You have just finished a season in which you remarkably won 10 games after being below five hundred last year. You make it to the SEC championship, play a great first half and then get blown out in the second. You have an elite defense. Your offense has been effective, but not great. You have talented lineman, but only one deep per position. You have a talented running back, but he has been hurt and has an attitude. You have a quarterback who leads the conference in touchdown passes but also in interceptions, he’s also sixth in the conference in accuracy, come to think of it your quarterbacks have never been that accurate. Your fans love your defensive coordinator, but ridicule your offensive coordinator. After last season most of them wanted you to find another job.
Welcome to Mark Richt’s world. We have all talked a lot about Georgia’s offensive challenges. We all want to see it improve. I’ll discuss three possible ways of looking at the problem.
1. It’s a problem of leadership with Mike Bobo and Mark Richt
2. It’s a personnel problem involving the depth on the offensive line and running backs, and accuracy at quarterback.
So put yourself in Mark Richt’s position. You want to improve your offense for 2012. What do you do?
I see the arguments for the problem of leadership. That Mike Bobo simply does not have the skills to make appropriate adjustments when one series of plays or phase of his gameplan doesn't work. Probably the Boise State game is a good case in point for that. Additionally you can say rightly, that the tendency to go conservative prevents the offense from progressing to the next level. This has happened frequently. If we conceed that the two problems of "failure to adjust," and "overly conservative" playcalling are problems we can agree on, I think there are two more questions to ask before laying this at Bobo's feet. Is this what Mark Richt has asked him to do? If he's doing his job, to me it's hard to ask to remove him. Maybe the beef is with Richt. Second, is relying on the defense a problem? Isn't this almost exactly the formula which LSU has used (clearly with tactical differences) to win the SEC this year? Isn't this how Alabama does it as well?
I do not know the answer to the first question, only Mark Richt and his staff do. Regarding the second question, I personally think that you create a problem on a team by holding one unit, the defense to a standard of excellence, and another, the offense, to a standard of less than excellence. It's a disservice to the players on the defensive side of the ball who have to shoulder more of the burden to win a game, and a disservice to the offensive players who don't realize their potential.
Regardless, let's consider the Bobo/Richt braintrust as a potential source for improvement. I'm not an x's and o's guy, but I would suggest the following. 1) Balance is less important than success don't run for the sake of running or pass for the sake of passing. Develop a core competency and do it well 2) every time you touch the ball the goal should be a touchdown, controlling the clock and keeping the other offenses off the field are fine things. Points are better. Every seen a defense with a lead get tired?
If you think that Mike Bobo simply doesn't have the chops to take this team to the next level, well it's a painful process, and nobody wants anyone to get fired, but if Mark Richt gets to that decision, his course of action becomes very clear. He's proved he can hire a great coordinator.
Considering another area which Vineyard Dawg has brought up, Isaiah Crowell (I'm going to refrain from your euphemism since my wife has a SB nation account and I could get in trouble for that one), or more generally running backs. Georgia ran the ball a lot in 2011. 42 times per game, third in the conference behind only LSU (44) and basically tied with South Carolina. LSU's most frequent runner, Spencer Ware has 31% of their carries, Michael Ford has 22% and Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard combine for another 24%. Isaiah Crowell has a similar workload to Spencer Ware (34% of Georgia's carries on a similar amount of total rushes), but much less than say Trent Richardson who gets the ball 56% of the time Alabama runs it. Let's cut through the numbers and say, Alabama and LSU have several running backs with elite talent who are physically ready to play in the SEC. Georgia has a running back with elite talent in Isaiah Crowell, but I think there is a pretty good argument that a redshirt would have been good for him. Crowell and the (preferably three or so others) whoever else is going to run the ball has to get stronger, healthier, and meaner in 2011 or, Georgia has to throw the ball more and run it less.
What about the quarterback? I love Aaron Murray, but I question whether he has the accuracy to turn completions into big plays.
What about depth on the offensive line. Elite SEC teams have deep and talented defensive lines. We have talent on the offensive line, but we certainly don't have depth. I don't know if we can win without it.
So I see two courses of action
1) You move on from Mike Bobo and take your offense in a different direction. Needless to say this creates a ton of other questions with who that new guy would be and what he would do. Also, what happens to your recruiting this year? Do you lose any elite guys you had? Does the transition set you back from your progress this year? What about the effect on the rest of the team, your defense is playing great, does changing offensive coordinators put more or less pressure on them? Does it effect Todd Grantham’s prospects at Georgia? What about your current offensive assistants? Does a change give you a way to address a special teams coaching situation as well?
2) You stick with Bobo and take your chances that your current staff can 1) recruit talented enough running backs and offensive lineman to solve depth issues <strong>and</strong> compete at an elite level in the SEC under your current system 2) you find a way either through scheme or through his mechanics to improve Aaron Murray's accuracy 3) you turn Isaiah Crowell into a back capable of handling Trent Richardson type numbers. You’ve made a lot of progress to get where you are now, but there are legitimate questions about the ceiling of the offense under your current staff. Your current staff has recruited your current players? Can they do better? Aaron Murray’s accuracy is the product of Mike Bobo’s best efforts as a coach, if he has to devote more time to Murray, is there a tradeoff in his development of schemes? What if Crowell can’t develop into a Trent Richardson type player? What if you miss on a key running back recruit? Can Mike Bobo adjust his scheme to those personnel situations?
It's not an easy decision at all in my mind. I think clearly Bobo deserves credit for his work to get Georgia from a 6 win team to a 10 win team. But getting from a 10 win team to an SEC championship team is a different hurdle. Whatever way they choose to go, it will be tough.