You’ve made your bed. Now…

Will Leitch watches yesterday’s presser and nails the underlying message:

The move to fire Richt was, in this way, the precise reactionary one that Georgia has always claimed it wasn’t about. At a bizarre press conference on Monday morning, McGarity attempted to keep up the façade that Georgia remained the classy place you thought it was, heaping praise on the man he had just fired right as he sat next to him. He was able to bathe himself in the Christian good nature of Richt, who answered questions honestly but with no malice or anger toward the executioner a few feet away; Richt, by taking the high ground at every opportunity, allowed McGarity to believe he was somehow still doing things the Right Way, even as he evaded every question and refused to even give a reason for Richt’s dismissal.

Richt said he told his players that the way you feel and the way you act should be two different things, and he couldn’t have exemplified that any better in his press conference. McGarity tried to pretend he was somehow doing the right thing by Richt by standing beside him, that it meant Georgia football Stood For Something. But the only reason you felt that way was because of Richt.

With Richt gone, Georgia can no longer claim that it is any better, or different, than any other school that believes it should win a championship every year, that it will do anything in its power to get one as soon as possible, that cares more about expedience and emotion than prudence and patience. Now, it’s very possible, even likely, that Georgia shouldn’t have felt it was any different in the first place, that it was smug and self-aggrandizing to believe it wasn’t playing by the same rules everyone else was. Georgia is a big-time football program like the rest of them, and now it’s acting like one. “About time,” many will say. The illusion had to evaporate at some point.

I understand this. But then you can’t pretend, as McGarity tried to in the press conference, that things are the same as they ever were. They’re not. The central organizing principle of Georgia football, of this community, was that it was different here, that Richt was different, that this was all different. Now, no one can claim that, ever again.

The end result may be good.  It may not be good.  But it’s definitely going to be different, regardless of who they bring in.  Because it won’t be Mark Richt.

And the guy who has the most at stake in the new world is Greg McGarity.  Holding a joint press conference won’t change that.

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Battle of wills

Assuming the rumors about Kirby Smart and Georgia are true – and at this point they’re so universal it’s almost impossible to discount them – there’s a fascinating dynamic in play that will give us an early indication of who’s in control of the football program.  That dynamic (again, assuming the rumors are credible) centers around how much autonomy Smart will be given by Greg McGarity to assemble his staff, particularly, the defensive coordinator position.

You would think it would be something of a no-brainer that an incoming head coach would be able to select the members of his staff freely, but that’s not always how things work.  And in this case, there appears (feel free to add that “if” again here) to be some resistance to certain potential candidates from McGarity, whether due to expense or a more basic personality clash.

The tricky part here is that both Smart and McGarity have some real leverage in this situation.  Smart knows he’s the first choice, of McGarity and key boosters both.  McGarity knows he’s offering a plum job and that if Smart can’t bring himself to shake hands – and that wouldn’t be the first time Kirby’s walked away from Athens – there will be plenty of other candidates willing to step up and take his place.

But there are risks for both, too.  Smart’s waited for his opportunity at Georgia for a while, and now Mark Richt is gone.  If he doesn’t take the job and Georgia’s next choice turns out to be a good hire, that opportunity may be gone forever.  Is that something you really want to risk?

On McGarity’s side, you’ve already got a fan base upset over Richt’s departure; do you want to compound that by irritating the boosters who pushed you to do to fire Richt so you could hire Smart in the first place?  Not only that, but what kind of message does it send to other head coaching candidates that you couldn’t close a deal with a defensive coordinator who is also an alum?

I don’t know who wins, but I’ve got to say if I’m Kirby Smart, I’d have to think long and hard before swallowing a deal where the AD gets to dictate who I can hire.  Because you know that’s only the beginning of where the lines of operation get drawn.  As it is, you’re going to be expected to uphold the Georgia Way in areas you haven’t had to in Tuscaloosa.  (Jonathan Taylor comes to mind here.  So does Georgia’s drug policy.)  Do you really want to cede even more control to the administration?  You know the guy you’ve been working for wouldn’t.


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Deep breaths, people.


Just a reminder, as Jacob Eason prepares to take an official visit to Gainesville, Florida, that what’s going on right now for Georgia as McGarity figures out whom to hand the reins to next is bigger than one recruit, even one as important to the team’s immediate future as Eason appears to be.

As I keep insisting, as big a mistake as it is for a school to hang on to an underperforming head coach solely for the reason of holding together a recruiting class, it’s just as big a one to rush into a hiring decision to replace an established head coach for the same reason.  For a program like Georgia, there will be other quarterback recruits, but get the next coaching hire wrong and you’ll be paying for that decision a lot longer.

Besides, who can blame Eason and his dad for being prudent at this point?  In any event, there’s still time for Georgia’s next head coach to preserve the relationship.

Georgia’s got enough questions as it is about getting the right man in.  Rushing to get someone in just to keep Eason in red and black only makes that tougher.  Take the right amount of time to get it right.


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When the going gets tough, the tough get recruiting.

I mocked the administration yesterday for its disorganized approach to Georgia’s recruiting in the interim period between Mark Richt and his successor, but there’s a flip side to that coin that deserves to be acknowledged.

Right now, Richt’s staff is out on the road meeting with recruits, selling them on a school and a football program they may not be associated with by the time these kids enroll.  That’s got to be a tough pitch to make, especially when you’re looking some high schooler’s momma in the eye and explaining what’s best for her child.  And it’s not made any easier by every other school seeing Richt’s departure as open season on Georgia’s commitments.

To the extent that it helps contribute to holding together a key class – and remember, Georgia is still scrambling to fill holes left from the crater that was the 2013 class – that effort deserves the gratitude of every fan of the the program.  So, to you guys and to all the recruits who end up sticking with Georgia, thanks.


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Off again, on again

Honestly, this is approaching comedy now.

UGA had an abrupt change of plans on Monday, and decided to send its football coaches out on the road to recruit on Monday, DawgNation has learned.

This week is one of the biggest recruiting weeks of the year, due to the football season being over and February’s signing day looming around two months away.

Monday’s decision marked a change in plans from Sunday, when UGA’s athletic officials decided to pull all the assistants off the road, with the exception of recruiting coordinator Bryan McClendon and running backs coach Thomas Brown, after head coach Mark Richt was fired.

Jeremy Pruitt, who still holds the title of UGA defensive coordinator, is expected to visit on Monday evening with two high-value targets from Peachtree Ridge High School – defensive back Chad Clay (committed to UGA) and safety Nigel Warrior (undecided). Clay has an in-home visit scheduled with UGA for 7:30 p.m.

UGA defensive line coach Tracy Rocker was supposed to see two of the state’s senior top defensive linemen – Antwuan Jackson (undecided) from Cedar Grove and Michail Carter (undecided) of Jackson.

Maybe that explains why McGarity had no clue at today’s presser as to who was recruiting for the program.  Way to keep the trains running, fellas!


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Could Agent Muschamp be on the case again?

I have to admit there’s at least one possible upside to Kirby Smart being the next head coach at Georgia.

Gawd, I love the SEC.


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My biggest question from today’s presser…

… probably isn’t what you might expect.  Here’s what Richt said in response to a question about his future plans:

Mark Richt: “I’ll say this — if and when I do coach again, I’m looking forward to coaching again in terms of being more hands-on. I miss coaching quarterbacks, I miss calling plays, I miss that part of it. Whether it’s in the role of head coach, coordinator, quarterbacks coach, whatever it is. If in fact I choose to do that I’d be really excited about coaching QBs again and getting in the middle of coaching offensive strategy. Not that I wasn’t in it, but I wasn’t calling it. And I think I’d be more apt to do that again.”

Geez, if that’s what you missed, why didn’t you do something about it, especially this season after Bobo left?  You could have taken the OC job back and hired a special teams coach, which probably would have made a lot of people happier, including yourself, it sounds like.


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