Monthly Archives: November 2015
Tom Herman has agreed in principle to a deal with the Houston Cougars per Tom Herman himself.
That means a few things:
- He’s not coming to Georgia.
- He was never offered by Georgia.
I would have liked to see those conversations between Georgia and Herman take place, but this further cements (in my opinion) the notion that Georgia is going after one guy and one guy only. And given that, it has to be Kirby Smart. Sources are trickling down to support that notion and it’s not remotely surprising.
What could become interesting, however, is who Smart brings with him to fill out his staff and how much those pieces get paid. Let’s face it, if this is as it seems…there is no number two. Kirby has all the leverage for himself and the staff and Greg McGarity can not afford to screw this up. That could result in an All-Star cast of assistant coaches and coordinators. Or it could result in a slew of folks getting paid too much money.
That’s all I got/
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So, how was your Sunday?
We’ll get to the news of the day later on, but first let’s talk about the
big medium win over Tech. Despite the protestations of some on this here site, I stand by Hall and I’s assertion over the years that this is not a rivalry. Part of me realized this when toe met leather, and I realized I had watched exactly zero plays of this Jackets team all season. No matter what the #THWG crowd will tell you, this is the story of big brother reminding little brother of their place, 13 of the last 15 seasons. The Tech game is an annual pantsing that occasionally goes wrong. This year it went right, as it so often does.
– Frisky passing game? FRISKY PASSING GAME. Sure, these aren’t the numbers that forced UGA fans to lie to themselves about the ability under center after week 3, but the passing attack acquitted itself nicely Saturday. A great day out of Terry Godwin should give all of us hope about returning talent on the outside. Special shout out to Malcolm Mitchell, who continues to be a joy to watch catching and blocking. He’ll be a great value pick for someone looking for a solid WR on Sundays.
– Aggressive running attack? Check. Sony Michel and Keith Marshall looked confident, smart, and solid all day. With Sony cracking the 1000 yard barrier, he and returning Nick Chubb next year will be continuing the tradition of tailback U in Athens.
– Dominant defense? Mah gawd, you wouldn’t think we only won by 6 the way Pruitt’s boys played all day Saturday. They kept the Tech ‘quarterback’ under duress and running for his life, and stifled the vaunted
high school offense rushing attack all day.
– This was the perfect picture of an 80-20 offense; great for 80 yards, downright putrid in the red zone. Opportunities to score are usually few and far between, but the players put themselves in position to be successful, and I think everyone – coaches, players, water boys – caught a slight case of the lemon booty when it came time to score points.
– Speaking of lemon booty, Marshall Morgan, what happened man? Ever since the boating…incident last year, Mr. Automatic has turned into Mr. Maybe. Make no mistake, I’m going to miss watching him line up to boot them through the uprights. But I will not miss the last two years of misses.
– There’s quitting on a coach and then there’s whatever is happening at Tech. I haven’t watched them all year, but all I’ve heard from my Tech fan friends and my Tech football alumni friends, getting rid of PJ is the number one concern for Tech faithful going forward. Not a good scene.
There’s much already written, and much to be written, about the recent vacancy at the head job at UGA. I’ll say this before adding much more than my 2 cents tomorrow:
I tell you what if UGA went 3-9 they’d fire the governor. #LOLTech
— DPalm (@dpalm66) November 28, 2015
twice (THRICE!) in a row makes it a tradition right? Well, allow me to indulge myself with my annual tip of the cap to the Columbia Football Class of 2007. We got the chance to end our careers at home with a win, and the next week, we all hung up the pads after beating Brown on a last second field goal. I know that no one else cares, but as long as Andrew (Chad now, I guess) lets me write for this site, I’m gonna care loudly at least once a year.
Go Dawgs, and Roar Lion Roar.
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This is not an article about the legitimacy of Richt’s resignation or the factors that got us here. I’ve written about that already. Rather, this is a discussion about the timing of all this. And if we work on the assumption that Richt had peaked as a football coach and that this was a football decision—humor me here, even if you don’t agree—then the timing of this was right.
I touched on this yesterday, but in some regards I think we are off-base to compare the current state of Georgia football with its low of a 6-7 campaign in 2010. 2010 was an anomaly for the Richt Era. If it wasn’t, Mark Richt would not have lasted 15 years in Athens. And with that in mind, I think we’re foolish to say, “Look how much better Georgia is now!”
I think looking at the best year in recent Richt history (2012) is the measuring stick by which we should compare the program. After all, 2012 was the most recent year in which Bulldog Nation was mostly aligned in its optimism. Sure complaints existed (some with merit) regarding a blowout loss to South Carolina and clock/game management late in the SEC Championship Game, but how could you not be optimistic after that season? Aaron Murray was coming back. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall were coming back. There were reasons to be positive. We were five yards short from competing for a national championship.
But a handful of unfortunate circumstances derailed that trajectory. The most obvious item that many will point to is injuries. And to be sure, each year since that time period has featured a number of meaningful injury-related losses of personnel. But in 2013 Georgia lost to a good (but not necessarily great) Clemson team in the season-opener while healthy, a less-talented (even after injuries) Missouri team at home and a Vanderbilt program that should never beat the Bulldogs. Injuries weren’t a factor in last year’s loss to a mediocre South Carolina team and the losses to Florida and Georgia Tech last year are hard to explain even without Todd Gurley. And Georgia failed to compete with Alabama with Nick Chubb on the field, so it’s hard to imagine him impacting a 24-point loss to Florida either.
There were dozens of unfortunate circumstances surrounding the last three years—even beyond the injuries. A few samples:
- It was unfortunate that the closer of the two games with Clemson happened to come on the road where a hostile crowd was a factor in a 3-point loss.
- The tipped pass at Jordan-Hare Stadium was beyond unfortunate in 2013.
- It was unfortunate that the South Carolina game in 2014 was poorly officiated and altered greatly by storm delays.
- It was unfortunate that Tennessee picked Georgia to be the opponent it woke up against this season.
But the outcome of these circumstances—losses to Clemson, Missouri, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Nebraska, South Carolina, Florida (twice), Georgia Tech, Alabama and Tennessee; a failure to win a the division for three straight years; blowout losses to good teams—rendered a regression for this program.
And to be clear, some of that regression (and possibly the majority) falls on Mark Richt. You can’t praise his recruiting ability and his offensive mind without also putting some of the blame on him for Georgia’s inability to answer the quarterback question this season. You can’t applaud his commitment to winning without also questioning the lack of commitment to special teams play. You can’t recognize his most recent recruiting classes (2014 and 2015 were very strong) without wondering what the hell happened in 2013. You can’t credit him for the hire of Jeremy Pruitt without also wondering why on earth he hired Brian Schottenheimer. Those may sound like bad deals to throw on a man who’s already out, but if Georgia’s 2013 class was strong and featured a viable option at quarterback and if special teams play was better and a real offensive coordinator was roaming the sideline…none of these conversations are happening. And I’m not sure who, other than Richt, should shoulder that blame.
Things weren’t getting better at Georgia—at least not in the form of on-field results. And they weren’t and aren’t going to get better in 2016 by that measure either. Let’s remove Richt from the equation and consider the factors surrounding this program:
- At best Georgia’s quarterback next season is a true freshman. At worst, it’s Brice Ramsey.
- Hopefully Nick Chubb is back at running back, but that’s not a guarantee and there’s no telling just how productive he will be.
- Georgia is losing the most experience components of what has been a very disappointing offensive line.
- Georgia is losing its only wide receiver with more than 30 receiving yards per game this season and that same player (Malcolm Mitchell) happens to be the only wideout on the team with more than one touchdown reception.
- Leonard Floyd is leaving. That’s being sold as a move related to Richt, but it’s not. It’s a move related to him turning 24 by the start of the next NFL season and being a consensus first-round talent.
- Jordan Jenkins, Sterling Bailey, James DeLoach, Jake Ganus and Chris Mayes are also leaving the front-seven.
- Those players (Floyd, Jenkins, Bailey, DeLoach, Ganus and Mayes) have accounted for 330 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.
I would argue that next year’s team has even more question marks than this year’s team. Again, who plays QB? Will Chubb be healthy? Are the young guys ready to plug in on the defensive front? Who’s anchoring the offensive line? Who’s stepping up at receiver? It’s alarming how familiar some of those questions are.
And then consider the team’s schedule:
- Georgia opens at the Georgia Dome against North Carolina (currently ranked 8th in the country).
- Georgia gets Missouri (traditionally a tough out for the Dawgs) on the road.
- Georgia plays at Ole Miss (currently ranked 16th nationally) on the road.
- Tennessee comes to Athens but should be much-improved.
- Georgia goes to South Carolina to play a Gamecocks team that may be much-improved by mid-season.
- Florida is on the rise and never a comfortable win.
- Auburn will be better than it was this season and Georgia struggled with the Tigers this year.
- Georgia Tech will be better than it was this season and that game was ugly.
I have a hard time believing this team would be better than 8-4 in the regular season with Mark Richt. And to be clear, I have a hard time believing this team will be better than 8-4 without him. But that’s why the current timing makes sense. If support of Richt had dwindled enough to move him out now, can you imagine how it would be after a fourth-consecutive non-East-winning season? If nine wins isn’t enough, how is eight going to be viewed?
And from a superficial view, how will the outlook for 2017 be any better? The quarterback position will presumably be improving and the offensive line and defensive front will have taken shape—we hope. But if Pruitt’s defense is in the top 10 in every category again next year and Georgia is still an 8-win program, you better believe he’s moving on. And 2017 has Notre Dame on the schedule and Mississippi State comes to town.
I think this thing would have gotten uglier before it got prettier. And understand this sentiment doesn’t equate to a new coach immediately making things pretty. But for a coach who has been here for 15 years, it’s not the worst thing in the world that some folks still want him around. That’s a sign that he did a really good job. But I think the number of those people would have decreased in 2016 and again in 2017. For that reason, I think the timing makes sense.
That’s all I got/
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Greg McGarity did the right thing on Sunday morning. Well, I guess technically he and Mark Richt mutually agreed to do the right thing.
“Coach Richt and I met Sunday morning to discuss the status of our football program,” McGarity said per the official university release. “And we mutually agreed that he would step down as head coach and would have the opportunity to accept other duties and responsibilities at UGA following the bowl game.”
I shouldn’t have to tell you how that meeting really went. As recently as Saturday afternoon, following an uninspiring victory over alleged rival Georgia Tech, Richt had an opportunity to discuss his impending resignation. At the post-game press conference, Richt didn’t even seem sure of when he would meet with McGarity. Instead, he offered generally vague timelines like (paraphrased), “We usually meet sometime after the regular season.”
Richt didn’t initiate the mutual decision, and that’s not surprising. And Richt won’t make a big deal out of it, because as he’s said time and time again:
- He believes matters like this are completely in God’s hands.
- He loves Georgia and is grateful for his time there.
- He’s not going anywhere else.
Even the release alluded to the notion that Richt would remain involved with the Athletics Department and the Paul Oliver Network. Richt has, thus far and likely ad infinitum, handled the matter with class. And that’s not a surprise.
What is surprising, at least to me, is that we’re in this position to begin with. McGarity, so it seems, fancies himself a gambler.
As recently as October I found myself defending Mark Richt after Georgia was brutalized by Alabama at home. A few short weeks later, after an equally embarrassing loss to Florida, my story changed for the first time. I was no longer able to defend Mark Richt’s role as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. I cited, among other things, the Dawgs’ inability to compete with elite teams and the generally miserable experience of watching Georgia play football as reasons for my waned support of Richt.
Since sharing those thoughts, Georgia has won four consecutive football games. But even those wins showed just how far “off” this program is.
A 27-3 win over Kentucky means very little given the Wildcats’ 5-7 record this season and failure to make a bowl for the fifth straight season. Had it not followed one of the most disgusting losses to Florida in recent history (and that’s saying something), we would have universally agreed that this game was meaningless. But as it stands, Kentucky was the best conference opponent Georgia beat this season. And that’s pathetic.
Georgia’s second win of this streak came in the form of a narrow 20-13 win over an abysmal Auburn team. Auburn lost six times this year. The Tigers’ closest loss came against Georgia.
And then, of course, you had Georgia’s decisive victory over Georgia Southern. You know, the Georgia Southern team that is in its second year as an FBS program. Georgia needed disastrous game-management by the Eagles in overtime to come away with a home victory.
That brings us to yesterday’s win over Georgia Tech. Yes, it was a win. And that’s infinitely better than a loss. But a 13-7 win over the Yellow Jackets doesn’t count for much as evidenced by today’s announcement. And frankly, it shouldn’t.
At the end of the day, wins matter. There’s no doubt about that. But when losses begin to mount up in such meaningful ways then the way in which you win begins to matter also. Put plainly: finishing the year on a 4-0 run was much better than going 3-1 or 2-2, but Georgia didn’t change anybody’s mind with its play in November. Other things mattered more.
It mattered that Georgia lost to Tennessee, but even more so it mattered that Georgia blew a 21-point lead to a Volunteer team that was known for choking in big games. It mattered that Georgia lost to a Tennessee team that finished third in the extremely weak SEC East.
It mattered that Georgia lost to Alabama and Florida. But even more than that, it mattered that the Crimson Tide and the Gators were the only two Power Five Conference teams Georgia played all year with regular season winning records. And it mattered that Georgia lost to Alabama and Florida by a combined score of 65-13.
So narrow wins against really terrible football teams over the last four weeks didn’t qualify as “turning this thing around” as Richt promised to do after the Florida loss.
And the much broader problem for Richt was that this season is a perfect representation of the trajectory of the program. That point will miss the mark if you compare Georgia now to the Georgia program of 2010. But in the grand scheme of Richt’s tenure, 2010’s 6-7 mark was an anomaly.
The reality is Georgia used a weak SEC East to win the division in 2011. The program was a legitimate national threat in 2012. And in 2013, 2014 and 2015 Georgia beat a lot of bad teams and lost to most of the good teams it faced. Over the past three seasons Georgia was 5-7 against ranked opponents. That’s not atrocious, but for a team that has been ranked seventh or better at some point during each of the past three years, 5-7 vs. ranked foes reflects under-performance.
The SEC East has been embarrassingly weak, and yet Georgia has failed to win the division since 2012. The Bulldogs have done everything they can to mimic programs like Alabama (coaches with Saban ties, commitment to spending on coordinators, strength and conditioning program, commitment to build an indoor facility, ramping up recruiting, etc.), and yet Georgia can’t come close to competing with the Tide on the field. If Alabama is the yardstick by which great programs are measured, Georgia isn’t even on the ruler. Georgia is a protractor drawing tiny little circles around the Georgia Southerns and Georgia Techs of the world. It’s cute, and it’s well-intentioned. But it’s not going anywhere.
The problem with Richt (and the problem that didn’t quite get the best of Les Miles) is that I don’t know how you can defend the status quo. I know how you’ll try to defend it, but I think you’re wrong.
“Mark Richt has the highest winning percentage of any long-tenure Georgia coach in history,” you’ll say. And I agree. But in the present, were you pleased with the wins over Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Auburn this year? Because those counted in the win column. Were those games indicative of a future winning in Athens under Richt? I don’t see how Georgia is better than .500 next year against good teams like North Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida and Auburn next year with Richt. Who knows how the other guy will do next year, but I know Georgia loses at least three of those with Richt. And he could win 10 games next year and show a strong winning percentage. But is that all you want?
“But it took Vince Dooley even longer to win a National Championship,” you’ll say. I want a national championship as much as the next Georgia fan, but I don’t think parting ways with Richt was legitimized purely by a void of check marks in the championship column. I’d be on board with Richt if Georgia was even close to competing with programs like Alabama and Florida on the field. Georgia was there in 2012. Georgia was there in 2007. That’s twice out of the last ten years. And as demonstrated by the Bama and Florida games this year, the Dawgs are not close.
“But what about Jacob Eason?” you’ll ask. I’m actually pretty damn pleased that Greg McGarity has not chosen to tie his job security and therefore the prosperity of the Georgia athletics department to the arm of an 18-year old kid. I’m sure Eason is great. But Georgia football was in a better spot in 2006 when Matthew Stafford arrived, and he didn’t take us to the top of the mountain, either. Why does Eason equate to a championship and why does the absence of Richt (who may still work for the University come 2016) equate to the loss of Eason directly? I love Eason and I think he’ll be great and I hope he’s great in Athens. But I think he could still come to town and I think Georgia needs a change at head coach either way.
“But Mark Richt does things the right way,” you’ll point out. He absolutely does. You can’t find anyone who disagrees. But to argue that Georgia can’t find any one as “Christian” as Mark Richt is ludicrous and to imply that this is an either/or scenario is an insult to the very God that Richt believes in. I’m being serious here. To argue that a life dedicated to a walk with Jesus Christ is in conflict with being the very best at one’s calling (be it coaching football, teachings children or putting out fires) is to say that a Christian’s vocational calling and the call to discipline, hard work, preparedness and dedication are unimportant. Richt doesn’t believe that. Why do you? Why can’t a Christian be the best coach in college football? If you can give a legitimate answer to that, then we can have a “Which do you want the Christian or the Winner?” debate as it relates to Mark Richt and his faith. But until then, I’ll just know that I’m right.
“But Georgia was so close,” you’ll assert. Really? By what measure? Was it Georgia’s narrow victories over poor opponents or Georgia’s lopsided defeats to good teams that gave you the impression that Georgia was one [insert missing piece here] away from contending for a national title? Georgia’s special teams are a disaster that Richt has refused to address. Georgia has whiffed on a handful of big-recruit quarterback prospects and there’s no guarantee that won’t happen again. Georgia’s veteran offensive line was terrible this season but will be wrecked by attrition next year. Richt’s answer for replacing Mike Bobo was a dumpster fire. By many accounts Richt has lost control (I needed at least one) of Pruitt, his most valuable assistant.
“But Richt was here for so long,” you’ll ponder aloud. Why does that matter? I don’t know that we’ll ever see another SEC coach at one school for 15 years. I think those days are over. I don’t think I like the extinction of long coaching tenures, but nobody asked me.
I love Mark Richt. I loved watching his teams play (prior to this season). I love what he did for the program, the university, the city, the state and the sport. There’s not a “but” here. I’m truly grateful for all that he accomplished and I know he will continue to do great things.
And now, more than ever, I know that Greg McGarity and the University of Georgia is committed to doing whatever it takes to be the very best football program in the nation. And as a fan, how can I not be excited about that? That doesn’t mean that I’m happy Richt was pushed out. It doesn’t mean that I’m glad the Richt Era is over.
It means that being a Georgia fan is no longer to about Mark Richt.
That’s a weird thing to think about and there’s no way to say it without sounding bitter. But this is not a bad thing in and of itself. At worst, it’s a very curious sentiment and at best it’s one defined by rampant optimism. So enjoy this for a little while.
In a few days we’ll know who will be the next head coach at the University of Georgia. Along with that announcement will come support and opposition and comparisons to Mark Richt. And before that guy even coaches a single game for the red and black part of his story will be written. But for now, we don’t know who that guy is. He could be absolutely anyone.
And anyone could become the best head coach in the country. And for McGarity and the rest of the higher-ups at Georgia, that’s a gamble worth taking.
I’m all in for that bet. This sounds kind of fun.
That’s all I got/
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Plenty of Richt commentary coming your way over the next few days. In the meantime, let’s take a look at potential hires for what is now a vacant head coaching position in Athens.
Kirby Smart – The conventional pick became even conventional-er when word spread that Smart was interested in the South Carolina job. Why does that matter? Because apparently Smart, long the hottest assistant in the country, is willing to consider a move away from his post as defensive coordinator at Alabama. Smart, a former Bulldog and longtime Nick Saban disciple is perfect on paper except for two things: 1. He has no head coaching experience. Ask Florida how hiring a big-name defensive coordinator with no experience as the head man paid off. 2. He’s a defensive mind. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. But if there’s any part of Georgia that’s not currently broken, it’s the defense. That doesn’t mean Pruitt will stick around for the new guy (in fact, I doubt he will), but fans may clamor for a more offensive-minded coach and a recruit like Jacob Eason may prefer a passing artist.
Tom Herman – Herman is the man behind two of the more intriguing plot lines in college football this year. 1. He’s to blame/credit for Ohio State’s offensive slow from 45 points per game last year to 35 points per game. 2. He’s the man behind Houston’s 11-1 season. If you’re not connecting the dots, Herman was the offensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2014 and then left to be the head man at Houston. He knows how to move the ball on offense and he knows how to run a program. And he’s been around enough big programs to understand the high-and-getting-higher standard at Georgia.
Dan Mullen – Hear me out here, because this is personally who I want. There are a slew of big-time jobs open right now. Virginia Tech is filled and LSU isn’t dumping Les Miles, but Southern Cal, South Carolina and Miami remain open. Georgia is a better job than any of those gigs. So what’s to stop Georgia, a program with tons of resources and a very tiny payout due to Richt, from poaching a head coach from a major school? Why wouldn’t that be an option? And if it is an option, why wouldn’t Mullen be intriguing? He’s basically got the same story as Herman, but the major difference is he’s found success in the nation’s best football conference and has been a head coach for much longer. If a complaint regarding Richt was that he didn’t do enough with the loads of talent he attracted, than Mullen is certainly the opposite. Nobody has done more with less than Mullen at Mississippi State. Let’s throw some money at him.
Mike Bobo – Let’s get this out there. I’m so in favor of this that I don’t know how to use my words. Entertainment value on Twitter would be insane. Much-maligned while at Georgia, I think fans now actually appreciate this guy for who he is. And nobody knows Georgia football and its tradition better than Bobo. And as a head coach, Bobo is riding a 4-game winning streak and his Colorado State team is 7-5. The knock: He’s basically Richt Jr.
Chip Kelly – A disappointing NFL coach who was a master at the collegiate level. That type of resume is going to keep his name on the fans’ short-list for every head coaching vacancy. So consider that box checked – though this hire is not happening.
Larry Fedora – This is mainly to get Chad’s blood moving a bit. But Fedora won at Southern Miss (34-19 there and never had a losing season) and has North Carolina sitting at 11-1 and hoping to play spoiler to Clemson’s dream season next week in the ACC Championship.
Jeremy Pruitt – This is not going to happen. Period. But he’s the only internal hire that could possibly begin to make any sense. So, we’ll just put his name there.
What’s my gut? My gut says it’s Kirby Smart. He’s been so desired for so long, that in some ways it’s the safe pick. But that doesn’t mean it’s not or can’t be the right pick as well. But hiring Harman and letting Smart go to South Carolina (or anywhere else) will get an A.D. canned if it’s not right. Hiring the conventional pick – who is popular for good reason – is safer.
That’s all I got/
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