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Friday, December 5, 2008

Lessons Learned?

Mark Richt was asked Thursday if he saw any similarities in the two coaches whose teams made it to the SEC championship game this year. Richt said he could think of two:

"One similarity is they've both been in that game before," Richt said. "Another one is their teams had seasons that they weren't real thrilled about (last year). They probably used that to motivate and propel into this season."

Well, if that's what it takes, then Georgia should be sitting pretty next year. Richt has been to the SECCG before, and this has certainly been a season no one seems particularly thrilled about.

Of course, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have one other thing Richt and Co. do not: A national championship.

That doesn't mean Richt isn't -- or can't be -- a national-championship caliber coach, but there's clearly a lot more to Florida and Alabama's success this season than just a smart coach and a healthy dose of motivation following a poor season last year.

Having said that, it's hard to make the case that Alabama is significantly more talented than Georgia is, but they've definitely had more success -- including that 31-0 halftime lead in Athens.

So maybe motivation from last year did play a big part in the Tide's turnaround.

"Going in, we know we didn't want to end up like last year, dropping those last four games," Alabama DB (and Macon native) Kareem Jackson said. "We didn't want to have another season like that, so it gave us all the motivation that we needed."

I've said for most of the season that I think Georgia's lofty status in the preseason had more of an effect than the players are letting on. Many of the comments from players throughout the season lead me to believe that the expectation of success undermined the team's ability to properly prepare for games and handle adversity. Just my observations, and perhaps entirely untrue.

Perhaps the failures of this season really will lead to bigger and better next year, but the first key to that happening is for the players to want that to happen. Step one is admitting this season was a disappointment, and to date, I've heard a lot more about injuries and bad luck (and a poor kicker, who seems to be the only player being hung out to dry) than coaches or players saying, "Hey, we messed up."

Fans probably shouldn't expect anyone to come out and starting taking or dishing out blame for the team's problems, but it's hard not to look at Tim Tebow's words after Florida's loss to Ole Miss.

Tebow took the blame for the loss. He said his team was not performing to a level the fans deserved. He promised better the rest of the way and delivered.

"I didn't want to make any brash statements or anything just on emotion," Tebow said in a teleconference earlier this week. "I really just tried to say heartfelt things and didn't try to make any statements like we're going to win the rest of our games, or we're going to go undefeated or anything like that. It was just that we were going to go out there and play with intensity, play with passion, character and love for the game. And that's something that we could control and something I could control. I can't control whether we win or lose, but I can control how we play."

There have definitely been a few Bulldogs to say things like that this year, too, but the bigger question might be just how many others were listening to those words. Blame assistant coaches all you want, but at some point, players need to take accountability like Tebow did and use their failures as motivation rather than excuses, the way Jackson and the Tide have.

Georgia won't open 2009 as the preseason No. 1 no matter what they do in their bowl game, and justifiably so. That's probably for the best, because the Bulldogs don't need anyone telling them how good they are before they play a game. They need to prove it on the field. They need to be angry about what happened this year and want retribution next season, whether or not Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford are still around.

Richt was also asked how he felt about so many coaches losing their jobs in the SEC. When Sly Croom, the reigning coach of the year, Tommy Tuberville, who has an undefeated season under his belt, and Phil Fulmer, who led UT to an SEC East title just last year, all are out of work, Richt was asked what lesson he takes from that.

His answer was simple, and it's one fans will be paying more attention to than at any time in his tenure next year.

"Win."

ADDENDUM: Mike Leach's quarterback seems to think he won't be back at Texas Tech next year. Since the U-Dubb job was just filled, it sounds like Leach will be heading to Auburn.

8 comments:

Will Q said...

Love your blog, David.

I don't think there should be any question that Richt is a national-championship caliber coach. The only real difference between Richt and Saban and Meyer is luck: the year he lost one game and won the SECCG, there were two undefeated teams ahead of Georgia. The other two were fortunate enough to slide in with one loss.

Anonymous said...

Outrage at losing is something I didn't see amoung UGA coaches or players this year. There wasn't any anger. This team was too cool. I honestly think the fans were more angry at losing to Tech than the players or coaches.

watcher16 said...

Best blog of the year. Bravo. Can someone make sure the coaches see this?!

DawgCPA said...

Right on Will Q! (Altho I don't believe in luck!) Things happen - good and bad - which are out of our control. We DO need to learn to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
As to Anon's comments - I believe one of CMR's many leadership qualities is his demeanor. Many would prefer more aggressive (read Urban Crier or Nick Satan) leadership. However, I believe the more even-keel leadership is better in the long run. His ability to make the players believe in themselves and believe they have a responsibility to use their God-given talents to the best of their ability WILL pay off. Evaluating 17 and 18 year-olds is a crap shoot at best. Or, as Forrest would say... "you never know what you're gonna get". Sometimes they pan out. Sometimes they don't. We're due for some of those that DO pan out. I believe CMR will have those kids prepared. That's really all we can ask.
And Watcher16...
I couldn't agree more! David has been unbelievable! My son, a Senior at THE University (Hey, Ohio State isn't the only one that can use that!), and I even keep up with it on our PDA's. David's blog has been one of the best things to happen to Georgia sports in years. Thanks David. Keep up the OUTSTANDING work!

Anonymous said...

Come on David, you are smarter than to put Richt as secondary to Saban and Meyer on the basis of a faux championship title. There is NO champion in D1 football, and never has been.

The credit you give the two competitive coaches that you deny CMR came in 2003 and 2006. In those two years, LSU and Fla both had the identical record and achievement UGA had in 2002: a one loss regular season, a SEC title, and a win in a bowl game. Neither accomplished anything UGA didn't except have UNRELATED losses give them a pass to the MNC. So UCLA beating USC in Los Angeles in 2006 is what separates Meyer from Richt? You will have to explain that logic to me.

Until fans stop acknowledging national titles and demand a real playoff of top teams, we will continue to settle for this political, negotiated excuse for a title which is ALWAYS in dispute. The SEC is the highest title that can be earned in CFB today: best of the best, and every team controls their destiny. Perfect! Give me an SEC every four years or so, and I will be totally happy. I don't acknowledge anyone D1 team's claim to a football NC. Let them earn it and let's stop playing games with the sport where fans spend BILLIONS every year and get no closure.

David Hale said...

I posted on the mirror site of this blog, but to reiterate here: I in no way am saying Richt isn't a good coach or deserves to be run out of town, I simply stated the facts about Urban and Saban having NCs and Richt not having one. The result is that Richt is going to be under more scrutiny NEXT year than he ever has been before.

The point of the post, however, was to say that Richt thinks that last year's struggles spurred Bama and UF to this year's success. I'm just asking whether y'all think the same can happen for Georgia next year. At this point, I just don't see that attitude, but perhaps that changes once the season is officially over.

And BTW, thanks so much to all of your for your kind words and readership. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it.

DawgCPA said...

Wait a minute...
There's a mirror site of this blog?!?!!?
Is that where the evil David posts?
Do my posts reverse themselves there? Is EVERYTHING in reverse, like Georgia's colors are black and red? What's going on here?

David Hale said...

Up is down, bad is good, Reggie Ball has two Heismans and Syracuse is about to play for a national championship.

Nah, just two of the exact same site, but one is linked from the Macon paper and one from Columbus. Only the comments differ.