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July 20, 2009

Mark Bradley on Donnan's induction in the Hall of Fame

I agree with much of what Bradley wrote here. He talks about Donnan just being a play or two away. Per Bradley:

"With a better bounce or two, Donnan mightn’t have needed friends. Say Jasper Sanks hadn’t fumbled against Florida, or if Al Ford had decided Sanks didn’t fumble against Georgia Tech. Say Terrence Edwards, deployed at quarterback, hadn’t stepped out of bounds on third-and-goal in OT at Auburn in November 2000. Had Donnan won one or two of those, would Michael Adams have acted as he did when he did?"

On the one hand, I agree. He was a play or two from keeping his job. But was he a play or two away from building a program that could sustainably compete with UF and UT? Probably not.

I had a friend who was a member of the support staff for football during the transition years between Richt and Donnan. The person described the week of practice leading up to the 2000 UT game as the greatest effort they had seen from a Donnan coached team, but that effort didn't compare to a typical practice week from a Coach Richt team. The tempo and expectations just weren't the same. That said, I've talked to former JD players who think the world of him as a person and coach.

Donnan should absolutely be commended by the Dawg Nation for taking over a program that had slipped to near Ole Miss or South Carolina levels in '96. We were coming off probation, and Glen Mason had already rejected us. We were a mess, and the wrong hire could've set us back a decade. He elevated recruiting, lead the revamping of our weight room and other facilities, and brought back hope. And he never took a pot shot at the program after he left (a shot at Adams sure, but never the Dawgs).

Three things would've made Donnan a better coach:
1. Not hiring Kevin Ramsey. Other than Jim Harrick, Jr., Ramsey might be the worst assistant coaching hire in the history of Georgia Athletics.

2. Quincy Carter never being admitted to UGA. If he had stuck with his Tech commitment, we would've had Nate Hybl. Hybl left UGA because Quincy was clearly more talented after the '98 season, and he went on to win a Big 12 title at Oklahoma as QB. Quincy was supremely gifted, but he was a Coach Killer.

3. Moving that 750AM call-in show from Sunday nights to Monday or Tuesday. Richt has it on Mondays now which gives fans two days to cool off after a loss. Donnan didn't suffer a fool well, and the combo of half-cocked fan and direct anonymous confrontation was a disasterous cocktail. It was can't miss radio, but it was completely out of control.

To me, the measure of a coach is...did you leave the program better than you found it? And, did you stay out of trouble? The answer was yes.



Always look ahead said...

I always thought Donnan's tenure w/ UGA was very simple to evaluate:

He showed us what he could do and what he couldn't do.

In the end, it wasn't enough. But he did get the program on the right track and left it well stocked for Richt to elevate it.

The other play that is forever burned in my memory is Charles Grant taking the pitch and getting clipped by the Tech bastard as he tried to make the cut up field. Knee = gone.

Nice to see us removed from those days.

stick jackson said...

Governor is the hardest political job in the state of Georgia. Head football coach at the University of Georgia is second hardest. And when it comes to that stuff, Richt is Obama, Donnan was Al Gore. No contest.

Here's how stupid I am. My reaction to the Ramsey hiring was: "Brilliant! A dagger aimed at the heart of UT's recruiting." But then there was the whole lining up right and keeping assignments part. That turned out to be a dagger aimed at our own naughty bits.

Politics and the Ramsey fiasco aside, Donnan seems to me to be to be proof that "players' coach" is a complete oxymoron at the college level. What do players say about a coach like that in the NFL? -- "He treats us like men." Well, you know what, 90% of college players aren't men yet. They are goofy adolescents capable of making some of the worst, most epically self-destructive decisions imaginable. They need a daddy, not a big brother.

Ollllddude said...

He was a play or two from keeping his job. But was he a play or two away from building a program that could sustainably compete with UF and UT?,

Well, you might reasonably ask the same thing about Mark Richt: What is he v. UF? 2-6? I can only recall two wins, but it might be more. Still, ‘sustainably compete’ means more than a lopsided losing record, imo. I am certain from talking with some of his friends that Jim Donnan has done well since being canned. He got paid, he has a broadcasting gig, and he gets to play a lot of golf and tennis and with his grand kids. So, I don't feel bad for him at all, but it does seem like it depends a little upon the glasses you look through whether someone measures up or not. What killed Donnan imo was not the Sanks fumble or the Al Ford travesty, but rather losing to a mediocre at best Ole Miss team, not finding a little more playing time for Terrell Davis, and generally dropping the coaching ball from time to time.

Mark Richt still has upside, and everyone - Donnan included I would bet - thinks he has been an upgrade overall. Not just in coaching, but in general demeanor, academic demand (and support) for the players, in recruiting, and a lot of intangibles. But every fan has bones to pick with Coach Richt. Some (not me) for staying with CWM. Others for what seems like an insane kicking strategy (that would be me). So Coach Richt isn’t exactly the fans darling all of the time.either.

I realize that all this may sound a little random and confused, but my main point is that to suggest that Mark Bradley can sum up in a sentence or two the difference between being a great coach or not is silly, and it is even sillier to suggest that it is just a matter of luck. Everyone gets good breaks, everyone gets bad breaks. I am glad Donnan got inducted into the HOF; he surely deserved it. But,in hindsight, I still think it was correct to move on from Donnan and not because another coach would be ‘luckier’. Simply stated the other coach has more upside. Let’s see if he can attain that upside.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Donnan left us in better shape, but still the first two things that come to mind when I hear Donnan's name are (1) Toss sweep (which every team ran effectively against us but we lost 2-3 yards every time we ran it) and (2) Tunnel Screen (works great against lesser teams, but then you come to depend on it, and the good teams blow it up every time. This was his go-to play, and unfortunately it didn't go anywhere in big games).

I still disagree with how he was fired, but I also wasn't sad to see him go.

Jim Wood said...

Ollllddude - I don't recall Donnan losing to Ole Miss after his first season in '96. Also, Terrell Davis was long gone when Donnan got to Athens.

Anonymous said...

What killed Donnan was losing the last home game every year including a 3 game losing streak to Georgia Tech. He either lost to Auburn or Georgia Tech every year. His last home game against Tech was the year after the mythical fumble and the team was not ready to play. Tech called off the dogs in the 2nd half. It was horrible. It was the only game I can think of that I left in the 3rd quarter. That game set in motion the infamous call in show that ultimately ended his career at UGA.

Coach Richt should take notice how well losing to Tech is tolarated by the fanbase.

Anonymous said...

To echo OB, it was Goff who didn't use Terrell Davis, but it was Donnan who had Jermaine Phillips at WR.

WFdawg said...

Good stuff and good perspective, PWD. I'd be interested to see you do a piece on what turned the ship in the Richt era. I'm guessing there are several factors here (coaching style/persona, good staff hires, mat drills, skilled personnel, epic win in Knoxville, etc.). Your $.02?

Anonymous said...


A former player who was red shirted in '00 and graduated from UGA (former starter) told me that he and many other players resented the hell out Richt and his Mat Drills when he arrived in '01. Then they won at Knoxville, and he and many others said...Ok....this level of work is worth it.

IMO - Hire great coaches, recruit great players, put them a process that makes them physically AND mentally stronger/tougher AND expect them to be great and not tolerate less.

In '01, Richt upgraded every single position coach from the '00 team except RB coach and maybe TE coach. Several of those guys are completely out of the profession.

Then kept recruiting great players and built on Donnan's awesome foundation of talent. (the entire '00 defense was drafted plus several back-ups).

Then worked their ass off.

The gap last year IMO was expectations. Richt settled for what we got last year. Read David Hale's piece today about the players talking about the differences between this year and last.

The blame last year's seniors are taking for what went wrong is a joke. Richt let things slide last year. It's on him.

He's got to go back to Richt 1.0.


Bernie said...

A very fair and sobering assesment of the Donnan era. I would only add that not "guaranDamnTeeing" a title that fateful night early August of 2000 in Atlanta wouldn't have hurt either.

Anonymous said...

Stick Jackson...Richt is the farthest thing from Obama you can imagine....thank goodness. Please don't compare CMR to Obama.

Obama wishes he was half the MAN CMR is.

Ollllddude said...

Okay, I am an olddude, so the memory isn't a steel trap. Donnan would have played Terrell. But he lost to an Ole Miss team in Athens 11/23/1996. It seems to me Ole Miss began the opening kickoff with an onside kick, which they recovered and scored. That kind of thing is maddening.

MikeInValdosta said...

Excellent assessment. Donnan did wonders for us. He may have been too loyal to his players. He may have been to braggadocios. But he did not sacrifice the future (David Greene) when things went south. Like Goff he left loving the program that fired him and he didn't leave us on probation, even if Quincy should have been.

todd said...

While I certainly agree that Donnan left the program better than when he found it, I don't agree with you and Bradley that he was a play or two away.

The night we lost to a 5-6 Auburn team at home in 1999 was enough for me. He should've been fired that night.

Remember how being down 31-0 to Bama felt last year? That was nothing compared to being down 31-0 at home against a bigger rival with a worse football team and a snot nosed QB from Hartwell doing the damage.

As far as I'm concerned, Donnan was living on borrowed time after that loss. We should've pulled the trigger on the spot.

Normaltown Mike said...

That Auburn game was vile, but it was Kevin Ramsey and his press coverage (with a young Tim Wansley at DB) that was gettin us killed. I can forgive the entire 96 seasaon as a transition (did we lose to Southern Miss that year?).

I was a Donnan fan. But during 2000I saw it wasn't a long term fit (his personality was just too brusk). I also knew some players in 2K that said he lost the team when he stuck w/ his favorites to the detriment of the team(see QC vs. UF in 2K).

To expound on what Stick said, I think being HC at Georgia is higher profile than being governor and comes with a lot more expectaions.

IMHO, the Tech losses were the unforgiveable. As much as I hate UF and losing to UT or USC sux, losing to Tech is absolutely unacceptable (take note CMR).

Barack Obama said...

w/r/t demeanor, Richt and I aren't that dissimilar, Anon.

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