Just a heads up, folks, that I'll probably only have this post today, and likely one more tonight after the Doak Walker winner is announced, but i wanted to give some attention to a comment a reader left regarding the Willie Martinez post from yesterday.
I'm not here to make the case that Willie should stay or go. Truth is, I can see both sides of the argument, and while I have no problem asking some hard questions of Willie or Mark Richt, as a reporter, it is hardly my job to push for someone else to lose theirs.
What I can appreciate, however, is a well-reasoned argument on one side or the other. I have seen numerous arguments since the Tech game explaining why Willie needs to go. If you haven't read it already, T. Kyle King has an excellent synopsis.
The other side of the argument has, admittedly, been harder to make, but a big reason for that is that raw numbers really don't support Martinez's case very well. When you add in some context, on the other hand, the picture becomes a bit less clear, as my reader -- who unfortunately remained anonymous -- pointed out.
"Yes, the points per game have gone up each year, but that's because the points scored in the SEC has gone up each year. In '05, only Auburn averaged more than 30 per game. In '06, only LSU and Arkansas averaged more than 30 per game. In '07, 6 teams averaged more than 30, with Florida averaging more than 40 per game. This year, 5 average more than 30, with Florida again averaging more than 40."So, yes, Martinez's defenses have been giving up more points each year -- but for the most part, teams have been scoring more each year against everyone, not just Georgia.
Add context to the argument -- i.e. how many points has Martinez's defense given up COMPARED to other defenses in the SEC, and prior to this season, it really doesn't seem too bad. Again, from our anonymous poster...
"Here are the facts about our defense under Martinez, compared to other SEC teams:Those are pretty solid numbers up until this year, right? Pretty much a top-three SEC defense each season.
2nd in Scoring Defense
5th in Total Defense
4th in Scoring Defense
2nd in Total Defense
3rd in Scoring Defense
3rd in Total Defense
10th in Scoring Defense
7th in Total Defense"
Of course, it's this year that is really the problem. And while the increase in scoring around the league (and the country) may have contributed to poor raw numbers for the defense, that can't really be the problem this year. Even Mark Richt admits it has been a down year offensively in the SEC.
Still, Hobnail Boot adds some context to this year's struggles that also help to make Martinez's case. Here are a few of Georgia's problems, according to him, that have little to do with Willie...
"-Your pre-season AA DT goes down.A few other numbers I looked up on my own that could indicate there wasn't a large-scale breakdown of the defense overall:
-Your MLB goes down early in the season and is never the same.
-Your 5* SS is a total bust
-Your best CB plays most of the season with a broken hand.
-Your best run-stuffing DE is hurt all year.
-Your special teams continually hamstrings you."
Through the Tennessee game, Georgia was allowing just 61 yards per game on the ground. After, they gave up 226.6 per game. Now that is partially skewed by the Georgia Tech game (409 rush yards), but I think for there to be that large of a difference from one game to the next, there has to be something more there than simply a game plan that didn't work.
Georgia has only allowed 27 drives all season of 60 yards or more -- in other words, just about two per game -- which isn't too shabby. Only 20 of those 27 60-yard drives resulted in touchdowns, by the way. On the other hand, offensive turnovers set up 10 touchdowns by opponents (not counting the special teams disasters mentioned above).
Those are all big, broad, sweeping numbers though, and I'll agree with anyone who wants to point to the terrible red-zone defense and the poor tackling and the missed assignments as perfect reasons why someone must take the blame for the defense's ineptitude. But if those are the things we're talking about, isn't Willie right? Isn't it really about execution? At some point, you can't coach execution anymore. The players just have to want to do it.
I'll also say this: You need only look to Auburn to see where inconsistency in your coaching staff and your approach to the game will get you. When discussing possible replacements for Rodney Garner should he leave, Richt talked about the huge number of resumes from top assistants round the country he has received each time a job has opened up. There's a reason good people want to work at Georgia and work for Richt -- it's because he's loyal to his assistants and isn't letting fan criticism make his decisions for him.
You can agree with it or not, but prior to this year (THIS 9-3 year, by the way), it has only benefited Georgia.
ALSO SEE: If you look at the Auburn search the way the Ledger-Enquirer's Guerry Glegg breaks it down, it sounds like the Tigers would be stupid not to hire Garner. I still have to think they've got a bigger name they're holding out for though. Of course, given what happened there with the previous staff, it's not hard to understand why an established coach isn't excited about heading to the Plains.