A buzz-worthy Florida Times-Union article got me to thinking a little bit. Mark Richt stated that he deserves the blame for last year's 6-7 debacle, admitting that when the chips were down, the other team "played harder."
I'm not sure I buy this. Where, exactly, was the disconnect? Was the 2010 edition of the Bulldogs so thin in certain positions that we couldn't yank guys who were not exactly giving it their all? I don't think there was a systemic "lack of effort." I saw an abundance of confusion on the defensive side of the ball at times, but that was to be expected. I saw a team that struggled without their premier receiver during the first month + of the season. I witnessed an offensive line that could pass protect for the most part (Arkansas game, the exception), but couldn't pick up a crucial yard on more than a few occasions when it counted. I am still shaking my head over the offensive line issues of 2010. That's on Stacey Searles. In the end, his failure as a position coach was nearly as complete as Martinez's inability to coordinate the defense effectively. A pay-rise at Texas aside, Searles had the good sense to get the hell out of Dodge before the posse eventually caught up to him.
Does anyone really believe we lose four of the first five games with A.J. Green in the lineup? I'll always blame the NCAA first before I point a steely finger at our coach or the team.
The defense never really grasped the complexities of the newly installed 3-4 defense. Richt doesn't deserve blame for this, he deserves praise for having the courage to fire Willie Martinez and make the type of change that needed to be made, although it was a couple of seasons late. When learning an entirely new scheme, situational awareness and instincts all suffer. Too much thinking, not enough reaction. We saw this in spades, but that isn't the fault of the head coach. That's just the reality of learning something new.
It certainly wasn't Mark Richt's fault that we played the entire season without a true nose tackle. Again, this is the foundation of everything if the 3-4 is to be effective.
Georgia turned the ball over 28 times in 2009. In 2010, we gakked it up 16 times an improvement of -12 turnovers. But it was the timing of our turnovers. That's not on Richt. That's on Washaun Ealey (South Carolina and Mississippi State), Caleb King (driving to win it against Colorado), and Aaron Murray (OT against Florida).
I understand Richt's motives for taking the blame for 2010, thus "falling on his sword." But I'm not sure it's entirely true. I remember watching a team that at no point was blown out of any game by anyone. Florida could have become a laugher, and in the end we probably should have won that game. Auburn was close until late, but we certainly had our chances and might have won with a defense that still wasn't going through teething pains.
By taking the blame for 2010, I think Richt is somehow attempting to absolve his players. Maybe it's his way of giving them a Mulligan for what ultimately happened, beginning with South Carolina and ending with the Liberty Bowl fiasco against UCF.
I'll accept Richt's mea culpa as long as I'm allowed to also blame the NCAA, a defensive scheme overhaul, and Stacey Searles.
Richt is showing his class via his actions. And by falling on his sword taking one for the team, has he added more heat to his seat? I always hope for a successful season. But if ever there were an upcoming season where I'm pulling for the "nice guy to finish first", this is it. Anyway, you're forgiven, coach. Not that it's your fault in the first place.