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Georgia Bulldogs Coaches: Is Their Stock Rising, Falling, or Holding Steady?

We live in an era of impatience, as evidenced by the omnipresent "#Fire_____" hashtag used to denote pervasive dissatisfaction in the heat of the moment for folks who deem self-expression in 140 or fewer characters an acceptable method of communication, which is a bit like saying, rather than reading John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, you’d rather draw your political philosophy from scanning the dozen bumper stickers plastered to the back of a Volkswagen Beetle while stopped at a red light.

How, though, are our coaches actually doing? Here is a brief rundown of the performance of six Bulldog coaches, and my estimation of where their stock now stands:

Mark Richt. Stock: Steady. You might think Coach Richt would rank higher after a ten-win season, triumphs over all four major annual rivals, an SEC Championship Game appearance, a January bowl game, a successful National Signing Day, and a contract extension, but, while the “hot seat” talk has been silenced, questions yet remain. Persistent issues with offensive line depth and special teams shortcomings have yet to be resolved, offseason incidents have abounded in 2012 after quieting down considerably in 2011, a couple of high-profile recruiting targets got away last month, and the Bulldogs’ last victory of actual note came against Georgia Tech in 2009, assuming that even counts any longer. In short, matters clearly are better than they were, but it remains to be seen how far along the ‘Dawgs are.

Todd Grantham. Stock: Up. Last year, Georgia ranked 23rd nationally in scoring defense, 11th in rush defense, tenth in pass defense, and fifth in total defense, and, as went the defense, so went the ‘Dawgs: In their four losses, the Red and Black allowed 33, 35, 42, and 45 points, but, in their ten wins, the Athenians conceded more than 20 points just once, and more than 17 points just twice. Coach Grantham is the most popular Georgia defensive coordinator since Erk Russell, and deservedly so, which is why Coach Richt isn’t the only member of the football staff to have gotten a multi-year contract extension.

Mark Fox. Stock: Steady. Though this season was a struggle, the Hoop Dogs matured down the stretch, and the Mississippi State game proved the Fiery Librarian could coach. Nevertheless, Georgia stumbled to a second losing record in a three-year span after the men’s basketball team (like the football team) hung for a half with the eventual SEC champion before getting run out of the building after intermission. I’m glad we have Coach Fox at courtside when the game is being played, but he has to prove he can recruit at the highest level to demonstrate that he will have staying power at a program that has shown little of it over the years.

Jay Clark. Stock: Up. Just when the Gym Dogs appeared to have slipped permanently from the ranks of the nation’s elite, Georgia closed out the regular season on a tear, nailing down a top five national ranking overall and a top three national ranking in three of four events after topping 197 for the fourth time in their last eight meets. The trick to seeing if the Red and Black have staying power under Coach Clark will be whether Georgia finishes in the top two in the SEC Championships in Duluth on March 24.

David Perno. Stock: Down. Ignore the 11-2 start; the Diamond Dogs sport an RPI of 92---behind Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Mercer, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and South Carolina---after being exposed in the sweep by UCLA that dropped them to No. 18 in the rankings. Losers of five of their last eight after an 8-0 start, the Classic City Canines limp into SEC play next weekend after a pair of midweek dates against the same sort of Nobody State they’ve played all year.

Andy Landers. Stock: Down. Yes, he built the women’s basketball program in Athens from absolutely nothing. Yes, he has brought prestige, honor, and glory to the program. Yes, he has had the peculiar misfortune, akin to that of Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns (who was one of the all-time great fighters in five different divisions, but who happened to fight as a welterweight at the same time as Sugar Ray Leonard and as a middleweight at the same time as Marvelous Marvin Hagler), of coaching women’s basketball in the SEC at the same time as Pat Summitt. He’s also (1) prone to maddening losses to inferior teams, (2) seven months shy of his 60th birthday, and (3) nearly eight years removed from his last elite eight appearance. The bloom is off the rose, and, if the Lady Bulldogs don’t at least make it past Marist and the Florida Gulf Coast/St. Bonaventure winner, it will be time for Greg McGarity gently to initiate a conversation with Coach Landers about planning an appropriate exit strategy sooner rather than later.

Am I being too harsh on some coaches, too lenient on others, and too noncommittal on some who are left? Have I failed to give adequate attention to another Georgia coach who is doing particularly poorly or well? (I’ll be interested to see whether tankertoad’s first comment praises Lizzy Stemke or pans Mike Bobo.) Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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