"I think we probably need to start out by saying what a fantastic job our defensive coaches did," coach Mark Richt said after Georgia's 44-20 blowout of a middling (at best) Big 12 team in the Jacked Up Energy Drink Used By Michael W. Smith Independence Bowl Tuesday night. It should have been obvious that Michael W. needed to be jacked to get through an entire show of his schmaltz, but that's another story. Georgia's much maligned defense was the story in Shreveport, but Richt would be a fool to let last night's game govern his decision on who becomes Georgia's next defensive coordinator.
This is not meant to take anything away from the job Rodney Garner and a collection of duct-taped pieces of fiber board did in getting the Bulldogs' defense ready. Within the context of the turmoil of the last month, that performance was remarkable. But the Georgia fan who is now clamoring for Garner to be named head of the defense going in to next season should keep two things in mind, the team that Georgia beat last night and the legacy of Dennis Felton.
Texas A&M proved last night just how much quality the Big 12 doesn't have. That was the same inept Aggies offense that scored 39 points on what supposedly is the number two team in the nation one month ago. That was the same vaunted "12th Man" special teams unit that gave up a kickoff return touchdown to the astonishing Brandon Boykin, and the Aggies sported a punting team that resembled our pathetic winless intramural team during this column's days at Jacksonville State. Sure, a win is a win, and it was great to see a Georgia team that has had so many problems this year actually produce eight victories. But this win does not tell us anything about whether a Rodney Garner-coached defense could begin to compete against the middle of the pack in the SEC, much less the conference's elite.
You may remember that two years ago, Georgia was set to fire basketball coach Dennis Felton, whose program had become a joke. Georgia decided to wait until the 2007-08 season ended, which probably wouldn't have happened in football because SEC schools care about football and, other than Kentucky, aren't sure why anyone would want to fool with a ball that is not oblong. You know the rest of the story. Felton's team got lucky and won a few games in a row, as happens in hoops sometimes. Those few games just happened to be in the SEC tounament, and Georgia athletic director Damon Evans didn't have the courage to do the right thing and say "damn the Big Dance. We're still a joke. You're still fired." The Bulldogs were pathetic last season, and the rebuilding of the program that should have started in 2008 instead began one year later.
Richt knows it doesn't matter that he has averaged almost ten wins per season in his nine years in Athens. If he doesn't compete with Florida for the division title next year, he is toast. Richt may in fact be under more pressure to win the division thanks to Urban Meyer's apparent use of a 'Magic 8 Ball' to decide his future with Florida. To win in 2010, Richt knows that Georgia needs a defensive coordinator whose resume includes more than a single victory against a middle-of-the-pack team from a less-than-stellar conference.