Is It Disloyal to Criticize Your Team’s Coach?

Aloysius, our new Executive Director of Sports Information here at Everyone’s Entitled to Joe’s Opinion, has been all sorts of crazy crunk the past week.  Just this morning he said to me, “What’s this you’re always saying about how SEC football is the best there is?  I’ve watched your Georgia Bulldogs four times this year, and I have yet to see an actual football game.”

***Sigh***  You’re right, Aloysius.

At this time I would like to respond to some objections to my views on the present state of Georgia football–possible and otherwise.

First of all, I do not want to hear any of you saying that I am always down on my team.  I have tried to be positive; I expect those of you who have been tracking with me regularly the past few weeks to bear witness to this (no pun intended, Aloysius).  I tried to keep a positive face on things when Georgia was getting its doors blown off over at the Dead CockroachAnd I tried to see the positive while acknowledging the problems that surfaced during the Arkansas game.

I could accept both of these losses; both were to top-quality teams.  This is one of those rare years when both South Carolina and Arkansas are for real.  In both games Georgia made more than its fair share of mistakes, but still left itself with a fighting chance.

But the Mississippi State loss was too much for me.

When your football program finds itself two touchdowns worse than Mississippi State–MISSISSIPPI STATE, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!!!!!!–it is an excruciatingly eye-opening experience.  No longer can you pretend that things are still peachy; you are forced to acknowledge that there are serious problems which need to be addressed in some form or fashion.

Now Mississippi State may prove over the course of the season to be much better than any of us ever thought.  I sure hope they do; that would at least allow me to look at this loss in a somewhat more favorable light.  Even so, what would that prove?  That Georgia is a fair-to-middling SEC team, rather than an SEC doormat.  Either way, it remains painstakingly obvious that Georgia is no longer playing the brand of championship football that marked the early years of the Richt administration.

The SEC landscape has shifted drastically since Georgia’s last championship.  Too many programs have caught and passed Georgia in the years since.  Not just Alabama and Florida, the obvious examples, but also Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Arkansas, and now Mississippi State.  Georgia has now become the chic team to play if YOU are looking for a signature win to establish YOUR program.

Even Ole Miss, whom Georgia fans derided mercilessly after they got punked by Jacksonville State on opening week, is now better than Georgia:  They now have one conference win.  Georgia, if my memory serves me correctly, still has none.

This should never be.  Georgia is simply too talented to be 1-4 overall and 0-3 in SEC play.  With all the top-notch recruiting classes coming into Athens over the last several years, there is simply no excuse whatsoever for Georgia to be two touchdowns worse than Mississippi State.

Steve Spurrier’s constant critique of Ray Goof back in the early 90s,  “Georgia gets all these players…I don’t know what happens to them”, is just as poignant and relevant now as it ever was then.

Even Colorado linebacker B. J. Beatty recognizes that there is a serious disconnect between the quality of talent in the Georgia program and their present record:  “Their record doesn’t reflect how good they are.”

With all of the high school talent available in Atlanta and other parts of the state, and other surrounding areas, there is no excuse whatsoever for Georgia not being able to contend for championships year in and year out.  Notice I said “contend for”.  I did not say “win”.  You can’t win them all; the parity that exists in present-day college football does not allow for that.  Still, there is no reason whatsoever why Georgia should not be able to go up against any team in the country, at any location in the country, on any day of the week, at any time of year, at any time of day, under any weather or scheduling conditions or any other variable that you care to think up, and at least have a fighting chance.

In my opinion, there is only one way to explain the massive disconnect between Georgia’s talent and their present record:  A failure of coaching.  A massive, system-wide failure of coaching.  A failure that goes all the way up to the very top of the program.  There is only one way to remedy this failure:  Fire Mark Richt and hire someone else, someone with fresh ideas about how football ought to be played and how a major college football program ought to be run in the present decade and beyond.

Now, on to the larger issue:  Am I being disloyal to Georgia by daring to criticize Mark Right or suggest that he ought to be dismissed?

Great.  Now I have to pull out my credentials and show all of you.

I am a former member of the Redcoat Band.  As such, I had the opportunity to witness Georgia football on an up-close-and-personal level which very few people get to see, for the entirety of my time as a student at Georgia.

As a result of this, I have a very deep emotional investment in Georgia football.  I would like to believe that this entitles me to want–and expect–what is best for Georgia, and when I do not see it happening, to speak my mind about what I believe has to change in order for Georgia to get better.

Come on, people.  You don’t see me opining here in this space about what FLORIDA has to do in order to get better, do you?

I am of the opinion that Georgia’s problems are deep and widespread, that they rise all the way to the top of the program, and that the dismissal of Mark Richt is therefore necessary and warranted.  But that is only my opinion.  I could be wrong.  I’ve been wrong before.  I can deal.

Some of you may disagree with me.  That’s OK.  Go ahead and make your case, and present the evidence which you believe best supports your case.  Who knows?  You might convince me.

Everyone is of a different opinion on what must be done to fix Georgia’s football program.  And everyone thinks they have the evidence to back up their opinion.  That’s all part of the fun of being a college football fan, isn’t it?  And we MUST have fun with this, my fellow Georgia fans.  Because if we don’t, we will all be slitting our wrists and jumping off buildings by the end of the season, if not before.  Mark my words.

So am I disloyal to Georgia for calling for the dismissal of Mark Richt?  No.  Georgia football is much bigger than any one person, Mark Richt included.  It has been around since long before he ever came on the scene, and it will still be here long after he is gone.  My loyalty is to Georgia, not to whoever happens to be the coach.

This is not pre-1789 France, where criticizing the king was synonymous with denouncing your country.  Mark Richt is not a monarch to whom all would-be Georgia fans must swear absolute loyalty before they can call themselves Georgia fans.

In closing, let me first offer this:  Being a Georgia fan does NOT require blind loyalty to any one person, or the blind belief that all is well and nothing is wrong–even when the evidence to the contrary is out there for all the world to see, plastered all over the field of a former SEC doormat who is now two touchdowns better than you.

Now let me reiterate my previous point in the way of encouragement for all you Georgia fans who are troubled by the program’s current woes:  Georgia is bigger than Mark Richt.  Much, much bigger.  Georgia was here long before Mark Richt ever came on the scene, and will be here long after he is gone.  We will go on, with or without Mark Richt.  Mark Richt will fix what ails Georgia, and if he can’t, then we will find someone else who can.