The inevitable 2016 postmortem post

Confession time:  my Georgia football viewing habits have changed over the past two seasons.

Oh, it’s not that I stopped going to games or watching the live broadcasts.  Didn’t miss a one.  I’ve even resorted to the radio on that rare occasion when I had no other option.

But I used to indulge in recording everything and going back to watch it all again in the offseason.  Then, in the aftermath of the 2015 season, about a month after the bowl game, I realized I had no interest in reliving any part of that dull grind. Out went it all.

2016?  Well, after the Nicholls game, I stopped recording every game.  It didn’t seem worth the effort.  As for those few that were archived, I didn’t even wait for the bowl game to delete them from my DVR.  His-to-ree.

In the end, it wasn’t so much that last season in its totality was good or bad — certainly it contained moments of both — as it was uninvolving.  (Shades of 2015.)  Even in earlier seasons when Georgia couldn’t get out of its own way to win a division title, there were special times worth savoring again, like Clemson 2014, or the 2013 South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee games.  What’s the 2016 analogue to those?  Maybe North Carolina, but that was more about Chubb’s triumphant return than anything else.  Auburn?  It was great being there, but in the aftermath, how excited could I get about a game that didn’t feature a single offensive touchdown?

2016 was the year in which the lows were a lot lower than the highs were high.  In fact, it’s hard to think of another season where the lows were this bad, both from a quality and quantity standpoint.

I think, though, that the best way to reflect upon this past season is to see it (I hope) as the culmination of a trend that’s played out over three seasons.  As Bill Connelly noted in the wake of Richt’s firing,

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.

Georgia’s 2016 F/+ finish?  59th.  So things haven’t been heading in the right direction for a while now.  It’s easy to lay some of that at the feet of Richt’s failings in roster management and just because it’s easy doesn’t mean that isn’t a fair cop.  But I think there’s another place at which to point the finger in explanation.

See if you can spot another trend.

  • 2014:  Grantham is replaced by Pruitt.
  • 2015:  Bobo is replaced by Schottenheimer.
  • 2016:  Richt is replaced by Smart, who replaces both coordinators.

For a program that boasted a rare degree of coaching stability for several years, those are a lot of major disruptions in a short period.  Most of the players who suited up for Georgia this past season were playing for their second coordinator in three seasons.  Throw in a steady stream of position coach changes and whatever the hell they did on special teams and that’s a recipe for confusion.  It’s harder to play inspired football when you’re not always sure of what you’re doing.

Assuming no staff changes are coming, this next season will be the first year since 2013 where everyone returns on the same page.  I think it’s reasonable to assume that’s a good thing.  Add to that other factors I’ve touched on before, like a rising talent base that should end any talent gap with its East rivals Georgia had suffered from last year and a less than stout schedule, and it’s not unfair to expect Georgia’s advanced stats to reverse that pattern of decline.

That’s all stuff for another day and post, though.  In the meantime, let’s sift through some things that went right, some that didn’t and some that went way off the tracks to crash spectacularly.

THE GOOD

  • On offense, the development of three true freshman, Eason, Nauta and Ridley, along with Nick Chubb’s return (Chubb finished seventh in rushing in the conference) were all heartening developments.  Sony Michel was Sony Michel.  Isaiah McKenzie turned into a legitimate offensive threat.
  • On defense, the development of the young d-line talent was the best news of all.  Right behind that was the emergence of Roquan Smith at ILB.  Maurice Smith transferred in from Alabama and was a major contributor at the Star position.  Deandre Baker looks like a keeper at corner.
  • Special teams?  Two words:  Rodrigo Blankenship.
  • Turnover margin was +8 for the season.

THE BAD

  • The offensive line has to lead this list.  It struggled all season.
  • A close second was red zone defense.
  • Punting was another subpar area of need.
  • Allowing Tennessee’s Hail Mary to succeed.
  • Ditto the Georgia Tech comeback.

THE UGLY

  • The failed attempt to plug the round peg of Georgia’s offensive philosophy into the square hole that was Georgia’s personnel.
  • Special teams coverage and return games were beyond awful.  Wasting a talent like McKenzie’s bordered on criminally negligent.
  • Clock management was exactly what you’d expect from a first year head coach who took hands on to the max.
  • The Nicholls and Ole Miss games.

Contrary to what some of you think, I’m optimistic about Georgia’s chances in 2017.  I’ve mentioned a few reasons to thing things are on the upswing, but the single thing that impressed me the most in 2016 was the decision by the four rising seniors to stay Dawgs.  It’s not just the shot of experience and talent that gives the team next season; it’s the vote of confidence those players have in their head coach.  That gives me some hope that, at a minimum, we won’t go through points as low as some we suffered through in ’16.

Buuuut… as a final thought, though, if anything cautions me about jumping too far off the cliff with my enthusiasm, it’s that perhaps the most disappointing thing about the 2016 regular season is that Georgia did not steadily improve over its course.  Instead, the year was a series of fits and spurts… and, as the Georgia Tech game demonstrated, more fits.  Is that evidence of growing pains, or a coaching staff that never really settled in?  My heart says the former, but my head says the jury is still out.  Right now, all we can do is hope for better times soon.  That’s what you do after throwaway years.

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53 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

53 responses to “The inevitable 2016 postmortem post

  1. 81Dog

    Nice Eddie Albert homage there! Didn’t he believe in the process, too?

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  2. Great post, Senator. The good to me was clearly the UNC game and the 2nd half of the bowl game. We dominated at the point of attack and got a chance to see what Chubb and Michel do when given a chance. The bad was really the Ole Miss and Florida games. Those performances were the type of losses that got the previous guy fired. The Ole Miss game was embarrassing. I expected a loss, but I expected a team that would fight for 60 minutes. The ugly for me was the Nicholls game. All of the season’s shortcomings on the field and the sideline showed up in that game and almost put Kirby on the hot seat in week 2. A special ugly goes out for the final 1/2 quarter against tech … truly snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

    Does 2017 portend better for our Dawgs? I hope you’re right about the 4 guys returning as a positive for the upperclassmen’s perspective on the direction of the program. That and a great recruiting class give me hope.

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    • Atticus

      And I have to hope and pray year 2 under Smart and Chaney goes the way it did for the Falcons under Dan Quinn and Kyle Shanahan.

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      • I heard on the broadcast that Ryan spent a lot of time in 2015 making sure the right play got called rather than on execution. I hope to see the same from Eason … still not sold on Chaney and his fat pencil.

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        • Positively Munson (formerly Skeptic Dawg)

          The Falcons story is a great read for the Dawgs. 2015 Matt Ryan looked unsure of where to deliver the ball and uncomfortable in the pocket all the while developing happy feet. The solution for the 2016 Falcons was simple, upgrade the OL with an All-Pro center and watch everything else fall into place. I am not sure that the Dawgs have a 1st Team All-SEC center on the roster, but this is where the improvement must start. If by hook or crook the Dawgs are able to find/develop an average to above average SEC center 2017 will be a very strong season with more ups than downs. That and find/develop a WR or two.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Atticus

            Exactly. But it doesn’t have to only be the center, it just needs to be the line in general and a bigger running game with better downfield blocking from the WRs. Then slow it all down for Eason.

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          • I would definitely agree. Kublanow appeared to be playing out of position for the last 2 years after Boss Andrews went to the League. People talk about left tackle as so important (and it is), but give me a great center who can get his group on the same page and operating as a unit.

            Liked by 1 person

            • AthensHomerDawg

              It’s ironic that Boss and Andrews were both 3 stars, 280 lbders,at 6’3″ both from small or private HS I think.
              Both in the pros…. Dawgs have two players going to the Big dance.
              One of my subs told me this am that his gators were taking his falcons to the super bowl. I was a bit slow to recover but when I did I just reminded him that Atlanta was in Georgia. Not Florida.
              Gators…. Bless they hearts.

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          • artful codger

            Agreed ….big question mark to me is who projects at center ’17. DawgNation has mentioned Gaillard. Not too sure that I don’t like Wynn and his experience there.

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  3. sniffer

    After 17 years of development and “sitting at the feet” of excellent managers and leaders, my time finally came at the age of 39. I was never more lost in my life than that first two years of sitting in the big office. People who needed me to succeed knew I was barely treading water. It was sink or swim and swim I did.

    Kirby is going to be just fine. And Georgia football will excel as a result.

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  4. Atticus

    Just not fun to watch that offense. Please, PLEASE make Chaney watch film of the Falcons offense for the next 6 months every day!…..and make him go spend a few days with Matt Ryan & Kyle Shanahan before he leaves.

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    • It’s not that simple. A complex NFL offense run by grown men that have unlimited time to prepare is a recipe for disaster in college ball.

      The Bobo hybrid that he had cooking post 2010 is the way to go.

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      • Atticus

        I never said college kids would be the same, and never said run the exact same offense, but some ingenuity in play calling (versus the same runs over and over) misdirection, motion, and route development is a start. Also those same NFL grown me that had all that time to prepare…. had the same issues last year as they didn’t make the playoffs.The key is us what you have, take advantage of the athletes and mismatches. But you need time and that is where the OL is key and the 2nd year in the system.

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        • Yeah, they also added a top 3 center that made the line work. You HAVE to have at least one or two studs on the O-Line to make an offense click, and the QB has to be extremely comfortable in the system. Matt Ryan (NFL MVP) and Kyle Shannahan were both in ATL last year playing for the Falcons. It takes a lot to make a pro-style offense hum.

          Liked by 1 person

    • AthensHomerDawg

      Please, PLEASE make Chaney watch film of the Falcons offense for the next 6 months every day!…

      And PLEASE PLEASE do make GTP required reading for Chaney. We would have told him early on that playing bammer ball with our O line was not prudent.

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  5. UGA85

    I’m glad you mentioned the buy in from (especially) Chubb and Michel. Add to that the buy in from, possibly, the best recruiting class in UGA history, and you have a lot of young men believing in CKS. I hate that years with a true freshman quarterback and a true first year head coach are so mediocre, but they always are. Looking forward to some payback games in 2017, especially against UT and UF.

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  6. 3rdandGrantham

    This probably sounds lame, but for years my wife and I have been doing a ‘breakfast with the bulldogs,’ which involves us re-watching a UGA win on Sunday mornings. Well, over the last few years, we’ve pretty much given up that tradition (too many losses and/or too many ugly wins), but I’ve predicted to her that those days would be returning again very soon — maybe starting as early as next season.

    Speaking if which, my early prediction next year is 11-3, with a loss to Bama in the SECC. As for ’18, we will be a playoff team by then.

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  7. UGA85

    I also think that some of the more subdued, melancholy feelings may be about college football in general, rather than about UGA specifically. The game just isn’t the same anymore to me, and 2016 was a downer, with Bama being so dominant and the SEC otherwise being so mediocre. This, for me, explains some of the loss of interest.

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    • It’s all cyclical.

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    • MLB2

      I’m with you. The lack of patience/instant gratification culture has rubbed me the wrong way. I used to watch as much college football as possible but I’ve spent most of my fall Saturdays on the lake the last couple of years. I don’t expect that trend to change for me. Once my kids stop using the tickets,. I’ll be done donating no matter the success of the program. Give someone else a chance to enjoy them. Getting old is a bitch.

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      • AthensHomerDawg

        “Age is a hell of a price to pay for wisdom. ”
        George Carlin

        Sold lake house… Too much hi or low water. Had the boat cause sons like to ski. I bought estate lot when prices fell out. Gamble. Building a house. Pond is done. Just 3/4 acre pond. I’ll probably catch more fish here than at lake. 🙂 Bride enjoying day dreaming about her house. I see my youngest a 3L every Sunday for dinner. My eldest at least once a month. I don’t work 80 hr weeks anymore and do projects that I think I’d enjoy. But it is winding down. And both sons are on my but about spending more time with “Mom”. Meh… If they’d get the hell outta school I’D relax. 😉

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        • Macallanlover

          Sounds like you are getting to a “good place”. Makes those long work weeks worth it, smart to cut all that back and enjoy life while you still can. Too many go with their boots on.

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    • Alabama really sucks a lot of air out of the room and seems to kill a lot of joy in the sport because there is just as sense of inevitability about them. Even with Clemson knocking them off, it’s not like they’re going anywhere. 7 straight #1 recruiting classes will do that, I suppose. I don’t remember it being like this under USC in the early-aughts, but that might be more due to proximity / Georgia not being one of the top programs in the nation now as opposed to 2002-2008 era.

      I found a lot of joy this past season in going full PAPN mode a la Bill C. and Godfrey and seriously paying attention to what was going on in the Group of 5 conferences. The MAC, AAC, and Mountain West were a lot of fun to follow this year. I also thoroughly enjoyed watching the Pac-12 race this year with the two Washington schools and Colorado doing their things. I sure as hell didn’t get much joy out of watching Georgia or the SEC this year, that’s for damn sure.

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    • MGW

      2007 was a tease, then 2012 was so so close. Its just been rough since then.

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  8. Otto

    Going back to the preseason topics my expectation was for the team to be much than expected at times and much worse at others, which your post seems to echo. UGA football will be fine, Smart may or may not succeed. I like the recruiting class if he closes the deal. I think expectations are set a little high going into this season, I have posted more than once a young OL have a price, which is a bad you posted above. Year 3 is my big expectation.

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  9. Bright Idea

    My biggest concern is Kirbys offensive philosophy. If he wants to stay in the huddle forever and burn clock and play to his defense he’s gonna be in a lot of close games that could go either way at the end. We owned time of possession this year but not the scoreboard.

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    • Dog in Fla

      “he’s going to be in a lot of close games”

      The legend of Zook and Boom at Florida.

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      • Normaltown Mike

        The Legend of Ron Zook is alive and well!

        Green Bay was flagged for a delay of game ON A KICKOFF yesterday…when they cut to the sideline, I guffawed heartily at the visage of Ronald Andrew Zook…Special Teams Coordinator!

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        • Dog in Fla

          I always thought Zook would have still been living large on the Illini buyout money. It’s good to know that he’s still a Special Teams Coach, at least through yesterday.

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        • I’m surprised Packers fans with an entrepreneurial spirit haven’t started firespecialteamscoordinator.com yet. One can dream.

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          • Dog in Fla

            Who moved Ron’s key to the strawberry locker?

            Ron explains his theory. On his last tour of duty in Hogtown, Ron’s cheese had been moved by someone who made a duplicate key to the refrigerator padlock. Ron made the perp confess, earning Ron a letter of good citizenship and a promotion to special teams coordinator. Ron thinks something similar happened with the strawberries, and orders every member of the staff to hand in a special written report presenting at least two alibis otherwise they’ll get three days in the brig.

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    • Otto

      I think it will come with OL depth and experience.

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    • Bulldog Joe

      If he is going to play that way, he better dominate on special teams.

      He lost the special teams battle last year.

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    • Ask Boom how that worked out. Today’s college game requires that you keep your foot on the gas on offense for 60 minutes and pressure the defense. Time of possession is absolutely the most overrated statistic in football. It means nothing unless you’re scoring points in bunches. Otherwise, it means you’re standing around a lot.

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  10. Macallanlover

    Seems the consensus is fix “X” on the offense, whether it be the OL, scheme, play calling, formations, or personnel usage. Just a butt ugly offense in almost every game, and one that didn’t look better from Game 1 through the end.

    I would add to that one other glaring need, We have to develop a plan for how, and when, to challenge a call, or use a timeout to freeze the moment to give them time to review, or to use a challenge if officials don’t stop play on their own. It definitely cost us the TN game, with two different calls, perhaps one other game as well. 1-2 games difference on a W/L is a huge difference. Getting on top of that one seems simple given the number of payroll staff members available dedicate one to watch/listen to the TV broadcast with this specific accountability. And yes, the “listen” part is important because you can bet the replay booth, and Birmingham, are both sensitive to criticism from the announcers for a potential blown call because they influence public opinion. Final decision is Kirby’s but having someone he really trusts buzz him is a must have, he just cannot be in the best place to see it all live, and particularly from different angles and in slow/stop action. Coordinators can certainly chime in but I feel having one person assisting them with nothing else on their mind would help.

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  11. Normaltown Mike

    Is a postmortem on 2016 complete if it doesn’t at least mention our win at G-Day?

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  12. Senator – my birthday’s not until tomorrow and you bless me early with a well thought out and rational piece about what was seriously one of the least fun seasons I can remember as a Georgia fan. 🙂

    Your last paragraph really summarizes where I am. I would be much more on board with optimism if the team had steadily progressed over 2017 instead of being all over the place (felt like the not good end of the spectrum for much of the season). I guess that’s what you get with OTJ training.

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  13. 69Dawg

    Still loving the “offense sucked” meme. The offense had us in the lead in the UT game and in the GT game and yet Kirby Smart, the legendary Alabama DC’s defense allowed the other team to come back. With a returning defensive back field, two returning position coaches, a good defensive line and adequate linebacker 10-3 should have been the record but for a complete meltdown on defense. Why did Kirby even hire Tucker? Every time the defense was on the sideline Kirby was talking to them and coaching individual players. Hell Kirby was even sending in defensive signals on plays. Have you ever heard the expression too many cooks spoil the broth? How many time have you seen Saban signal to his defense, none. Kirby has got to stop being the DC and start being the head coach.
    If Kirby is going to play offense, like many have suggested, he really better figure out a way to stop somebody in the red zone. It was so bad this year that I actual gave up on the D once the opponent cross our 20. There was no schematic advantage. After the first few games the opposing teams just ran the ball into the endzone. They didn’t even have to trick us. So keep criticizing the offense, lord knows they looked bad at times, but the defense was where I thought we really sucked.

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  14. Just Chuck (the other one)

    There’s a lot of optimism but we keep coming back to the state of the offensive line. I think we’re going to be fine . . . in the second half of the season. Granted we’re expecting to sign a lot of offensive line talent but, to paraphrase Steven Herndon (remember him?), the guys have to have some experience playing together before they become effective. I expect things to be a little rocky on offense the first few games.

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  15. Uglydawg

    Also ugly..Vandy’s first score.

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    • Mayor

      Well, if you are going there Georgia was about to win the Vandy game when Chaney had a brain cramp on 4th and less than 1 and decided to use Chubb as a DECOY and give the ball to the smallest player on the team who got thrown backwards by an arm tackle. If the QB hands the ball to Chubb with a FB blocking and runs him over Pyke they get the first and likely the win. That was ugly.

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  16. Mayor

    Great post, Senator. You managed to capture pretty much exactly how I feel. Add the end of the Vandy game to the ugly, though. See above.

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  17. Dbreaker2

    8-5 was what most everyone expected in 2016 and expects in 2017. it’s gonna take some time, we all know that. Why will it take longer than 2017? Weak inexperienced oline, inexperienced and unproven wr–no gamebreakers there again, QB can’t complete enough passes to keep d’s honest. So no, don’t buy the hype, be patient.

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    • No one expected an 8-5 record that could have been 4-8 in 2016. Otherwise, we would have never been in the preseason top 25. This team should have won at least 10 games. We threw away 2 wins against tech and Vanderbilt. We got embarrassed by Ole Miss and laid an egg against Florida. We were lucky against Auburn and Missouri. Sorry to say but this team underachieved just like the last 2 teams have.

      We go 8-5 again in 2017 against another soft schedule and the barbarians will be at the gate on South Campus.

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