After all, who among us has not been constipated or looked like they were. It’s not improv. It’s not ad lib. It’s hard work. Maybe not like stoop labor but like stool labor. Even when you’ve got the stomach for it, it’s still a grind when you have to play that role over an entire football season and that’s where he got his famous signature catch-phrases:
“Nick doesn’t have time for that sh!t!”,
“Nick doesn’t have time for your sh!t!’ and/or
“Nick doesn’t have time for his sh!t!”
with the following variations
Bama is SEC’s version of Iowa. Only Iowa lacks the consecutive #1 recruiting classes.
CMR has certainly earned the right of time. But he must make the right decision’s this winter. I love to good cop, bad cop. Every since CVG left the program has been stale, played with no edge and just to damn soft. There is no argument of how good a coach CVG, (just look at the Falcons, played well against the best offense in NFL, w/ corners who may not start at half of college programs in country) but it is his attitude that is missing. He demanded excellence and would take nothing less. UGA needs that kind of guy opposite CMR.
Somewhere in B’ham Paul Finebaum is laughing his ass off.
Do you think CMR is only as good as his coordinators? It seems to me that coaches like Saban and Meyer are successful regardless of their OC/DC. I know that coordinators are important to a program’s success, but they shouldn’t be the main determining factor for that success, as many (especially those in the “Fire Willie” camp) believe. Look at Auburn from a couple of years back–they seemed to get a new DC every other year or so, yet the defense didn’t really suffer.
Ultimately, it is the head coach’s responsibility, and he should be held accountable. So, while replacing CWM may appear to be the right move, CMR’s (and UGA’s ) success will be determined by whether or not the new DC can right the ship. In my opinion, the head coach ought to be someone who has the capability of leading the team regardless of the turnover at assistant coaching positions, a la Saban, Meyer, Carrol, who have all had to change coordinators and did so without any real drop (or gain, for that matter) in production. Their teams play at the same level and have the same rate of success regardless of the assistant coaches; they don’t suffer when they lose a BVG-type from their staffs.
I think CMR knows he has to do ‘something’. He did ‘nothing’ after 2008, and look where we still are. As pointed out by others here, all programs go through these ‘down’ times, but the successful head coaches turn around and do the correct ‘somethings’. Only time will tell if Richt will become one of those success stories or not.
While frustrated over the past two seasons at the continual decline in the Dogs quality of play, it’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve started to really question Richt. When I take two steps back and count to ten, the calm side of me emerges and sees things a little differently. During the Tennessee game, I began to wonder if the perceived lack of emotion from Richt was really just the realization that he was going to have to fire some people that are close to him.
Richt has never really had to fire anyone before. I’ve been there. I’ve owned a business, and you start out thinking you’re all in it together and your employees are your extended family and they’re helping you reach for your dream. Then you realize a customer (or fan) views an employee a little differently based on a bad experience and you realize you’ve got to break out the axe. It’s hard to fire someone, especially the first time (it gets easier subsequently, and sometimes downright enjoyable).
That’s where I think Richt is right now. He’s got to fire a person or two, chief among them Soft Willie. He’s holding off on starting freshmen, as it gives the coordinators no excuses for the performance of the team — their most experienced players are the ones failing within an obviously flawed system.
Of course, if Richt proves me wrong and retains Soft Willie with similar results in the future, I will curse his name all next season. Until then, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he rights the ship.
“I began to wonder if the perceived lack of emotion from Richt was really just the realization that he was going to have to fire some people that are close to him.”
I felt the exact same way at the time. I hate it for him because that first fire is really hard to pull the trigger on. He’s a compassionate/thoughtful/loyal gentleman. That’s why recruits’ mothers and grandmothers love him. Heck, that’s why I love him. He has to do it and he knows it. Everyone needs to back up and let him do it. He does not need to be told, so no amount of yammering adds anything to the dialogue. He knows already.
Too Many flops out of draft classes. If Baldwin and Banks pan out Will-Mart doesn’t have to play “every opposing quarterbacks dream” Bryan Evans. If Naderris and Bruce were blocking I guarantee we’d be running better. Every team loses players along the way, but it is staggering to see how little production is coming out of the juniors and seniors.
“Orson on The Scent of an Assistant a/k/a Good Housekeeping and Marital Advice”
Key words and phrases to look for in Orson’s beautiful piece of sportswriting:
nagging, uxorious, trash, reek, asshole, husband, asshole husband, wife, nagging, bitch, nagging bitch, garbage, problem, getting rid of, acrimony, garbage-stink, porous defenses
“It is akin to the difference between doing something before your wife notices and begins nagging, and then doing it afterwards. You both feel significantly better if you, the properly uxorious husband, take out the trash promptly. When the reek overwhelms the house, however, you have become the asshole husband, and your wife has become the nagging bitch, and now we’re all thrilled to be taking out the garbage now, aren’t we? The true problem was not getting rid of him sooner; had he done so, Richt wouldn’t be hip deep in acrimony and the garbage-stink of Martinez’s porous defenses.”
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