Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Supporting Richt

Over the past two seasons, many people have lessened their support for Mark Richt. I have a friend who spews bile when he speaks of Richt, and wants to get rid of him. He is fanatical in his devotion for the Dawgs, and says that Richt has overseen the greatest fall from Glory in the program's history over the past five seasons (even though we won the SEC in the first of those five seasons), and that he should be canned. I defend Richt. I love the man. In a recent letter, I responded to some of his accusations and defended Coach Richt. I know there are many out there who may get caught up in similar discussions. So, feel free to use my own arguments, claiming me to be the highest authority. : ) Go Dawgs!

The Letter:

I'm not here to admonish your feelings, though I feel as though I should. You continue to tell me that you don't understand the intricacies of football, but then you harp on things like playcalling. I love people who will call up a lousy playcall or two, and then use that as if it's some kind of anecdotal statistic for a man's entire career. Want to line up playcall memories? How about I bring up P-44 Haynes (the hobnail boot)? What about the call on 4th and fifteen, to throw an all-or nothing go route to Michael Johnson against Auburn on our way to an SEC title? Remember a play-action pass in overtime to beat Alabama? How about the fast slant-route to Massaquoi that beat GA Tech? Oh but if those are too far back to remember, then I guess we could always go back to that end-around to Branden Smith that blew the game wide open against South Carolina in 2009. There isn't an offensive coach in the WORLD who doesn't make strange playcalls from time to time. And, on a 3rd and long, when everyone in the stadium knows a pass is coming because you don't have a running qb, to call a draw seems INSANE....or GENIUS. Do you know what the difference in genius and insanity in playcalling is? The result. Quite simply, if P-44 haynes doesn't work, everyone thinks Richt is an idiot for calling a playaction pass instead of running it up the gut. If Michael Johnson doesn't catch that ball against Auburn, people hang Richt for not calling a pass that would get the FIRST DOWN. You call Richt an offensive idiot (in so many words) and neglect the fact that in the last two years, our offense has had the highest output for a UGA team since 1981-1982. These last two years have been when Mike Bobo (who you call too inexperienced to coach QBs) has been at the helm. You say Richt is a puppeteer, and to a degree that may be true, I really don't know. But, there's no doubt that in the past two seasons, our offense has been better than it has been in a long while. We had 49 tds through the air in the last two years. There isn't a two year stretch in UGA history that will show you that.

As for 2006, Stafford wasn't READY for the reigns in early 2006. Do you remember his FIRST start? Had to be bailed out by Joe Cox, who came in and did a BRILLIANT job to win the game for us. He didn't understand the playbook, and hadn't seen that "meaningful time" you love to go back to again and again and again. Had Stafford started the first four games of that season, I can promise you we would have lost at least one of those, if not more. Murray and Mettenberger have had a year's worth of learning in the system, and from all the reports I hear, have all the tools to be great at this level. Do you remember 2001?

David Greene, a RS Freshman in a new offensive system (which means while he had a year of learning about SEC speed and defenses, he didn't have time to learn the particular offense) led the team to an 8-3 record, with a last-minute (47 seconds) game-winning drive against Tennessee. The offense pounded Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and became the first UGA team in 4 years to topple GA Tech, crushing them 31-7. This was with a redshirt freshman quarterback who had a year at Georgia, but only a few months in the offensive system. Oh yeah, and who was coaching him that first year? Mike Bobo, who had spent a year as UGA's Qb assistant in 1999, and a year as the QB coach at Valdosta State in 2000. Just FYI - in 2000, Valdosta State led all of Division II in passing offense and the QB, Dusty Bonner, won the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top player in Division II football. David Greene was a 3-star recruit with good upside whose icy-under-pressure demeanor made him a legend at UGA. He made "honorable mention" lists for national awards in High School, but never had all of the huge hype that some of our recent QB recruits have.

Aaron Murray and Matt Barkley (SC Trojans) fought against each other for top rankings from all of the recruiting services and at the various camps. Some listed Barkley as best, others had Murray. He's a true student of the game who LIVES in his playbook. I'm not saying he's going to come in and DESTROY people, but "Redshirt Freshman" doesn't always mean "ineptitude." Did you know that Sam Bradford was a WALK-ON REDSHIRT FRESHMAN in 2007 when he came in and led the Sooners to the Big12 title and broke all kinds of records? Again, not saying that Murray or Mettenburger are like Bradford, but I just want you to be informed.

Do I think we'd be better served if Logan Gray had panned out better? Yes I do. Am I worried about Murray and Mettenberger? I am not. I don't get my sense of "comfort" from the thought that "we'll be fine" and that we can go through a rebuilding phase again in 2010 and be good for 2011. I feel comfortable because I know that Redshirt Freshmen have had success in the past, even here at UGA, and I know that our coaching staff has developed a few pretty good QBs (and have whiffed on a few...everyone does).

To open the 2010 season, UGA will face one team in its first five games that finished in the top 25 nationally in defense, South Carolina. That South Carolina game will be one where we'll find out a good deal about our Freshman QB, as they'll be losing few seniors off what was a pretty good defense in 2009. That's the second game of the season. Get through that one with a "W", and we should be looking good all the way to Tennessee. Then, the stiff tests will really come week-in, week-out, as we'll face solid defenses from TN and KY. FL will still be good, though without a bunch of standout seniors in their two-deep and Charlie Strong going to Louisville, we may catch a break for the first time in years against the Gators. That game, btw, is the only one on our schedule that already has a tv contract (CBS 3:30 ET).

Anyway, the season is set up for a good ease-in for a young quarterback. Ten returners on offense will support him as he learns. If we start next season with the running game going the way it ended this season, he will likely enjoy the benefits of few 3rd and longs, and respect in the play-action game. That will bode well for his development.

You say Richt chose to ignore a team going south, and I disagree. "Fire the man in charge" isn't always the answer, and a good manager knows that. Fans are often very quick to call for heads to roll, and while I think it should have been done earlier, Richt was most likely looking for a better solution. We don't know what kind of re-tooling happened behind the scenes. You can't tell me that you know if schemes and defensive playcalling were drastically different in 2009 than they were in 2008, but they could have been. Richt could have sat Willie down in 2008 and told him, "I really need you to work harder this year, and fix these problems. I need you to buckle it down and set things straight. We have to perform better, and I need you to bring that about," and when he didn't, Richt let him go. You don't know. I don't know.

As for the "We're looking for the best man" statement, I don't think that was an excuse, but a comment to make people understand. I mean, UGA could throw 500 thousand at some unknown DC, spin it fantastically and make everyone happy about the hire. But if he doesn't come in and perform, it's a disaster. No, Richt and Evans are going to go for the absolute best they can get, and that guy might be better than those who've turned the position down. As a fellow blogger (Paul Westerdawg, Georgiasportsblog) put it, "
Let's say you ask out Miss September, and she turns you down. Then you ask out Miss October, and she turns you down as well. Who cares if you still end up with Miss December?" People who get all pissed off about each missed hire are wasting their energy worrying about the wrong thing. To an equal point, worrying about whatever recruits we might lose in this class due to a fluxuation in our staff is pointless. If a kid changes his mind on coming to UGA because he really wanted to play for WM that much, I don't really care to have him wearing Red and Black. Not only that, but if we lose 2-3 kids because we don't have a DC yet, then we hire one that shaves 12 ppg off our defensive totals, I promise you, no one is going to care about where those kids ended up in college.

You think Richt should be fired because this is our fourth season without an SEC title, and 9th under Richt with no National Title. When would you have fired Vince Dooley? By the way, if you name any year after 1975, you're doing yourself a disservice. 1975 was the seventh consecutive season that Dooley did not win the SEC (after having won twice in his first five years). Richt won the SEC twice in his first five years. 1980 was Dooley's 17th season in Athens. Was there a public outcry for his firing at any point between 1964 and 1980? I don't know, I wasn't alive. I'm asking you simply because the foul hatred that people bring forth for Mark Richt comes from his lack of producing a National Title in his first nine years. Ask yourself this...if he had fired Willie Martinez in 2007, and we still didn't have a National Title, would you hate him any less? You haven't liked Richt for years, stemming back from BEFORE Martinez became DC, and that's fine...but don't use his handling of the WM situation as the "catalyst" for your dislike of him.

Just curious...where would you stack Frank Beamer? He was at VT for 8 years before winning his first conference title in '95. It would be four more years before ever getting to the National Title game. He still doesn't have a national championship ring, and the only time he was in the game was ten years ago. Is Beamer a better coach than Mark Richt? Oh yeah, and let's not forget that Beamer had been a Head Coach for 6 seasons before getting to VT.

You suggest that we have fallen, that we can never rise, that we are defeated. That's an attitude I'd hate to be in a battle or a game alongside. Just FYI, do you know how UGA performed in the season following our last "4th in the east" finish? We were 13-1 and won the SEC.

If you truly hope you're wrong, then I suggest you do this...look for positives instead of negatives when it comes to UGA. Give yourself something to look forward to, not a reason to dread the upcoming season. With the end of a dismal year, comes the dawning of a new one. The 2010 team is a new team, and a reason to have renewed hope and optimism. Look on the brighter side, you'll live longer (and you might need that, if you want to see us win a championship).

Go Dawgs!

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