Mark Richt and the pitfalls of pigskin immorality


Two days ago in the Butts-Mehre Building, I asked Georgia head coach Mark Richt something like this;

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"“Coach, I’m trying to wrap my mind around our defensive scheme against Tennessee. We seemed to have an athletic, as well as an experience advantage at all positions against the youngest team in the nation, yet we came out in a soft, non-challenging defense, allowing Tennessee to get comfortable and untracked… Heck, we only sent our first blitz after we were already down 10-0… What was our defensive mindset?”"

In response, Coach said something which was totally deflating.

But first, let me set the scene…

A media contingent of about 25 convened in the player’s meeting room theater, across the hall from our weight room and next to the locker room. This happens each Tuesday during the season. Most of the media questions are usually about injuries, availability and depth, with Tuesday’s giddy group sprinkling in a few Homecoming related queries

There was nobody in attendance representing Atlanta’s sports talk radio scene, nor any TV sportscasters, aside from their cameramen working solo and framing staged softball questions.

Personally, I’m less concerned with players than I am about coaching, leadership and scheme. This may seem blasphemous, especially to younger readers, but I’ve learned from my playing experience that players are like elephants in the circus; when one goes down, they trot out another, and the show goes on (Jim Murray, RIP).

I’ve also learned the importance of coaching leadership, which is the toughest commodity to find in a coaching search. In fact, leadership takes up the slack for any technical weaknesses in terms of play design and game logistics. Makes no matter if your scheme is technically weak or fundamentally flawed; if your players are all committed and on the same page, everything works (that’s coaching). Success is all about leadership and motivation – except in the case of us versus Tennessee!

To underachieve and concede even a yard, is a pigskin immorality

Y’see, for gridiron axioms to hold true, you must compete and challenge. You cannot back off and concede, because all that does is consign the ‘gods of the gridiron’ to injured reserve. Football is a full-contact, collision sport that rewards the aggressor. If you’re not aggressive, then you’re on your own, with the odds becoming greatly diminished for the intangibles to remain on your side.

So, what was Coach’s answer? How did he address my concerns of retreating, rather than attacking?

Coach Richt turned his head away, giggled in his inimitable Perry Como style, and said, “You crack me up!”

That was very sad to me; very disappointing, totally naïve. I recoiled when the thought entered my mind that maybe coach is adopting, or at least entertaining the philosophy of Vince ‘The Prince’ Dooley…

If you win 12, they’ll expect it every year. f you win 10 that’s regarded as a superb campaign, but, if you consistently just win 8, you’ll always keep your job.

I hope Coach Richt has not been sucked into a cruise control phase, because every year Georgia has the talent base to legitimately compete for championships. Lose a game, fine; have the gridiron gods snap us back to reality, we can live with that. But to underachieve and concede even a yard, is a pigskin immorality.

“YOU CRACK ME UP..!” I’m sadly realizing that, Coach.