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Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday's Optimistic Links (10/9)

I wasn't going to do any links today, but then I said to myself, "Dave, what are you in such a hurry to get to Knoxville for?" Which led me to think about this:

Ah, Knoxville. I'll be sure to send each of you a post card from the Wigsphere.

Anyway, that Simpsons reference alone made a links post worthwhile, but I also wanted to sort of address something that's been gnawing at me all week.

I've been covering Georgia for four of the past five years, and I'm honestly not sure I've ever been through a week where I've heard quite this much concern from fans. (Granted, I wasn't here the last time they went to Knoxville, and I can assume that didn't go well.)

Georgia lost last week following a blown call and a late touchdown in a game they led with 69 seconds to play against the No. 4 team in the nation. And yet, it feels like the Dawgs just got spanked by Prairie View A&M.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying you have no right to complain. Heck, I've called for Andy Reid to be fired during halftime of an NFC championship game. I'm not above knee-jerk anger. As a Philly resident, it's how I was raised.

But what's really wrong with this team? How dashed have your hopes been?

If I think back to the summer, weren't most fans figuring on 8-4, maybe 9-3 if things went well? That's exactly the pace Georgia is on right now.

Weren't most fans looking at the schedule and thinking, boy that's tough? Isn't Georgia one of the rare teams that actually plays 11 BCS conference opponents? Well, the two losses this year have come against the No. 13 team in the country with a bevy of new starters seeing their first action and a QB with the flu and a loss at home to the No. 4 team in the country only after a referee blew a call to set up LSU's final touchdown. Those both seem defensible, if not excusable, losses.

And what about the players? Yes, Georgia has lacked consistency this season. There's no doubt about that. But isn't that what you'd expect from such a young team? Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, Mohamed Massaquoi, Dannell Ellerbe, CJ Bryd, Asher Allen... how many snaps did those guys account for during the past few years? You really have to expect some inconsistency when you lose that many veterans, right?

And while I know there's been a vocal contingent that thinks I'm a moron for endorsing Joe Cox this week, who can honestly say he hasn't played better than expected this season? No, he's not Stafford. But from a sheer numbers standpoint, he's not that much worse.

Sure, Marlon Brown hasn't played much, but how impressive have Branden Smith and Brandon Boykin and Orson Charles and Marcus Dowtin been? If you add Washaun Ealey into the mix, hasn't this year's group of first-year contributors been far better than you could have reasonably expected?

And fret over the past two years if you must, but you've gotten to watch either Knowshon Moreno or A.J. Green play every Saturday for your team for the past three years. Do you know how many fan bases would kill to see two college players that good go to battle for their teams? What Green is doing this year isn't just impressive -- it's something truly special. I'm not a Georgia fan, but I wanted them to stop LSU on that final drive last week just because A.J. deserved to have that catch as the foundation of what will be an immense legacy by the time he leaves Athens.

Am I saying there aren't things to complain about? Absolutely not. But there's a lot to be happy about, too.

“We have been able to bounce back a lot from bad things that have happened," Cox said. "We’ve struggled at times, but we have found a way to stay in games and to answer other teams’ touchdowns. I’ve been proud of a lot of things we’ve been able to do. I think there’s a lot of positive things that people don’t see or people don’t understand that are going to help us out a lot this season.”

Cox is absolutely right. Hey, the games haven't been easy to watch this year, but I'd venture a guess that no team in the country has played more games that were remarkably fun to watch than Georgia.

I also wanted to share a story with you that I got from a reader named Tiffany. I'm hoping she won't mind me printing it.

"After Saturday’s up and down game and a season full of frustration, my tailgate group and I had our 'therapy' hashing out the game waiting for traffic to clear so we could break down and head home. As I was walking from the Continuing Ed parking deck, where my tailgate group is, to the Carlton St. deck where I park, I stopped in the Georgia Center to use the restroom before the 1 ½ hour drive home on 129. As I was walking like a woman on a mission, I looked up and saw someone who looked familiar. Sure enough it was Joe Cox…standing by the elevator, all alone. He saw me make the connection of who he was and right then and there I knew I had to say something. I was either going to say 'I can’t believe you missed that block!' or 'You had AJ wide open so many times!' But instead, I took the fan high road, patted him on the back, and said 'That was a good game…you played hard.' I got a 'thanks' back with a half-hearted smile from Joe, who looked like someone stole his puppy. The elevator came and I walked on.

"Being a Dawg fan all of my 25-year life, it was awesome to meet the starting quarterback. If I could have the moment over again, I would have told him my name, for one, and that I am so proud to be a Georgia Bulldog and support players like Joe. Guys that play with their whole heart and represent the G with pride, no matter what."

As I said, I'm not a Georgia fan, but I'd be proud to root for guys like Joe, too. Say what you want about the execution or the end result, but as someone who is around these kids every day, I can assure you -- they want to win far more than you do, and they're doing far more to make that happen that you probably know.

But what about the coaches, you say? Why do they seem so aloof, so unconcerned with the issues that upset you so much?

It's not that they aren't concerned, it's that they don't have time to let it eat away at them the way a loss eats away at you all week. Hey, I'm like the rest of you -- I'd love to have some more passionate, resolute answers from the coaches, too. It'd make my job a lot easier. But despite how they may sound today, don't think the losses don't bother them, too.

"We just have to go back to work so fast," Mark Richt said. "We're back as a staff -- by 2 o'clock, the film is graded and ready to go on a Sunday for review, and then we meet with the players and get it out of everybody's system and immediately begin breaking down our next opponent. There's just not a lot of time to let your emotions get going. One loss can cause you a second loss if you don't let it go. I've had many times in the offseason where I felt like I got kicked in the gut. It'll come out months later sometimes. Or I'll review a game on TV and watch it in the summer, and you start to grieve then sometimes. But in the middle of the season, you've just got to go."

Again, I'm not telling you not to complain. I'm not saying not to criticize or wonder how things can get better. I'm not saying not to stress or worry or simply vent. It's all good in my book.

But for your own sake, maybe take a few minutes to look on the bright side, too. There's a lot about this season that, as a fan, you should be pretty excited about. Don't let the big picture overshadow a lot of small victories.

And trust me when I say this, that advice comes from one of the biggest pessimists you'll ever meet.

Of course, if none of that has cheered you up, I recommend you allow Demetri Martin to explain the real complexities of being a "Glass-Half-Full" person. Fast forward to the 5:08 mark for that, or just watch the whole thing because it's crazy awesome.
Demetri Martin - Findings
Joke of the DayStand-Up ComedyFree Online Games

OK, now on to some linkage...

-- I have a story in today's Telegraph about the UGA defense hoping to build on the momentum of the past two games.

-- Get the Picture has its preview of the Tennessee game posted, and two things jumped out at me:

1.) "Semi-amazing stat: Jonathan Crompton has more passing attempts this season than Joe Cox."

If Crompton has more attempts than Cox on Saturday, Georgia's coaches will be doing cartwheels.

2.) "Georgia’s defense hasn’t allowed a running back to gain 100 or more yards on the ground all season. Tennessee has won its two games when (Montario) Hardesty has cracked the 100-yard mark and lost its three games when he hasn’t. Just sayin’."

It's probably been really undervalued how good of a job Georgia's D has done against some decent runners this year. Yes, the Charles Scott TD to end the LSU game stings, but outside of that, the results have been pretty good.

-- The Red & Black has a really interesting look at how Georgia and other top programs deal with players who suffer concussions.

-- Rocky Top Talk has some very interesting insights into Tennessee's battle plan on both sides of the ball, leading with this: They don't expect A.J. to see a lot of double teams.

-- Looks like Dez Bryant probably shouldn't have been playing in Week 1 when he almost singlehandedly beat Georgia. (h/t Senator)

-- I can't say that I even remotely believe that Boise State should get a shot at the national title, but any time a blogger wants to use photoshopped pictures of cats to knock the obnoxioulsy pompous Greg Doyel down a few pegs, well I'll link to that argument.

-- That link is to One Bronco Nation Under God, which will be one of the contributors to the Mumme Poll this year. And if you missed your chance to register to vote in the Mumme Poll, well, good news... you get one last opportunity.

-- If you're reading this, you're a UGA fan. But... perhaps you have a Georgia Southern fan in the family, and you recently did something to anger them. What better way to rectify the situation than with a gift? Might I suggest the first book by my boss, Daniel Shirley, who has penned a Pulitzer-worthy bio of GSU head coach Chris Hatcher. It'll be worth it for the Hal Mumme quotes alone. (In fact, that's the quote I wanted him to put on the back cover from me, but sadly, I wasn't asked for a quote. And yet another lifelong dream goes unrealized.)

-- Tracy Morgan is on Twitter. I can't think of a single celeb better suited for brief non sequiturs.

-- When I ran my list of my DVR recordings last week, I had a ton of suggestions to record "Modern Family." I forgot this week, but I've since added it to my watch list. In related news, ABC has picked the show up for a full season.

-- Sci Fi Wire has a list of the scariest clowns in movie history. I'll happily give my vote to the one in "Poltergeist." That thing freaked me out.

-- This is the single best argument for farm subsidies I've ever seen.

-- And finally, what did you guys think of last night's wedding on "The Office." In some ways, I felt like it didn't love up to the hype in the overall story, but there were so many absolutely hilarious little moments that it was worthwhile. Kevin wearing tissue boxes as shoes -- that's the exact type of over-the-top joke that makes the show great. Dwight's wolf shirt? Awesome. Creed eating while everyone else puked? Fantastic. Andy's orange sweater vest? Yup.

Hey, as I said about Georgia, sometimes it's the little things you need to appreciate.


Anonymous said...

The office is hilarious. I agree with you about last night's episode. It wasn't quite as good as they hype, but it was still hilarious never the less. Even a 'bad' episode of the Office is still better then most shows on TV. It is in my opinion, the second funniest show currently on TV. I don't know if you have watched 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' on FX, but that show is absolutely hilarious. It's the only show that's more funny then The office. Plus the fact that you are from Philly should be an added bonus for you. If you like the Office, Seinfeld, or Curb Your Enthusiasm, you'll love Always sunny. Check it out when you get a chance if you haven't do so. It has become must watch TV for me.

Anonymous said...

A post with a Simpons and Demetri Martin reference? Gold star, star.

Unknown said...

Excellent post. Thank goodness you decided to put off the trip to Knoxville for a while longer. I needed a little perspective.

My personal favorite from the Office last night was, "Did someone just change my name to Baskin-Robbins? Because I feel like a banana split!"

Anonymous said...

David, thanks, I feel the same way. We need to step back a little and remember what we expected when the season started and stared at the schedule before us.
Great work as always!
Cox has not done that bad of a job. I am a little worried that the next few years we will always be breaking in a new QB. Next year we get a whole new DL too.
Anyway, great work! You have the best blog!! I shudder to think of how life would be should all I have is the AJC to read.

do not resuscitate said...

I have to agree with your opening statmenets. Some growing pains were expected this season with all of the young talent we have, and it seems like that's what we are getting. Do I wish we had won last week? Yes. Do I think we can play better? Yes. But we are sitting right where I thought we'd be, and barring some sort of collapse this weekend, I think we should beat UT. I still see the 9-3 or 8-4 season projected earlier in the season, but the droves of people calling for Richt's head should probably just relax a little.

Ben Rockwell said...

Thanks, David, for the perspective. I've been searching for a blog entry from a Dawg perspective this week to say some of these same things.

Reading Pat Forde's thing saying that Richt was probably on the "low heat seat" because of possible "mutual fatigue" really concerned me as a fan b/c I can't imagine getting a better coach at UGA. No one in their right mind would come to UGA for the long haul (am I right in thinking UGA is a destination job and not a stepping stone?) if we found some way to run off Coach Richt.

I noticed a look of anger and rage on Richt's face on Sunday that I haven't seen in years. It was a look of steely determination, and a look that said, "We're not losing this game." The Dawgs have fought hard in every game this year, and I'd say they've fought hard in every half this year, too. That's a far cry from last season, and I hope it carries through the rest of the way.

There's a lot of football left to be played, and it should be a helluva ride the rest of the way.

Unknown said...

I think what you might have to take into consideration, David, is that one of UGA fans' greatest (and most annoying) features is their unflappable optimism.

We might SAY the team looks like a 9-4 unit at the beginning of the year, we all secretly find a way to convince ourselves This Is The Year. When it turns out they ARE a 9-4 team, we're all heartbroken. It's like how in high school, you say to all your buddies that there's no way you could ever be with this insanely cute girl you want to date, but on the inside you hope to the almighty she looks at you in class later.

Maybe it's the Syracuse/Philly fan in you, jaded and disillusioned. Or maybe a very level-headed adolescence.

Have fun in Knoxville, though beware the smell.

David Hale said...

That's a good analogy, Jan.

And I can assure you... no one ever accused me of being level headed during my adolescence.

Anonymous said...

I am not a coach and I have never played a down of football. I am trying to figure out whether its lack of talent or poor that leads to Georgia's troubles.

The Georgia defenses from 2002-2005were known for swarming the ball. When you ran the ball, first the line would hit you, then all the backers and then the safeties or even corners like Asher Allen. Our entire team seemed to play downhill. Now everyone plays tentatively and if one person misses a tackle, it is usually a large gain. Where is the rest of the unit? Also, did anyone see the hits the Florida defense was putting on the LSU running back, even when he was running full steam. Against Georgia, I dont remember him ever falling backwards, even when we got him at or behind the line of scrimmage. If I was an opposing OC, all I would need to do was block the front four and Rennie and then attack, since the rest of team will wait and watch.

There are four potential reasons: 1) Bad scheme that prevents players from swarming the ball or be easily blocked, 2) Poor decision by individual players on practically every play. Sit and wait instead of attacking that quarterback or the ball carrier 3) Lack of talent (maybe true with safeties by not with front seven) and 4) Lack of strength as compared to other teams (David, you mentioned previously that you have heard something from former players in the NFL regarding this, though off the record).

If we beleive that it is not 3 (I would bet at least 50% of our defensive starters will play on Sunday's),then it is either poor coaching/conditioning (1,4). I cannot beleive that the scheme is good, but our players blocked or make bad decisions on every play (2).

At least using my non-expert reasoning, I beleive that it is bad coaching and probably poor conditioning. I beleive that Thomas Davis alluded to this, when he said that our defense doesnt seem to attack any more, as it used to.

Your thoughts, David?