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Post Watching and waiting

Tuesday January 14, 2020

While Burrow, Brady, and the offense deserve the spotlight, LSU became a scary machine when the defense rounded into form late in the season. The book on LSU had been “great offense, but there are points to be had against them.” They survived a shootout with Texas, got lit up by an Alabama team with a hobbled quarterback, and how many Georgia fans hung their hopes on the 38 points scored by Vanderbilt or the rushing yardage LSU surrendered to Ole Miss?

The 2018 LSU defense was a juggernaut that finished ranked 5th by SP+. Devin White and Greedy Williams left for the NFL. Some important pieces returned, especially Chaisson and Delpit, but the Tigers would be counting on several inexperienced newcomers to fill in the gaps and come along quickly. LSU’s defense was ranked 37th by SP+ after week 7, and the inexperience was compounded by some early injuries. Injured players began to return to the team, and young players like Derek Stingley Jr. began to emerge. There wasn’t a sudden turnaround, but the defensive SP+ rating improved into the 20s and cracked the top 20 by the beginning of the postseason.

The Tigers held Texas A&M, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Clemson to 7, 10, 28, and 25 points to close out the season. That list includes three of the top five teams in the final playoff rankings. The LSU offense went supernova, and they were aided by an improved defense that began to keep the offense well-supplied with possessions, turnovers, and field position. You can even credit the offense with providing the defense plenty of cover to improve. Keeping up with LSU’s output put tremendous pressure on opponents, and the best-laid plans to control the ball and keep Burrow on the sideline went out the window as the Tiger offense went scorched-earth. Opponents were jarred out of their comfort zones, and gameplans went out the window. The LSU defense could key on pass plays, and an inexperienced and banged-up unit still finished second in the SEC in sacks and first in interceptions.

I’m happy for LSU – to an extent. They were a fun team to watch with exceptional players, and there’s no denying the greatness of this year’s team. In Georgia terms, this was their 2017 – except that they finished. They’re still the competition, especially on the recruiting trail. Will Georgia now be chasing two teams in the SEC instead of just Alabama? Has LSU supplanted Alabama? Alabama and Clemson were able to survive wholesale turnovers of talent and win multiple national titles within a couple of years of each other. LSU will also face a big drain of talent from its roster and perhaps also its coaching staff. They’re not going to disappear from relevance like Washington or FSU. But will they be able to remain part of the title discussion like Clemson or Alabama, or will they take a step back to the next tier of teams?

Georgia fans know all about that next tier. We’ve taken up residence there for two seasons now. As much as we might have enjoyed LSU’s win as SEC sympaticos with their likeable cast of characters, it was a little bittersweet. Georgia was supposed to be next. 2019 was set up as a test of whether Georgia could finally get over the Alabama hump an on to bigger things. Instead it was LSU that blew past the rest of the SEC, Georgia included, en route to a national title. LSU proved that our vision for Georgia was possible; it was just put into practice somewhere else.

It’s still not too late for Georgia. The Bulldog program isn’t fading away, and top-rated talent continues to arrive. We’ll see whether LSU’s success is enough of a shock to the system to force Kirby Smart to reconsider the offense he chooses to pair with his top-rated defense. The approach so far was good enough to beat just about any team on a typical regular season schedule, but the Georgia program is in a position now where it is judged against a higher class of competition.


Post Georgia 10 – LSU 37: Passed by

Monday December 9, 2019

We started the season wondering if 2019 would be the year in which Georgia finally solved its Alabama problem. We never got the chance to find out, and we’ll be able to recycle those stories for another offseason. But while we were waiting to measure ourselves against a team not on the schedule, LSU actually went out and solved their own Alabama problem. The combination of a reconstituted offensive scheme and the talent to run that scheme got the Tigers over the hump as SEC champions and into their first CFB playoff.

Georgia started the year with one problem. Now it has two.

LSU realized that its offense, plenty good enough to upset a good team like Georgia in 2018 and get to a New Year’s Six bowl, wasn’t making the most of its talent and wasn’t going to be enough to make LSU a national contender. They made changes, brought in outside help, and dramatically improved production with many of the same core players. They made the moves Georgia was supposed to make to get over the top. They’ll lose Burrow and some other pieces, but they’ve recruited well and have another top class coming in next year. Despite the predictable “is Alabama’s dynasty ending?” pieces after the Iron Bowl, the Tide will return a maturing defense and will welcome yet another loaded signing class. Neither of these programs will go away on their own.

Yes, of course Georgia needs to improve and open up the offense. Kirby Smart isn’t adverse to a productive and explosive offense and passing game; S&P+ ranked the offense #7 in 2017 and #3 in 2018. The emergence of LSU this season makes the need for change more urgent. Is Alabama still the target and the model? Certainly pre-2013 Alabama isn’t what we’re after, but both Alabama and LSU have transitioned to an offense that features its quarterback and a fleet of playmaking receivers. Even their tailbacks would be among Georgia’s top four receivers. If Georgia is able to stay atop the SEC East for another year, it will be interesting to see who will be waiting for them in next season’s championship game. The Alabama-LSU discussion will suck most of the air out of the preseason, but Georgia is going to have an important offseason making sure it can remain part of the conversation.

This year’s SEC championship game was decisive enough that it’s not worth breaking down. You sensed it wouldn’t be Georgia’s day when Burrow was able to catch his own deflected pass and turn it into a first down gain. Burrow, given ridiculous amounts of time by Georgia’s three-man rush, then found an open receiver in the endzone. This followed Georgia’s opening series on which an open receiver dropped a pass and another open receiver was missed. That possession ended on a shanked punt. So there you had it – Georgia’s offense, special teams, and even defense came up short the first time they stepped on the field, and it didn’t get much better.

One of the side effects of Georgia’s problems on offense is that they ended up in a lot of close games. While the Dawgs used a lot of players, especially on defense, in even the tightest of games, there weren’t many opportunities to do much of anything in those games but hold on and get the win. So when it came time to build a credible running game with D’Andre Swift severely limited, Georgia’s tailback depth became a mirage. Zamir White had a total of 17 regular season carries after the South Carolina game. James Cook had 12. On defense, Lewis Cine got his first start in the SEC Championship and figured to be a big part of the plan to defend LSU. He played wonderfully, and he’ll be a fixture in Georgia’s secondary for the next couple of seasons. But safety was a rare defensive position that didn’t see a lot of rotation during the season, and Cine didn’t see nearly the playing time that other freshmen like Travon Walker or Nakobe Dean.

That applies on a macro level too. It was welcome and probably even a good idea to open up passing the ball downfield. We’ve seen several of these concepts all season. It might have been better to break out a more open offense before the biggest game of the season though. James Coley was in a tough spot – the plan made sense, but the execution was lacking. The job of the coordinator isn’t just playcalling; it’s also preparation and crafting a scheme that plays to the strengths of the unit. Without Swift, Georgia’s biggest strength and identity – its large and talented offensive line – was neutered. The line generally blocked well in pass protection, but the inability to run the ball left an inconsistent Fromm throwing to a depleted receiving corps. The Dawgs were going to have to execute well and get touchdowns from its scoring opportunities, and that didn’t happen.

Georgia’s defensive plan was also new and made sense, but it, too, lacked execution. Rushing three and dropping extra defensive backs like Cine was modeled after Auburn’s successful approach to limit the LSU offense. It required one of two things though: either coverage has to be stout to limit explosive plays, or the front three must generate pressure on their own. Neither happened. Georgia had a productive and deep defensive front this season, but it doesn’t have someone like Derrick Brown who can consistently generate a push by himself. Given plenty of time, even as much as eight seconds on the first touchdown pass, even the best coverage will usually break down. Georgia eventually brought more pressure, but Burrow got himself out of enough tough spots to make devastating plays that put the game away in the second half.

Payment due

The Texas A&M game marked the end of a tough four-game stretch against some of the better defenses in the SEC. Over that span Georgia wrapped up their third straight SEC East title, closed out the decade with wins over their biggest rivals, and managed to defeat both regular season SEC West opponents for the first time under Kirby Smart. Three of Georgia’s four November SEC opponents were ranked, and two of them were ranked among the top 15.

When the 2019 schedule came out, most of us went right to the Notre Dame game. It didn’t take long though for eyes to wander down to the end of the schedule and notice what was in store for November. There were four SEC games in November, and the two most difficult would be away from home. Even the two home games weren’t gimmes: Missouri was a darkhorse in the SEC East, and Texas A&M would be tougher than its record against an impossible schedule indicated. I wrote after the A&M win that “Georgia was supposed to be tested by its November schedule, and even the harshest critic must admit that Georgia passed that test.”

The Dawgs might’ve passed that test and emerged from the regular season in playoff position, but like a student wiped out at the end of exams, there wasn’t much left in the tank. The season, and especially November, took its toll on the team. Lawrence Cager, the team’s leading and most reliable receiver, was lost for the year. D’Andre Swift was knocked out of the Tech game. Injuries to key players, not to mention the physical and mental toll of the grind itself, left Georgia in a suboptimal position for the postseason. The bill for a successful November came due just in time to face LSU. That’s no excuse – few teams are in prime condition after 12 games. But no one can say that the Dawgs were a team peaking and building towards a postseason run.

Never want to be the underdog

Underdogs and favorites are in those roles for a reason. Maybe it was rationalization, but how many of your friends and fellow fans did you hear leading up to the game relishing the underdog role? “No one is giving Georgia a chance – perfect!” Well, we saw why. Sure, sometimes teams can find a little extra motivation from being told they’re not the favorite – Alabama took exception when they were slight ‘dogs at Georgia in 2015. Upsets happen. More often than not, though, underdogs lose. I would hope we’re beyond that mentality now as a program and fan base. It’s two-faced: you can’t claim to aspire to be a playoff-quality team from year to year and at the same time shy away from the spotlight.

It’s especially silly given the tremendous respect for the Georgia program and brand that’s out there. Even after South Carolina, Georgia was the top-ranked one-loss team. Even after the beating at the hands of LSU, Georgia remained the top-ranked two-loss team and even gave the playoff committee something to think about against one-loss conference champion Oklahoma. Georgia was a touchdown underdog to LSU because the Tigers were that much better this year. That’s something we should aim to correct and reverse rather than embrace.


Post Bye week opponent watch

Monday September 30, 2019

Sure, you could have done something productive during the bye week – that yard isn’t going to tend itself. Alternatively you could have been sucked into watching the #1 team in the nation fight for its life against a team coming off a loss to Appalachian State. A bye week was a great opportunity to check up on the teams Georgia has defeated and get to know the teams we’ll see down the road.

Vanderbit: Notched their first win of the season in a 24-18 home defeat of Northern Illinois. Vandy jumped out ahead and held NIU scoreless in the first half but ended up sweating the outcome. Ke’Shawn Vaughn became the first SEC back to have multiple 130+ yard games this season.

Murray State: Fell to 1-3 in a 40-7 loss to UT-Martin. The 17 points scored against Georgia are the most they’ve scored in a loss.

Arkansas State: Survived a 50-43 shootout with Troy and are 3-2 on the year. ASU has scored at least 30 points in all of their games win or lose…except for the shutout loss in Athens.

Notre Dame: Got back into the saddle with a 35-20 win over Virginia in the day’s only matchup of ranked teams. It’s a nice win, and many are saying that it makes Georgia’s win a week ago look a little better. I’m not entirely sure about that – the Irish needed two big defensive plays to come from behind in the second half, and the offense was actually outgained by the Cavaliers.

Of course it’s good to see our signature win (to date) get a quality win of their own. I’ll just take two things from the game: first is Tony Jones Jr. grinding out 131 yards. Georgia’s defense held him to 21 yards and essentially made Notre Dame one-dimensional. The other takeaway is why Kirby Smart seemed so obsessive about turnovers in the leadup to our game. Of course any coach will emphasize the importance of turnover margin, but every Georgia player seemed to know that Notre Dame doesn’t lose when the turnover margin is in their favor. Sure enough, Notre Dame needed every one of Virginia’s five turnovers to avoid a much closer game than the final score indicated.

Tennessee: (insert “struggled with bye week” joke). The Vols didn’t exactly win the bye week – three players departed the team, leaving Tennessee with 77 scholarship players.

South Carolina: Recorded their first FBS win of the season with a solid 24-7 defeat of Kentucky. Two Gamecock tailbacks rushed for 100 yards, and a stingy defense limited a hapless Kentucky offense to 212 yards and 3.4 yards per play. The natives had become restless after a 1-3 start, but this win was a much-needed shot of confidence going into a bye week before the trip to Athens.

Kentucky: Fell flat at South Carolina. As the saying goes, if you have zero quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. Sawyer Smith had a dreadful 2.8 yards per attempt against South Carolina, and the Wildcats asked WR Lynn Bowden to take snaps because, well, why not. The UK defense was able to keep things close-ish, but South Carolina’s second touchdown opened what seemed like a 50-point lead. The Cats will have a bye week to try to figure things out before Arkansas – maybe their best chance at an SEC win.

Florida: Shut out Towson, a school I only knew about because of a couple of NCAA Tournament appearances in the 1990s. I’m sure this game is just what the Gators needed to prepare them for a visit from Auburn next week. Kyle Trask accounted for three touchdowns with an efficient 18-20 and 9.4 YPA. The Gators remain undefeated and in the top ten but will face Auburn, LSU, and Georgia over the next five weeks.

Missouri: Had a bye this week and are 3-1. They’ll have a fairly light load in October with Troy, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky. The loss to Wyoming is in the distant past now, and it would be surprising if Mizzou weren’t 7-1 when they visit Athens.

Auburn: Probably still putting up points on Mississippi State. The Tigers jumped on the visiting Bulldogs (literally) and led 42-9 by halftime en route to a 56-23 thumping. Bo Nix had his best game to date, but really every part of the Auburn offense did what it wanted in this game. Auburn’s defense was solid as always, and the MSU offense didn’t help themselves. The Tigers are rolling, but two of the next three are on the road at Florida and LSU.

Texas A&M: Escaped the SEC upset of the year with a 31-27 win over Arkansas in Dallas. This turned into the most entertaining game of the noontime slate as the teams traded scores and the lead five times. The Aggies got 251 yards passing from Kellen Mond but only rushed for 89 yards. Arkansas had the final possession inside A&M territory, but the Aggie defense prevailed. A&M is 3-2 and has yet to cover itself in glory. They’ll get a bye and then the pleasure of facing new #1 Alabama.

Georgia Tech: Were not shut out by Temple.


Post Big Bear is watching

Friday September 13, 2019

Earlier this summer I wrote about professional teams using data mining from electronic transactions to monitor and customize the fan experience.

I shouldn’t be surprised to see this technology now being used by some of our quasi-professional college teams.

(Alabama) is rewarding students who attend games — and stay until the fourth quarter — with an alluring prize: improved access to tickets to the SEC championship game and to the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game, which Alabama is trying to reach for the fifth consecutive season. But to do this, Alabama is taking an extraordinary, Orwellian step: using location-tracking technology from students’ phones to see who skips out and who stays.

I’m not a fan of coaches scolding students and fans for lack of attendance and support. Play better opponents. Provide a better experience.

At the same time, Alabama’s plan doesn’t bother me that much. Attend or don’t attend; leave or stay. But I don’t have much of a problem using scarce and subsidized postseason student tickets as an incentive to reward consistent attendance. It’s not perfect – there are legitimate reasons to leave games or skip them entirely, and that’s the student’s choice. I’m sure some will find a way to game the system. It does seem preferable to ticket distribution based on a random lottery or even seniority though. If the location tracking is your hangup, I have a few flip phones to sell you.


Post Fromm is perfect for Georgia but not a Heisman candidate

Thursday July 11, 2019

Jake Fromm is an outstanding quarterback and the best possible person to lead Georgia’s offense. He’s beaten out and held off two higher-rated quarterbacks because he does exactly what Kirby Smart and the staff ask of him: run the offense efficiently, make plays to sustain drives, and avoid critical mistakes. He’s been a leader from the moment he took over from Eason, and he’ll likely be a high draft pick when he chooses to leave Georgia. The Dawgs aren’t going to go far this year without Fromm playing at least as well as he did in his first two seasons.

With that said, he’s not going to win the Heisman. Put another way, if Fromm is even in the Heisman conversation at year end, something has gone very, very wrong with Georgia’s offensive identity.

Individual moments of excellence are part of any Heisman season, and it doesn’t hurt to be on a winning team. Fromm checks those boxes. Fromm’s stats last season were more than respectable: 67.4% completion rate, 2,761 yards, 30 TD / 6 INT, and 9.0 yards per attempt. They’re comparable to the stats from his freshman campaign in 2017 during Georgia’s run to the national title game. But compared with the ten most recent quarterbacks to win the Heisman since Tim Tebow in 2007, those numbers aren’t competitive.

These ten Heisman-winning quarterbacks have met one of two criteria:

  • Gaudy passing numbers: 6 of the 10 threw for at least 4,000 yards in their Heisman seasons. Half threw for over 40 TD.
  • Dual-threat ability: 7 of the 10 rushed for at least 699 yards in their Heisman seasons. 7 accounted for at least 10 rushing touchdowns.

Of course most of them showed some combination of the two – that’s why they stood out over everyone else. All threw for at least 3,200 yards except for Cam Newton, and he made up for it with 20 rushing TDs and nearly 1,500 rushing yards. All rushed for at least 5 TD except for Jameis Winston, but he passed for over 4,000 yards and 40 TD. Kyler Murray set a ridiculous bar with over 4,300 passing yards, 1,000 rushing yards, and a total of 54 touchdowns.

Heisman quarterbacks are expected to be at least a credible threat to run the ball, and Fromm hasn’t shown that to date. Oh, he’s not a potted plant and has the vision and creativity to move around the pocket. But in two seasons, he has a grand total of 52 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. Last year he had zero rushing touchdowns and negative rushing yardage. And that was with a five-star quarterback on the bench behind him. With an unsettled backup situation in 2019, how willing do you expect the staff to be to call many designed runs for Fromm?

If they’re not going to create Heisman moments on the ground, quarterbacks have to put up head-spinning numbers through the air. Sam Bradford only rushed for 47 yards in 2008, but he threw for over 4,700 yards and a whopping 50 touchdowns. Baker Mayfield had 311 rushing yards in 2017 but passed for 43 TD and over 4,600 yards at a completion rate over 70%.

With Fromm’s rushing stats, he’d have to have about 75% more passing yards and 15-20 more TDs this year than in either of his first two seasons to get into Bradford territory. Does that sound like Georgia’s offense? The Dawgs might have a new offensive coordinator, but there’s no chance that Kirby Smart will prefer anything but heavy doses of Swift and the other backs behind one of the nation’s biggest and best lines. (*) If Georgia is as successful as we hope they’ll be, think about how infrequently the Dawgs pass the ball when they’re salting away a comfortable second half lead. Consider also the amount of production gone from the receiver and tight end positions, and it might be an impressive feat just to approach 3,000 yards through the air.

Enjoy Jake Fromm for what he is and appreciate his mastery of his role on this team.

* – Is Swift a more realistic Heisman candidate? Georgia’s recent tailbacks haven’t been Heisman finalists largely due to how well-rounded the group has been. Sharing carries and production has been great for the team and the endurance of the individual backs, but no one back has been able to pile up huge numbers. That might change a little this year depending on how much Zamir White can contribute or whether Cook, Herrien, or McIntosh can prove themselves worthy of splitting carries with a healthy Swift.


Post “I will know when you come in and what you buy and when.”

Monday June 24, 2019

Daniel Kaplan at the Athletic has a piece looking at the push at sporting events towards cashless transactions. Stadiums and arenas, especially newer ones opening with the technology already baked in, are foregoing cash at point-of-sale locations. Fans must either use credit cards or NFC-enabled devices (watch or phone) to buy concessions, merchandise, and anything else while they’re in the stadium.

The appeal of cashless transactions is convenience and speed. Using cash isn’t exactly as slow as writing a check in the grocery store line, but you still have to count out money and wait for change to be made. A tap or a swipe should be quicker, provided everyone in line knows how the system works – not always a sure thing.

Kaplan points out an issue with cashless payments that shouldn’t be overlooked: not all fans have smartphones, and certain groups and income levels are less likely to have credit or debit cards. Some facilities are addressing this issue with “reverse ATMs” where fans can load cash onto prepaid debit cards, but even that requires someone to plan out how much to load on the card. That will often be more than they intend to spend if they don’t want to get caught at the register with less on their prepaid card than they need.

It’s not just about the fans of course. Going cashless isn’t without benefits to the stadiums and teams, and this is probably the most interesting part of Kaplan’s piece. Electronic transactions provide countless opportunities for data-mining and tracking. Sure, no one has to buy anything at the ballpark, but even the ticket to get in the place is now often tied to a phone.

Steve Cannon, CEO of the group that owns Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz stadium and the sports teams that play there, points out how the data might be used to improve the customer experience. Teams can learn what fans do and don’t like and even offer coupons and discounts. It doesn’t take long for things to get a little creepy though. “We will have a much more nuanced understanding of what your likes are,” Cannon explained. As more elements of the gameday experience from ticketing to parking to concessions to merchandise are routed through team-controlled apps, Cannon is very clear about what it all means: “‘I will know when you come in,’ he concluded, ‘and what you buy and when.'”

Will Leitch recently wrote about the trend of sports teams and arenas chasing fans willing to spend top-dollar for “exclusive” seating, access, and benefits. Leitch cites studies that estimate “70 to 80 percent of ticket revenue comes from the first 15 to 20 rows.” Modern stadiums don’t tout capacity anymore; it’s now about the courtside bar.

Whether someone buys a hotdog or a jersey is useful information (hey, here’s a coupon for our online team store!) but still fairly small potatoes. Businesses requiring cashless payments is nothing new, and neither is data-mining a customer’s purchase history. As the stadium experience is tailored more and more for the higher-end customer Leitch describes, those are the fans about which teams will want to know as much as possible. Knowing the purchasing habits and preferences of someone willing to pay thousands of dollars for a premium experience is valuable. Many companies would go to great lengths to be able to focus their marketing efforts at that audience, and teams will be able to monitor (and even customize) that fan’s entire event experience by funneling as many actions as possible through their app.

Sanford Stadium’s concession stand fundraising-group-of-the-week is almost refreshing in its low-tech anonymity.


Post More like Clemson every day

Wednesday May 29, 2019

A couple of years ago a former baseball letterman wrote one of those open letters sent to local media about the state of Georgia athletics. Football had struggled through Kirby Smart’s first season, and baseball was at a turning point. The thing to do, the letter-writer suggested, was to follow the lead of Clemson – a program celebrating a football national title and opening glittering new facilities left and right.

The problem with that suggestion was the difference between perception and reality. Even with the higher-profile sports underperforming, Georgia’s overall program was a good 30 points higher in the Directors’ Cup standings than Clemson. But because Clemson football had broken through, the perception, according to this letter, was that Georgia had a lot to learn from its rival up I-85.

I bring that up because this post by Blutarsky reminded me of that letter from two years ago and how things have changed in a way that would meet with the approval of its author. Kirby Smart has things rolling. Basketball just pulled in arguably its best recruiting class ever. Gymnastics seems to be on an upswing. The decision to stick with Scott Stricklin has paid off as the Diamond Dawgs are looking at a high national seed in this year’s NCAA tournament. In terms of the overall athletics program though, there’s this reality: “Georgia is 35th in the most recent NACDA Directors’ Cup, which ranked ninth in the SEC. The Bulldogs were 15th in the standings at this point a year ago in the all-sports measurement.”

There are bright individual spots. There always are. Track is a national power. Women’s tennis had a strong season. Several ongoing sports like men’s golf and baseball have an opportunity to earn some hardware. The metric tells us that Georgia’s programs overall are decent with “17 of 21 sports competing in the NCAA postseason,” but it’s not near the usual level of success. I doubt we’ll see impassioned appeals to the media about the state of things this summer. Didn’t you see the latest defensive line commitment?

(Clemson by the way? Down there with Georgia Tech in the 80s.)


Post Want a beer? Get in line now.

Wednesday May 29, 2019

So the SEC is going to review its “decades-old bylaw prohibiting member schools from selling alcohol” at this week’s spring meetings in Destin.

I’m not opposed to the idea of alcohol sales in the stadium, but can Sanford Stadium handle it? I don’t mean the patrons; I’m talking about the neglected infrastructure of areas of the stadium that haven’t been touched since the East stands were added in 1981. I’m trying to visualize how the already-overcrowded concourses of Sanford Stadium would handle beer lines. Navigating the tight East or South concourses for concessions (or anything, really) is already bad enough.

If the plan involves placing beer sales in more open areas in Reed Alley, around Gates 6 and 7, or the West endzone, fine. But this is about revenue, so the temptation won’t be to limit the number of taps or place the majority of them away from where most fans are seated. I have no doubt alcohol sales will happen sooner than later, but I’m going to be very interested in how Georgia implements it. Getting it wrong could be just one more reason to stay at home and enjoy the cold ones from the fridge.


Post Transfers, young teams, and a story pitch

Tuesday February 19, 2019

“Transfer portal” is now right up there with “polar vortex” as a label for something that is very real and normal but which has come to represent a much bigger phenomenon.

The transfer portal doesn’t do much other than provide transparency to a process that had been done behind closed doors. It does take some power away from schools to restrict who may and may not contact a prospective transfer, and it broadcasts to the world that someone is available. It makes the process slightly easier, but that’s not enough on its own to open the transfer floodgates.

A bigger change is the softening (and march toward elimination) of the requirement to sit out a year after transferring. Critics warn of a free-for-all transfer market, coaches fret over the loss of control of their roster, and the term “free agency” has become pejorative. Georgia’s been the beneficiary of more generous eligibility waivers: Demetris Robertson was immediately eligible to play last season after his transfer from Cal. Now Justin Fields’s waiver has been granted at Ohio State, and all eyes are on the status of Tate Martell at Miami. I don’t know why Martell’s circumstances are all that different from Fields’s, but that’s the way the media is playing the story. You almost feel for Jacob Eason who sat out last season without seeking a waiver.

The unmistakable trend can be summed up by “early.” Players are arriving earlier: 14 members of the 2019 signing class enrolled early to get a head start on playing right away. Even players who will end up redshirting are able to play earlier now. They’re leaving earlier too. The past two seasons have set records for the number of underclassmen declaring for the NFL Draft. Graduate transfer rules make it more common for a player to seek a new opportunity for his final season. Those who don’t pan out or earn playing time right away will look to a loosening transfer process.

Coaches love to talk about their young teams, but that’s the new reality. All teams will be young teams. Successful coaches will be those who are able to manage rosters heavy on freshmen and sophomores with small groups of upperclassmen. It’s not just managing the numbers, though that will be a big part of it. The early signing period means that schools like Georgia that can fill most of their class early can spend the six weeks before the late signing period observing the transfer and attrition landscape and using those last few spots to fill needs with a prospect or a transfer. Coaches will also have to tailor schemes and how those schemes are implemented to make sure that they can be picked up rapidly and executed at the highest level by relatively inexperienced players.

Is there a model for how programs might be managed in the future?

The NCAA allows for an unrestricted one-time transfer in most of the sports it governs. You have to be in good academic standing, but there are only four sports to which the “sit out a year” rule applies:

If you transfer from a four-year school, you may be immediately eligible to compete at your new school if…you are transferring to a Division I school in any sport other than baseball, men’s or women’s basketball, football (Football Bowl Subdivision) or men’s ice hockey.

Most of us focus on football, but what we’re dreading as an era of free agency is actually the normal for the majority of NCAA sports.

With that in mind, it would be interesting to see coaches interviewed from other sports who have had to deal with unrestricted transfers for years. Softball would be a great place to start – Alex Hugo, perhaps the best Georgia softball player in the past decade, was a high-profile transfer who played her freshman season at Kansas in 2013 and was immediately eligible to play at Georgia in 2014. Georgia of course has also been on the other end of transfers. These coaches live in this world already and could provide some good insight on how to manage a program.

(I’m trying to think through how unrestricted transfers might play out differently in a sport like football or basketball versus, say, softball. I’m inclined to think that there would be more frequent transfers in football/basketball since one year of exposure in the “right” system could be worth millions. There are of course professional opportunities for softball, but the incentives aren’t as great in Olympic sports to maximize the collegiate system for future income.)


Post Georgia 45 – Austin Peay 0: From the lowly East endzone

Tuesday September 4, 2018

So where does this rank among the all-time hot games? Alabama 2002 and Clemson 2003 are the standard, and this felt as hot as it’s been in Sanford Stadium. Fans, vendors, and even support staff fell victim to the heat around the stadium. It’s good news that the team made it through the game unscathed, though the heat sapped a lot of energy and enthusiasm from the players. We were fortunate that the coaches had the good sense to shave five minutes off the fourth quarter before anyone else got hurt.

If there was something we can take away from a game like this, it was Georgia’s display of speed on both sides of the ball. The offense showcased its weapons: six different players and two quarterbacks were involved in the team’s six touchdowns. Two of the scores were explosive sprints by receivers: Robertson announced his presence with a 72-yard jet sweep, and Mecole Hardman ran past the Austin Peay secondary to turn a mid-range completion into a 59-yard score. James Cook was everything we heard about from camp both as a receiving threat out of the backfield and as a tailback. He might be the team’s second-best rushing option already (more on that in a second.)

We wondered for eight months how a Georgia offense would look without Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. We got a glimpse of that on Saturday. No, we didn’t see anything close to the entire offense – there was no wildcat, no special “Fields package”, or even much downfield passing. But in terms of basic identity, we saw an offense much more focused around the perimeter. The offense marched down the field with bubble screen after bubble screen, and tailbacks caught nine of the team’s 21 completions. The longest runs of the day – some by design, and some not – went to the outside.

While it was thrilling to see the speed of Georgia’s backs and receivers in space, the more conventional running game sputtered. Swift was fine, and his day ended early. Holyfield did have a nice bit of improvisation on his touchdown, and Herrien sent a charge through the crowd with a spin move on a swing pass. Still, it was a fairly unremarkable game from the tailbacks as you went down the depth chart. Some of that might be from the line dragging in the heat, but the backs didn’t do much to create the impression of a strong unit behind Swift. If anything, Cook might have looked like the second-best back if only because of his raw speed.

A shutout is always a good result for a defense regardless of the competition, but it’s also a credit to the entire team. The offense didn’t hurt itself with turnovers and stalled drives that flipped field position. Special teams did its job with touchbacks on kickoffs, deep punts, and no return yardage allowed. Until Cook’s penalty in the meaningless fourth quarter, Austin Peay’s best starting field position was its own 25. Overmatched teams aren’t going to put many drives together with that field position. Austin Peay got close with a missed field goal attempt in the first half and a failed fourth down attempt in the second half, but Georgia’s defense held.

Georgia did well to hold Austin Peay to under 100 yards rushing. The Governors feature one of the best FCS rushing offenses, and they use some option elements to test a defense’s discipline and assignments. Kirby Smart wondered how that style of offense would challenge Georgia’s young defense. “I’m not saying they’re going to come in and dominate and be able to run the ball every down on us, but I think what they can do is get explosive plays,” he explained. The defense passed that test thanks in large part to outstanding lateral speed. That speed was a big reason why Austin Peay had no run longer than 14 yards and no reception longer than 12. The secondary might be young and raw, but the speed of guys like LeCounte, Reese, Rice, Gibbs, and Campbell will have them in position to make many more plays than they don’t.

Austin Peay’s running game did expose one area of concern in the Georgia defense: a softness up front. Georgia never established much of a push from the defensive line. Georgia was able to keep those modest gains from turning into more, but matchups will only get tougher for the interior line and linebackers. It’s good to see Reed continuing his 2017 form, but it’s not necessarily a great sign to have safeties as three of your top four tacklers. Monty Rice led the front seven in tackles, and that’s encouraging, but he needs some help. I’m not as concerned about a lack of sacks – the nature of Austin Peay’s offense doesn’t give pass plays much time to develop. You had to like how active Brenton Cox was in his debut.

How young is the defense?

Seventeen defenders were credited with at least two tackles. Only five of those players were upperclassmen. Here’s how it broke down:

  • Seniors: 2
  • Juniors: 3
  • Sophomores: 7
  • Freshman: 5

Of course some of that had to do with how the game unfolded. When you’re emptying the bench in the first half, there’s going to be a lot of inexperience on the field.

Extra Points

  • It was almost unfair to see Adam Anderson out there in the fourth quarter. Emptying the bench meant playing a fresh 5* outside linebacker. His combination of speed and power was unmistakable.
  • So we have a punter, right? Camarda didn’t show any sign of jitters on his three punts, and his first drew an audible reaction from the crowd. He’ll work on placement, but for now I’ll take the cannon shot and a touchback to keep the ball from a returner like Deebo Samuel.
  • The quarterbacks weren’t asked to do much, but they executed well. Each had a near-miss: Fromm threw into tight double coverage on one of the few deeper passes, and Fields nearly had a bubble screen picked off. The risk of a defender stepping in front of one of those screens is high as we see better competition, so both quarterbacks will have to make good decisions if we continue to use that play to get the ball in the hands of receivers and tailbacks.
  • Watch Nauta and Woerner on Robertson’s touchdown run. Glad to see Nauta get his own score later in the game.

Last Thing

It struck me how clean the game was from Georgia’s perspective. It wasn’t the toughest opponent, but we’ve seen teams here and elsewhere slop around in these games. We saw few mistakes related to operations – delays, false starts, substitution penalties, or unforced timeouts. Ridley drew a couple of penalties with aggressive blocking, and Cook was involved in two big mistakes in the fourth quarter. Overall though Georgia had the appearance of a prepared and focused team. Each side of the ball has something major to work on: the offense has to establish a more consistent conventional running game, and the defensive interior must be more physical. Kirby Smart will be hammering home those points as Georgia prepares for much tougher SEC fare, and the temperature won’t be any cooler in Columbia.


Post Opening the curtain on Kirby’s second act

Saturday September 1, 2018

On Saturday it will have been 288 days since Georgia took the Sanford Stadium field, and just a few things have happened during that time. We left the Kentucky game as SEC East champions and with fond memories of an accomplished senior class. That in itself marked a successful second season for Kirby Smart. The division title was the baseline expectation for most of us, and cracking the initial playoff rankings tempted us to dream of more. Georgia had established itself as a very good team, but the Auburn loss had knocked the Dawgs out of the top 4, and Georgia was an underdog in the upcoming rematch with Auburn.

The next two months were a whirlwind that changed how we looked at the 2017 season, Kirby Smart, and the players who made it all happen. It started with a fairly lopsided dismissal of Tech in the final stop on the regular season Revenge Tour. Georgia made the plays in the SEC Championship that it hadn’t at Auburn, and a close game broke open midway through the second half. The team that had taken a nice step forward during the season were now SEC Champions, and the team that was on the outside of the playoff picture was headed for Pasadena. Georgia won its second Rose Bowl in a dramatic classic that most of us have watched on loop this summer. Within a month a team that was an underdog for the SEC title had earned its shot at the national title.

We’re all disappointed with the outcome of the title game, but Georgia stood toe-to-toe with the dominant dynasty of the past decade. If we can’t avoid measuring the progress of this program against Alabama, Georgia looked much more like a peer than the 2015 squad that didn’t belong on the same field. Georgia maintained that competitiveness into recruiting season and wrapped up the nation’s top class. That momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing any time soon.

Not many people expected Georgia to go as far as they did last season, and that’s the biggest change heading into 2018. There’s no escaping it this year. Georgia is top four in the preseason consensus. They’re favored at this point against every regular season opponent. They’re solid favorites to repeat as SEC East champs. If reaching Atlanta in December was the expectation last season, it’s the starting point for expectations this year.

Many Georgia fans aren’t comfortable with this situation. I understand – we’ve been burned more than once.

High expectations in 2000 brought down a coaching staff. The #1 ranking in 2008 didn’t last long. Georgia was the preseason #4 by consensus in 2013 but finished unranked after devastating injuries took their toll. The Dawgs have been overrated relative to the preseason consensus seven of the past ten years. Georgia’s had a habit of rocketing past their preseason ranking every ten years or so (’97: +16, ’07: +12, ’17: +14), but all that’s served to do is to build up expectations for the next year. Here we are again: a successful season in a year ending in “7” followed by a preseason ranking near the top.

So, barring a 2013-like run of injuries, what’s to stop 2018 from being another 2008? (Or, heaven forbid, another 2000?) After all, the cheery optimism we have after making a title run in 2017 is just a few setbacks away from turning into wistful bitterness at coming up just short.

One of Kirby Smart’s many jobs this year is managing those expectations within the program. It’s not as though he lacks experience in a program dealing with lofty expectations. He introduced (or borrowed) the “pressure is a privilege” line during Media Days, and it demonstrates how he plans to change Georgia’s approach to expectations. It’s not meant to be dreaded or avoided or buried in some bunker of Munson-like pessimism. It’s to be met head-on and used to set the standard for how the team prepares, practices, and performs.

Pressure might be a privilege, but it is still pressure. Georgia might be favored at this point in every game, but many projections have the Dawgs dropping a game or two in the regular season. One of the things Georgia did well last season was compartmentalizing each game. Smart made sure there was no looking ahead, reinforcing each week that no one remembers or cares who led the race at its midpoint. More importantly, those words were repeated and taken to heart by the team’s leadership. When Roquan Smith or Sony Michel were interviewed, it was as if Kirby Smart’s words were coming out of their mouths. I don’t doubt that this 2018 team has identified its leaders, and you can probably already name most of them. But it was the way those 2017 leaders became instruments of the coaches that distinguished them and will make them difficult to replace. Whether or not Georgia can play to its high standard and maintain focus each week as favorites will depend on how well the next group of leaders can reinforce from week to week the consistent messages from the coaches.

Even if things go well, Georgia’s going to find itself in some tight spots. Nearly every champion does. Georgia will head into some difficult road environments to face quality teams. They’ll be plugging inexperienced players in at key positions like cornerback. Depth isn’t where you’d like it to be at a handful of spots. Even at this high level, losses will happen. You’re going to have a quarterback scramble into his line, bobble the ball, and throw a touchdown anyway. You’re going to have an average quarterback put together the game of his life. You’ll have freak plays and more freak plays. Each loss hurts more because it only takes one to remove your postseason fate from your control. It’s tempting then to focus on the rare loss and not enjoy the wins, and I hope we can avoid that.

If you feel as though Kirby Smart has changed things around the program, why shouldn’t fans be a part of that change? Our apprehension about expectations should become a confidence. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but a certain amount of confidence in this program has been earned. I think we saw the beginnings of it last year. Georgia’s always had a strong showing at road games, but the confidence that came with “taking over” was new. The Revenge Tour gave us plenty of motivational fuel each week. Sleepy Sanford Stadium woke up, and a drab home schedule became a prime-time party.

More than one person noted that the 2017 Georgia football season was our version of the 1991 Atlanta Braves season. It wasn’t just the success, it was the novelty of so many unique experiences and accomplishments. It wasn’t quite worst-to-first, but 2017 was much more than just an SEC championship season. It was the validation for the new coach’s vision and reassurance that Georgia hadn’t made a huge mistake by blowing it all up in 2015. Now we see where that coach takes his program from here. The talent is there. The resources and support are there. I can’t wait to see what’s next.


Post What it means to replace Nick and Sony

Tuesday August 14, 2018

Football Study Hall has a piece looking at the most well-rounded tailbacks from 2017. To determine how well-rounded a back is, they looked at the combination of efficiency and explosiveness. For efficiency, they looked at a back’s success rate relative to the expected success rate for a play, and explosiveness compared actual vs. expected IsoPP. All of that is defined much better in the post.

There were only 22 backs in 2017 with at least 150 carries “who rated in the 50th percentile in both marginal efficiency and explosiveness.” It should come as no surprise that Georgia had two of those 22. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel weren’t just productive in terms of yardage. They were both among the best in the nation at being efficient and explosive, and they accomplished that sharing carries in a tailback rotation that went five-deep. Michel was in the 80th percentile in both categories.

That’s what Georgia is attempting to replace at tailback. It’s not just 2,600 yards and 31 TD. It’s generating that production with a consistency of both efficiency and explosiveness.

One point the FSH piece makes is how running the ball is a tough way to get ahead.

First things first: it must be noted that, of these 83 players, only 28 produced a marginal efficiency above zero percent. As with what people have begun to firmly establish on the pro side…running is a reasonably lower-ceilinged endeavor. It’s lower-risk, too, and some teams have certainly figured out how to run more than others, but for a majority of feature backs, handing them the ball was likely to put you behind schedule. It was also far less likely to produce big plays — only 18 of these 83 produced a marginal explosiveness above plus-0.0 points per successful run.

Georgia was able to buck that trend and produce a dominant running game in 2017 largely because they had an unusual concentration of backs who could stay ahead of the chains (efficient success rate) and possessed a better-than-most threat to rip off an explosive run. It would be an accomplishment for Georgia to have one such back in 2018 – it was nearly unstoppable to have two. That alone suggests a larger role for the passing game for Georgia’s offense in 2018.

Another interesting thing from that post: Georgia faced six of the 19 rushing quarterbacks (60+ attempts, not including sacks) who rated in the 50th percentile or better in both rushing efficiency and explosiveness. The results?

  • Taylor Lamb (App St.): 10 carries, 66 yards, 1 TD, 32 long
  • Brandon Wimbush (Notre Dame): 16 carries, 1 yard, 1 TD, 8 long
  • Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State): 10 carries, 47 yards, 0 TD, 14 long
  • Stephen Johnson (Kentucky): 8 carries, 4 yards, 0 TD, 7 long
  • Jalen Hurts (Alabama): 6 carries, 47 yards, 0 TD, 31 long
  • Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma): 12 carries, 1 yard, 0 TD, 22 long

Yes, those yardage totals include sack yardage, but the few explosive runs Georgia gave up to rushing quarterbacks were more or less inconsequential. Considering that the scrambling QB was considered an Achilles heel of the defense entering the season, those are some fairly impressive results against a half-dozen of the nation’s most well-rounded rushing quarterbacks.


Post Incentives part 2 – the shrinking visitor’s section

Tuesday July 17, 2018

I wrote earlier that SEC fans are still attending games, and that’s true in most cases. One area in which there seems to be a little softening is in the time-honored tradition of the visitor’s section. Of course with rabid SEC fans there will always be plenty of loyal opposition in the stands, and the one or two best games on the schedule will always be a tough ticket, but the phrase “tickets returned from visiting teams” seems to be showing up a lot more often.

Variable ticket pricing isn’t a new development – it’s been around in some form in the SEC for most of this decade. Teams have figured out the mechanics of charging more for premium (or just conference) games. Neither is supply-and-demand a revelation. When the prices of tickets rise, we’ll see less demand for them. For home fans, it’s somewhat more difficult to turn away. There are other things at stake beyond the ticket price – maintaining a location held for generations and the ritual of tailgating and a fall weekend in Athens make it tempting to swallow each subsequent price increase.

With the introduction of variable pricing for its home games in 2018, Georgia’s had enough tickets returned this year from opponents to offer a five-game pack to the general public for all home games except Tennessee and Auburn. Georgia’s not having a problem selling season tickets to its own fans (new season tickets require nearly 24,000 points), but many are simply holding their spot for the Notre Dame game in 2019. Visiting fans don’t care about our future schedule, and it will be telling to see if these packages will be met with as much interest by Georgia fans since they’re 1) not sold at a discount and 2) aren’t renewable.

It’s not just Georgia of course. Alabama is offering single-game tickets based on returns from opponents. We’re not talking cupcakes – divisional foes Mississippi State and Texas A&M returned tickets. We can joke about fans just not wanting to witness a blowout in person, but Alabama didn’t just become dominant. Alabama’s lowest ticket prices for nonconference games is $40. Prices for conference games are more than twice that, and the A&M game costs nearly three times as much. A sizable number of visiting fans are just staying home.

A related casualty of variable pricing is the visiting band. With equipment and larger instruments, a 350-person band can use well over 500 seats. Since most of the higher-prices games are likely to be conference matchups, the cost to bring a full band has skyrocketed. You’ll see fewer full bands and more 40-100 person pep bands in the visitor’s section across the conference. There will be exceptions for high-profile games (think Notre Dame or Georgia-Florida), but each exception will require a difficult decision by an athletic department to write the check.

Most of us would prefer to never see the color orange or yellow in Sanford Stadium, but a large and vocal block of opposing fans is a fairly unique element of college football. You know it’s a big game when you start to see the other team’s fans arriving in town. On the flip side, following the Dawgs on the road can produce some of the best experiences you’ll have as a fan. Still, the decision whether to attend a road game is often a financial one, and higher ticket prices on top of other travel expenses can make it an easy decision to stay home. If the seats end up filled by home fans, is pricing visiting fans out of the stadium a bug or a feature?


Post Incentives part 1 – SEC scheduling

Tuesday July 17, 2018

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey discussed the conference schedule on Monday, and I expect his honesty won’t sit well.

Schools and coaches still prefer the eight-game, 6-1-1 model for football conference scheduling. He does not expect a move to a nine-game schedule anytime soon. He cited the SEC having 10 teams play in postseason bowls for four straight years and four teams winning nine of the last 12 national championships as evidence the current formula works.

He’s correct, of course. The SEC has the luxury of using the schedule as a tool – a means to ends. Those ends are playoff appearances, bowl bids, and revenue. The top teams SEC aren’t penalized for their nonconference schedules, and they likely won’t be. The other teams jockeying for bowl bids (and the bonuses that come with them) don’t want seven extra losses distributed across the conference. Nick Saban wouldn’t mind an extra conference game, but he’s not particularly worried about a bowl bid or a regular season loss keeping him out of the playoff.

The schools aren’t going to be leading the charge on this. It’s against their interests to do so. Fans could vote with their dollars, but SEC attendance is strong and demand is fairly inelastic (though not completely so.) It was possible that the expansion of television coverage would prompt the conference to increase its inventory of interesting games, but that hasn’t happened either – yet. If SEC revenue lags relative to new Big Ten deals, the networks can always ask the SEC to bring more to the table.

The schools will need better incentives than the ones they have now to get on board adding another conference game. In the meantime, enjoy that trip to College Station in six years.


Post Rules changes and redshirt what-ifs

Thursday July 5, 2018

Two big administrative rule changes last month. As of October 15, a player may transfer without permission from his/her coach, and the player will be added to a national transfer database making him or her eligible to be contacted by any other coach (again without the need for approval from the current coach.) It’s not “free agency” in football – there’s still the requirement to sit out a year – but the rules are now a little more favorable for prospective transfers. One thing to watch – conferences can still make rules that are more restrictive than the national rule. Will they?

The other change allows players to see action in as many as four games while still preserving a redshirt season. We’ll be able to see true freshmen get valuable game experience, and it won’t cost them as in the past. It will also give coaches some flexibility with the roster in the event of injuries that might keep a veteran player out a couple of games but not an entire season. You’d also expect redshirt freshmen to be more prepared to play in their first full season after getting their feet wet as true freshmen.

Many of us went to the same place when this news came out: how might this rule have played out in the past? Would playing a redshirting freshman in a couple of games have mattered enough to change outcomes?

Chip Towers spent some time talking about one of the what-ifs: Knowshon Moreno in 2006. Aaron Murray in 2009 came to mind. The decision to redshirt Murray was made less complicated by injuries, but some playing time late in 2009 might have prepared him better for taking over in 2010 (a season that started 1-4.) Selfishly, how about more opportunities to see Murray throwing to A.J. Green? Their time together was cut short by Green’s 2010 suspension. In their first game together, we got this pass.

The redshirt what-if scenario that stuck with me was David Greene in 2000. This one might’ve changed Georgia football history.

The 2000 season famously fell apart, and it led to a coaching change. The South Carolina game was a debacle, but it was the only contest Georgia dropped until midseason, and Georgia remained in a position to compete for the SEC East title. The quarterback position began to unravel midseason. Quincy Carter hadn’t been impressive: there were the five interceptions at South Carolina, but even in wins over Tennessee and Vanderbilt he completed a combined 20-of-37. Carter missed the Kentucky game with an injury, and Georgia turned to Cory Phillips. Phillips was stellar at Kentucky, but he gave way to the return of Carter against Florida. That game was going well, and Georgia was poised to go up by double-digits at halftime. A Lito Sheppard interception of Carter changed the game, the score was tied at halftime, and Florida pulled away in the second half.

The Florida game was also the last Carter would play for Georgia. A thumb ligament injury suffered in the Florida loss ended Carter’s season, and Phillips would start the rest of the way. Terrence Edwards even saw some snaps in a proto-wildcat look. Unfortunately Phillips wasn’t as effective as he had been in Lexington, and Georgia dropped three of its last four games. From the Florida collapse to the horrifying Tech game, fan sentiment began to turn in a big way. It didn’t take long for an announcement to be made after the regular season.

Greene was redshirting in 2000, and there was some rumbling midseason (if not after the South Carolina game) whether it was time to play the true freshman. Donnan, to his credit, put the interests of Greene first and preserved the redshirt. It’s something I’ve seen Donnan asked about over the years, and there’s always the second-guessing about what might have gone differently had Greene played. Quarterback wasn’t the only deficiency with that team. A two-loss season without an SEC East title still wouldn’t have met the high expectations for the 2000 season, and we might still be talking about a coaching change. It’s possible though that a better finish to the season with the promise of Greene under center for the next several seasons would have been enough to stem the full-on revolt that made a coaching change a done deal.

Then again, imagine the idea of a full-blown Greene/Carter QB controversy heading into 2001 with all of the baggage of the 2000 season in tow.