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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Martinez: 'It Starts With Me'

It's hard to quantify what people have been the most angry about when it comes to Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez (other than the losses, of course), but if I had to guess the complaint I've heard the most in the wake of Georgia's latest meltdown against Georgia Tech, it's that fans don't feel Martinez has taken enough responsibility for the defense's poor performance.

That probably wasn't an entirely fair portrayal, but Martinez hadn't come out and blamed himself in any interviews that I had heard, so it's easy to see where fans find fault. After talking with Martinez at length Wednesday, however, I think it's pretty clear that a.) he is taking a great deal of responsibility for the defense's failures and b.) he fully expects to be back next season.

Martinez said the defense has been average this season, which on the aggregate, it has. But rather than playing 12 average ballgames, the Dawgs have played 6 or 7 really good ones, and 5 or 6 really bad ones.

The biggest problem, Martinez said, is the defense's propensity toward giving up so many big plays, and that he blames on poor execution -- blown assignments, missed tackles, etc. He's not exactly laying all the blame for that at the players' feet though.

"It's part of your philosophy that you can't do, and I think leadership has a lot to do with it," Martinez said. "I mean that not just in the secondary, but defensively as a whole not allowing it to happen. And it starts with me. You have to feed that down to your players, and I take full responsibility for that. We've just got to get better. It's an integrity part of defense that just can't happen, and it's got to be coming from me down to them. It just can't happen."

The frustrating part for Martinez -- and likely for most fans -- is the incredible inconsistency from one game to the next, one half to the next and one play to the next.

"The most disappointing thing is that, you take the three losses, but in particular the last one, and we played outstanding in the first half," Martinez said. "You take the second half, and we played the complete opposite. It wasn't that they did anything different, it was just executing, tackling. But it wasn't the same intensity, it wasn't the same focus, and again, that comes down on me, and we've got to do a better job. We've got to play 60 minutes, and we didn't do that in big games."

That type of inconsistent mental approach to the game -- which players like Rennie Curran and Corvey Irvin have talked about repeatedly this season -- is a factor of leadership and maturity, Martinez said. Players simply aren't maintaining focus.

So when asked if he thought there was room for great improvement -- particularly in the secondary -- with so many players returning next year, Martinez wasn't exactly doing cartwheels about the future.

"Sometimes you get returners back, but it doesn't really give you success," he said. "You'd like to think that, you've got more experience, but how hungry are you coming back? Those are the things we're going to address we are addressing right now. We're not waiting until January. We're getting better right now. Our goal is to play our best ballgame this year on Jan. 1. We're treating these practices like fall camp, and that includes our young players, to create an edge and bring it to the ballgame. Then when you have that kind of experience coming back, hopefully it starts right now. We'll see what kind of leaders we have, what kind of group we have, what kind of experience is going to help us succeed."

So what do you think? Does any of this change your feelings on Willie's tenure at Georgia? Are you more or less willing to give him a second chance next year?

ALSO SEE: If things had played out differently five years ago, Willie Martinez could have been coaching in the Capital One Bowl this year from the other sideline.


Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of our recent performance in the Sugar Bowl against Hawaii. Granted, it was Hawaii. They sorta made it easy for our defense to play well. But the biggest difference, in my mind, between then and now is not execution. It's the complete and all-encompassing loss of intensity.

I specifically remember when Marcus Howard tipped that ball and Ellerbe came down with it. Martinez pulled a "Muschamp," runnin' out onto the field, jumpin' on guys, chest bumps, high fives, etc. And this all took place in the 2nd half of the game, after we'd already taken a 3-touchdown lead.

If we lose a game, fine. I just want to know that the intensity was there until the final tick of the clock. Martinez has obviously been able to do it before ... so this season remains, in my mind, just utterly inexplicable. I have no idea who or what to blame. But if nothing looks different against Michigan State, something's gotta be done.

Back in the days of Greg Blue, Thomas Davis, etc., I used to look forward to when our defense would take the field. Nowadays, though, I can hardly bear to watch.

Anonymous said...

Fire Willie Martinez now!

Anonymous said...

There are many fans who say they are "embarrassed" by the UGA defense this year, and several calls for firing CWM. I can honestly say I am much more embarrassed by these UGA fans than I am the team's performance this year. Who do these people think they are, and what makes them qualified to publicly attack the credentials, preparation, or dedication of this staff?

These people must be fans of other teams posing as UGA fans. A true fan would not deliberately hurt the program. A true fan would entrust the well-qualified head coach to handle the need for improvements. A true fan would not assume they know all of what goes on behind the scenes at practice, or who might be hampered by injury. A true fan would not look at a specific quarter, half, or game to make judgements better made on the entire body of work. UGA football has come a long way in the tenure of Mark Richt, but it can be brought down by egomaniacs who choose message boards as a way to express their learned opinion. If you don't like 80% winning percentage, and playing for SEc titles 38% of the years, you must not like SEC football. Try the ACC, Big 11, PAC 10 or Big East, the same teams win there pretty regularly.

Every team has games where things don't go your way, or players who do not play to expectations. That is why all teams lose games they should win occasionally. CWM is a qualifed DC who has performed well for UGA. This season is below what he and the fans expected for the defense back in June. When you look at the inuries to the DEs, LBs, and DTs, who could not have expected that in December? Was there some uninspired play by our DBs? You bet. Some of that may have been related to the lack of pass rushers lost to injury, some may be an attitude issue that neds to be dealt with, or that lack of depth didn't allow some players to be pulled. We will win 10 games this year despite the injuries. We lost to two teams who were better than we were, not at the start of the season, but when we played them. We lost one game we should not have lost.

Whatever it was that led to the shortfall, it does not justify posters calling players and coaches out in such a hateful, spiteful way. I am sure Mark Richt will take care of the problems we saw, and he doesn't need me, or the negative posters, to advise him on how to run a football program. He also doesn't need potential recruits and other teams' coaches reading that players aren't coached well at UGA, and that we will never be a top team until changes are made. Can these people not see how that harms UGA? Can they not see their opinion isn't going to be the reason changes get made? All they have done is cause harm, they cannot help a bit by being destructive, not constructive in their posts. But maybe that is exactly what these "posers" want after all because I don't know any real Dawg fans like these people. I have met a few hanging around Gainesville, and Knoxville though.

Anonymous said...

That guy is an idiot to say that martinez has performed well

Jesus Christ said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

He's simply not a good DC. He's been at UGA for four years now, and every single season the points per game has increased.

Even last year, when everyone thought our D was awesome, was the second worse D in the Richt tenure up to that point in terms of points given up per game.

In addition, every single year he has been DC, we've had at least two games per year where the defense completely failed to show up and cost UGA the game.

Please tell me, why is there any reason to believe that the next year suddenly things are going to change after four years of history and documented results?

Willie is simply not a very good DC, and unfortunately due to Richt's personal friendship with him, he is unable or unwilling to see the obvious deficiency that has been present for the last four years and make a corrective action. As long as Willie remains the DC, UGA will not win another SEC championship, much less contend for a NC.

Anonymous said...

You guys are simply uninformed. Look, I'm as frustrated as anyone, but our defense has been solid under Martinez until this season. 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.

More points are being scored, period.

Have we had bad individual games, prior to this season? Sure, absolutely. But most teams have, and those games have been outnumbered by the good performances.

Here are the facts about our defense under Martinez, compared to other SEC teams:

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

What these stats clearly point out to me is that this year was the exception, rather than the rule. But hey, why not fire him? And then Eason? And Jancek? Why not fire every coach we've got other than Garner and Searles...that should help us attract top talent!

Hobnail_Boot said...

I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a year in which..

-Your pre-season AA DT goes down.
-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.

Willie ain't the problem, folks.

Anonymous said...

he's going to get another year, so not sure why sure folks are pleading his case. But I;m a finance guy, and I look at trends. Under CWM we have continued to go down and down....that is pure facts. So do ANY of you, even the Hope filled folks REALLY expect any better? I doubt it.

He is a good guy, I have heard him speak, I can see why anyone would like him. But if you want to be BIG TIME you have to suck it up and pick a winner. Do you think Saban is a nice guy or fun guy to play for?>??? Of course not, but he WINS. SO pick your choice, and dont listen to me, tune into 790 and listen to Pollack. He will say the same thing, Willie is a nice guy, and he probably liked him more, but BVG & Saban command respect and results..... either you want it or you dont, but please dont confuse fact with fiction.

Football is a tough mans sport, from players to coaches... and guess what , the D Coaches make a helluva lot of money, so please dont feel sorry for them, that is pathetic.

Hobnail_Boot said...

Finance Guy:

Let's assume for a minute I believe you're in finance. Fine. That means I'll take you at face value when you say that you follow trends. Look up offensive trends across college football over the last 5 years.

Anonymous said...

"egomaniacs who choose message boards as a way to express their learned opinion."

Yes I do believe message boards are made to vent and express your own opinion sir? Is this not what you are doing?

ld said...

Hobnail_Boot, you are forgetting a couple points in your 11:57pm post...

-Lack of aggression
-Lack of leadership