Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mark Richt as UGA's OC...

Many people have jumped on the public outcry that Mike Bobo be removed from his playcalling duties, and that Mark Richt should once again be the HMIC of the Offense. I have some friends who believe that would be an unmitigated disaster. Luckily for me, the offensive statistics I've been digging into lately do a good job of painting a picture of Richt's term as OC at UGA.

I'll lay it out there, you decide what you will.
BLACK = a game where I believe the offense completely underperformed
YELLOW= our output was basically on-par with what the average offense did against our opponent
GREEN = A defense which is a "top 20" type defense
RED = a LOSS in the "opponent" column, a SUB-PAR performance in all other columns
Dark Grey Row = Non D-1A opponent, not tracked.

When I remember the "glory" years of Richt's tenure, I remember stout defenses and efficient offenses. When I look back at the statistics, I see some games where our teams racked up 500 and 600 yards of offense. That's none too shabby. But, you also have to look at the competition, and think about the fact that those stout defenses did a good job of giving us more possessions, with better field position. Here, in image form, are the statistics I've uncovered displaying Richt's tenure as OC.

2001 - The Beginning

In the 2001 season, Richt's offense was brand new to UGA. There were questions about whether he had the talent that he wanted in the system. That team played all D-I level teams, but only one elite defense and went 8-4 (8-3 plus a bowl loss). In twelve games, Richt's offense underperformed* the average competition only twice, losing one of those games. However,
in three other losses, the Dawgs could not get into the endzone often enough to win. It's interesting to note that against the one elite defense UGA faced in that season, they did not underperform as a whole, but did fail to score as many points as the average opponent. Of course, if memory serves, in the early days of this offense, touchdowns came at a premium. In fact, in that first year, we can see that Georgia only outperformed the average team's scoring in 5 of those 12 games.

* Defining an "underperformance" is a difficult thing. Most people would say that if you score less on offense than the other team gives up on average, your offense has underperformed. Others would say that if you fail to gain what the other team gives up on average, you have underperformed. However, neither of these take into account game situation. It's possible that a defense continually gets the offense the ball in favorable field position, resulting in low yardage totals. There is also the opposite - that the defense forces the offense to drive long all day, which it does, but can not succeed at getting into the endzone often on those 85 and 90 yard drives. This is why we must look at eveything together. When an offense is failing to perform up to the average in the majority of categories, I think it's safe to say this is an overall underperformance.

2002 - Champions

This is the season most people remember as UGA really putting it all together. In fact, there were only two games during that season which look to me like overall failures on the part of the offense. Against Clemson, we failed to gain significantly, but I believe that was du to situations in the game. I beleive we won 31-0....which would say the defense was lights-out. As I stated before, playing with a short field can often lead to lower output totals. I think it's important to note that UGA faced two elite defenses in this season, and performed better than the average against both. Against South Carolina, our defense (in the form of David Pollack) saved our asses as we failed to score an offensive touchdown. Then, against FL, we had a total offensive letdown, and it very likely cost us a national title shot. I attended the Sugar Bowl, and it was a sleepy, boring game. Richt seemed content to ride Musa Smith and simply grind one out against his former team. The offense was anything but electric. But, in this season Richt did a good job of beating up on the teams we should beat, and even pulled out victories against the teams that perhaps we shouldn't. We had two MAJOR offensive hiccups, and won one of those games. Oh, and we went 13-1. That is the kind of performance the Dawgfans are seeking today.

2003 - Beaten by Champions

Richt's 2003 offense only underperformed in two games - against UAB and Vandy. This was bizzare. These were two teams who didn't rank incredibly high on the defensive side of the ball. Still, we didn't get it done like we should against them. Ours was a team who had just gone 13-1 and didn't lose a truckload of talent going into 2003. We were pretty good, but in two games against eventual National Champion LSU, we performed ON PAR with their average competition in terms of scoring. That's just not how you win titles. A division crown? Maybe...but we won that because the other teams in the East couldn't leg it out. Flordia beat us, but had three losses in the SEC. Still, overall, the offense performed pretty well. We outperformed the average against two elite defenses, and were on-par with the average against the best defense in the country, LSU.
2004 - Dissappointments abound
David Greene, senior QB. David Pollack, Senior DE. This was going to be the end of an era in Georgia football, and we all fully expected a title. We'd won the east twice in a row, and had been within fifteen minutes of going undefeated two years earlier. In the fourth week of the season, UGA faced the first of three elite defenses in reigning national champion LSU, and beat the pants off them. Then, the unexplainable - we fell completely apart in a game against middle-of the pack Tennessee. UGA carried a four-year winning streak into that game, and pissed away a chance at a title with that loss. Somehow, our offense simply never got clicking. We wouldn't underperfom again until running into a stout Auburn team on their way to a 14-0 season, and NO SHOT at the title. We outpaced a good Wisconsin team in our bowl game to claim a 10-2 season, but it was far less than we imagined coming into that year.
2005 - Unimpressive Champions
After the year that wasn't, there was excitement with a redshirt senior returning for his time in the spotlight. DJ Shockley was ever the foil to David Greene, with his athletic ability surpassing his pure quarterbacking skills. I expected our offense to go very much to the option, but it did not. We became a shotgun-read type offense. We ran alot of split-back, and we won games against some good defenses. Points, though, did not flow freely from the offense once again. We did beat up on some of the worst teams we faced, but we defintely didn't crush mid-level teams like Mississippi State and Arkansas. We lost to Auburn for a second straight year, and due to an injury to starting QB DJ Shockley, dipped back into the L column against FL once more. The offense went through a five-game stretch at the end of the season which had four poor offensive performances, and was only able to win three games. We rebounded by dismantling a great LSU defense in the SEC title game, but it took us nearly three quarters to catch fire against WVU in the Sugar Bowl, a game we lost when our special teams failed to stop a fake punt late in the fourth. Despite winning his second SEC title in his first five seasons, Richt heard clamoring among UGA supporters who complained about his playcalling. Many suggested that the duties of an HC and an OC are too much for one man to handle. The next season, it appears that point may have been proven.
2006 - a New Beginning
In 2006 Richt was faced with something he hadn't dealt with since 2001. He had no real experience at Quarterback. He had three options - 1)Joe Tereshinski, a backup who had been serviceable in some situations, but never spectacular. Joe had done everything UGA had ever asked of him, was a legacy player, and was as selfless as they come. 2) Joe Cox, a redshirt freshman who had a ridiculous highschool record, tossed 60+ touchdowns in his senior year, and had been absorbing Richt's system for a year. 3)Matt Stafford, a true freshman ESPN Top 150 recruit who drew comparisons to NFL QBs while still in high school. Richt had no clear-cut winner of the job after fall camp (which,when that's true, I think you bench the senior. If he can't clearly beat two freshmen, you sit him) and tested all three in game situations over the first few weeks of the season. Georgia was 5-0 when Tennessee came calling, but the offense had been anything but inspirational. We had squeeked by too long, and the wheels came off against the Volunteers. The offense never found its footing. Georgia lost four of five starting with that game, and only performed significantly better than average against one defense, Mississippi State, who was awful. Richt's next game would be his final as the signal caller for UGA. In the 2006 game against Auburn, a team that boasted a top-20 defense, Richt's offense piled up 30 points, over 16 more than the average team against picked up against Auburn. The offense fired on all cylinders, and some questioned whether or not Richt actually called that game. The next week, Mike Bobo was announced as the playcaller for the Georgia Tech game, leading folks to believe that perhaps Bobo was behind the playcalling that dismantled Auburn as well.
So, that's nearly six years of playcalls by Mark Richt. He had some good seasons, and he had some bad ones. What I don't understand is how people believe his playcalling to be significantly better than Bobo's. When I look at my humble numbers, I find the following:
Richt's offenses failed to outperform the average offense 28% of the time.
Richt's offenses failed to outperform in SCORING 55% of the time.
Richt's offenses failed to outperform in Total Yards 38% of the time.
Richt's offenses failed to outperform in Passing Yards 38% of the time.
Richt's offenses failed to outperform in Rushing Yards 52% of the time.
Now, this DOES NOT take into account any kind of situational differences such as not rushing the ball often because passing was working so well, or playing on a short field. BUT, all statistical analyses are limited in some way.
If you ask me, there are two glaring areas in which Richt's offenses failed to perform. We didn't run the ball particularly well, and we weren't great at scoring touchdowns. If you ask any SEC fan the two things that win titles on offense, they'll say running the football, and scoring touchdowns.
Maybe Richt was right to hand the playcalling over to Bobo. We'll see in the next blog.
Go Dawgs.


Unknown said...

Nice work on the blog. One nitpick...we beat Clemson something like 31-28 to open the 2002 champ season. Went for it on fourth and short to seal the win. Richt took a similar Sabanesque risk against UT to seal a win that only a one armed Casey Claussen could have prevented (this, according to Claussen, of course). We blanked Clemson 31-0 to start the next season.

Ben Dukes said...

Thanks for the note, Pat! I don't remember EVERYTHING and should have researched that little tidbit before including it.

And please, don't call 4th down "go for it" calls "Sabanesque." It's been around for FAR longer than Nick Saban has been a premiere coach.