Saturday, October 02, 2010

And Apathy Sets In

Somewhere, Jim Donnan is pissed off.

Flashback to the year 2000: UGA is a preseason Top 5 team. They lose All-SEC linebacker Boss Bailey on the the opening kickoff. In week two, South Carolina breaks a losing streak measured in years against the Dawgs as alleged All-SEC QB Quincy Carter completes almost as many passes to the Gamecocks as he does against the Dawgs. The Dawgs right the ship the next few games, and beat Tennessee for the first time in ten tries.

They lose to Florida in Jacksonville again, the third straight loss to the Gators.

The starting QB has an alleged injured throwing hand is out for the final two games of the year; the Dawgs lose in OT at Auburn, and then are beaten at home by Georgia Tech.

The Dawgs are 7-4, Donnan is fired, and all four losses come to bowl-bound teams.

I figure if ol' Donnan's been watching his former team the past few years, he might just be wondering "what does it take for the new guy to get a pink slip?"

UGA began 2008 as a preseason #1 in the land and it's been going downhill ever since.

Ok, that might be harsh. The reality is things have been slipping in some ways before then, and other areas have been exposed since.

Bama came into Athens in 2008 and exposed (among other things) that the strength and conditioning we so praised back in 2001 when mat drills came to Athens, isn't keeping up with the rest of the SEC. We haven't pushed around a non-terrible defense on the ground in years.

Willie Martinez as defense coordinator showed signs of a man promoted beyond his competency level as early as his first year on the job, but I was convinced he needed to go in the second half of the disastrous 2006 Tennessee game.

Now he's gone, and UGA has better defensive coaches, but precious little depth at defensive tackle.

The offense has been running the 90s FSU playbook for years, and when they had Knowshon and Stafford it didn't matter much. Without two 1st-round NFL picks at key positions, the offense is predictable and shut down by a shocking number of defenses.

So, the knee-jerk answer is: fire 'em all. But that's a huge risk. Sure, ditching a coach after a bad year, or even a disappointing year has worked before (notably for Bama and Florida). But there were also obvious upgrades for both schools at the time.

Let's say Richt can't right the ship, and the Dawgs go 5-7 or worse, and McGarity has to can him. Who's better that we can get (meaning: we're not hiring Pete Carroll away from Seattle, and just stop with the Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher talk, please)?

Coach Whitingham at Utah has taken the Utes back to a BCS game and took apart Bama more impressively than Urban's Gators did in 2008, but can he transition seamlessly to the SEC? And would he come?

Would Will Muschamp give up the "head coach in waiting" at Texas--fanbase, financially, and resources/recruiting-wise the best job in the nation--to come to UGA?

How much of Kirby Smart's success is having Nick Saban to tell him "no, that blitz won't work, try this"?

I think the best hope for a quick turnaround for the Dawgs is some smaller coaching changes.
Keep the defensive staff intact (though perhaps Rodney Garnder's time has come.) Bring in some new blood for strength and conditioning. Bring in a runningbacks coach that wasn't in college 5 years ago. And either demote Bobo back to QB coach, or can him outright and bring in a skilled, creative offensive coordinator.

That could buy Richt a lot of time, but I think it might be harder for him than canning his friend Willie was last year, as he'll have to admit "my offense isn't working in the SEC anymore." Only that's not totally true. Play-action passing and a solid running game don't need to disappear, they just need more to be effective: the pistol formation, some 4- and 5-wide spread passing/running, and a playcaller that has the good sense not to send a 160 lb. rb up the middle. Repeatedly.

But things can't continue the way they've gone.

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