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August 15, 2013

DOOLEY vs. RICHT: Tough One to Call

It's now a two-horse race, statistically, as far as who is the top
head coach in UGA football history, but who's in the lead?
Who is the top head coach ["numbers" wise] in the history of UGA football?
 
Entering the 2013 season, the question is certainly a valid one where "Coach Dooley" is no longer  the no-brainer answer.  With Coach Richt essentially reaching the halfway point of the former Bulldog coach's quarter-century regime, I now consider the two coaching greats' careers measureable with the other, and what better way to compare the two than with the customary measurements? 
  • Overall Winning %: advantage RICHT (.747 to .715)
To begin the comparison, I first recalled, and then conducted an extensive search to find, a now-inoperative UGA blog declaring "the one comparison [between Dooley and Richt] that matters the most" is winning percentage, where the current head coach holds a decided advantage.  Sure, that could be true, but only if the two men coached against very similar levels of competition.
 
You know how Georgia faces two or three Georgia Southerns, Tennessee Techs, or Buffalos every year?  Back in Dooley's day, cupcakes on the schedule weren't quite as common as today.  Therefore, if you omit Dooley's 12 games against now-FCS or lower-tier FBS competition (roughly, an average of one cupcake every two seasons) and Richt's 22 (nearly TWO cupcakes every one season), the overall winning percentages of the coaches are nearly identical (Dooley .703, Richt .706).   
  • SEC Winning %: advantage DOOLEY (.717 to .705)              
I give the argument "the SEC is just a tougher conference now than it once was" a little meritand I mean a littleThrow in the fact the SEC has more members now than before, and teams face more conference games annually, and Richt's .705 SEC mark is perhaps as notable, if not more so, as Dooley's .717.
  • Bowl Record: advantage RICHT (8-4 to 8-10-2)
That's rightRicht has won as many bowl games in 12 postseason appearances as Dooley did in 20.  However, simply put, no current coach's bowl record should be compared to one from 25-plus years ago.  As T. Kyle King stated a while back, "Dooley was 8-10-2 in bowl games, but half of his postseason losses were in Cotton or Sugar Bowls," and "I would rather see my team lose a Sugar Bowl than win a Peach Bowl."  Also, Richt was supposed to have won all of his bowl games thus far, or almost all of them.  Georgia has been favored in 11 of Richt's 12 bowls  with the one exception being the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl when the Bulldogs were three-point underdogs to Virginia Tech.  Dooley, on the other hand, was favored in just nine of 20 postseason games. 
  • Versus ranked opponents: advantage RICHT (.533 to .507)
Richt has won more than 53 percent of his games against teams nationally ranked in the AP Poll due in large part to a 24-13 record under the circumstances his first seven seasons.  However, the coach's respectable versus-ranked-teams mark has benefitted from 15 games, winning 11, against 21st through 25th-ranked opposition.  Remember, in Dooley's day there was only a top 20, so the Dogs could never be pitted against a No. 21st, 22nd, etc.  Remove the 21st through 25th-ranked opponents and Richt's top-20 winning percentage is below Dooley's at .467.
  • Championships: advantage DOOLEY (an SEC title every 4.2 seasons and a national championship compared to Richt's every 6 seasons and no national title), but if not for Herschel... 
Honestly, I've always found it a tad absurd when someone dilutes Dooley's career success by stating something on the order of "but if Herschel hadn't played for him..."  Should the career of Ohio State's Woody Hayes or Auburn's Pat Dye not be as highly thought of simply because legends Archie Griffin and Bo Jackson, respectively, played for each coach?  Therefore, we might as well add in, for example, if not for Charley Trippi, the Wally Butts era... .  I personally say, if "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts... 
 
This I do know: since Richt has been at Georgia, the Bulldogs have essentially landed a top-10 recruiting class annually.  The same could not be said when Dooley was head coach.  Dooley might have signed the program's greatest player ever; however, Richt has signed better classes of players than any previous coach in the program's history.  And, by the way, even if you neglect to recognize the Herschel years, Dooley captured three SEC titles in a span of 11 seasons (1966-1976), whereas Richt could only say as much in the near future if he wins the conference championship pronto, like in 2013. 
  •  Comeback wins/Lost leads difference: advantage DOOLEY (+10 to -1)
Measuring the number of games won when trailing by 10+ points in the second half (comeback win) and games lost when leading by 10+ points following halftime (lost lead), this unique, but telling coaching statistic is one I first figured following Richt's fifth lost lead of his career (2012 Outback Bowl vs. Michigan State).  Add another from a season ago—Alabama in the SEC title game—and Richt's comebacks-lost leads mark currently stands at a lowly 5 and 6.  Dooley's, on the other hand, was a far-superior 13 and 3.
  • Final national ranking: advantage RICHT (No. 16.9 to No. 18.8) 
Before this post is mistaken as an anti-Richt/pro-Dooley analysis, we've come to arguably, as it has been said, "the one comparison that matters the most"—on average, where one ended up in the national rankings.  Since not all Dooley and Richt teams finished ranked nationally in the two major polls, I used the respected Billingsley Rankings—a computer formula figured into the BCS Rankings, slotting all FBS teams, which is normally more or less rather similar to the major rankings decided upon by the pollsters.

In 25 seasons, Dooley's teams averaged roughly a No. 19 national ranking, whereas Richt's first 12 squads were two slots better at approximately No. 17.  And, there are a couple dozen more teams competing in FBS football nowadays than Division I-A in Dooley's time, thus there are more squads currently vying for those national rankings than before.  If I throw out Richt's best and worst national rankings, and Dooley's two best and two worst (since he had twice the tenure), the current head coach's average national ranking is better than 3½ spots higher than the hall of famer's (13.7 to 17.3).

In conclusion, they say the numbers don't lie...  Well, when compared to the same measurement but of a different era, perhaps some of the customary figures can be exaggerated a bit.  Regardless, when comparing Georgia's best head coach with the Bulldogs' second-best in regards to the "numbers," it's difficult for me at this point to tell who is, well, the program's best and second-best.  For me, only time will tell but quite possibly as soon as the looming season, when a stellar year for Georgia in 2013 could very well push Richt forward as distinctly the lead, top Dawg.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Verrry interesting. I think it's kinda tough to compare until Coach Richt has 25 years under his belt to = Coach Dooley, but I think a couple of things are clear already. First, Dooley's teams were tough, tough, smash 'em in the mouth tough in the late going. I rarely sweated even a 10 point opposing team lead late in the 3d quarter--had lots of confidence that our guys would claw back. And if you watch footage from back in the day vs now, the fundamentals--blocking, tackling--were simply better, although that often seems true for the opposition in those days as well. Players just seemed more disciplined in executing their assignments. On the other hand, there's a versatility and dynamism in Richt's offenses that usually wasn't there with Dooley's.

My own take is we're lucky as Dawg fans to have had 3 long time coaches (if you include Coach Butts) who not only won championships but acquitted themselves, the program and the school with pride and honor.