Daily Archives: November 30, 2015

Where we’re at, in Richt’s eyes

Pretty much sums it up:

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Saban envy

From Bill Connelly’s Richt epitaph:

After a miserable October, his team rallied. The Dawgs didn’t finish playing top-10-caliber ball, but they won four in a row. That means they’re a bowl win away from a fourth 10-win season in five years (and a 10th in 14). In an obvious down year. Most programs would pay millions for this type of disappointment.

After falling out of the F/+ top 40, the Bulldogs are back up to 34th. Yes, that’s a bad performance for a program with Georgia’s potential, even one that loses its offensive coordinator and starting quarterback in the offseason and one of the best players in the country (Nick Chubb) to injury midway.

But this poor performances comes on the heels of four consecutive F/+ top-15 finishes (13th in 2011, seventh in 2012, 14th in 2013, fourth in 2014).

5. Here are the other programs that pulled that off in that same span: Alabama.

That’s it. Florida State didn’t do it. Oregon didn’t. Ohio State didn’t. But Richt even pulled it off in 2013, with a brutally young defense and receivers exploding like Spinal Tap drummers.

This reminds you of how randomness plays a role in this sport. Rage against randomness or pretend there’s no such thing at your own peril. And while we can say Georgia is a sleeping giant, and that the program should expect better results, here’s a dirty little secret: almost no team gets to constantly win at the level we think it should achieve.

Everybody has setbacks and down years and disappointments and random losses and frustration against rivals. But Saban does it far less frequently than anybody else, and that makes people — especially SEC rivals — lose their damn minds.

Again, I’m not saying you can’t make a case that Richt didn’t deserve to lose his job.  But let’s be real about what has to come next.  As Bill succinctly puts it, “Dumping Richt was an impatient, emotional move. But it doesn’t matter if McGarity nails the replacement hire.”

The story of Georgia football under Richt is a series of ifs.  We’re opening up the next chapter of if.

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Masters of PR, ctd.

Seth Emerson tells us that (1) here is a press conference scheduled for this morning at which McGarity and Richt are supposed to be in attendance; and (2) McGarity is scheduled to meet with Georgia players later today.

Would there be anything more Georgia-ish than for McGarity to call upon the man he just fired to help smooth the waters?  Not that I would expect Richt to do anything less…

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UPDATE:  Yup.

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UPDATE #2:  More yup.

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The Richt decision: the future

If I’m glum today, it’s not because Mark Richt is gone.  It’s because the same people are in place running the department.  You know, the ones who have given us this track record:

Greg McGarity has been AD since mid-August of 2010, or for roughly 5 years, 3 months, and 2 weeks. Since that time, I found that all Georgia athletics teams have won a combined FOUR SEC titles, 3 of which came in women’s swimming/diving, and THREE national championships: 2 in women’s swimming/diving and 1 in equestrian.

In the 5 years, 3 months, and 2 weeks prior to McGarity becoming AD, or from early May 2005 through mid-August 2010, Georgia athletics captured TWENTY SEC titles, and TEN national championships: 4 in gymnastics, and 3 each for men’s tennis and equestrian.

Mock those red panties if you must, but the athletic department’s performance on the field is in decline since Damon Evans was let go.

The gory details, if you want them, are outlined by vineyarddawg in this post.  It would be kind to say that McGarity’s hires are undistinguished.  And yet he’s now been given the authority to make the biggest hire of his career.

I don’t cry out for people to be fired.  It’s not my style and nobody listens to me anyway.  So I’m not about to make an exception for Greg McGarity.  What I do wonder, though, is who’s directing the athletic director.  Boosters who pound their chest and cry, “We’re Georgia!”?  Jere Morehead, who to this point has shown nothing more than a willingness to open up the checkbook without giving any real indication that he knows the best way for the money to be spent?

That’s why I’m apprehensive.

There’s been way too much chatter about Kirby Smart to be discounted at this point, and I’m not about to do so.  But ask yourself something.  If Georgia really is this premier program, this sleeping giant, that much of the fan base and the national media believes it is, is the best this program can do in its next hire a coordinator with no head coaching experience?  Wasn’t that the resume of the coach they just fired?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll support whoever is hired, Smart included.  He’ll be Georgia’s head coach and that’s that for me.  But for once, I would love for this program to do the unexpected and take a chance on somebody outside the conventional box.  Show me that some real thought went into the shape of the future.  Please.

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The Richt decision: the present

If you watched any of the Iron Bowl broadcast this past Saturday, as I did, you might have noticed a discussion Gary and Verne had about the number of staffers Alabama had up in the coaches booth.  Lundquist was certain it was fifteen and damned if it didn’t look like it when the CBS camera panned the booth.  That room was crowded.

I mention this story not in a fit of jealousy, nor to condemn another program’s wasteful spending.  Rather, it’s a perfect example of what the Georgia Way is up against.  Regardless of where you think Richt falls on the performance spectrum, you cannot deny that for the bulk of his time in Athens, he was not allowed the resources to duke it out with Georgia’s main rivals.

Forget about the IPF.  Georgia was one of the last schools to give out multi-year contracts to assistant coaches.  (Ironically, the administration got away with that because of staff loyalty to Richt.)  Saban bulks up support staff; Richt is forced to come out of his own pocket to pay bonuses to his assistants.  Georgia’s recruiting budget was far short of what other conference schools were allocating until this year.

If you manage an SEC football program, there’s a difference between being committed to winning and being financially committed to winning.  Everybody wants to win.  The hard part is figuring out how to allocate resources to make sure that happens.  And, no, that doesn’t mean spending money like a drunken sailor.  (We’re looking at you, Tennessee.)  It simply means that if you think your rightful place is among the Alabamas, Floridas and LSUs of the world, you’d better take a hard look at what they’re doing and make sure you’re giving your coaching staff the opportunity to keep up with them.

Are things on a better track now?  Hard to say.  Yes, spending on certain things has crept up, but look what it took to get B-M’s collective head out of its ass.  And the jury is still out on whether the increase is being spent wisely.

What do I mean by that?  Georgia is letting coaches go who just received major raises and extensions (as well as Schottenheimer’s big deal, which was a huge bump up from what Bobo was getting) less than a year ago.  It’s in the wake of a disappointing 9-3 regular season, to be sure, but 9-3 is a long way away from unexpectedly awful.  If the firing of Richt is the result of an accumulation of flaws that he was unable to overcome, how come that didn’t slow the administration down when the new deals were made?

That’s not to say that either decision on its own can’t be justified.  But taken together, it’s not a sign of an organization that goes through enough serious consideration before making major decisions.  You tell me if that’s changed in the last month.

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The Richt decision: the past

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first.  Mark Richt is an admirable human being who also did a lot for the Georgia football program.

Do not forget where things were when Richt was hired.  Jim Donnan recruited well, but had a poor track record against rivals.  His teams would sparkle on occasion, but flop in the spotlight.  He never took Georgia to an SECCG.

In his second season, Mark Richt changed all that.  Georgia won its first conference title in twenty years.  More than that, Richt raised the program to a level of national success it hadn’t seen since the glory years of 1980-3.

He leaves with an impressive legacy, both on the field and in the way he conducted himself off of it.  And for that, we should all be extremely grateful.  It’s also worth remembering in the mercenary world of D-1 coaching, he meant what he said about wanting to be in Athens, no matter what that might have cost him if he’d had an aggressive agent negotiating for him.

None of which is to say he was perfect.  I got a good tasting of what was in store for the program in his first year.  I remember walking out of Sanford Stadium after the loss to South Carolina thinking it really wasn’t much different than what I’d seen from Donnan.  Then came the incredible win in Knoxville, when I saw that the team had bought into its new head coach.  Even the questionable clock management that I saw in the losses to Auburn and Boston College didn’t make me think Richt didn’t have the program going in the right direction.  And the next few years bore that out.

Through the ups and downs, I remained convinced that Richt was the best man for the job until the bowl game loss to Michigan State.  At that point, after watching the down years of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when that sense of buying in had worn away, I no longer took it as a given that Georgia was at its best playing under Richt.  That’s not to say I wasn’t incredibly proud of the way the team suddenly regained its confidence in the middle of the next season, or the way that the team tried to fight its way through the injury-plagued 2013 season.  But the emotional attachment to Richt himself was gone.

Richt’s fatal flaw, if you want to call it that, wasn’t about a lack of passion or not being obsessed enough by the job.  It was something more mundane:  an inability to stay on top of details.  We saw that on the field far too regularly in things like clock management.  But it also manifested itself in how he let his coordinators operate.  When he picked good men for those roles, the program thrived, and when he didn’t… well, he came close to losing his job over Willie Martinez and couldn’t survive what his 2015 staff did.

I give Richt credit for being very good about reacting to problems, once he realized he had them.  There are a lot of coaches who wouldn’t have been able to right the ship after 2009.  Georgia wound up playing in two straight SECCGs, and was a heartbreak away from playing for a national title in 2012.  Roster mismanagement, which was the major reason for the program’s recent decline, appeared to be in Georgia’s rear view mirror with the good work last year and this.

There was always that sense of the little boy and the dike, though.  We’d see one problem be addressed, only to see something else pop up.  And that never seemed to end.

Seth Emerson and Chip Towers reported that the decision to start Fauta against Florida was the back breaker for many of the boosters.  As poor a move as that was – and the implementation was even worse than the decision itself – I’m not sure in and of itself it would have been enough to do Richt in.  For that matter, going 19-6 over the last two seasons wouldn’t have been enough to end his career, either.  But as the last misstep in a continuing series, that’s a different story.

It’s sad to see any fifteen-year career end and Richt is a good enough man that I’m genuinely sorry it’s happened to him.  But I can’t deny that it was a decision that couldn’t be justified, even if the people making the call are at least as flawed in their management as Richt was.  When all is said and done, the little details matter.

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SEC Power Poll, Week 13

secpowerpoll2008_medium

And so, another regular season comes to an end.  This last week made one thing painfully apparent:  this is the most mediocre the SEC has been in years.

As I always do in the last PP of the year, net yards per game for each team will appear in a pathetic attempt to make it look like my evaluations mean something.  (A blogger’s gotta try, you know.)

  1. Alabama (+156.7).  The opening betting line for the SECCG is the largest in twenty years.
  2. Mississippi (+127.3).  The most puzzling team in the conference, hands down.
  3. Florida (+68.3).  Jim McElwain gets my vote as conference coach of the year.  And you know it pains me to say that about a Florida coach.
  4. Mississippi State (+66.4).  A nice year.  Not a great year, but a nice one.
  5. Arkansas (+52.7).  If the Hogs played in the East this season, could they have won the division?
  6. Tennessee (+52.1).  I’m probably giving the Vols too much credit for November.
  7. LSU (+76.5).  The Hat is back, baybee!  SEC Bloggers rejoice in their good fortune.
  8. Georgia (+83.4).  Yes, that’s the third best net yardage figure in the SEC.  No, Georgia isn’t the third best team in the SEC.
  9. Texas A&M (+55.8).  I don’t think this is the kind of season a $5 million a year coach is supposed to have.
  10. Auburn. (-54.5).  It’s something to think about how far short of preseason hype this team fell in 2015.  But for an overtime win against a FCS squad, the Gus Bus would be winterized and up on blocks in the garage now.
  11. Vanderbilt (-24.0).  Is it fair to say that a 4-8, 2-6 season exceeded expectations?  Sadly, yes.
  12. Kentucky (-22.2).  Remember when Mark Stoops got a big raise in the middle of 2014?  Good times, then.
  13. Missouri (-21.1).  You had a feeling when Arkansas scored that first touchdown, Mizzou’s season was over.
  14. South Carolina (-67.6).  Down and out.  And a long way to go to get back.

There you have it:  two good teams, several meh ones and a few poor ones.  2015 won’t go down as the SEC’s finest hour.

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