My last post got me to thinking (“Oh, Gawd,” you’re saying, “what now?”) about some of the ongoing debates we’ve had in the comments section – okay, the debate we’ve had in the comments section – and I can’t help but believe most people are missing the bigger picture surrounding the football program at present.
It strikes me that what the pessimists get correct is Mark Richt’s failings as a game manager. It’s not his strong suit, to be sure. We’ve all seen (or recited) the litany of games where there’s either been a head scratcher of a decision at a key moment, or a game where the team came out unprepared, mentally or emotionally, to play at the level expected. It’s a reality and it’s probably not going away. If that’s not something you’re prepared to concede, you, friend, are a blind optimist.
That being said, it ain’t necessarily the end of the world. If it were, I’d expect to hear a lot of similar comments about the dire straits Alabama is headed towards. After all, consider how the Tide’s last two seasons have ended – in 2013, a loss to Auburn on a play that Saban’s team looked totally unprepared to handle that knocked them out of the SEC and national title hunt, followed by a listless performance against Big Game Bob (!) and then last season’s smoking at the hands of Ohio State, a team Kirby Smart admitted Alabama took lightly because it was starting a third-string quarterback. Gee, where have I heard that before?
But that’s not really the point I’m trying to make here. Instead, my main point is directed toward those who’ve wanted a coaching change. Well, in essence, I’d say you already have that coaching change.
Consider the following:
- Assistant staff. With Tony Ball’s departure, there
is only one are only two assistant coaches on the staff left from 2013, and one of them, Brian McClendon, is not at the same position he occupied a mere two seasons ago. You’d expect to have a similar amount of turnover if Georgia had replaced Richt, wouldn’t you?
- Recruiting. As I said in my earlier post today, to go from the days of voluntarily running a roster with less than 70 scholarship players on it to the aggressive signing of a legit recruit four+ months after national signing day is a 180 degree turn of events. When you consider that was Georgia’s second such signing of an offensive lineman it plucked from another major program in this class (Madden) and what Georgia did to secure Roquan Smith’s commitment, recruiting is clearly in a different and better place than the one it occupied just a few seasons ago.
- Special teams. If serial undersigning has been Richt’s biggest sin over the last six years or so, the second biggest has been how he let special teams deteriorate. Georgia went from having return games that were weapons to a fair catch specialist. Inexcusable. I’m not saying the Dawgs are out of the woods completely, but anyone who watched special teams play last season has to concede that things are moving in the proper direction. That only happens when a head coach wakes up and realizes what he’s done wrong. (Or the new guy corrects the predecessor’s glaring mistake.)
- Infrastructure. You may not think an IPF is all that necessary, but one is still in the works. There’s been a robust increase in the size of the support staff for the program. The recruiting budget has been seriously jacked up. All of this is stuff that a new head coach at a program like Georgia would likely demand as a condition for taking the job. Which leads to…
- Administrative support. We’ve come a long way from Greg McGarity’s interview with Mark Bradley and the weirdness surrounding the post game Belk Bowl. And again, there’s no way somebody comes in after Richt without making demands that B-M quit working at cross-purposes with the football staff.
You wanted wholesale change; you got it, brother. The only thing you didn’t get was a different name at the top. And maybe that spoils the whole thing for you. You’d call yourself a realist for that. I’d argue, instead, that it makes you a blind pessimist.
I have no idea if all these changes are going to pay off. (Then, again, I’d have no idea if a new head coach would pay off, either.) But there’s enough happening to intrigue me sufficiently to want to see what Richt can do with this over the next two or three seasons.
If Richt’s greatest flaw has been loyalty to a fault – really, that explains Martinez overstaying his welcome as defensive coordinator and Richt’s reluctance to put himself in a position where he might potentially screw over a kid who committed to Georgia – his greatest strength has been his willingness to look at himself in the mirror, see his strategic mistakes and take concrete steps to correct them. There are a lot of head coaches at programs inferior to Georgia who could never remake themselves.
And Richt, to his credit, has done that once already. Tell me – after the debacles of the ’09 and ’10 seasons, how many of you anticipated Georgia would reel off back-to-back SECCG appearances and come within a whisker of playing for a national title in the next two seasons? I know I thought Richt’s departure was a more likely outcome than that.
I’m not saying this because I’m a Richt apologist or because I’m satisfied with Georgia football failing to win a championship of any sort for a decade. I’m saying this because it’s hard to think of any other major program that’s remade itself to the extent ours has in such a short period without a change at head coach. And that’s a big enough deal for me to want to see how the story plays out.
It’s a helluva lot more interesting a story than the bullshit the national media spins out about Richt and his program these days, that’s for sure. Maybe you should stick around for the ride, too. With your eyes open.