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Friday, November 6, 2009

From the Mailbag: Richt Keeps Fans Guessing

Cracking open the ol' mailbag…

ChicagoDawg writes: To a fault, I am typically quite patient with coaches and very slow to come to the "he needs to go and go now" conclusion. Coaching changes carry with them a lot of negative residuals and are never as painless and slam-dunk as fans like to make them.

However, this situation has transcended personalities, schematic issues, etc. We have landed upon change for change's sake territory, which I am not sure Coach Richt has grasped just yet. It is not about loyalty or fairness at this point as the benefits, to the extent there are any, of the status quo is so far outweighed by the negativity that has come to characterize our present circumstance.

There is a general sense of inertia, stagnation and malaise that permeates this program and fan base. Now all that is left is for Mark to get his next hire(s) right. He should take his time, calls for immediate blood notwithstanding, as he deliberates on this career impacting decision(s).

David: I think Mark Richt is a lot smarter than a lot of fans want to give him credit for being. His defiance in the face of some obvious problems the past month is frustrating, and in truth, I think he probably could have done a better job of communicating with fans. But I also think there's a method to his madness.

Richt isn't ignorant to the problems going on at Georgia, even if it seems like he's not particularly interested in addressing them. But his job demands that he approach the rest of this season in a manner far different than most fans will.

Imagine, if you will, that you have a family member in need of a life-saving operation. When she goes into the hospital, you and the rest of your family wait nervously in the waiting room. You have no control over what happens during surgery.

Midway through the operation, a nurse comes and tells you that there were some complications. The prognosis is bleak, but the doctors are doing all they can.

What is your reaction? You yell, you scream, you cry, you worry, you point fingers. You try to explain what might have happened. Someone must have screwed up, right? And while you're stuck in the waiting room with no other options, you want to assign blame. In fact, that's probably what is expected of you. You have the luxury of your emotions.

But back in the operating room, the surgeon isn't so lucky. The only way to keep the patient alive is to remain calm, to move forward, to do what it takes to get through a situation that demands patience and precision in the face of chaos. If an attending physician screwed up, if a nurse made a mistake, if the anesthesiologist failed to do his job... none of that is important in the moment. What matters is saving the patient.

After it's over, the surgeon finds out what went wrong. When the patient is no longer on the table, that's when he assigns blame. But in the moment, you want the surgeon to be stoic, to be calm, to do what he thinks is right.

This season may be on life support, and as fans, you have every reason and every right to be freaking out about it. But trust me, you don't want that from your coach. You want a cold, calm, methodical approach, and I think there's every reason to believe that Richt is the right man for that job.

Christopher M. writes: Can we abolish the tired phrase "chip on their shoulder"? It usually only refers to defenses that weren't very good to begin with, but then get marginally better. It's kind of like The Bootstrap Award that dumb kids always got in school.

Also, I'd like to put an end to the pluralization of names of schools. Example: "When you're going against the Alabamas, the Floridas, the LSUs of the world..." I don't know why, but that drives me nuts.

David: On the latter point, you've got me on your side. There's nothing I hate more than when analysts say, "You just can't win when you've got too many Johnathan Cromptons." No! You can't win if you have too many awful quarterbacks, but there's only one Johnathan Crompton. Drives me nuts. (Note: It is OK, however, if you're referring to Dee Browns, Willie Green(e)s and Greg(g) Olsons. For example: If you want to win a Slam Dunk contest, you can never have too many Dee Browns. That actually is true.)

As for the "chip on your shoulder," this should probably go the way of the black uniforms until Georgia's players prove it actually means something. And what happened to that "chip"? Why did they need the uniforms if they had the chip on their shoulder?

I get the whole black uniform thing. I understand why the players like it. But it was a bad PR move because the message it sends is that you need a gimmick to boost excitement for a game that, if you have a championship-caliber team, you shouldn't need any gimmicks to get up for. To me, this seems like the ultimate example of the disconnect between the image the fans see of the program and the image Richt sees of the program this season.

Anonymous writes: 'Everybody wants us to win, everybody wants to find some kind of angle to see where they think we’ve got issues,” Richt said. “So if everybody’s going to start chiming in on what we need to do, then it’s obvious that every part of our program is going to be looked at and questioned"

Translation: Fans don't know as much as us because they're just fans.

David: As I was saying, public relations has been a bit of a disaster for Richt & Co. this season.

I get why fans are upset. I get why Richt is defensive. But as an outside observer of both, I can say that Richt could do himself, his players and the fans a lot of favors by not continuing this "we're smarter than you so we don't care what you think" line of discussion, even if it's completely true.

Carter writes: Believe it or not, I have never criticized or said a single negative thing about an individual player in the history of the interwebs before today. Not Quincy, Jasper, '08 Reshad Jones, or '09 Evans. As long as they remain respectful in the press, I would never feel comfortable calling an individual out. However, Joe "webMD" Cox shot off at the mouth one time too many.

David: See, another example. And I get why the WebMD comment ruffled some feathers. But as someone who has talked to Joe on an almost daily basis for the past few months, take my word for it that he didn't mean it maliciously.

The players don't take the time to read every comment. They don't always know all the context. In fact, their context is completely different from yours. And when they see the message boards or look at the comments on the AJC, it all seems like immense criticism of players they know are working hard, so they're bound to get defensive.

I don't think Joe meant to discount the fans' opinions. He meant to discount uninformed opinions. In fact, here's a bit more of what he said:

"There’s no point in getting on there and getting mad when you don’t even know who’s talking about you. It’s really just a joke to get caught up in it because you can read something and you can tell who knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t. It’s pretty crazy, but that’s just how it is.”

So he's not discounting all of you… just the ones who "don't know what they're talking about." And we all know that's nobody reading this blog, right?

Seriously though, Joe has remained a stand-up guy and extraordinarily accountable throughout this process, which is saying something of a 22-year-old who couldn't have possibly understood what he was getting himself into this year.

Anonymous writes: Cue the music...
"It's about accountability."
If a coach or scheme is ineffective, SPEAK UP and make a change.
"It's about ownership."
If a coach's area of responsibility continues to be ineffective, BRING IN a new coach, attitude, and perspective.
"It's about improvement."
If the game changes, BRING IN new people, experts, learn, and innovate.
"It's about performance."
If a player does not perform, REPLACE HIM with one who will.
"It's about competition."
Play the player who HAS EARNED the position through his play on the field.
"It's about confidence."
Speak in absolutes. DO NOT TOLERATE excuses. Intervene where necessary.
"It's about toughness."
Teams who CONDITION AND PRACTICE more physically than the competition, PLAY more physically than the competition.
"It's about tradition."
Your predecessors demonstrated winning traits and attitudes. EMBRACE them, bring them in, wear the uniform, be a part of it.
"It's about discipline."
Focus the task at hand. There is a time for work and a time for fun. Fun is earned. ESTABLISH CONSEQUENCES for those who do not not focus appropriately.
"It's about leadership."
State the objective, principles and strategy in absolute terms. Let all team members know if they do not live by it, they will NO LONGER be a part of it. This goes all the way to the Athletic Director.
"It's Saturday."

David: I've got no response to that comment. Just thought it was a good one.

Reggie Ball writes: Dear Joe Cox, Great comments! I totally agree that fans have no idea what they're talking about! I only wish I would have thought about that fantastic WebMD analysis when I played at GT.

David: OK, now that's a low blow. It is a good example of what I was talking about though. I covered Reggie Ball his final two seasons, and after the majority of Georgia Tech's really bad losses -- virtually all of which could be pinned directly on him -- he bailed on interviews and left his teammates (you know, the ones who actually played well) to answer tough questions for him.

You may not like everything Joe Cox has said, but you have to at least give him credit for being out in front of the cameras and the reporters after every bad game answering more tough questions so his teammates didn't have to.

Dawgerton writes: I have a quick question for you. Could you tell me if any practices during the football season are open to the media and/or public? How about during pre-season practice in August? How much access does the media have in August and during the season? And the public?

David: In the preseason? One for the media. Regular season? Nada. We get to watch the first few periods of practice, which are pretty generic and hardly informative beyond checking out who's in a green jersey and who might be running with the No. 1 units vs. the No. 2 units. So what happens at practice remains pretty much a mystery or, at best, secondhand info. So hey, maybe Bryan Evans is one heck of a practice player.

Anonymous writes: Do you think we could get Rich Rodriguez if Michigan fires him this year?

David: I have a few friends who are Michigan fans and they'd happily chip in for Rich Rod's airfare.

UGA69Dawg writes: You're kidding right, we are going to take the premier fair catch player at UGA and play him at QB. He might get hurt, where would we be on punt team and KO team without him. The coaches have finally lost what little minds they have.

David: Next thing you know, Marlon Brown will be catching passes instead of making sure the exercise bike doesn't get rusty. Come on, these guys have responsibilities!

@joemoore10 tweets: inside some numbers since 06. 14 game stretch went 8-6..then 11 wins in a 10-7 in the last 17 gms played...

David: When Richt continues to bring up his past success when asked about this year's failures, these are the types of responses he has to expect to hear. Again, this whole season might have gone a lot smoother with some better PR. Losses happen anywhere, but you can only alienate your fans for so long before you have real trouble.

Bernie writes: It seems Ealey rarely takes a handoff; mostly toss sweeps and pitches off tackle. Have you caught wind of any concerns Bobo has over the exchange with Ealey. Although King will start obviously, I was hoping Ealey would get plenty of reps in this upcoming game. Don't need any AwwBarn LBs keying on him so easily next week.

David: I think it's more of a scheme thing. Bobo loves the toss sweep. I wouldn't read much into that.

The latter part is an issue though. Richt is on record saying that Ealey struggles in pass blocking, so he's not going to see as much action. So when he's in the game, can't defenses be pretty sure a run is in store?

Or maybe Richt is just sandbagging all of us.

Jared M. writes: Have you heard any NFL coaches or scouts express how our players are prepared for the NFL compared to other programs? Also, if they seem to be well coached wouldn't that point to poor coaching scheme in college? Just a thought.

David: I'll tell you what Mark Richt told me Thursday: "I was just talking to Stafford the other day when he was here, and he said, 'Coach, you'd be amazed at how similar what we're doing and what Georgia's doing.' He said, 'Every concept that we're doing at Georgia, we're doing here.' Everybody has a little bit of different language, so you've got to understand that they might call a coverage a little bit different than you do or this blocking scheme a little bit different than you do. But he said it's just amazing, and talking to Tony Taylor, he said it's just about identical. What's helped a lot of our guys is just having a really good feel of what's expected, just physically doing the things they'll be asked to do in the next league."

Now, feel free to make your own joke about Georgia doing the same things as the Detroit Lions.

Paul S. writes:
David, in regards to the rumor about Charlie Strong,........why not Turner Gill? Let's bring him in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

David: Listen, I know no one is happy about the current season, but what do you think happens if Richt gets fired?

That top-five recruiting class will lose a lot of its top players. Potential coaches will see a guy widely respected in the coaching community run off after one bad season (a season in which his team is still second in the SEC East, by the way). Georgia won't be a destination job. It'll be a place you have to overpay to get a coach to come. Georgia won't be on the road to recovery. It'll be in danger of falling off a cliff.

I like Turner Gill, but he's no upgrade over Mark Richt. In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a coach who would be. And whatever you think about what Richt owes you this season, I think it's fair to say that you at least owe him another season to turn things around.

Eli K. writes: I noticed Bogatay was warming up practicing kick-offs on the field prior to the start of the second half of the game Saturday. Then, in the third quarter, with UGA on offense, I noticed him practicing place kicking into the net on the side line. Where was Walsh? Have you heard anything about his status?

David: Blair is fine. I talked to him this week. Bogotay was probably just trying to stay loose and keep occupied. Maybe next year he can work as a punt returner.

David E. writes: How come we never heard about the outcome of your Nuci's Space race? Is it because the reader who issued a never-responded-to challenge dusted you?

David: I tweeted about it, but let's just say it wasn't so successful that it needed publicity. But I did finish, I ran the whole way, and I didn't keel over at the end. So I call it a successful day.

AusDawg85 writes: Interesting article from Austin on the attention given to special teams on the Longhorns. Even Colt McCoy wants in on the action!

David: There's plenty of valid criticism of what's happened at Georgia this year, but the truth is, the special teams have improved as the season has gone on. It hasn't been all good, and there are still some baffling moments, but Blair Walsh, Drew Butler and Brandon Boykin are all among the best -- and maybe the best -- in the SEC.

That said, you have to like the approach at Texas, and it is in stark contrast to what happens at Georgia.

Anonymous writes: i like cmr but he will never beat fl,tn,al,or tech again in his career at uga. can't teach an old dawg new tricks. we are stuck on the 1960's i backfield and the slow reaction soft defense.

David: See these are the types of broad, sweeping and absurd statements that cause people like Joe Cox to make broad, sweeping, absurd statements about the fans.

You really don't think Richt will ever beat Tennessee or Georgia Tech again? Really?

Of course, the critique that drives me nuts is the latter one. So what if Georgia is running an I formation that was used in the 1960s?

Georgia Tech is running an option offense that was used in some form back in the '40s.

Florida has spent a majority of this season running one dive play after another as if they were running an offense out of the '20s.

Virtually every NFL team runs an I formation attack against bigger, faster, more complex defenses, and many run it with success.

John writes: Why is everyone hating on Caleb King? It seems to me that everyone thinks that he "hasn't panned out" or is a "bust". For god sake's he's only a redshirt sophomore that happened to play his redshirt freshmen year behind the #1 Running Back taken in the 2009 NFL Draft. It's not exactly like he has been given his chance to shine. Due to backing up Knoswhon and being hurt the first 1/3rd of this season with the hamstring.

David: Couldn't agree more on this. King has burst on to the season this season like many fans hoped, but I would argue that, after Blair Walsh and Drew Butler, King may be the best surprise on the team this season.

No, his yardage numbers aren't great right now, but he hasn't had a ton of chances. But that was never really the issue with King, was it?

The way I see it, the biggest questions about King coming into the season were:

-- Mentality - Could he keep his head in the game?
-- Pass blocking - He was brutal last year
-- Teamwork - Can he be involved in being a leader or will he keep quiet?

King has improved dramatically in all three of those areas. How he weathered the injuries showed that he's far more mentally tough than he had been. His pass blocking has not just improved, but he's been spectacular. And while he spent his first two years in Athens working hard to be a wallflower, this season he's taken Washaun Ealey under his wing and has been like a father figure to the kid, despite the fact that Ealey may take his job.

I think there's more to come from King on the field, but off the field was where the real worries were, and from that perspective, he's been exceptional.

Bill writes: We need for FSU and Miami to become relevant again. If FLA continues to capture 19 out of the top 20 in that state, everyone else in D-1 will be playing for #2.

David: That's probably true, but keep in mind, too, that Georgia has been landing a fair number of solid recruits out of Florida the past few years, too. If Florida State and Miami make big strides, who will they take recruits from first -- the Gators or the Dawgs?

Rob writes: can you ask Coach Richt, in no uncertain terms, why Bryan Evans continues to see the field with as much regularity as he does? He makes a nice "person who gives us the best chance to win" argument, but at this point, there is no way that person is Bryan Evans.

Anonymous writes:
Yeah, starting Rambo makes way too much sense. That kind of goes against the much heard saying of Richt, "We're going with the guy who gives us the best chance..."

Runningdawg writes:
Ealey gets benched for missing a block, but yet Evans is still starting despite looking like he has no idea what's going on? Seems like a Catch-22 to me.If your going on performance, how can you justify benching our best tailback? But, not benching one of the worst secondary players we've had here? Rambo needs to see the the field a lot more than Evans!

David: On Monday, I was a bit confused by Richt's insistance on playing for 2009 rather than giving time to some youngsters.

On Tuesday, Richt had me convinced that was the right thing.

On Wednesday, he met with reporters and a.) said Rambo wouldn't start this season, b.) said Ealey didn't deserve to start, and c.) lauded the merits of directional kicking.

What I've decided after that is that I'm going to approach the rest of this year like I approach "Lost." I don't know what the heck is going on, and I don't like all of it. But I've seen enough of the show to have some faith that the writers know what they're doing, and all of this will make sense in the end.

It's just too bad Richt can't bring back David Greene and David Pollack the way "Lost" is bringing back all its departed characters from Season 1.


Les Dilghow said...

David - I appreciate your perspective. Very level headed, well thought out and supported with facts and not sweeping generalizations. You don't stir the pot for the sake of stirring it. Keep up the good work!

papadawg said...

You know, I try to stay optimistic, and I usually do, but then I read this paragraph:
"On Wednesday, he met with reporters and a.) said Rambo wouldn't start this season, b.) said Ealey didn't deserve to start, and c.) lauded the merits of directional kicking."

I just want to say a.) what, b.) the, and c.) f???????


Carter said...

Dave, what you said regarding my comment adds some more perspective. Maybe I was too harsh, but it seems that these coaches and players could realize how poorly they're coming across. Self-awareness isn't a strong suit for this year’s team. I give Bobo credit for being the most forthright and more often than not striking the proper tone in his comments this season.

Also, Dave, I always read your game blogs after the fact, but tomorrow will be the first time I'll read in real-time. Could you clue us in on substitution patterns and appearances by guys we haven't seen enough of that hopefully will get a shot against a 1-AA team? I refuse to go to a bar or order the game on PPV. Like Gucci Mane said, "It's not the money, it's the principal."

Anonymous said...

Did I read somewhere that Zach Renner was awarded a scholarship?