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January 4, 2014

In Need of a "New Era"

After finishing 12 straight seasons nationally
ranked, only two of Georgia's last five teams 
have ended their campaigns in the Top 25.  
Thursday morning after Georgia's loss to Nebraska, I awoke to two emails mentioning Coach Richt and "hot seat."  Now, I tend to agree with what the Senator stated a few months ago: associating the buzzword "hot seat" with Richt has perhaps been a tad overused.  However, looking back on the last several years capped off by what transpired down in the Gator Bowl, whether our head coach gets put on a hot seat, a flame is literally lit up under his you-know-what, or some other drastic measure, some sort of action or change should be enforced following an unacceptable 44-23 combined record since the start of the 2009 season, and soon.
After ending 12 consecutive seasons from 1997 through 2008 ranked in the final AP Poll, the Bulldogs will finish the 2013 season unranked nationally for the third time in the last five campaigns.  This season marked the highest Georgia had ever been preseason ranked (No. 5), only to finish unranked in the end.  I know, I know, injuries seemingly decimated the team this year.  However, injuries are part of the game, and are often used as an excuse for losing.  In 2008 and 2012, the Bulldogs ranked 7th and 8th, respectively, in the FBS in "starts lost" due to injury, yet I don't seem to recall much complaining about injuries then, and probably because Georgia averaged 11 wins for those years.
Richt's teams exceeded pollsters expectations in five of his first seven seasons at UGA; however, only once in the last six seasons was Georgia's final ranking higher than its positioning in the preseason (ranked No. 6 to begin 2012 and finished No. 5).  

Aside from the polls, and perhaps most notably, Georgia's overall winning percentage the last five seasons of .657 was the lowest for the Bulldogs in a five-year period in 16 seasons since the era from 1993 to 1997.  Staunch supporters of Richt often compare the head coach's success to that of his predecessors at Georgia, so lets do the same in regards to five-season spans.

In the five seasons that made up the entire Jim Donnan era from 1996 to 2000, the Bulldogs actually had a higher winning percentage (.678) than Richt's last five teams, and, as you recall, Donnan was fired.  In Ray Goff's final five seasons at Georgia, the Bulldogs had a winning percentage of .629, or just three games behind what Richt achieved from 2009 through 2013, and like his successor would be, Goff was axed.

Those that minimize the Vince Dooley era often claim that under today's standards he would've been fired some time during the 1970s, and Dooley's legacy would have been minimal if not for the arrival of a certain freshman phenom in 1980.  Some of those that downplay Dooley's tenure probably aren't aware that he actually was nearly fired during the '70s, or his contract was almost not extended, following what would be his worst five-season period in a quarter-century as Georgia head coacha .640 winning percentage from 1970 to 1974.

Immediately following a disappointing '74 season, particularly on the defensive side of the ball, Dooley stated, "We will have to build from the ground up."  However, the head coach was thought to probably be around for only the beginning of any rebuilding process as his existing contract was through just the 1975 season, and a new contract seemed unlikely.  Regardless, in what was recognized by Erk Russell as a "new era," Dooley first adjusted and added to his defensive coaching staff.  Later, upon the start of spring practice, a change in attitude was instilled in both players and coaches.

"It's a new start," said Dooley in April 1975.  "We're starting over right now from this day," added Russell.  "This is a new era.  Hopefully, we'll able to get back on the right track."

Ten days prior to the start of the season, and according to a local newspaper, while "many Georgia supporters [were] surprised at this move," Dooley was awarded a new three-year contract.  As Erk had hoped, Georgia indeed got back on the right track led by the defensive coordinator's "Junkyard Dogs."  The new era beginning in 1975 brought about back-to-back seasons ending in major bowls for only the second time in UGA football history with the initial resulting 34 years before (1941-1942).  And, speaking of "34," such success was actually accomplished without the services of the legendary Herschel as he was still several years from first arriving on the UGA campus.  
Personally, I like Coach Richt and want to see him succeed.  However, under the leadership of an athletic director who appears tentative to stir things up, it's evident Richt is receiving a free pass for what he accomplished during his first seven seasons, recently capturing consecutive SEC East titles but which are surrounded by highly disappointing seasons, and an injury-filled 2013 campaign.  I don't think Richt needs to be fired anytime soon, but he should be held accountable for, again, the worst five-season stretch of UGA football in 16 years.  Lately, his tendency to win has been about equivalent (or even worse when compared to Donnan) to five-year periods that got his three predecessors fired, or nearly fired.     
Similarly to what Coach Dooley initiated in 1975, Coach Richt could do himself and the program some good by starting a "new era" of sorts this offseason.  Whether it's in the form of changes to the coaching staff, a change in attitude for all those involved, or both, a new era has demonstrated to put a program on the right track, while getting its head coach out of hot water and back on the road to legendary status.    


IveyLeaguer said...

That's a great post, and I'm in agreement with it.

I've been calling, and will still call, for change as well, for Richt himself (by bringing in some outside consultant help, among other things) and his program, by raising the bar.

It's very clear standards are too low, and underachievement is not only tolerated, but ingrained in the culture.

Georgia is team who loses because they consistently beat themselves. Adn that is the telltale sigh of poor coaching.

Like you, I don't want Richt fired now, but I do want him to fix it.

Again, nice post.


Patrick Garbin said...

You put it perfectly. Thanks for reading and your comment.--Patrick

Deanna said...

Bring back Erk!!!

Otto said...

Agreed with Ivy. I think there are key areas which routinely fall short in all 3 phases of the game. It should not be a routine. I like Richt as man but question of he can get the job done to the level UGA is crrently has the resource to produce at.

Spending on Basketball and Baseball are other signs of under performing large part due to not keeping up with the spending of others.

Otto said...

Further I do see comparison between Richt and Dooley as well as Mack Brown of Texas. If Richt does get a title it will be with a Heisman talent.

Dooley however beat the Gators regularly and did well against Auburn and GT. Brown was blown out by OU a few times granted worse than Richt but Richt has needed a very down UF to take the series back.

Expectations are higher largely due to resources. UGA has the in state talent and $$$ to win big. UF realized this and to their credit strive to be a power not just a contender.