Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Can someone get Vince Vance to the DMV?

Wednesday October 28, 2009

Georgia offensive lineman Vince Vance was arrested this morning for “failing to obey signal or signs and driving without a valid license.”

Vance won’t be suspended or miss playing time as a result of this incident. “Coach Richt will handle discipline internally,” said UGA SID Claude Felton.

Vance, according to Radi Nabulsi of UGASports.com, was driving a borrowed car with a learner’s permit and did not have an adult over the age of 21 in the car at the time. It’s Vance’s second driving-related arrest in a year, and both started with a failure to obey a stop sign or traffic light.

Vince Vance, was arrested for driving with an expired license on Saturday night…Richt said Vance said he didn’t realize his license expired on Oct. 11, his 21st birthday. Richt said he was told Vance was pulled over because “he did not stop very well at a stop sign.” He was then arrested for the expired license.

Post Florida’s not clicking on offense, but does it matter?

Wednesday October 28, 2009

Pity Tim Tebow. Florida is averaging just 24 PPG in SEC games, so “what’s wrong with the Gators?” has become a popular topic this week. The offense has put up around 23 points (give or take an extra point) in each of the past two games. The new offensive coordinator is ridiculed, and even the star quarterback seems to be showing frustration.

But while everyone is pouring out concern for Tebow, his corch, and the Florida offense in general (words of encouragement from Dr. Lou seems to be all that’s missing), does it matter? Those measly 23 points would have been enough to beat Georgia in all but 6 of the past 20 games against Florida. Under Mark Richt the Dawgs haven’t even managed more than 14 points in 6 of the 8 games. Not coincidently, they won the other two games.

We know that the Florida defense is good. How good? Forget yardage and efficiency – since last year’s loss to Ole Miss, Florida hasn’t allowed more than 21 points to anyone – even in the SEC and national championship wins last year. The 20-point score posted by Arkansas represents the most damage done by a Florida opponent so far in 2009.

You’d read that about the Florida defense and conclude that this game is on Georgia’s defense to keep things close enough for the Dawgs to have a fighting chance, ala Arkansas or Mississippi State. Make no mistake, defending the Florida offense is still important. Even a brilliant performance by the offense isn’t going to overcome another Knoxville-like outing by the Bulldog defense. This can’t be the week that Florida solves its red zone woes and discovers a potent downfield passing game. There are several key things that Georgia defense must do, starting with strong defensive line play stuffing the dive play and getting to Tebow, in order to put Florida into the positions from which they’ve made most of their mistakes.

Last year’s team-wide meltdown notwithstanding, this Georgia defensive staff has generally done a decent job of holding Florida in the mid-20s or so. A result along those lines should be good enough to set up a competitive game, and sure enough we’ve seen plenty of those in Jacksonville in the Richt era (unfortunately with most going Florida’s way). Florida’s offense is doing a decent enough job of being inconsistent on its own to make another such game a realistic possibility. That’s not to say they can’t break out against Georgia (again, going back to the Tennessee or even South Carolina games), but if you had to put money on one side of the Florida team shooting itself in the foot it would be the offense.

The harder job then seems to belong to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. The Florida defense has been consistently good. Arkansas might have caught them a few times, but the Gator defense hasn’t had enough bad moments for anyone to count on an off day, and that’s especially true if Brandon Spikes and other injured defenders are back in good health. Even if the Florida offense can be held near its season averages, it’s going to be a tall task for Georgia to keep up.

So what does Bobo do? How do the Bulldogs scratch their way towards the 24+ points they’ll likely need to win?

  • A silver bullet isn’t likely to come from the running game.
  • Paul would like to see a healthy dose of screens and has some solid reasoning behind that suggestion.
  • You might look for points from special teams, but they’re not likely to come from the punt return team. Boykin is always a threat, but hopefully Florida isn’t kicking off that much. When they do kick off they’re the second-best coverage unit in the SEC.
  • Mississippi State’s Johnathan Banks returned two interceptions for touchdowns against the Gators last week. Is there a Darryl Gamble moment in store for Georgia again this year? The Dawgs have only six takeaways through seven games.
  • You might consider it more of an experiment than a solution, but there’s a possibility of some shuffling on the offensive line. Beyond the points that Hale makes, I think the idea of moving Boling to left tackle is important for one big reason: Cox’s propensity to take some pretty big hits from the blind side. Florida has 20 sacks on the year, good enough for third in the SEC. Reducing the chance of Cox taking another shot and fumbling again and/or getting injured is worth the move.
  • We’d rather have touchdowns than field goals, but can the Dawgs count on the kicker to come through with 3 points in a low-scoring game? Last year Blair Walsh went 1-for-3 on field goals with both misses coming from inside 40 yards. The first miss cost Georgia a chance to grab an early lead. In fact, the Jacksonville game has been a dismal place for otherwise-reliable Bulldog kickers. Billy Bennett was a career 6-for-11 (55%) against Florida and Coutu was a miserable 1-for-4 (25%). During the Richt era, Georgia kickers are only 5-for-12 (42%) on field goal attempts inside of 40 yards. Getting 3 instead of 7 is bad enough, but coming up empty altogether is devastating especially when points have come at such a premium for the Dawgs in this series.

Blutarsky lays out what the numbers say Georgia needs to do:

All Bobo has to do is come up with a game plan that allows the offense to move the ball at more than five yards a crack, stays out of third down situations a fair amount of the time and helps to contribute more than 26 points on the scoreboard.

That’s it?

Post Done in by bad refs or bad camerawork?

Monday October 26, 2009

Maybe it’s because the LSU game was a month ago, but the weekly string-em-up routine now for SEC officials is starting to wear thin. This was the consequence of letting it all play out in pub-lick culminating with the rare if not unprecedented announcement to the world of a crew being suspended. Now every coach and fan base thinks it’s their place and obligation to make a mountain range out of every individual molehill of a perceived slight. Will the SEC have any active crews left standing by the time that Florida-Alabama (round 1) takes place in December?

The good news for Georgia fans is that we have another excuse to add to the list this week: location, heat, and now bad refs. Why wait until next weekend to start complaining?

Getting back to this weekend’s most controversial call (and, no, it wasn’t the OMG HE WON THE GAME AND TOOK OFF HIS HELMET nonsense), we have a Florida defensive touchdown that remained a touchdown even after a review failed to overturn the call despite seeing this:

The outcome of the call notwithstanding, why are we relying on those angles to settle one of the fundamental questions in football: did the ball cross the plane of the goal line? You have one angle that doesn’t even show the ball and another angle that’s well behind the play. With the money involved, the innovation in coverage, and the universal acceptance of replay, why aren’t there stationary cameras at either end of the goal line for every televised game? They don’t even need to be manned.

Knowing when a player has scored seems pretty important. We can have sophisticated cameras suspended by cables over the field, but is it too much to ask for a better angle on a touchdown? Even in the SEC someone is bound to cross the goal line once or twice a game. In goal-line situations the mobile sideline camera is usually good enough, but as this play showed not every questionable touchdown is a plunge from the 1-yard line.

UPDATE: Andy Hutchins of the Sporting Blog throws his support behind the idea of goal line cameras.

Post Addressing the speck of sawdust

Friday October 23, 2009

The SEC sent out memos this week clarifying things like marking the spot of a kick and also reminding schools of the restrictions on piped-in noise and music used during games.

In other news, Florida travels to Mississippi State this weekend where artificial noisemakers are a proud tradition and central to the program’s identity.

Post Georgia at SEC basketball Media Days

Thursday October 22, 2009

Mark Fox and Andy Landers were in front of the SEC media this morning, and each offered his outlook on the upcoming season.

Fox talked about the resources available to an SEC program as well as the difficulties of installing his triangle offense with “a group that needs some more offense and that needs to work on controlling the ball better.” He mentioned the motivation that comes from a team looking for a fresh start. “We are not having to fight the battle to get these players motivated,” he added.

Landers focused on the challenges of meshing seven newcomers with a small group of veterans. “How well we do in the season really depends on how well we mix the young and the old.” Fortunately a solid recruiting class should help things. “Our freshmen look a lot better than what your typical freshmen usually look like so that is very encouraging,” Landers explained. Though the media picked Georgia to finish third this year, Landers sees six teams with the possibility of winning the SEC because of the “absence of a great player (in the league) this season.”

For more coverage from Media Days and interviews with other coaches and players, visit the SEC site.

UPDATE: Mark Fox’s debut impressed ESPN’s Pat Forde. “Phenomenal,” he posted to Twitter. “Dawgs made the biggest upgrade in nation in media terms.”

Post Bye week diversion: the USFL

Thursday October 22, 2009

Since it’s a bye week, I’ll go off on a tangent inspired by Mike Tollin’s excellent look back at the USFL as part of ESPN’s 30 on 30 series. It’s been a nostalgic week for those who remember the league, and I even picked up on a few things – somehow I never knew Scott Woerner had a pro career, but there he was returning kicks in the USFL championship game.

Longtime readers and friends know that I grew up a North Carolina fan. Living in the state at the same time that Lawrence Taylor and Michael Jordan owned college sports made it a pretty easy decision for a young kid. (It wasn’t until I enrolled at Georgia that my conversion began, but years of antipathy towards Tech and Clemson made the transition easy.)

In that light, the USFL was one thing to me: Kelvin Bryant vs. Herschel Walker.

Walker needs no introduction, but it’s my “original sin” as a converted Georgia fan that Herschel was the bad guy for fans of Carolina and Kelvin Bryant. History remembers other Heisman winners George Rogers and Marcus Allen as Herschel’s peers, but Bryant had emerged as one of the nation’s top tailbacks in 1981 after being part of a backfield that produced a pair of 1,000 yard rushers in 1980. Injuries slowed him during his last two college seasons, but 15 touchdowns in 3 games to start the 1981 season showed his potential – he finished 1981 with over 1,000 yards despite missing half the season. He entered the 1982 season as a legitimate Heisman candidate and a rival of sorts to Walker.

That “rivalry” (I don’t recall any actual bad blood or anything) got turned up when both players became cornerstones of USFL franchises. Walker usually got the best of Bryant – even at the bank where Bryant was the league’s highest-paid player until Walker signed. Bryant downplayed the role of foil, but it was an inescapable story. Walker led the USFL in rushing in 1983 and 1985, but Walker splitting time with Maurice Carthon gave Bryant the upper hand in 1984. Bryant was the league’s MVP in 1983, and Walker won the award in 1985.

Both players went to the NFL in 1986 and left as the top two running backs in USFL history. Walker had the longer and more successful NFL career, but Bryant earned a Super Bowl ring with the Redskins in 1987 to go along with two USFL championships. Bryant could never shake the injury-prone label and eventually retired in 1990. For a kid who grew up as a fan of Bryant, those few years spent watching those two in the USFL were like watching Kobe vs. Lebron today. You couldn’t enjoy one without appreciating the other, and the competition made an otherwise pass-happy league that much better.

Post SEc media picks men’s hoops last, Lady Dogs 3rd in preseason voting

Wednesday October 21, 2009

One thing in new coach Mark Fox’s favor is that expectations can’t get any lower in his first season.

Georgia came in 6th in the SEC East in the media’s preseason voting this week. That wasn’t a surprise, but the vote was unanimous: Georgia was in last place on each of the 25 ballots.

Kentucky was the clear favorite to win the division and conference, and Mississippi State was the media’s pick to win the West. Florida was projected 5th in the East, so they start the year already on the bubble after last year’s flop.

Kentucky’s Patrick Patterson is the preseason Player of the Year. Patterson is joined on the preseason all-conference teams by freshman phenom John Wall who is already second team based on pure hype. Georgia had no players on the preseason all-conference teams.

The news was a good deal better for the Lady Dogs who were projected to finish third in the conference. A return to the top of the conference would be welcome after last year’s disappointing 7th place finish, but I wonder whether the media had time to process the impact of Christy Marshall’s injury.

The Lady Dogs were the only team with two players on the first team all-conference squad: seniors Ashley Houts and Angel Robinson. That the Lady Dogs have two first-teamers but weren’t close to being picked to win the conference illustrates the perceived lack of firepower behind those two stars. Georgia will be counting on a half-dozen newcomers to fill in the gaps this year, and the media seems to think that the young team will go as far as their senior leaders Houts and Robinson will carry them.

Post Weekend leftovers: coaching from the sideline and the risks of tearing down goalposts

Wednesday October 21, 2009

By the reaction to Mike Bobo’s move from the box down to the sideline, you’d have thought it led to the sharpest performance by the Georgia offense since he took over playcalling duties in 2006. Instead, the running game continued to have its problems until the 4th quarter, the offense managed just two first downs in the first quarter, and Joe Cox was around 50% for the game. If they say it was a sound move, I’d hate to imagine what the offense would have looked like against a poor Vanderbilt team had Bobo stayed upstairs.

The reason for the move, according to Bobo, was “to look into their eyes and try to get a feel for how we’re doing and hopefully relax a little better.” Reviews from the players as well as Bobo and Richt were positive, so at this point there might be some placeo effect. If it takes the offensive coordinator getting down on the sideline to get the offense going, so be it. Interestingly some fans were suggesting a week ago that the defensive coordinator might be more effective by doing the opposite and going from the sideline to the box.

Bobo admitted that it was “a little more difficult to see the play unfold” from the sideline, but Vanderbilt’s defense was pretty straightforward. “They were going to play two deep to our base personal,” Bobo told David Hale. With the strategic advantage of sitting up in the box less important, the decision to move down to the sideline was made. Will that be the case in two weeks? Florida has one of the nation’s most effective and talented defenses and will certainly do more than sit in two deep coverage all day. The indication seems to be that Bobo will return to the sideline for the Florida game, but will the Dawgs get the kind of input and analysis they need against a sophisticated Florida defense with Tony Ball the only offensive coach in the press box?

Florida’s offense turned the ball over four times and lurched its way to 23 points to beat Arkansas. Given a repeat performance in Jacksonville, could Georgia take advantage? The Dawgs have scored at least 24 points against Florida only 3 times since 1994. Not coincidentally, Georgia won each of those games.

Geno Atkins hadn’t made a lot of noise this year until Saturday, and he’s been named the SEC’s Defensive Lineman of the Week as a result. Geno was pushed for a starting job by Kade Weston, but to his credit he’s fighting back. The trio of senior defensive tackles was supposed to be a strength this year, and they might just be coming around. With continued improvement from the tackles and more solid play from Justin Houston, a strong defensive front could be one of Georgia’s few defensive advantages down the stretch.

Comcast steps up. I’ve complained before about Comcast not offering Atlanta customers the Peachtree TV HD feed for the SEC Network game of the week. I’m happy to report that they’ve had the games in HD on channel 802 for the last two weeks. I don’t know if that was just because Georgia was playing or if they’ll continue the arrangement. Unfortunately all was not perfect – it seems that no guide information was updated to reflect the change, so recording the games with a DVR or Tivo was very difficult.

While the SEC prepares its weekly form letter acknowledging another officiating mistake, conspiracy theories abound. Still, football is light years ahead of basketball where “Jordan rules” and favorable treatment for stars is considered a way of life.

Auburn’s losses to Arkansas and Kentucky have them at 2-2 in the SEC with LSU, Ole Miss, Georgia, and Alabama remaining. They’ll have to find a way to win a night game in Baton Rouge to avoid their third consecutive loss. Ignoring the fact that their offense managed just 14 points at home, how did they give up 21 points to a quarterback-less Kentucky team? On the other hand, the Wildcats seem headed for bowl eligibility again. They’re just 3-3 now and 1-3 in the SEC, but they won’t face another ranked team. Yet another bowl bid would represent a level of consistency that many didn’t expect to continue after the Woodson years and seemed out of reach just four or five years ago.

Finally, congrats to Georgia Tech for a big win and a solid season so far, but always remember that celebrating on the field is no time to forget your inhaler.

Post The downside of talking about coaching changes

Tuesday October 20, 2009

Recruits are listening.

The point isn’t about one specific prospect – Nickell Robey sounds as much in the Georgia camp as one could hope given the circumstances. It’s going to be an issue with a lot of defensive prospects committed to and considering Georgia. If our own fans are openly campaigning for coaching changes, you can’t blame prospects who want to take a step back and see how things play out. Mark Richt and his staff are spending the bye week out recruiting, and I’m sure a lot of what they’re having to do is damage control. That’s unfortunately the reality when a season takes a disappointing turn, and the competition is more than ready to pounce on any openings Georgia gives them.

That’s not to discourage the talk, though that’s personally not my style. The talk is out there, and I’m sure many are fine with some attrition among recruits if it means getting the coaching changes they want. Just don’t be surprised when some of the quality prospects who have committed to Georgia realize and react to the consequences of the moves you support. With so many good commitments to date, we were wondering if there would be any drama in this recruiting season. In the end Richt and his staff will end up with another highly-rated class, but there might be some turbulence en route to that destination.

Post “It was only Vandy…”

Monday October 19, 2009

Any conversation I’ve had about the game took an average of 8 seconds to get to that disclaimer.  Look – no one’s claiming that the win healed all wounds and that the Dawgs have turned it around.  But Vanderbilt was the opponent, and – for a nice change – Georgia took care of business against a lesser opponent without much drama.  It was only Vandy two years ago when the Dawgs escaped by a field goal.  In 2006 the Dawgs followed up an ugly loss to Tennessee by imploding against Vanderbilt at home.  With so much negativity around the program this week Georgia responded by handing Vandy their biggest loss of the year and recording the biggest Georgia win in Nashville since 1993.

Even disclaiming the quality of competition, there was plenty to like:

  • Georgia got out in front, held a lead, and put away Vanderbilt.  Sounds simple, but the Dawgs had found a way to make things interesting in each of their other three wins.
  • Georgia gave Vanderbilt very few opportunities to get back in the game with field position, turnovers, or special teams mistakes.
  • The Dawgs immediately answered both Vandy scores cutting off any chance the Commodores had of getting on a roll.
  • Though the running game struggled for much of the game it showed up when it was time to put the game away.  Time-of-possession was in Vandy’s favor most of the game, but it ended up being nearly a five minute advantage for Georgia by the end of the game.  The nearly seven minute 4th quarter drive that ended with Munzenmaier’s touchdown was a thing of beauty.
  • Georgia was an acceptable 7-for-15 on third downs while limiting Vandy to just 3-of-15.
  • With the exception of the fake punt that proved harmless, Georgia’s special teams were strong in all areas. Even kick coverage was decent with no return longer than 20 yards, and the kick out of bounds at the end of the first half was good strategy if it was intentional and not a bad outcome if it was accidental.

It wasn’t a perfect result  – the running game still struggles, Vandy was more effective on offense than the score indicates, and even Cox and the receivers had a tough time getting on the same page at times – but the simple conclusion that Georgia did what you’re supposed to do against a weaker team is more than many of us expected heading into the game.

Post Lady Dog Christy Marshall tears ACL

Friday October 16, 2009

ACL injuries are a fact of life in college sports, but few sports are plagued by the injury as women’s basketball where the ACL injury rate is up to five times that of males. It’s no surprise but still as much of a punch in the gut to learn that Georgia senior wing Christy Marshall tore her ACL on Wednesday and will miss the upcoming season. We wish her a quick and complete recovery.

Marshall was one of three seniors and only five returning players for the Lady Dogs this season. Though she’s struggled on the defensive end during her career, her athleticism makes her a natural scorer, and that contribution will be greatly missed. The injury might mean that freshman star Anne Marie Armstrong gets a lot more playing time than was originally planned.

The team is counting on seven newcomers to bolster the returning players, and reducing that number of returning players by 20% in one swoop isn’t a good thing for the team’s prospects. It doesn’t help that Tamika Willis, one of those newcomers and a top 50 national recruit, won’t join the team until later in the season.

Practice officially begins today for a Lady Dogs team looking to reassert itself after a disappointing 2008-2009 campaign that saw them bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the first round and unable to make a splash even in a down year for the SEC. To say the least, the news that two key players won’t be part of that first practice isn’t the kind of start that Andy Landers wanted.

Post Mark Richt’s identity crisis

Thursday October 15, 2009

The most popular punditry game this week has been pin-the-failed-coach-on Mark Richt. So far he’s been portrayed as:

I’m surprised even more people haven’t jumped on the Bobby Bowden decline given Richt’s coaching pedigree.

The comparisons with coaches who pulled out of a nosedive are much more difficult to find although there’s one within our own program. Is that because it’s relatively rare for successful coaches to recover from this position? With more dollars at stake and the pressure to produce right away, is it becoming unreasonable to expect that coaches at major programs will be given much time or latitude to see if they can turn it around?

At Georgia it seems as if the market has already corrected itself to some coaching changes after the season. That is to say that the inevitability of change is so universally accepted among fans that future expectations already take those changes into account. The resulting mood isn’t great, but it is a good more upbeat than it was on, say, Monday. There is enough faith left in Mark Richt to see how he’ll respond and see whether he’ll be able to get back the championship culture that’s been eroding for a few years.

Post UGA-GT won’t be playing at the Dome

Wednesday October 14, 2009

The idea hit the news a week ago, but Damon Evans stated yesterday that Georgia and Georgia Tech will not open the 2011 season at the Georgia Dome.

The sticking point seemed to be the loss of a home game for Georgia. Many of us originally assumed that the neutral site game would simply take the place of Tech’s turn to host the game in 2011. The proposal actually called for the series to resume at Tech in 2012 meaning that Georgia would go two seasons without a home game against Tech.

From the Tech perspective the deal was attractive because it would spread out attractive home games across different seasons and, presumably, level out ticket sales form year to year. Currently Tech hosts Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Georgia in the same year, and the home schedule in the even-numbered years is much less attractive to prospective ticket buyers.

Post They can’t say that about our coordinator – only we can say that about our coordinator!

Tuesday October 13, 2009

Georgia’s defensive coordinator has become a punch line this week, but you know it’s getting over the top when South Carolina partisans start piling on.

If Georgia has to play South Carolina every year with Martinez as defensive coordinator …
Willie Martinez should absolutely remain defensive coordinator at Georgia as long as he wants.

If Georgia’s defense played other teams as they have South Carolina, Martinez would be named Georgia’s coach-in-waiting. The Gamecocks have averaged just over 13 PPG against Georgia since Richt took over in 2001 and just 15 PPG since Martinez was named coordinator for the 2005 season. Those averages include this year’s 37 points (which itself includes a safety and a pick-six that has nothing to do with the defense). Martinez was also the man behind the shutout in 2006 and the defense that held South Carolina to just 7 points a year ago in a series that has come to be defined by defensive struggles.

We’ve had to learn to laugh at ourselves this week, but you’d think South Carolina fans would be among the first to celebrate the idea of a regime change for the Georgia defense.

Post No one is talking about the refs anymore

Monday October 12, 2009

There’s a certain clarity that comes from games like Saturday’s loss. There’s no ridiculous penalty, no turnover, no play (unless you count 17 versions of the same bootleg play), and no specific coaching decision on which you can pin a loss like that. In earlier setbacks you could take some solace in the performance of the defense as the offense struggled, excuse points away to field position, or zero in on horrible calls against Rashad Jones or A.J. Green. You could look ahead to the next game thinking how things might finally click if we just stopped those pesky turnovers. That fog has lifted after a weekend that ended with Mark Richt admitting that “where we are right now is a culmination of everyone.”

HR Department

It’s not my place to be flippant with the careers and livelihoods of Georgia’s coaches. We’re customers and not shareholders or managers, and our choice is ultimately whether or not to buy the product (a fact which will be very evident come kickoff of the Tennessee Tech game). That doesn’t imply satisfaction or complacency. It’s Mark Richt’s job to manage his staff and team, not mine, and his program’s success will ride on those decisions. He’s certainly given us plenty of reason to trust his judgment when it comes to building a successful program, but the current competitive landscape and the state of the Georgia program are uncharted waters for this coach. At the very least he’s earned the opportunity to try to navigate these waters.

I will say one thing though to those who still maintain some sort of firewall between their feelings for certain assistants and their reverence for the head coach. If the start to this season has made any difference in the way fans view the program, it’s that their dissatisfaction can no longer be put on a specific area or assistant. There is a program problem now, and it’s Richt’s problem to address.

Calling for changes on defense is nothing new; some have been at it since the first half of the West Virginia game that concluded the 2005 season. Grumbling about special teams (and kickoffs in particular) is also a well-worn path. But aside from the occasional gripe with John Eason whenever a receiver dropped a pass or pointing out the offense’s role in some of the spectacular team meltdowns over the past couple of seasons, most of the vocal critics have been able to target the bulk of their criticism at one or maybe two assistants and reassure themselves that the one simple change is all that’s keeping Richt’s Georgia program from reaching its fullest potential.

Is that possible any longer? Is there an area of the program about which to feel confident apart from A.J. Green’s natural gifts or the legs of Butler and Walsh? I don’t mean that in an emotional fling-poo-blame-everyone sense. There just isn’t a part of the team performing at a high level right now. Even the offensive line – the supposed strength of the team – hasn’t been able to survive the loss of a single player. I’ve even seen calls for Richt to take playcalling duties back from Mike Bobo – a decision that was universally hailed as a success at the end of the 2006 season.

I don’t envy Richt’s position over the next couple of months. Fans would replace coaches weekly if they could with all the cold consideration of managing a fantasy football roster. Richt has to deal with some very difficult decisions regarding men he respects professionally and likes personally. Part of the current level of grumbling among the fans has to do with Richt’s unwillingness to make changes following last season in which some of the same issues manifested themselves. Instead an intact staff (except for voluntary turnover) plus an emphasis on the vague concept of “leadership”, a relatively healthy roster, and even a well-disciplined off-season haven’t added up to much. It could be argued that the program is currently living with the consequences of prior indecision.

You can see the weight of the situation pressing on Richt. It shows up in sharp postgame exchanges with reporters. It shows up in the bunker mentality that has Richt talking about the “honor in being in the arena.” It’s even more frustrating and concerning for the staff and players, but at the same time there are many fans and members of the media still willing to stay in Richt’s corner. Now’s not the time to push them away no matter how high the level of frustration.

This painful situation is of course the tradeoff of a program built on loyalty and family. That’s almost always a feature and not a bug. It’s proven to be a winning culture – a culture that was cited when sought-after assistants turned down opportunities elsewhere to continue on in this working environment. Is part of the appeal knowing that the pressure to produce is sometimes less in such a culture? That’s a question for Richt that will have to be considered even any staff changes that take place; any postseason assessment will have to look at the incentives and rewards within the program that guide and reinforce the culture, and it goes way beyond money. Those kinds of touchy-feely management issues can be some of the most difficult for technically proficient head coaches who excel at the principles of football.

What’s Next

Regardless of how you feel about the staff, we’re just not likely to see many changes before the end of the season. This is the team and staff that’s going to trot out there for the next six or seven games. We have the luxury of thinking about decisions that are months away, but the team still has at least six games left and can’t afford to become preoccupied over the last one.

Earlier in the season it was possible to talk about the team Georgia could be if they eliminated certain mistakes and played more efficient and smart football. Now halfway into the season we have to admit that those traits are more or less the identity of the team. Turnovers, questionable decision-making (fielding a punt on the 1? spiking the ball as the clock runs out?), and porous pass coverage remain and don’t seem to be going away.

It’s disappointing and frustrating for fans, and I know many people have already written off this season and will wait for significant changes before getting back on board. That’s understandable – it can be a big investment of time and money. For those willing to stick it out with this team and season, I hope you listen to Michael Moore. That seems much more honest – and also much more likely to be embraced by the fans – than the stone wall coming from the coaching staff. Following Saturday’s comments, Richt was much more open on Sunday about putting everyone on notice. “I’m pointing the finger at all of us as a whole. We must all improve, period,” he said.

Any time a program faces a crisis like this, you have to pay attention to recruiting. Georgia has the bulk of another impressive class already committed, but it’s reasonable to expect that even the most rock-solid commitment will be observing how Georgia finishes the season with special attention given to any changes on the staff. Lane Kiffin is going to wave this win in the face of as many recruits as he can find this week, and I don’t blame him; it’s the only thing on which he can hang his hat going into the bye week recruiting trips. The building frenzy of Georgia fans calling for a scorched-earth approach to the coaching staff won’t go unnoticed either.


We love our analogies. Towards the end of last week I began to hear a lot of Georgia-following-FSU comparisons to tie Richt’s problems to Bowden’s, and FSU’s shootout loss to Tech on Saturday certainly didn’t help things. Now we’ve started to see and hear a few people mentioning Georgia’s stunning turnaround in 2007 which followed a disappointing start and an ugly loss at Tennessee.

Is such a turnaround possible? Sure. Georgia stands a chance against all of its remaining components (and that includes Florida). The biggest difference between 2007 and 2009 is the lack of upward vectors on this Georgia team. In 2007, you had a sophomore Matthew Stafford coming into his own. Knowshon Moreno put up 157 yards at Vanderbilt in a game that transformed him from impressive newcomer to the supercharged star we all saw finish the season. Defensive end Marcus Howard also began to come on strong towards the middle and end of the season and gave Georgia the pass rush they needed to become a much more effective defensive team. There appear to be few players on those kinds of trajectories this year. Joe Cox hasn’t been a disaster at quarterback, but his floor and ceiling appear to be set. The tailback situation is as muddled as it was before the season. Justin Houston’s return did give the pass rush a nice shot in the arm, but the overall defense still struggles.

“Georgia is just as close to 1-5…”

One last thing: please – enough of this. It’s bad enough that Georgia is 3-3; let’s not start taking away wins or players. Yes, Georgia would be worse off without A.J. Green (duh). But he’s on the team. Georgia did come close to losing the South Carolina and Arizona State games, but playing the what-if game with those close outcomes does a disservice to the plays made by guys like Green and Rennie Curran to secure those victories. If this isn’t going to be a championship season, such standout plays might be the best things we’ll have to take from the season.