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Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Few Points in Willie's Favor

Just a heads up, folks, that I'll probably only have this post today, and likely one more tonight after the Doak Walker winner is announced, but i wanted to give some attention to a comment a reader left regarding the Willie Martinez post from yesterday.

I'm not here to make the case that Willie should stay or go. Truth is, I can see both sides of the argument, and while I have no problem asking some hard questions of Willie or Mark Richt, as a reporter, it is hardly my job to push for someone else to lose theirs.

What I can appreciate, however, is a well-reasoned argument on one side or the other. I have seen numerous arguments since the Tech game explaining why Willie needs to go. If you haven't read it already, T. Kyle King has an excellent synopsis.

The other side of the argument has, admittedly, been harder to make, but a big reason for that is that raw numbers really don't support Martinez's case very well. When you add in some context, on the other hand, the picture becomes a bit less clear, as my reader -- who unfortunately remained anonymous -- pointed out.

"Yes, the points per game have gone up each year, but that's because the points scored in the SEC has gone up each year. In '05, only Auburn averaged more than 30 per game. In '06, only LSU and Arkansas averaged more than 30 per game. In '07, 6 teams averaged more than 30, with Florida averaging more than 40 per game. This year, 5 average more than 30, with Florida again averaging more than 40."
So, yes, Martinez's defenses have been giving up more points each year -- but for the most part, teams have been scoring more each year against everyone, not just Georgia.

Add context to the argument -- i.e. how many points has Martinez's defense given up COMPARED to other defenses in the SEC, and prior to this season, it really doesn't seem too bad. Again, from our anonymous poster...

"Here are the facts about our defense under Martinez, compared to other SEC teams:

2nd in Scoring Defense
5th in Total Defense

4th in Scoring Defense
2nd in Total Defense

3rd in Scoring Defense
3rd in Total Defense

10th in Scoring Defense
7th in Total Defense"

Those are pretty solid numbers up until this year, right? Pretty much a top-three SEC defense each season.

Of course, it's this year that is really the problem. And while the increase in scoring around the league (and the country) may have contributed to poor raw numbers for the defense, that can't really be the problem this year. Even Mark Richt admits it has been a down year offensively in the SEC.

Still, Hobnail Boot adds some context to this year's struggles that also help to make Martinez's case. Here are a few of Georgia's problems, according to him, that have little to do with Willie...

"-Your pre-season AA DT goes down.
-Your MLB goes down early in the season and is never the same.
-Your 5* SS is a total bust
-Your best CB plays most of the season with a broken hand.
-Your best run-stuffing DE is hurt all year.
-Your special teams continually hamstrings you."

A few other numbers I looked up on my own that could indicate there wasn't a large-scale breakdown of the defense overall:

Through the Tennessee game, Georgia was allowing just 61 yards per game on the ground. After, they gave up 226.6 per game. Now that is partially skewed by the Georgia Tech game (409 rush yards), but I think for there to be that large of a difference from one game to the next, there has to be something more there than simply a game plan that didn't work.

Georgia has only allowed 27 drives all season of 60 yards or more -- in other words, just about two per game -- which isn't too shabby. Only 20 of those 27 60-yard drives resulted in touchdowns, by the way. On the other hand, offensive turnovers set up 10 touchdowns by opponents (not counting the special teams disasters mentioned above).

Those are all big, broad, sweeping numbers though, and I'll agree with anyone who wants to point to the terrible red-zone defense and the poor tackling and the missed assignments as perfect reasons why someone must take the blame for the defense's ineptitude. But if those are the things we're talking about, isn't Willie right? Isn't it really about execution? At some point, you can't coach execution anymore. The players just have to want to do it.

I'll also say this: You need only look to Auburn to see where inconsistency in your coaching staff and your approach to the game will get you. When discussing possible replacements for Rodney Garner should he leave, Richt talked about the huge number of resumes from top assistants round the country he has received each time a job has opened up. There's a reason good people want to work at Georgia and work for Richt -- it's because he's loyal to his assistants and isn't letting fan criticism make his decisions for him.

You can agree with it or not, but prior to this year (THIS 9-3 year, by the way), it has only benefited Georgia.

ALSO SEE: If you look at the Auburn search the way the Ledger-Enquirer's Guerry Glegg breaks it down, it sounds like the Tigers would be stupid not to hire Garner. I still have to think they've got a bigger name they're holding out for though. Of course, given what happened there with the previous staff, it's not hard to understand why an established coach isn't excited about heading to the Plains.


Jason said...

My Problem with the Martinez era isn't the points per season of late, every one is entitled to have a bad Season.

I have a problem with the fact that we look cluless on defense once or twice a year on big games and we don't make adjustments at half time.

Like when Eric Ainge just picked us apart and we refused to bring aditional pressure and we stayed with the bend but don't break style of defense.

Anonymous said...

All are valid points, BUT. At what point does coaching and execution cross paths. The whole coaching vs. execution argument is 1 and the same, you cannot blame students for not learning if what their being taught isn't breaking through. At some point you have to examine the teachers and there methods and quit balming the students. Thats why our public school systems suck, teachers aren't paid by results but instead by tenure. in private schools if teachers aren't getting measruable results there fired and another replaces them, with a different approach until they find one who does work. That same thing applies to CM, he has top talent, and its his job to coach up that top talent(the equalivent of an AP class), if their not executing/excelling it all falls at his feet.

PNWDawg said...

I think this is a great writeup. I share a lot of these feelings (so naturally I must commend you). Living on the west coast for a few years has allowed me to view us fans from a different perspective. I'm beginning to see why many folks out here see us as elitist fans that are a bit over the top. And I have been the first at times to call for Martinez to not only be fired but also assassinated (I'm joking please don't come after me). But he doesn't need to be a scapegoat and we might consider as fans living the example our respected head coach has laid out for us.

By the way, I've seen comments from season ticket holders complaining about the money they donate not translating into a quality product on the field. Fair enough, I guess, but how about in the classroom? Remember the APR rankings Pat Forde published this year? Aren't the donations for scholarships? The U in UGA stands for University after all. But who cares about that crap?

Anonymous said...

Ditto Jason..

I can live with losses, but when we completely fail to show up for games or for complete halfs, its inexcuseable. CM appears to be incapable of making adjustments without the benefit of a half-time. He also seems incapable of being proactive in his defensive schemes(TN last yr, GaT this yr), not accounting for CPJ possible adjustments after the half against Tech. To often it seems he relies on talent to "Make a play" as opposed to schemeing a favorable play.

One last thought, with his reluctance or inablity to make adjustments without the benefit of a half, maybe he should start calling d-plays from the booth instead of the field giving him a better vantage/perspective of whats happening. Just a thought.

David Hale said...

Anon -- very good comment about calling plays from the booth. It's something I had thought about but for some reason have never inquired about. I will ask CWM if he might consider that though.

Anonymous said...

Imo, it is not just the points allowed but the lack of TOs created. We used to create turnovers, cause havoc, and force the action. Now, we react and try to limit what opposing offenses try to do to us. That is the disturbing trend.

David Hale said...

True, but INTs are often a direct result of pass pressure. Last year, Georgia had the most sacks in the SEC. This year, they had 18 -- worst in the conference. A good pass rush might have made this a far different season on defense.

Anonymous said...

The argument of SEC offenses scoring more points is disingenuous at best - Florida and Alabama didn't give up 26 points a game.

Anonymous said...

And it goes for players too.

Over the long run this has been and will continue to be the best strategy.

Win now or get fired??? Dooley should speak up and tell the dawg dummies how that attitude would have impacted his chances for a MNC.

Jeffrey said...

Re: Blame the players

I understand the injury argument, but the five star safety argument (Reshad Jones=Candidate #5) seems like bunk. It's partly the coaches' jobs to a)pick players that pan out b)pick players that work in their system and c)COACH those players up. Jones has all the talent in the world, as well as a sense of flash and drama that's often apparent in great players.

BUT, he has not been pushed (read, coached) to really succeed. A good coach benches him, punishes him, something when he makes one of his 30 bonehead plays this season. Don't blame the players.

Finally, there's a point where loyalty becomes a fault. We're getting closer...

Anonymous said...

Actually the year before we won the MNC there were problems on the coaching staff. We had a losing year that year and the defense is the only reason we only lost 6 games. The following year at least one major coach was gone and Hershel showed up and the rest was history.

Anonymous said...

Everyone mentions here on this blog again and again how :

(1) We cannot Kickoff worth a flip, not just this year, every year of the Coach Richt Era.

(2) We cannot return a kickoff to save our mortal soul, not just this year, every year of the Coach Richt Era.

(3) We specifically play a bend not break Defense. The SEC has teams such as Alabama who played the Number 72 NCAA Strength of Schedule this season, so listing where UGA stands in just The SEC 12 teams, doesn't cut it now does it? The facts of the matter are that we are not that good of a Defense, and the majority of that is that we are used to playing Defense at UGA over history. We are not 1 year fans just jumping on or off some bandwagon. There is no fire in this defense, and not just this year, every year of the Coach Richt Era.

(4) We have not had an Offense in the Coach Richt Era. Our Offenses have been abysmal, not just this year, but every year of the Coach Richt Era. Our Scoring Offense is Number 29 this season and Total Offense 21 because we run up and down the field and cannot score. We only played 3 teams ranked today, and none of them are going to be ranked at season end except those 3. We had runs of 31 to nothing, 26 straight against Tech and 49-3 against Florida. Excuse me, where in the hell was the Offense in any of the only 3 real games this season ? Our Quarterback has now played 38 games. He has thrown 32 interceptions and had another 14 fumbles. I am not making excuses for the Defense. I am stating that in the Coach Richt Era, we have yet to have an Offense, not once.

(5) We cannot stay out of Jail, and continue to lead the nation in Arrests and Suspensions. The 11 arrests and suspensions this season, are not something that every other team does too. That is patently a lie. The facts are that in the Coach Richt Era we have had as many as 17 suspensions some seasons. So this season is an improvement. We show this lack of discipline on special teams, defense and offense and we show if off the field, daily. We have shown it on the practice field, as well, where we continue to injure more of the 19 now lost for the season, this season, than our opponents in games have caused. What in the world is going on here on Discipline ? And, quit making excuses for what has become the serious worst problem in the Coach Richt Era. We were ranked Number 1 in the preseason in 17 of the 23 polls, including both the AP Poll and the Coaches’ Poll. The night both of them ranked us Number 1, we had not 1 but 2 separate roaming gangs involved in bar brawls, all arrested. It went on all off-season long, beating people to a pulp, getting drunk, driving drunk, and not just by a bunch of back-ups either. We are talking pervasive lack of discipline from we need them on the field in the next game kind of guys. This is the single biggest problem, consistently every year of the Coach Richt Era.

(6) We cannot consistently recruit at the positions that are glaringly the holes on the team. We have one (1) assistant anyone wants. 1. Rodney Garner. What has he really done ? Go ahead. You can say it. He has consistently recruited players who don’t pan out because of problems off the field or on it. And, he has consistently recruited the players to this team for positions we do not need another body at, while leaving us with gaping holes even a child would recognize are significantly what he should be scouring this great nation and state, for. Look at QB. We have Stafford, Barnes left the program to play at least every one-hundredth play, Joe Cox is loyal but has not been played anywhere near as much as he should for the talent he has too, and Barnes was not bad either. We go out and do what ? Recruit out of Missouri, Logan Gray. All 4 of those are, or should be on this roster. All 4 are Top 10 Quarterbacks in the nation, according to all analysis of Top 10 quarterbacks in the nation. Only 1 can play. Only 1 has. The other have all not played. So, what do we do ? Go sign, not 1 but again two (2) more Top 10 Quarterbacks. How many have said we had zero defensive ends all season long this year ? How many here have said too that we have had not 1 Tight End all season long ? We went 4 years without an Offensive Linemen recruited twice now in the Coach Richt Era. Then we sign 5 and redshirt them all. And, go sign 7 the next year, and play all of them too with the 5 redshirted the previous year. The truth is, while our rankings average about Number 9 for the 8 years of the Coach Richt Era, the recruiting has left us holes as documented here from year to year at Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Tight End, Consistent Kickoff Specialist, and glaringly this get zero OL 3 years in row then try to sign a whole OL in just 1 year. Doesn’t this team glaringly need at least 1 top Defensive End ? Don’t we need a Tight End ? Why, then, have we committed only 1 of each of those and neither of those two are faster than 4.93 in the 40-yard dash ? We have not recruited across the board in the Coach Richt Era, have significantly skewed our average ranking by signing Top 10 Quarterbacks, usually about 4 per roster and only playing 1. We give away scholarships in the Coach Richt Era every year to players who end up arrested and suspended, and never play, with a big emphasis on positions we already are stocked at, while not getting serious about filling the holes that everyone sees and knows are where we should be putting our efforts.

(7) We are not an Elite Football Program. Be men, go down there to Jacksonville and beat Florida. Get real. Florida, it will be 20 years next season, and we have won 3. Auburn, we don’t have a winning record over Auburn the entire Tommy Tuberville Era. The vols, they fire Phillip Fulmer and he too has a wining record over us. We play these 3 teams every year folks. LSU has done the same thing to us. Now, Alabama joins the mix beating us again. Elite Football Program. B.S. We cannot beat the teams in the venues we have regular season games at now. How are you going to get the national stage where West Virginia is ahead 38 to nothing at half time in the Sugar Bowl I went to in Atlanta ? Hell, South Carolina and now Georgia Tech think they can play with us now too. Vanderbilt and Kentucky have beat us. Who in the Hell are you fooling with this crap that we are some great and wondrous football program in the Coach Richt Era ? Come on. Face it. Then, I come in here and you post that we are 9-3 THIS all-cap season. We played 3 teams who are and have ANY hope of being a ranked football team this season. All 3 obliterated us for consecutive halves of 26 unanswered against Tech, 31 unanswered against Bama and 49-3 Florida. Don’t give me this crap that the only thing you can talk about is how Willie Martinez is all the problem and all we have to do is fire or not fire Willie Martinez. We have not had a Rushing Offense in the Coach Richt Era. We have not return one kickoff in the Coach Richt Era. We have not had 1 off-season without double-digit arrests and suspensions in the Coach Richt Era. We have not had an Offense in the Coach Richt Era. We have not had a kickoff kicker in the Coach Richt Era. We have not had 1 recruiting season where we went out and signed the players for the holes we have in the Coach Richt Era and we are not doing it again now for next season, again, either. When have we ever been Great, at Anything, in the Coach Richt Era ? Go ahead. Tell me. We have averaged a ranking in the final polls of Number 15 for the 8 seasons of the Coach Richt Era, and have suffered the indignity of having a total of now over 100 suspensions. Deadly combination. I am not impressed and you should not be either because this coaching staff lacks fire. 1 coach anyone has even begun to be interested in, and Auburn is not going to hire Rodney Garner, no matter that no one wants to go there and be Coach. They beat us, like everyone else does. Now, we play Michigan State next. Then, Oklahoma State, then South Carolina. What are the excuses going to be for these games ? If we had started out Number 17 in the AP and Coaches’ Poll, we would find ourselves not ranked today. I am just not impressed with this coaching staff, and now you know why. Every game we play, we could lose. When we win, it’s a huge big struggle every single opponent, every single game, the entire Coach Richt Era. We could not put away your mother, and that is the coaching staff, not the players. Don’t give me this, the players are not executing crap. This coaching staff brought these players in who not mesh with the lack of fire on this coaching “staff.”