Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Lean on me

Tuesday June 23, 2009

I’m having trouble wrapping my head around this Monday afternoon post from David Hale. It’s nothing to do with Hale’s writing but rather the “star of the team is the team” approach taken by Mark Richt.

Chemistry is a very real issue with any organization, and we’ve all seen otherwise talented teams that just didn’t click. In that sense, Richt’s observation that the players “really decided that they have to come together as a team and work their tail off and get after it” is very positive. We’ve been treated since the end of the season to dozens of hazy accounts about leadership and chemistry on last year’s team, and most everyone has been quick to point out how different things are this year. I’ve said my peace about that, but we’ll go along with it.

I don’t get the connection though between all of that and the downside of “relying on a Stafford or a Moreno to carry the team.” If we’re talking about the Patrick Ewing Theory here, fine. Sometimes teams do have successful seasons when stars leave, and sometimes teams can get caught up waiting for the stars to take over. I can even see where that can have an impact on chemistry if others resent the attention. Is that what Richt is really getting at?

But was leaning on Stafford and Moreno really near the top of the list of last year’s shortcomings? The Georgia offense was 3rd in the SEC in scoring and 2nd in yardage. It seems as if they were up to it, even behind a patchwork line. Of course the Dawgs won’t have those two to lean on again this year, and that’s where comments apply about a stronger offensive line taking some of the pressure off.

Teams lean on, single out, and promote stars all the time. Of all of the things that made “last year one of the toughest years,” I’m having trouble seeing how “the Bulldogs fans and the media (focusing) on those two guys” was unfair or misplaced attention. They deserved it, and they much more often than not delivered. What did too much attention on Stafford and Moreno have to do with the SEC’s #10 scoring defense or a secondary whose interception total was challenged by the defensive line?

Here’s another thing: fans and the media are going to continue to focus on certain standout individuals even on a team that claims that “the team is the star.” It’s what we do. Fans and media focused on Stafford and Moreno last year, and they’ll focus on A.J. Green, Rennie Curran, and the Owens/Atkins tandem this year. We’re going to expect Green to make incredible catches and big plays – he’s going to have to with so little returning production at WR. We’re going to be looking for Curran to fly all over the field because someone has to be the spark on the defensive side.

The team-first approach is important, and whatever gets these guys ready to play together can only be a good thing. But few teams, especially at this level, succeed without bona fide stars. Successful teams have players who understand and embrace their roles whether they get top billing or are among the supporting cast. The trouble with last year’s team wasn’t so much leaning on some of the biggest stars ever to suit up for the Bulldog offense; it was that not enough of the rest of the team rose to that level of play.

3 Responses to 'Lean on me'

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  • I think what I took away from this article (and the many others dedicated to “we’re working better as a team b/c we now have a fiery red-headed leader”) is what you said in your last sentence. This year, I would expect MORE people to step up because they know they HAVE to. You, me, and David Hale are playing golf with Tiger Woods in a Captain’s Choice tourney. It’s possible that we’ll never be “relied on” for a tough shot because Tiger can bail us out. I think that permeated some of the thinking last year. I’m willing to bet that there are more than a handful of current Dawgs who CAN NOT WAIT to show what they can do on the field because they know that the role of “the guy” is wide open.

    Having said that, I’m tired of reading about chemistry and leadership. I can’t wait to read about how this guy or that guy is tearing it up on the gridiron. I guess that will happen in August.

  • I think Bry is onto something, and I was thinking something similar. Sure, the 24/7 offense worked well — so well, in fact, that the defense might have been more apt to let off the gas at times, knowing that the offensive team would put up 40+ points so giving up 35 was no big deal. Meanwhile, of the four potential “stars” you listed for this coming year, 3 were defensive guys — but hopefully, Joe Cox and Caleb King will have enough to prove that they never let up.

  • Noah, those are good points, but I don’t think the offense ever really showed it was consistently productive enough to allow anyone to relax. Just from observation, I think the only time we really eased up and thought the offense had the game wrapped up was against Tech. Our high-scoring outbursts (LSU, UK, Tech) were unpredictable and interspersed between some sluggish outings. We’d go from 10 points against Florida to 42 at UK then 17 at Auburn to 42 against Tech to a slow start and 24 in the bowl. I don’t see how anyone could get in a comfort zone knowing that, as good as the stars on the offense were when the numbers are smoothed over and averaged, the production wasn’t a sure thing that particular week.