There is a saying especially with computer programmers (which I am not), that if you put bad data in (garbage) then you will get bad results (more garbage).
Unwillingly, I have come to the opinion that darker days are ahead for the Bulldog Nation. For quite a few years now, I, like other Bulldogs, have been frustrated and dumbfounded by the performance of the team and coaches. However, like some of the more level-headed bloggers and commenters, I have tried to rationalize the mistakes and subpar showings of the Bulldogs. I realize that the offense has put Martinez' squad in bad situations with turnovers and poor play. I know there have been days with Bobo's squad have tallied more than enough points to secure a win, but the defense managed to surrender more points. I (still) think Richt is a great man and a really good coach. However, I have reached my breaking point.
After recently reading some articles and posts regarding special teams and personnel, I have come to the conclusion that this coaching staff philosophy is broke at the core. When your core beliefs or mission are compromised, everything that stems off of that will suffer and that is why my hope has all but vanished. It isn't a matter of fixing the direction of a kick or replacing the kicker, it is a matter of accountability and chain of command.
Hopefully, I can clearly present the evidence that led to this position.
Recently, some nagging injuries have taken their toll on the Bulldogs in a few positions. One of the injuries was to backup cornerback Vance Cuff. That led to this development I read on David Hale's blog:
After working a few snaps on offense in each of Georgia’s first four games, Smith might see less action on that side of the ball for the next few weeks.
Smith, who has one catch for 3 yards and six rushes for 80 yards this season, didn’t earn a touch on offense last week against LSU after his practice time with the group was cut short during the preceding week.
“With some injuries at corner, he’s been playing more corner here lately, so practice time with Branden has gone down a little bit,” Bobo said. “Yeah, it’s easy to draw up a play and say we’re going to do this play, but if you don’t have guys to practice it, it’s a little more difficult.”
Okay, that makes sense. You are thin at CB, so you keep your young CB on defense, instead of splitting his time with the offense.
The next part of Hale's article coupled with some other segments began to raise some questions though:
The same situation holds true with backup quarterback Logan Gray, who Bobo said has been avoided in the game plan because of an injury to third-string quarterback Aaron Murray.
“You have Aaron Murray out and your backup in the game running some plays, if you get him hurt, that puts you in a situation where you really don’t have a back-up quarterback,” Bobo said. “So that changes your thought process a little bit of what you’re going to do offensively with Logan Gray.”
Okay, I get it. Bobo wants to redshirt the two freshmen, and one of them, Murray is injured, so he isn't a viable option. Plus, we don't want to put Gray in the game for a few plays at QB- where thus far all he has done is run or hand-off- to make sure we have a backup in case Cox is injured.
However, if protecting Gray is one of our priorities then why is this happening?
While Gray may not be seeing much action at quarterback so far this season, he’s getting plenty of work on special teams. Gray has worked on Georgia’s kickoff coverage unit and has been the team’s primary punt returner in situations where a fair catch is likely.
Those were roles Gray played last season, but he said he wasn’t expecting another year of action. But he’s not complaining.
“I think it comes with being the backup quarterback, I wasn’t going to do as many special teams,” Gray said. “Coming into the season, I didn’t even think I was going to catch punts. It was sort of a last-second thing with our punt safe team when we know a fair catch is coming, I guess Coach ( Jon) Fabris wanted me to keep doing it.”
While the chances of Gray getting hurt are limited on punt returns since all Georgia ever does now is field fair catches no matter where they are on the field. But how in hell do you justify putting your backup QB on kickoff coverage?! Especially when you are trying to protect him by not playing him at QB (his natural position)! That is like saying we want to save our closer, but you end up using him as a pinch hitter in the 5th inning.
Instead of using some backup DB, LB or TE on kickoff coverage, we've got our backup QB- our only other QB- trying to make tackles. You would think a professional coach would sense the foolishness of this, but not our guys; we get more excuse and misdirection.
Possibly benching Walsh:
"It's been considered," Richt said. "We haven't done it to this point, but everybody's got to perform and certainly we want Blair to do that. I definitely don't want to throw him under the bus for all the issues on that team, but it's been part of the issue, not getting it where we need to get it. The ball placement hasn't been as sharp."
Talk of injuries:
Richt pointed to injuries to special teams stalwarts like Chad Gloer, who missed last week with a hamstring injury, as one reason for the problems, but he said the biggest solution will simply be giving the younger players time to develop.
Lack of experience:
"We are very, very immature on that team," Richt said. "We have too many young guys side-by-side on those teams, on the kickoff coverage team in particular it’s probably the youngest bunch we’ve ever had out there."
Which was later debunked (sort of) by Gray:
While Gray concurred that an excess of youth on the unit has caused problems, he said the key to improving coverage going forward is far more about effort than experience.
“We did lose a lot of guys that played kickoff their whole careers here that were seniors last year, but I think kickoff is about want and desire and guys wanting to make a play,” Gray said.
And also Groo (Dawgs Online) noting that the player that was likely flagged for the additional 5 yard penalty last week's kickoff debacle was veteran.
"...two of the bigger mistakes on the play were made by 1) Georgia’s starting placekicker and 2) the SEC’s leading tackler. Is that really a question of experience?"
Finally, the Dogs faithful were reminded that you can just put starter on offense or defense on special teams and expect him to excel:
"Some people think you can just throw a guy in there and all of a sudden he’s good," Richt said. "There is technique involved in that just like there is technique involved in playing linebacker or anyone else. It’s not that easy just to throw someone in there. All that stuff takes reps and time to get better at."
Of course, AJ Green might have something to say about that... ahem, blocked kick.
So that was the final straw. After putting up with defensive meltdowns, questionable offensive playcall and failure after failure on special teams, I finally threw up my hands and raised the white flag. We are contradicting ourselves in personnel decisions- are we going to protect Gray or not? We hear excuses and instead of seeing consistent improvement. And we are made to suffer because a subordinate is too stubborn to try something new and his superior makes excuses and blames players instead of being a leader.
I want to believe in Richt, but he is going to have to show me some real change in mission and direction before I can completely buy into what he is doing.
(quotes from David Hale & Groo)