Okay Georgia fans, I’ve given you a couple of days to think over and process the events in Athens this past weekend. I have been attempting to process it all myself, but I find myself at a complete loss. So I am asking for your help.
Before I open the floor for discussion, here are my thoughts so far:
–Mark Richt overhauled his defensive staff this offseason just past, replacing all but one of his defensive coaches. Todd Grantham, the new DC, is attempting to implement the 3-4, a brand new defensive system. A change like this is almost as disruptive as bringing in a new head coach, and is bound to cause a lot of short-term chaos. As the transition progresses, the chaos will dissipate and Georgia’s defense will be in a much better state than they ever were under Willie Martinez. And then all the present chaos will prove to have been worth it. Hopefully.
–All three of Ryan Mallett’s touchdown passes were the result of blown assignments and busted coverages. Mark Richt is sounding all the right notes about this; he says that as long as the players are playing hard (and he believes that they are), he can live with the mistakes. This makes sense to me; mistakes can be easily corrected in practice. Lack of intensity–not so much.
–You knew before the season even started that South Carolina and Arkansas would represent a huge test for Georgia early on. Many analysts had Georgia losing one of these games, if not both.
HAVING SAID ALL THAT:
–Georgia is now 0-2 in SEC play. Aloysius, our new Executive Director of Sports Information here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, has done some research into that. (It actually happens around here from time to time. Imagine that.) He found that the last time Georgia dropped its first two conference games was in 1993, the heart of the Ray Goof era. In that dreadful season Georgia would fall to 0-4 in SEC play before finishing 2-6 (5-6 overall). Anytime a loss has Aloysius researching things that have not happened at Georgia since Ray Goof, it is most decidedly NOT a good thing.
–Speaking of which, the last time Georgia lost to Arkansas in Athens was in that same woeful 1993 season.
–And speaking of 2-6, Mark Richt is now 2-6 in his last eight SEC games, going back to last year’s LSU game. AJC sports columnist Jeff Schultz asserts that this is hard evidence that Georgia is now firmly ensconced into a new identity: mediocrity. Here is enough to give you the idea:
It’s not about one player not being here. It’s not about playing a freshman quarterback or having a certain soft spot on the depth chart or the big, bad NCAA being out to get Georgia.
When a program sinks to lows not seen since the Ray Goff administration, it’s not an aberration.
–Schultz sees this loss as providing abundant evidence that Mark Richt’s program at Georgia has flaws which are deep and widespread. To a certain extent, I agree with him. I disagree with his views on the defense, as I feel that the defensive issues are short-term chaos which will improve as the season progresses (hopefully). But concerning the offensive line, he makes a most poignant point. The hiring of Stacy Searels away from LSU in 2007 was seen at the time as a major coup; it has since proven to be an EPIC FAIL. The offensive line has failed to perform as advertised for as long as he has been at Georgia. This year, the offensive line was billed as a major strength of this team, with all of those returning starters. Instead, it has been nothing if not a major weakness. Against South Carolina, the offensive line failed to clear enough room for Washaun Ealey to run the ball effectively. Against Arkansas, the offensive line was better at running, but gave up an INEXCUSABLE six sacks (try saying that six times really fast) to one of the worst defenses in the entire SEC. Mark Richt has got to find a way to get better play from his offensive line, or else it is going to be a VERY LONG season.
–Georgia’s margin for error is now reduced to absolutely zero if it is to have even the remotest shred of a prayer of competing in the SEC East this year. In light of this, the next three games on Georgia’s schedule loom VERY LARGE. None of these games are gimmes (can Georgia in its present state regard ANY game on its remaining schedule as a gimme?) and after the latest losses they look much less winnable than they did before the start of the season. This week, Georgia travels to Mississippi State. Starkville is always a quirky and difficult place for opposing teams to play, and Mississippi State is much improved under second-year coach Dan Mullen. Georgia has already flunked its first SEC road test of 2010; what makes you think this one will be any easier?
Assuming Georgia survives this test, they must then travel thousands of miles from home and take on an inspired Colorado team with a coach on the hot seat, nothing to lose, and everything to prove, in a stadium packed to the gills with jacked-up, screaming Colorado fans. This will be a much harder test than anything Georgia has faced to date. And assuming Georgia survives THIS test, they must then return home to face Tennessee. First-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is the son of Vince and Barbara Dooley; his return to Athens figures to be a very emotionally charged affair. Who knows how that will turn out?
Lose any one of these three games–to say nothing of losing two or, God forbid, all three–and there will be scorched earth over in Athens. Lots of it.
So what say you, my fellow Georgia fans? Have the wheels come completely and totally off Georgia’s 2010 season, if not the entire program? Are Georgia’s current woes a result of the program being in transition, with a new starting quarterback, a new DC, and a new defensive system? Or are they, as Jeff Schulz maintains, the evidence of serious flaws that are deep, widespread, and not going away anytime soon? Will things improve as the season progresses? Do you trust that Mark Richt, Todd Grantham, et. al. have the program headed in the right direction? Or is it time to just kick ‘em all to the curb and start all over from scratch with a new head coach and a new program?