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Ray Goff, Revisited

Nestor had a question about Ray Goff, which I attempted to answer.  This provoked additional discussion and deserves further explication.  Since a rain delay has postponed Georgia's regional baseball game with Sacred Heart until 11:00 tomorrow morning, I figured now was as good a time as any to answer Nestor's follow-up inquiries.  

"So . . . what do you want to do during the rain delay?"  "I don't know . . . how 'bout if we talk about Ray Goff's coaching tenure?"  (Photograph courtesy University of Georgia Athletic Association.)

Although one commenter agreed with me that Ray Goff wasn't up to the task of being a head coach, another brave soul risked derision by making the following proclamation:  

I think that replacing Goff with Donnan was a HUGE mistake. . . .  Goff is the kind of coach that in a 6-6 season you can still be proud of. . . .  I could have been happy with Goff as coach for many many years.  He would have never left Georgia and would have been a Coach for Life (as was Coach Dooley).  Does anyone think that Richt is here for good.  Does anyone think that Richt is Coach for Life?

First of all, the answer to the concluding question is, yes, I think Mark Richt is "Coach for Life" at Georgia . . . in fact, I believe Coach Richt will retire as the winningest coach in Bulldog football history.  

Beyond that, though, I do not believe the substance of the commenter's remarks warrants ridicule, but rather deserves serious consideration.  Although I believe he overstates the case somewhat, his points are well taken:  hiring Jim Donnan was a mistake, Ray Goff would have spent his whole career at Georgia if given the chance, and Coach Goff did not embarrass the program in the manner that Coach Donnan did.  This is a legitimate position and I am sorry if the commenter believes his contentions will be viewed with disdain, rather than respectful disagreement, here at Dawg Sports.  

Georgia should not have hired Jim Donnan; however, that didn't make it wrong to fire Ray Goff.  It isn't as though Coach Goff wasn't given ample opportunity to right the ship and it certainly isn't the case that he was shunted aside so Coach Donnan could be hired in the way Tyrone Willingham was released from his contract so that Notre Dame could pursue Urban Meyer.  

In fact, Jim Donnan was no better than the second choice (after Glen Mason), probably was the third choice (after Gary Barnett), and may have been the fourth choice (after Frank Beamer).  Furthermore, Coach Donnan was fired after a five-year tenure in which he went 40-19.  Following his fifth season on the job, Coach Goff had a ledger of 34-24 . . . and he was allowed to stick around for two additional years.  

What the heck were we thinking?

I understand and appreciate the commenter's observation that Coach Goff never would have entertained overtures from other schools, but there is no reason to believe such offers would have been forthcoming and, in any case, the Georgia job is no one's steppingstone.  

Vince Dooley had the opportunity to return to his alma mater and he turned it down to stay in Athens.  Jim Donnan had the opportunity to return to his home state and he turned it down to stay in Athens.  Mark Richt had the opportunity to become a head coach in the conference in which he had been a coordinator and he turned it down in favor of the mere possibility of getting the chance to coach at Georgia.  Not since Harry Mehre has any head coach left the Classic City to lead a program somewhere else.  

It is true that a Georgia fan could take more pride in the team under Coach Goff than under Coach Donnan, but we must not pretend that the program was squeaky clean under Coach Dooley's successor.  Terrell Davis has not spoken kindly of his former coach and N.C.A.A. sanctions were levied against Georgia for violations that took place on Coach Goff's watch.  The 'Dawgs were not as flawed under Ray Goff's leadership as they were under Jim Donnan's, but neither did they adhere to the standards of Coach Richt.  

As I indicated earlier, I like Ray Goff and I wanted him to succeed, but he simply did not have what it took to be a successful head coach in the Southeastern Conference.  I believe him to be a good man and, on the whole, he served Bulldog Nation well, but, in my view, a change had to be made . . . although, as I admitted in my previous posting, the fan base was divided upon this question and respectable Georgia boosters (such as the commenter in question) supported his retention.  

Nothing in Coach Goff's tenure gave us reason to believe that the program was on the upswing and the results of his coaching were infuriatingly inadequate.  Multiple statistical measurements confirm this, of which I will cite but one:  Ray Goff's teams were 13-14-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less.  It was unfortunate that the athletic association did a poor job of choosing his successor, but it was well past time to give someone else a chance.  

Ray Goff had what was then the most prolific passer in S.E.C. history and what did he have to show for it?  A 2-2 record against Vanderbilt with Eric Zeier under center, that's what.

With regard to the Bulldogs' 10-2 campaign in 1992, Nestor wants to know about the players on that squad; namely, were they Coach Dooley's recruits or Coach Goff's?  While Jmac answered this question capably, I would like to expound further upon the points he has made.  

As Jmac pointed out, Coach Goff served as recruiting coordinator under Coach Dooley, so it is difficult to segregate the players of that era into "Vince's recruits" and "Ray's recruits."  In a sense, they all were Ray's recruits.  

Of the 22 regular offensive and defensive starters on Georgia's 1992 squad, nine were seniors, nine were juniors, two were sophomores, one was a freshman, and one was a redshirt freshman.  

Gino Torretta.  Give me a break.

A number of players from the 1992 team were underclassmen who came into the program after Coach Goff's first full year at the helm, including sophomore Terrell Davis, true freshman Randall Godfrey, true freshman Hason Graham, true freshman Brice Hunter, redshirt freshman Whit Marshall, sophomore Will Muschamp, and sophomore Eric Zeier, the latter of whom started at quarterback in all 12 games, including the Citrus Bowl against Ohio State.  Two other future standouts, Juan Daniels and Adam Meadows, were redshirted in 1992.  

Among the significant seniors on the squad that season were split end Damon Evans (who is now Georgia's athletic director), quarterback Preston Jones, offensive tackle Alec Millen, quarterback Brian Moore, offensive guard Bill Rosenberg, placekicker Todd Peterson, and running back Mack Strong.  

Of those seven, Moore was a junior varsity walk-on and Evans, Jones, and Millen were redshirted in 1988, Coach Dooley's last year on the Sanford Stadium sideline.  Rosenberg and Strong were true freshmen in Coach Goff's first season in 1989, whereas Peterson was in his plebe year at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1988 before transferring to Athens.  

As long as we're revisiting major moments from the early to mid-'90s, we might as well throw this in for good measure.

In short, Ray Goff's most successful (and, at the same time, most maddeningly disappointing) season was accomplished with players who predominantly were brought into the program on his watch.  

I welcome any additional questions from Nestor and, naturally, you should feel free to offer your own observations in the comments below.  

Go 'Dawgs!