It's extremely hard for me to call a season that could very well end at 11-2 a disappointment. But anyone -- including Richt -- would admit that it's been frustrating to have such high hopes dissolve into a season that lacks a win over a Top 15 team.
The downside of being ranked Preseason #1
There's almost nowhere to go but down. Even though I repeatedly said that I didn't think this team had the schedule or offensive line to pull off a #1 ranking, I still expected a less convoluted and more inspired product from Bulldogs.
Coach Richt is probably annoyed that Georgia fans seem so disgruntled in the face of such a high ranking and strong record. We certainly come off as spoiled and ungrateful, but I look at that as a credit to the job he's done over the past 8 years in raising expectations.
Mark Richt created a new definition of success in Athens. As a result, fans raised their expectations for the program.
The Expectations Dilemma
My only question...has Mark Richt continued to raise the expectations for his team, his coaches and himself?
In my own career, I have a specific exceptional skill. However, (a while back) due to a series of events that started off as beyond my control, I slowly lowered my expectations for myself and those around me as it relates to that skill. The result was an erosion of excellence in that one area. That slippage came back and bit me. To "fix" the situation, I had to go back and elevate my expectations for everyone involved...including myself.
I wonder if something similar hasn't happened in Athens. Does Mark Richt expect and demand the sort of excellence from this team that produced the 2002, 2005 SEC Championships and 2007 second half of the season turnaround? Has he raised his expectations for the team?
These things don't suggest high expectations:
- Special Teams -- There is nothing "special" about this group unless you're referring to that short bus kind of special. We aren't playing enough exceptional athletes on kick coverage. We are kicking the ball out of bounds with regularity. We're fumbling punts. We've got a third team QB that's going to strain his throwing shoulder frantically calling fair catch on punt returns. This is fixable by simply putting more high quality athletes on special teams. This is an old personnel problem that has gone from nuisance to game changing source of pain.
- Tackling -- People who are still bitching about Willie Martinez's play calling and scheme need to go back and watch this game again. Willie was reading their mail through long stretches. Even the second Auburn TD included a beautiful play call where two guys blitzed into the gaps where the play was run. Unfortunately, neither dude tackled the runner. The worst example of tentative tackling came when Reshad Jones pulled up and refused to pummel Tim Hawthrone early in the second quarter. Jones has devolved his tackling into a guy playing bummer cars instead of wrapping up or clobbering people. Additionally, both safeties are making our CBs look worse with their help in coverage. Particularly on corner blitzes. Regardless, if the players would wrap up at contact, the other team's stats would look much more favorable to us.
- Penalties -- As Quinton said to me yesterday, "I don't know how to fix this, but I don't make $2.8 million a year either." Six personal fouls in one game has to be an Olympic Record. That has nothing to do with injuries given who was committing the fouls. Other coaching staffs do not have the personal foul epidemic that UGA does. This is fixable.
All of this is a long drawn out way of saying...I am not "disappointed" in this season. I'm frustrated by it, and I'm mostly frustrated that if the Coaches don't raise their expectations for special teams, tackling, penalties and red zone play that we will most certainly be disappointed next year.
Please fix the fixable stuff.