The (painful) end of an era

At this point in time, I’m going to assume that the vast majority of you have surfed every Georgia football-related website in existence for spin and analysis regarding Mark Richt’s decision to cut ties with Martinez, Fabris and Jancek.  I’m not going to waste bandwidth here speculating on their replacements, although I will say that I find most of the names being put forward as a potential replacement for defensive coordinator are either unrealistic (Tommy Tuberville?  Seriously?) or just plain dumb (I’d rather Richt have retained Martinez than hire John Thompson).

So let me do what I tend to do in response to situations like this here at GTP – throw out some random thoughts and observations and see what sticks.

  • Mark Richt. The first thing that struck me reading the transcript from Richt’s teleconference yesterday is the genuine decency of the man.  You can fault him for taking time in coming to a final decision if you’d like, but you can’t say he hasn’t been thoughtful about it.  Hindsight is always 20/20 as the saying goes, but looking back on things from today’s plateau, it’s clear that Richt thought Martinez deserved to be judged in the end on a year that wasn’t as seriously marred by injuries as was 2008.  It also strikes me that Richt’s more recent comment about how this year might have been better if the turnover situation wasn’t so horrendous turned out not to be an exercise in excuse making, but rather an observation that his program should have performed much, much better than it did.  I don’t take any pleasure in these three men – who did, after all, bust much ass for the program – losing their jobs, but I think it’s fair to point out that Richt spent a significant of good will in his caution and loyalty to them.  I hope at least there aren’t any hard feelings over the decision.
  • Willie Martinez. Honestly, he had to go.  I say that not because of schemes or adjustments or any of the other nuts and bolts brickbats tossed in his direction with increasing frequency over the past three seasons, but simply because his players had stopped listening to him.  The steady decline in defensive performance under his direction has been well documented – witness the fact that under Martinez, Georgia’s defenses have allowed increasingly more points each season:  14.6, 17.1, 21.0, 25.6 and 26.4 points per game – but what makes it even more alarming is that the recent clock changes instituted for the last two of those seasons favor defenses.  I’m sure he’s a good man, but in the end, Martinez’ legacy for me will always be these two bookends in his stint as DC:  the decision to deploy Greg Blue in his standard cover two defense against West Virginia’s spread option attack along with his decision to stay with Bryan Evans as the starter over Bacarri Rambo.
  • Rodney Garner. I think the observation that if Garner were going to be promoted into the defensive coordinator position, it would have been announced yesterday is correct.  I think Richt feels it’s necessary to go outside the program to find someone to take that slot.  I also have no idea if Garner is ready for that position even if Richt was of a different mind about the hire.  Even so, I don’t get the criticism being tossed Garner’s way these days by many.  He was the glue that held things together when Donnan was canned and Richt was hired, he’s done an admirable job as recruiting coordinator and he’s turned out his fair share of competent to excellent defensive tackles.  Has he looked around with regular frequency to see what other jobs might be available out there?  Sure, but I have trouble faulting a guy for having ambition like that.  Given what sounds like a somewhat prickly relationship with Damon Evans, it may be that Garner moves on this offseason, but if he stays, I hope that Richt promotes him by giving him responsibility for the entire defensive line so that a slot on the staff can be opened up to hire a full-time special teams coach.
  • Jon Fabris. I don’t know him and I don’t want to say too much here.  But the way he screwed with Blair Walsh’s head in 2008 is inexcusable, in my opinion.
  • Damon Evans. It’s clear now that he and Richt have had discussions about this for some time.  It’s also clear that Evans is aware this process is likely to result in an increased commitment, both in terms of salaries and multi-year contracts.   It’ll be interesting to see how far he’s asked to go, though.
  • What’s to come. If anything surprised me about the announcement, it’s that Richt has asked the three to stay on and coach through the bowl game.  To me, one thing about a quick hire now, at least at the defensive coordinator position, is that it would provide an opportunity not so much to install a new package but to begin an evaluation of the personnel that would carry over to the spring.  It would also cut down on the strain that Richt will likely be under to hold the 2010 recruiting class together.  (You can hear Junior’s pitch to Georgia’s defensive commits, can’t you?)  What I don’t worry about is the quality of the men Richt will bring in.  He did just fine the last time he worked from a clean sheet of paper in hiring a DC.

As I wrote in the header, it is the end of an era.  We’re moving on to the third phase of the Richt regime:  the period from 2001-2004 of the two Davids and VanGorder which saw the program restored to relevance as an SEC power, followed by the run from 2005-2009 which has been marked by erratic results and a steady decline in defensive prowess have concluded.  Richt knows where he wants to get the program back to.

“The bottom line is we want to get back to the top of the Eastern Division and the top of the SEC, so we’re — that’s the ultimate goal, that’s what we’re going after, so we want to bring in the finest coaches and men we think we can.”

Whatever else you can say about Mark Richt, he’s not a dumb guy.  He knows what happens to head coaches at Georgia who don’t produce good defenses.  And when he looks at the final results from 2009, which show Georgia at the top in point production in conference games and at the bottom in scoring defense in those same games (at nearly three touchdowns per game more than SEC leader Alabama!), some degree of self-preservation has to kick in.

The good thing from our selfish standpoints is that Richt and the program have much to offer in this job hunt:  lots of young talent to mold, a significantly easier schedule in the next two seasons and a national profile upon which to display the results should all make things very attractive to the right kind of coaches.  Even a recovery to being merely above average by SEC standards would make the next DC a hero.  And I have a very hard time believing that there aren’t a few candidates out there capable of at least that level of competence.

One last thing.  What pleased me most out of reading the teleconference transcript was this very brief answer to a question that I’m sure has been on the minds of many about the decision:

On how much influence public or booster pressure had…
“Zero. Zero.”

Maybe I’m naive, but I believe that.  I do think the time he took to reach this point, as well as the time he spent in discussion with Evans, are indications that Richt made the call on his own.  And that’s how I want my head coach to manage a program.


Filed under Georgia Football

39 responses to “The (painful) end of an era

  1. Russell

    Dawgs will be back…sooner rather than later


  2. HVL Dawg

    Don’t you think that after this season, these moves, and watching Coach Bowden’s saga that CMR has been thinking about his own mortality? I think CMR has Damon over a barrell right now. Damon doesn’t want to have to touch the head coach position. CMR won’t have any leverage two years from now unless he has won the East. He should go for the Charlie Weiss contract this year.

    CMR should make all those fans who’ve been bitchin and booing pony up to fund his retirement. Think about your family coach.


    • The Realist

      What leverage does Richt have right now? FSU has already hired their coach, and there is no other program worth (sentimental or otherwise) the buyout Richt would have to pay.

      The art of negotiation is timing, and asking for a raise after a 7-5 season when you had to fire your best friend and the majority of the defensive coaching staff is not the best of times… either that or I’ve been doing this wrong.


  3. NCT

    I’m with you on the last point (“Zero. Zero.”) I know my image of who Mark Richt may be is mostly speculation framed by bits and pieces of information gathered over the past several years, but I honestly believe he’s his own man (actually, I believe that he believes he’s his own and his God’s man, regardless of what anyone wants to think about that). He’s steady enough (and rich enough) to have put his own job in serious jeopardy if he really wanted to keep the staff intact.


    • Macallanlover

      100% agree with this. I would be disappointed if he were influenced by the fans. He wants, and knows, what is best for UGA. The fans have wants but lack knowledge (which doesn’t stop them from obsessing with public discussion to the detriment of the program.)

      UGA football is in very steady hands with CMR, and he will make the right decisions. I am hoping for a new, fresh, surprise pick that no one expects. Richt has handled this very well, and you can sense his being at peace with the way he approached it….time for the dissenters to get behind him, and trust him again.


      • dudetheplayer

        If you don’t think their is a lunatic fringe in every major program’s fanbase, you’re fooling yourself.

        You can stop firing shots at your own fanbase now. We know that reading anonymous reactions of UGA people over the internet has really bummed you out.


        • Macallanlover

          Not being a fool, I realize there certainly is a lunatic fringe in virtually every fanbase. The difference to me is the size, and how it is played down by more rational fans (my characterization). Nearly every stadium has drunks and rude people around it that embarrasses other well-behaved fans, usually those fans reel the idiots in. Almost every major team has behavior problems with players at times, what is important is how that is handled to minimize it in the future.

          While you don’t care for my stating my feelings, I also don’t care for how vocal the outcry is….it is just my way of saying it seems out of balance. Thus far I may seem to be a lonely voice crying in the distance but like those fans who intervene when our fans treat visiting fans poorly, I hope I am actually a part of a silent majority which will be awakened and can bring some balance to the discussion. If not, it doesn’t change my opinion that we have handled this dissent badly.

          I remain confident in those in charge of the program and confident of its future. In the meantime, I hope the changes made will bring quick success and reunite the fanbase. Even if that doesn’t occur, I hope UGA fans find a better way to express their concerns than they have the past couple of years. You don’t have to agree with my position and you are welcome to ignore it totally. I doubt enthusiastic fans will ever agree 100% on any issue. Until that time, it is always proper to ask UGA fans to act like gentlemen and Southern ladies.


      • Scott

        “The fans have wants but lack knowledge (which doesn’t stop them from obsessing with public discussion to the detriment of the program.)”

        I am really sick of this attitude that we fans are all ignorant because we do not coach D-1 football, and that we fans are hurting the program for not throwing rose petals at the feet of Fabris and Martinez.

        It was obvious that the defense had declined each year under CWM. You don’t have to be employed as a major college football coach to glean some correct observations. Richt acknowledged as much. So I take issue that none of us can ever be knowledgeable.

        Public discussion or criticism of a coach is not a detriment to any program. My guess is that Ray Goff might have stayed on a couple of more years if not for vocal fans. Was I supposed to pat Kevin Ramsey on the back when Auburn torched us for 4 td’s early in a home game in which we were heavily favored?

        Anyway, I am happy for the changes. Richt will make good hires. But I am not sorry for past posts and am not a member of the “lunatic fringe” for losing patience with our defensive coaches after 5 years of steady decline.


        • Macallanlover

          So you are “sick of this attitude”. Guess what? Others are sick of your inability to handle your disappointment. Doesn’t stop us from having to listen to the whining and griping from the “sky is falling” group who daily, daily I mean, for years have ripped the coaches and players. Think others don’t have concerns and take a different approach? If you don’t think three years of ranting about the quality of our coaches and players ad nauseum doesn’t reflect poorly on the the UGA program and have an influence on recruits and bowls, you are simply naive. It is detrimental.

          As to your level of “knowledge” or “ignorance”, it is what it is Scott. You do not sit in strategy meetings, attend practice, or watch the interaction of players and coaches, so you are not in the position to make decisions about whom to fire, or play. You have an opinion, one voice of over a million plus fans who also have opinions. CMR is not only in a position to know more than you, he is also one of the very best at his job in America so he is significantly more qualified to act on that knowledge. Of course you are unqualified to speak so demonstrably about what should be done. Just as someone outside your firm is out of line to publicly criticize the way you make business decsions, or raise your family. In a public position CMR has to let people speak their mind, regardless of how rude they may be, or how little they know about which they speak. But when it comes down to making those decisions, he doesn’t rely on you…..and he shouldn’t. But you do make his job much harder.

          You ask below if someone thinks he was telling the truth about making the decision based on what he thought, not the public. I have no doubt he told the absolute truth. If he didn’t, if he truly made decisions of this magnitude because of people who have opinions but are not as knowledgeable as he, I would be very disappointed. I would think at that point, he is weak and unqualified to do the job. I have no reason to believe he runs his shop like that.

          Richt is a man of character, a man with pride, and a person strong enough to stand at the top and not be swayed by the hysteria outside. I felt changes were needed, but knew he would handle things his own way, at the time he felt was right. Those now crowing they were responsible are just people so insecure they need to feel important some how. That is sad.

          To question Richt’s integrity about this decision is wrong. His decision was reached after much thought, and he didn’t throw three men he cared about, and their families out, because of people who read message boards and think they have the answers. Zero Scott, zero. And that is the right answer. I don’t know if you have personnel responsibility at your firm or not, but I can tell you in my business life I made decisions based on what I knew to be true, not what was the popular or easy way.


  4. Toomdawg

    Richt is a complex man, with inner-tensions that many of us can relate to, albeit on a smaller level. Is he consumed with instilling his Christian principles and always doing “the right thing” in his eyes, or is he privately and internally, a very competitive guy who wants to win more than any of us? At this point, I’d say he’s both, as well as being politically, very savvy.

    That’s a tough balance that somehow, he manages to do, even if it is sometimes a little late.


    • You probably have your answer right here: He did the right thing by letting those guys have enough of a chance that keeping them would risk his own job; then, for competitive reasons, he chose to keep his own job rather than step down because of his personal loyalty to other good people.

      CMR apparently believes they’re both important, but doing the right thing is more important than winning. On the other side of that you have Saban, Pete Carroll, Rodriguez, et. al.

      I think he’s done just right, not too late at all. I want a coach with integrity that wants to win. I think he is who we think he is.


  5. NCT

    Oh, one more thing. With that “Zero. Zero.”, are we now allowed to smile?


    • Scott

      Do you believe Richt was being truthful? If he says otherwise, he would be just inviting more fan input in the future. Richt’s answer was what any good manager would say, so I have no problem with it.


  6. baltimore dawg

    i believe it, too, that this was entirely richt’s call. i certainly hope so.

    you know, it had to happen. the deterioration of the defense under martinez is beyond dispute. and i don’t think that equates to “he’s a bad dc” necessarily. players play, coaches pay–that’s college football. after all, you can’t fire the players.

    so i was on record a long time ago as saying that i was never sold on willie as dc because it didn’t seem to me that cmr had conducted a genuine job search when bvg left. it just seemed like a recipe for failure from the beginning.

    it had to happen, but i feel still feel a little sad, for the coaches involved but also for cmr–he is, as you say, a thoroughly decent guy, and this could not but have been gut-wrenching for him.

    it’s a results-driven business (mostly); i hope that at some point down the line richt can take some comfort in knowing that he exercised uncommon patience with the results these guys produced.


  7. Hogbody Spradlin

    I believe Richt made his decision without influence from public pressure, but I bet it took a Herculean effort to block it out.


  8. We learned more about CMR yesterday than we did in his previous nine years.


  9. Dog in Fla

    “If anything surprised me about the announcement, it’s that Richt has asked the three to stay on and coach through the bowl game.”

    That’s so weird. Everytime I’ve been fired, and it’s always by people who claim to be so-called ‘managerial experts’, they always come up with the excuse that it’s for me spending Zero.Zero time on work and as my ‘going-away’ present, security always appears to escort me off premises. Immediately. Even though I would like to stay around and poison the well just a little more to add to the general overall esprit de corps of the place. Sometimes I don’t even get a chance to shut my computer down from being on non-job related things like Get Th


  10. The Realist

    I hope that all three guys land on their feet, and from what we know of Richt, he’ll do anything in his power to ensure they do.

    There is a theory in business that eventually everyone gets promoted to the level of incompetence… or, really, to a position that is over their heads. Martinez was a fine DB coach. This is not in dispute. But, for whatever reason, he did not have what it takes to be the DC for a SEC school with realistic championship ambitions. That’s not to say he couldn’t be DC in any other conference, or at South Carolina (I kid… not really), but he seemed to be in over his head as DC at Georgia. It’s a shame, but it’s the nature of sports, business, and life in general.

    I hate that three families are being uprooted, but the coaching profession is nothing if not fickle and transient.

    And, after decrying my doubts that Richt was, um, fortitudinal (should be a word) enough to make this tough decision, I have to eat a little crow. He has given every indication that, not only is he a fair and just boss (and good man), but he also wants to win and is willing to do what it takes to do so within his own parameters on his timeline.

    He is exactly what I want in a head coach, and I have full faith and trust that he’ll make a quality hire at DC… most likely someone completely off the radar.


  11. Chuck

    I think asking them to stay on is brilliant. 1) The fear that they will ‘poison the well’ is false. They all seem like decent people, but more than that, they are all essentially interviewing publicly for their next job. 2) If you can announce new hires before the bowl (as soon as possible) effective after the bowl, you get a head start on the campaign to reassure recruits and to provide an opportunity to mend fences. IIRC, there is a dead period at the end of January, and we need to be in homes with a plan before then. 3) He really has no choice: if he doesn’t ask them to stay he goes into a bowl game with half a coaching staff(and virtually none on defense) or he has to wait until after the bowl game to fire which is waaaay too late for getting good hires and for mending fences with recruits.


  12. Dog in Fla

    “just plain dumb (I’d rather Richt have retained Martinez than hire John Thompson).”

    John Thompson’s agent will have you know that it not ‘just plain dumb’ because as you can see from John’s c.v. time-line that even though the ‘stick-to-it-tiveness’ that John has may be called by some untrained observers to be somewhat lacking, he has been glued, although none of it by Super Glue, more like what is almost glue on the back of 3M sticky tabs, to a lot of different places albeit for very short periods of time.

    Clearly, John is an expert in getting hired. He therefore knows how to be a good interview participant. Plus John already knows a lot of the head coaches and former head coaches who are now assistants in the league as well as good places to eat in the different towns.

    John’s hobbies and special interests include travel, packing and unpacking and packing again. Plus with John having the Statesboro Blues now because of the Georgia Southern purge, he too is now out of a job so what’s the dealio, why not a mercy interview? Oops, excuse me. I thought John was at Georgia Southern. Sometimes agent’s secretaries mess these things up. John’s at Georgia State so he has a job but would be willing to interview anyway and is sure Curry would have no problem at all with it. At least it would be a good practice interview for Mark who, by the way, at least up to now, never gave himself enough of a chance to interview people anyway.

    John’s Coaching Career (HC unless noted):

    1983-86 Northwestern State (DC)
    1987 Alabama (DC)
    1988-89 Northwestern State (DC)
    1990-91 Louisiana Tech (DC)
    1992-98 Southern Mississippi (DC)
    1999 Memphis (DC)
    2000-01 Arkansas (DC)
    2002 Florida (DC)
    2003-04 East Carolina
    2005 South Carolina (DC)
    2006 Central Arkansas (AD)
    2007 Ole Miss (DC)
    2009 Georgia State (DC)


  13. Irishdawg

    “I want a coach with integrity that wants to win.”

    Me too, and that’s what we have. It speaks well of Richt that he agonized over this; if Charlie Strong’s defenses had ever underperformed like UGA’s did this year, Urban Meyer would have had him flogged at midfield in front of the entire booster club. That Richt is competitive without being an absolute bastard makes me proud that he is our coach. I want championships badly, but I don’t want a man of low character representing my alma mater.


  14. Farsider

    I think at the core that CMR is a decent man and that he deferred yesterday’s decision until the evidence was incontrovertible that the current group could not arrest the defensive unit’s decline. If CMR were that responsive to rising fan discontent, he would have made the change last year, or even earlier. Another factor to consider is the changing face of the Eastern division, especially the developments at UT. It’s not getting any less competitive, and last years coaching changes illustrate the ultimate price of complacency.


  15. Will Trane

    Will Coach Richt consider Joe Tresey as the new DC? He knows the states of Georgia and Florida. He left Brian Kelley and came back south. Why? His defense teams are prepared and aggressive.


  16. So Fabris “screwed with Walsh’s head” last year… but then just decided to not screw with his head this year, letting Walsh just do whatever he wants (thus allowing Walsh’s innate greatness to surface)?


    Maybe Walsh was just a true freshman who, with a year of growth and practice, finally got it.


    • Hogbody Spradlin

      Texas, take a Prozac.


      • Brandon

        I believe Texas_Dawg is merely this blog’s court appointed coach defender, and he is currently engaged in the zealous conduct of his ordained enterprise. If he is not being compelled under penalty of law to defend any coach, any time, any where, when verbally attacked or questioned, be it explicitly or implicitly, then I agree, he should take something. Everybody needs a little something sometime.


    • 69Dawg

      Are you really trying to defend Fab or are you just trying to stir the pot? Of all the assistants Fab was the most likely to get the boot. He was a loose canon that was borderline insubordinate. His DE’s, even the great ones were great pass rushers but would get beat on any misdirection plays that the other team could run. They seldom protected on the backside of any play and UGA has been toasted more than a few times by reverses etc.

      The kickoff team was an abortion. Was a 2nd string QB really the best Kick Off cover guy we could field? Fab did things that made CMR’s job harder and harder as the year went on and last time I checked making your boss have to cover for your mistakes will get you fired.


  17. Julie

    I think Willie was agonized over the most by CMR — Fabris the least.