This ain’t working.
And by “this”, I don’t mean Brian Schottenheimer’s playcalling. I know that’s the most visible part of an offensive coordinator’s job, and the part we tend to latch onto when it comes time for praise and/or criticism, but that wasn’t the problem with yesterday’s offensive… eh, I don’t even know what to call it.
I mean, think about it: Jay Rome should have scored twice; Malcolm Mitchell should have caught a touchdown pass; Sony Michel should have opened the game with a big gain out of the wildcat. None of that transpired because of shortcomings in execution – drops, a ball that wasn’t thrown well enough to lead Mitchell and an obvious holding call on Hicks. I can’t say that making those plays as they were drawn up would have been good enough for the win, but it damned sure would have kept the game competitive.
I also can’t blame a guy for thinking that his offensive line can block well enough to convert a third-and-one situation. At least once, anyway.
I don’t fault Schottenheimer for the decision to start Bauta, either. It’s not panic to think the offense needed a spark to jump-start it after what had transpired in the three previous games.
But that’s as far as my absolution takes me here, because in every other phase of an OC’s job description, Schottenheimer’s been awful.
Start with the Bauta decision. You’ve got a kid you lacked sufficient confidence in to name as the starter to begin the season, and you hand him the ball mid-season to run the same sputtering crap that caused you to make the change at QB in the first place, instead of trying to structure the gameplan to take specific advantage of his skill set. Not only that, but you don’t even have enough confidence in your decision to give him all the reps with the ones during bye week preparation. The end result was predictable. Timing issues with the receivers. Inconsistent mechanics. A poor feel for how much time there was to hold on to the ball. (Bauta didn’t help his cause with a stubborn refusal to know when to throw a ball away, admittedly.) Progression reads that came and went.
You didn’t do the kid any favors, in other words. Especially against an above-average defense that’s got a half-season of the SEC wars under its belt.
That’s just part of the bigger picture of failure at quarterback development. That may be where Georgia misses Mike Bobo most. None of the three quarterbacks has shown any progression this season. Indeed, all the faults Bauta showed that I catalogued aren’t anything unique to him this season. Lambert and Ramsey have also been guilty of the same. One quarterback, maybe it’s the kid. All three? That’s on the position coach.
And some of that goes back to what I fretted about in the preseason. I get that some of what happened after the spring had to do with the coaches trying to find a way to motivate Ramsey, but at some point, you’ve got to make a decision and go with it. By waiting so late to decide on Lambert as the starter, he robbed the offense of time it needed to gel together. That’s a large part of what’s made the offense sputter.
The other huge area where things have flopped is in overall game planning/offensive philosophy. Richt looked at the strength and weakness of his 2015 offense and thought pursuing a similar approach that worked for Georgia’s in 2014 would be the ticket. All well and good. And hiring a run-oriented pro-style coordinator like Schottenheimer also made sense. The problem has been that in 2014 the offense had a passing game threat it could sell, albeit on a limited basis. There wasn’t a real downfield threat, but Mason’s ability to avoid turnovers combined with a high completion rate meant there was still something for opposing defenses to account for in loading the box.
Fast forward to now. There isn’t a quarterback within spitting distance of Mason’s completion rate. Lambert’s been lucky with turnovers, but overall, Georgia’s quarterbacks have been poor protecting the ball. And combined, what that’s meant is that defenses can ignore Georgia’s passing game with impunity. Which is exactly what the Gators did yesterday.
Schottenheimer’s problem is that he lacks the creativity to work around the problem. Georgia wants to be a run-first offense, but that identity has been taken away. Schottenheimer is clearly not comfortable using the pass to set up the run; there’s an inconsistency in taking what defenses are giving him.
So we’re now at a point where the offense doesn’t work – that’s almost an understatement – and there’s no reason to think the offensive coordinator’s got any real strategy to climb out of the hole he’s helped dig. If you think I’m being overly dramatic, consider that as you read this, the coaches have no idea who starts at quarterback against Kentucky, and worse, none of the choices look particularly attractive.
That’s what I mean by this ain’t working. And I don’t see how it’s gonna get fixed any time soon.