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Friday, December 5, 2008

Lessons Learned?

Mark Richt was asked Thursday if he saw any similarities in the two coaches whose teams made it to the SEC championship game this year. Richt said he could think of two:

"One similarity is they've both been in that game before," Richt said. "Another one is their teams had seasons that they weren't real thrilled about (last year). They probably used that to motivate and propel into this season."

Well, if that's what it takes, then Georgia should be sitting pretty next year. Richt has been to the SECCG before, and this has certainly been a season no one seems particularly thrilled about.

Of course, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have one other thing Richt and Co. do not: A national championship.

That doesn't mean Richt isn't -- or can't be -- a national-championship caliber coach, but there's clearly a lot more to Florida and Alabama's success this season than just a smart coach and a healthy dose of motivation following a poor season last year.

Having said that, it's hard to make the case that Alabama is significantly more talented than Georgia is, but they've definitely had more success -- including that 31-0 halftime lead in Athens.

So maybe motivation from last year did play a big part in the Tide's turnaround.

"Going in, we know we didn't want to end up like last year, dropping those last four games," Alabama DB (and Macon native) Kareem Jackson said. "We didn't want to have another season like that, so it gave us all the motivation that we needed."

I've said for most of the season that I think Georgia's lofty status in the preseason had more of an effect than the players are letting on. Many of the comments from players throughout the season lead me to believe that the expectation of success undermined the team's ability to properly prepare for games and handle adversity. Just my observations, and perhaps entirely untrue.

Perhaps the failures of this season really will lead to bigger and better next year, but the first key to that happening is for the players to want that to happen. Step one is admitting this season was a disappointment, and to date, I've heard a lot more about injuries and bad luck (and a poor kicker, who seems to be the only player being hung out to dry) than coaches or players saying, "Hey, we messed up."

Fans probably shouldn't expect anyone to come out and starting taking or dishing out blame for the team's problems, but it's hard not to look at Tim Tebow's words after Florida's loss to Ole Miss.

Tebow took the blame for the loss. He said his team was not performing to a level the fans deserved. He promised better the rest of the way and delivered.

"I didn't want to make any brash statements or anything just on emotion," Tebow said in a teleconference earlier this week. "I really just tried to say heartfelt things and didn't try to make any statements like we're going to win the rest of our games, or we're going to go undefeated or anything like that. It was just that we were going to go out there and play with intensity, play with passion, character and love for the game. And that's something that we could control and something I could control. I can't control whether we win or lose, but I can control how we play."

There have definitely been a few Bulldogs to say things like that this year, too, but the bigger question might be just how many others were listening to those words. Blame assistant coaches all you want, but at some point, players need to take accountability like Tebow did and use their failures as motivation rather than excuses, the way Jackson and the Tide have.

Georgia won't open 2009 as the preseason No. 1 no matter what they do in their bowl game, and justifiably so. That's probably for the best, because the Bulldogs don't need anyone telling them how good they are before they play a game. They need to prove it on the field. They need to be angry about what happened this year and want retribution next season, whether or not Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford are still around.

Richt was also asked how he felt about so many coaches losing their jobs in the SEC. When Sly Croom, the reigning coach of the year, Tommy Tuberville, who has an undefeated season under his belt, and Phil Fulmer, who led UT to an SEC East title just last year, all are out of work, Richt was asked what lesson he takes from that.

His answer was simple, and it's one fans will be paying more attention to than at any time in his tenure next year.


ADDENDUM: Mike Leach's quarterback seems to think he won't be back at Texas Tech next year. Since the U-Dubb job was just filled, it sounds like Leach will be heading to Auburn.


Anonymous said...

Sounds to me we have to go back to school. It pains me to say this as I have always thought Richt was the best coach we have ever had, but his statements this year lead me to believe he does not have the drive he had when he came to GA.

The numbers do not lie, our defense is second to last in the SEC, we can not adjust during a half and we are so arrogant we run the same schemes year after year. The defense has been going down hill since WM became the DC. I thought after the Tenn disaster last year things had changed but I was wrong. If you can not identify the problem, you can not fix it.

Anonymous said...

David - Do you think Richt's recent comments about kicking were directed toward Walsh on just kickoffs or field goals too?

David Hale said...

Just kickoffs, and he made a point of saying that. I don't disagree that the kickoffs have been a disaster, but it just seems really odd to me that the only player who has really been called out after this season was the true freshman kicker.

Anonymous said...

Come on now...CMR is the best coach UGA has ever had. 1 disappointing season (9-3 and ranked in the top 20 by the way) and you guys are ready to unload the best thing that every happened to the Georgia football program, well maybe 2nd best, Herschel did bring a national championship. There is not another coach out there who coaches with the integrity and INTENSITY of Coach Richt. He hates losing! One of the characteristics of Coach Richt has been once he identifies a problem he sets out to correct it. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the defense and kicking isn't a strength of next years team. If we keep the offense in gear then next year we'll have another chance to make a run at an SEC title.

David Hale said...

Just to be clear, I am absolutely in no way saying Richt needs to go or anything of that nature. I think Richt is an excellent coach. I'm simply saying that, outside of a handful of players, there has seemed to be a lot more excuses for losing than outrage over it this year. Alabama and Florida turned last year's losses into motivation this year -- as Richt said -- and I'm simply questioning whether Georgia will do the same next year.

Anonymous said...

We will know in 4 weeks at the bowl game if we are going to get better. If it is more of the same, they did not get the message and expect a long year next year. I never thought I would see us give up on average more than 25 points a game. I started watching Ga during Dooley's years and we would have lost pretty much every game if that had happened then.

Chris said...

I heard Tebow's post-Ole Miss speech today during the SEC championship game. I really would have liked to have seen Stafford and Moreno make similar statements following any of our losses this year. The fact that no one has stood up shows me how little the players care. I think the only thing that could turn this team around (for next season and years following) would be a statement by all of the players that could go pro announcing that they will stay, as a group, similar to what the Florida mens basketball team did in 2006.

David Hale said...

I don't think it's fair to say the players don't care, but I think what's true is that SOME players have not done their jobs and that the other players have been reluctant to call them out for it. These guys care, and they work very hard, but the losses to not seem to have had the same resonance throughout the locker room that many fans would have hoped.