Nick Saban signs extension but raises questions

Nick Saban has signed a contract extension this year that will pay him $11.1 million in 2017 as part of an eight-year deal that will pay the coach a total of $65 million – and that’s before bonuses that could pay him another $700,000 per year until 2024.

Also seeing their salaries bumped are new AD Greg Byrne (who only took the job in June), as well as his assistants, led by co-defensive co-ordinator Tosh Lupoi, who will earn $950,000, while new offensive co-ordinator Brian Dobell has re-signed until January 2020 in a $1.2 million salary deal.

Record

Saban’s record at Alabama is stunning – 119-19 over the last 10 years, with four of those years leading the Crimson Tide to a National Championship.

During his tenure at Alabama Saban has not been immune from the loss of co-ordinators, who have gone on to varying successes. Former OC Jim McElwain is the head coach of Florida, former DC Kirby Smart is the head coach of Georgia and most recently, OC Lane Kiffin in the head coach of Florida Atlantic University, while offensive line coach and recruiter supreme Mario Cristobal is now the co-offensive co-ordinator at Oregon.

The deal is great for Saban, his family, for Alabama fans still worrying he might leave for Texas, and of course, his agent Jimmy Sexton, who should be pocketing a tidy amount for the negotiation.

Alabama and other schools

In the time that Saban has been in charge of Alabama, the school has made more than $100m from football – which is absolutely stunning. And football’s success and the subsequent financial income has meant good news for the other non-revenue-making sports ‘on the Alabama roster’, which are being kept afloat by the thousands of fans buying tickets, shirts, hats and probably pets called ‘Crimson’ just for bathing in the light of the pigskin.

Oh, and rival schools – whether they like to say it or not – probably love Saban’s success, because every time the Crimson Tide come to town there is more fanfare than a Royal Wedding in Britain, leading to higher TV exposure. The SEC certainly loves Alabama’s success – Saban’s made the conference look better. ESPN and CBS have enjoyed the Crimson Tide for viewing figure purposes, and those charming people on the secondary market who concentrate on Tuscaloosa games are probably driving Mercs.

But what about the students?

The biggest annoyance we have with a deal like this for Saban is that Alabama players over the years of Saban’s multi-million dollar success have been paid exactly $0. Of course, there are stipends (and we suspect under-the-table ‘players’ donations’ given by boosters (it being the SEC), but that’s nothing if you consider what Alabama has made in terms of sports revenue.

Of course, the likes of Paul Finebaum and many Alabama fans will argue that Saban’s contract is worth it, and we’d agree – if you are thinking about the price paid by the university itself. There are a ton of players who have profited from Saban’s teaching, too. Especially the 22 first round picks who played for Saban in Tuscaloosa (65 in total have gone pro).

But there are a ton of players who have played for Saban and have come out with exactly nothing, while their coach has reaped the financial rewards.

I’m sorry, but that doesn’t seem right.

 

Should Alabama fans be pleased with their new OC?

What a few months it’s been for the Alabama Crimson Tide.

After coasting (most of the way) during the regular season, the Crimson Tide destroy Florida to win the SEC Championship. Then offensive coordinator/genius Lane Kiffin leaves for the bright lights of a head coaching job at Florida Atlantic University. The Crimson Tide win their Play-Off semi-final against Washington convincingly to set up a monster clash with Clemson, who had hammered Ohio State 31-0 in its own semi-final. Lane Kiffin is told not to come to the National Championship Game. Steve Sarkasian is given the OC job for the National Championship Game. Clemson beats Alabama in the last second. Steve Sarkasian gets the OC job. Steve Sarkasian bolts for the Super Bowl-blowing Atlanta Falcons to be OC there, much to the annoyance to Bama Nation.

Nick Saban seemed to ignore all of that and still dominate the 2017 National Signing Day. We heard stories of kids that were offered scholarships by Alabama, but didn’t receive actual letters from the school, so went elsewhere. Such is the power of what’s happening down in Tuscaloosa.

Anyway, back to the offensive coordinator. There were rumors that he would join forces with offensive guru Chip Kelly, who did genius things at Oregon but not in the NFL. Instead, Saban went to his old friend Bill Belichick, and asked: “Who have you got on your coaching staff I can have?” So Belichick said to current tight ends coach Brian Daboll that he might want to go and have an interview down in the Southland. Daboll did, and now he’s the new offensive coordinator for the most demanding college football coach in the history of mankind (and that’s probably an understatement).

Daboll’s had 17 seasons in the NFL, which is fantastic longevity, and should be an excellent recruiting tool for Saban. Now he can bring someone to the party who can say to NFL players: “I know what NFL scouts are looking for! I spent 17 years in the NFL! If you come play for me, I can get you to the next level!”

For us, we can’t wait to see Daboll getting yelling at on the sideline.

 

Steve Sarkasian leaves Alabama for Falcons

Steve Sarkasian has left Alabama to be the new offensive coordinator at the Atlanta Falcons.

Sarkasian, who only took charge of Nick Saban’s offense just before the National Championship loss to Clemson, took over the Falcons role just after former OC Kyle Shanahan left to be the new head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

According to SB Nation, ‘the relationship between Saban and Sarkisian deteriorated amid disagreements in ‘system philosophy.’

It’s not unusual that Nick Saban should fall out with his offensive coordinators. His fall-outs with Lane Kiffin during his time at Bama are stuff of YouTube legend. What seems strange that Saban – who talks often about giving people ‘second chances’, didn’t seem too upset with Sarkasian’s decision to go to Atlanta.

‘We appreciate all Coach Sarkisian did for our program during his time here,’ Saban said. ‘He is an outstanding coach, and we wish him the best in his new role as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. As always, when we have an opening on our staff, we will use it as an opportunity to go out and hire the best coach available.’

What’s interesting is that last month Mike Locksley was named co-offensive coordinator. He was an offensive analyst for Alabama and before that worked at Maryland.

Alabama fansite BamaHammer is already saying that Locksley’s going to be the new OC. ‘Book it’, the site says.

It seems to us that whoever the new OC at Alabama is is that they are going to have to obedient to Saban. Saban doesn’t like anyone who disagrees with him.

This could be interesting.

If Locksley doesn’t get the job, names of recently fired Oregon coaches like Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich have had their names thrown around.

Suddenly, this is the most intriguing battle of the offseason – particularly with the weapons that Alabama is bringing in from National Signing Day to help the new OC (and Saban) out.

Who’s going to win Alabama vs Washington?

I sorted of jumped around in my seat when I saw that Vegas had narrowed the prediction of Alabama’s margin-of-victory to under two touchdowns before their College Football Play-Off game with Washington in Atlanta.

There are no doubts that Washington’s a good side. Their sole loss of the season – to a USC side that probably would be playing in its place if the Trojans had had any early season form (they were good for about a quarter against Alabama on Opening Saturday!) – wasn’t great, but otherwise, Chris Petersen’s side was effective.

All the odds stack up in Alabama’s favour. It’s defense – Nick Saban’s pride and joy – is the best in the country. Washington will give you a chance, but their secondary feasts on stupid decisions by quarterbacks. They had 19 interceptions in the regular (plus Pac-12 Championship Game) season. Alabama’s defense is downright FREAKY – its linebackers and secondary players seem to average a touchdown and a Pick-6 EVERY SINGLE GAME.

On  the offensive side, Alabama’s offensive line is – as we know – incredible, and everyone from Bo Scarborough – who’s going to battle it out for a Heisman in 2017 to Calvin Ridley to OJ Howard are frigteningly good. Washington has playmaker John Ross who can destoy a mistake-making secondary, but wouldn’t Nick Saban have focused on ways for him NOT TO GET THE BALL?

The question will be, then: Who is the quarterback to avoid those problems. Jake Browning, if we’re honest, hasn’t really been the same since he was torched against USC for two interceptions and safety, while Jalen Hurts has been convincing all season. Of course, there have been moments that he’s given up the odd stupid INT, but with the offensive line as it is, I sincerely doubt that Washington’s going to get the pressure.

PREDICTION: Alabama by 21 and the only reason why it’s that close is that Saban shows respect for Petersen.

And Ohio State vs Clemson is going to be a battle royale between two great teams. If it was on coaches alone, we’d take Urban Meyer every time, but Clemson  has a better quarterback, more talented receivers, and an attacking defense and more’s the case, has got a team that’s been there before. The problem with Clemson is that Dabo Swinney can see his team take a big lead, and then becomes far more conservative, which in fact ended up hurting him in the National Championship and several games this season. It would be wise of him not to do that against the Buckeyes.

PREDICTION: Clemson by 5 in AN INSTANT CLASSIC.

Lane Kiffin to leave Alabama, reports say

Lane Kiffin is to leave his job of offensive coordinator at Alabama to become the new head coach of Florida Atlantic, multiple reports have said.

Florida Atlantic will apparently pay Kiffin $1 million-per-year – a near-30% drop – from the $1.4 million-per-year he’s being paid by Nick Saban.

Kiffin was praised by legendary Miami and Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger who told Fox Sports: “He was a great player, himself, and a fine coach. He’s got a good track record and he’s qualified.

Kiffin will continue to coach the school during the College Football Play-Off – in which Alabama is an overwhelming favorite to take home the title. Nick Saban was supportive of the move.

We think this is a wonderful opportunity for him,” Saban said. “He’s done a great job here.”

It’s weird and wonderful that this news comes just a day after the SEC Blog wrote the article: Why can’t Lane Kiffin get a head coaching job?

 

 

 

Why can’t Lane Kiffin get a head coaching job?

This year the rumors were hotter than ever that Lane Kiffin would get a prized coaching job. And even hotter that they would be in Houston, following Tom Herman’s decision to go to Texas to be the new head coach.

It looked a slam-dunk. The good people at USA Today reported so. And then suddenly, there was a U-Turn in the Houston ranks, who instead decided on former UH offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to be the head coach.

The school’s logic? Houston’s board of regents chairman Tilman Fertitta (great name, by the way sir) called into a radio station and said: ‘”Lane Kiffin did not show me anything that Major Applewhite did not show me. Sure, he’s been a head coach, and he’s been an OK head coach. But I can tell you this: It was not a safe hire.”

OK, so what did he mean by safe hire?

Was the term ‘safe hire’ about really being an ‘OK head coach’?  At Tennessee he moved the Vols from a 5-7 record to a 7-6 record, but his mouthing-off about Alabama and Florida didn’t help him when lost to them. And there seemed to be a bunch of hope. So when he left for SC, Kiffin was actually better than most people believe at USC – particularly after the postseason bans and loss of scholarship players in the 2010 season that dropped his would-be 85 scholarship players to just 71….and he came with an 8-5 record. The next season – with another bowl ban – USC had a 10-2 record. In 2012, he showed a lot of self-confidence — even voting the Trojans to No.1 in a preseason poll….and finished with an 8-5 record. In 2013, the most famous move for him was being fired at LAX after starting the season with a 4-7 record. And as an offensive coordinator at Alabama, he’s seen nothing but success, helping Nick Saban to a National Championship in 2015 (and probably in 2016, since the Crimson Tide looks unstoppable under his offensive tutelage) and back-to-back-to-back SEC Championships. Oh, and there’s been a Heisman Trophy thrown in there for Derrick Henry, too. But there is this fact: In two out of three of his head coaching jobs, Kiffin has been fired. And both of them have been unceremonious. Houston probably couldn’t face a controversy like that again.

….But he’s proved to be excellent offensive coordinator… As an offensive coordinator at Alabama, he’s seen nothing but success, helping Nick Saban to a National Championship in 2015 (and probably in 2016, since the Crimson Tide looks unstoppable under his offensive tutelage) and back-to-back-to-back SEC Championships. Oh, and there’s been a Heisman Trophy thrown in there for Derrick Henry, too.

Was the term ‘safe hire’ about loyalty? The University of Houston probably looked at Kiffin’s one-stop ‘drop’ of Tennessee (and the way he did it) and thought to themselves: ‘As soon as ‘bigger job’ comes up, he’ll walk. And we don’t want to be seen as a ‘feeder school’ to big-time programs.

But remember this… Kiffin was fired at the Oakland Raiders. And he was fired at the Trojans. He didn’t leave them.

Was the term ‘safe hire’ about his mouth and actions? OK, so here’s the problem that Houston probably thought about Lane Kiffin. While every time you’ve seen Kiffin on the sidelines next to Nick Saban, Saban’s been the one giving out the abuse (Kiffin’s taken it…much to my admiration, if I’m honest). But that hasn’t always been the case. He was called a ‘flat-out liar’ by Oakland’s ownership in 2008 because the rumors were floating about his considering college football roles…and then he denied it. That probably didn’t score any points with the Houston guys. Then, there was his arrival in Tennessee, when not only did he say in an overly-confident arrival that he would beat Florida and Alabama (he didn’t), but a few weeks after said that Urban Meyer – then the Florida coach – of cheating and NCAA violations. That probably didn’t go down well. Then he was rude about other SEC competitors.

Was the term ‘safe hire’ about his actions? And speaking of actions, there have been a bunch of accusations  – that we won’t print – about Lane Kiffin’s off-the-field behavior that certain boards of regents might be unhappy with. But then again, Major Applewhite didn’t exactly do himself any favors in that department, either.

So how will it play out? We don’t know. Kiffin’s obviously an offensive genius but he’s got the hirers really, really worried about his mouth, his history with ownership, leadership, and SEC and NCAA administrators when a head coach. Nick Saban has openly supported Lane Kiffin finding a head coaching job, and has said that he’s ‘ready again’ to take the job. That’s an excellent reference if you ask us. Florida Atlantic are said to be going for Kiffin, but the talks have stalled. How does this blog think things will go? Kiffin will stay for another year as OC of Alabama. And God Help Us All. 

Can Texas A&M tame the Tide?: Week 8 SEC Preview

Texas A&M vs Alabama didn’t need a lot of hype after Johnny Manziel beat the Tide almost single-handedly in 2012, and was great in 2013 too. The rivalry took some time off in 2014 and 2015, after the games were basically a replay of SlaughterHouse 5: Saban Version, when the Tide massacred the Aggies.

But the 2016 version? Wow. This could be AWESOME. Both teams are unbeaten atop the SEC West, and there’s talk about title games, play-off entries and the suchlike. It’s going to awesome.

Elsewhere, LSU faces its first test after the arrival of Ed Orgeron with the visit of Ole Miss, and Arkansas goes to Auburn. Elsewhere, Mississippi State vs Kentucky WILL BE PLAYED AND SOMEONE WILL HAVE TO WATCH IT, and the same could probably be applied to UMass’ visit to South Carolina, Middle Tennessee State’s trip to Missouri, and Tennessee State’s wander to Vandy.

So, here’s your SEC games in order of importance:

  1. No.6 Texas A&M vs No.1 Alabama

Alabama scorched ‘tough’ road opponents Arkansas and Tennessee in the last weeks so badly that Vegas believes the Crimson Tide will run out 17 point winners. But the believers – and most of them are wearing Aggie colors – believe that Trevor Knight – who’s actually beaten Alabama before when he was at Oklahoma – could do it again, and believe that if Knight’s accurate and the offensive line don’t get him killed, then Alabama’s secondary could be worried by the speed of Texas A&M’s wide receivers. They’ll also tell you that Myles Garrett’s one of the best defensive players who ever lived. And it’s hard not to agree. But then again, Alabama’s defense keeps on scoring touchdowns. Lane Kiffin’s tactical genius is helping to making the offense so damned difficult to stop. And if the game DOES go down to the wire, do you trust Alabama’s kicker or Texas A&M’s, the latter who’s shank will still go down long in history as one of the worst you’ll see in a long time. I’m taking Alabama.

PREDICTION: Vegas has Alabama as an 18-point favorite. I’m sorry, that’s cautious for me. Take Alabama, but by under 18.

2. No. 23 Ole Miss at No.25 LSU

This is Ed Orgeron’s first real game in charge of the Tigers (it would have been the second had Florida not been cancelled blah blah blah blah…), and it comes at a time when Ole Miss is reeling from its loss against Arkansas (again). Tiger Stadium will be rocking, and Coach ‘O’ has promised that both Darius Guice and Leonard Fournette will play, which could prove to be a double-fun combination. I’m still a little scared by LSU’s lack of great quarterback play, and if Ole Miss stifles the run (which it hasn’t done so far this season), Ole Miss could be in trouble. But there’s one thought that I like: This one could be a shoot-out. And the reason is this: LSU’s defense has played well, but it hasn’t played that well, and it certainly hasn’t played an offense like Ole Miss’ one. This could be fun.

PREDICTION: LSU by 7 – beating Vegas’ 6-point stance – but we also like the OVER of 60.5. 

3. No.17 Arkansas vs No. 21 Auburn

Auburn have slowly impressed me so far this season (I saw them play against Clemson, LSU, a little against Texas A&M and Mississippi State), and for the first time in years, we’re talking more about the Tiger’s defense than offense. I’m still not crying with joy about Sean White and what the time has to offer, but it should have better against an Arkansas team who doesn’t have a lot defensively either. But this year, Arkansas games are damned fun to watch. I can’t think of a dull one I’ve seen (sorry, I didn’t catch the blow-outs!).

PREDICTION: Auburn’s a 10-point favorite and we’d like to implore you NOT to take it. Take the over for 55-1/2 though. 

4. Mississippi State vs Kentucky

This will be terrible, but on the other hand, this could be one of the East’s wins against the West’s. So….. (I’m done now).

PREDICTION: Mississippi State walk into Kentucky as 7-point favorites, probably buoyed by the performance at BYU and the fact that Kentucky’s defense is laughable. So that’s why we’re taking Kentucky in the upset. 

BIG PREDICTIONS OTHERWISE: Missouri to beat Middle Tennessee State by MORE THAN 6-1/2; Vanderbilt to beat Tennessee State; and South Carolina to beat UMass by 28. 

 

 

 

 

Quick SEC Preview: The Players To Watch

The quick SEC Preview with the SEC Players to Watch (and we’re also going for the Top 10 outside the conference too).

SEC PLAYERS

  1. Leonard Fournette (LSU) – The best running back in college football? Stopped against Alabama last season, but put a struggling offence on his back and was phenomenal all season long. Can’t wait for how things will be this year.
  2. Nick Chubb (Georgia) – IF Chubb’s not injured, this is one of the most dangerous running backs in the SEC. Apparently he’s ready for the opener against North Carolina. We just heard a big gulp from UNC fans. 
  3. Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) – Unblockable. 11-1/2 sacks last year and 59 tackles.
  4. Josh Dobbs (Tennessee) – He’s a frightening dual-threat quarterback who progressed in leaps and bounds last season. He scared the hell out of Alabama, and if Tennessee succeeds this year, then Dobbs will be the King of Neyland.
  5. Calvin Ridley (Alabama) – The best wide receiver in the SEC. Period.
  6. Josh Reynolds (Texas A&M) – The second best wide receiver in the SEC, despite not getting the noise that Ridley got.
  7. Chad Kelly (Ole Miss) – Flourished under Hugh Freeze’s gameplans. Can’t wait for him to do the same this year.
  8. Christian Kirk (Texas A&M) – Game-changing punt returner, and if he’s given a chance to be open at receiver, he’ll punish teams.
  9. OJ Howard (Alabama) – Because he’s the best tight end in college football and he’s going to be big-time in the NFL, too.
  10. Jalen Tabor (Florida) – A really, really good cornerback. I kinda love the fact he got suspended for getting in a fight with his own teammate.

NON-SEC PLAYERS

  1. Christian McCaffery (Stanford) – Hey, we love the SEC and we still think McCaffery was screwed out of a Heisman last year. He’s incredible.
  2. DeShaun Watson (Clemson) – Took on Alabama on his own in the National Championship Game and nearly won. He’s the best quarterback in college football.
  3. Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) – We don’t like Michigan, but Peppers is incredible. He can do anything on that defensive line, and do it really, really well. A sneaky Heisman contender (if they ever give it to defensive people).
  4. J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) – Barrett’s now got the team to himself, and should thrive. The problem for him? Most of the Buckeyes he inherits were tackling bags for the really, really good dudes recruited by Urban Meyer who went to the NFL.
  5. Josh Rosen (UCLA) – Because anyone who lives in a frat house and puts a pool in his apartment deserves a heck of a lot of credit. This guy should not remain single in college.
  6. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) – He’s like a dwarf with an unstoppable battery. He just never gives up. Which makes him (secretly) awesome.
  7. Saquon Barkley (Penn State) – You’re probably thinking: “Who in the hell is this and why are you talking about him?” But we think he’s the most under-the-radar talent in college football to date. He’s an ace running back with the speed of a cheetah. His only problem? A piss-poor offensive line.
  8. KD Cannon (Baylor) – The kid can absolutely fly, people. A really exciting talent.
  9. Adoree Jackson (USC) – A really, really good defensive back. Can’t wait to see him go head-to-head with Ridley in JerryWorld in the first game of the season.

Who will win the SEC West QB battles?

Here are the QB battles from each of the SEC teams – even when they’re unwarranted (we see you, Ole Miss) before spring practices begins on March 1st.

Alabama

Blake Barnett vs Cooper Bateman vs David Cornwell 

The biggest conversation in college football will be about the Crimson Tide’s quarterback battle, and Barnett’s the big favorite to win it. He’s got the arm, and according to former QB Greg McElroy, played well on the scout team. Bateman’s speed gives the Tide options, too. Whatever happens, Lane Kiffin’s going to turn this QB into something special. Call him the QB whisperer.

Projected Winner: Barnett

Auburn

Jeremy Johnson vs Sean White vs Woody Barrett vs John Franklin III

After an awful quarterbacking season for Gus Malzahn’s quarterbacks, it’s not surprising when the head coach has said the competition is “wide open.” Frankly, we think that Johnson will get another chance to start, although Franklin’s track speed (he runs a 4.38 40) could be something to watch out for. Certainly he thinks so: “I feel like my speed alone seperates me from a lot of quarterbacks. The fact I have a cannon and can throw the ball a mile because I’ve been playing baseball all my life really helps, so I feel I’m the true definition of a dual-threat quarterback.” So he’s humble, too.

Projected Winner: Johnson

Arkansas 

Austin Allen vs Rafe Peavy vs Ty Storey vs Ricky Town

This is one of the most intriguing battles – especially with the talent on offer. Allen – brother of Razorbacks starting QB Brandon – has some monster assets, including a great arm. According to Saturday Down South, he’s already drawing comparisons to former UA great Ryan Mallett (hopefully this won’t continue to his professional career!). We love the battle that’s going to go on between Allen and Town, who couldn’t get the starting job at USC so promptly came south. Town was a former Alabama commit who decided to play for the Trojans. He was a four-star recruit – the 6th-ranked pro-style QB in the country by 24-7 Sports. If the two player as a dual pair, we hope to be hearing one of our favorite Billy Joel tunes….

Projected Winner: Town

LSU

Brandon Harris vs Danny Etling

It was thought that Harris would battle himself for the LSU starting job. But now Danny Etling’s transferred from Purdue via the graduate transfer, at least the battle’s medium (it’s certainly not hot). If Harris is awful in Spring Training, Etling’s job is his to lose. And if both are awful, they could lose Les Miles his job.

Projected winner: Harris

Ole Miss

Chad Kelly vs Shea Patterson

Kelly, last season’s incumbent, was one of the best quarterbacks in college football last season, so it’ll be difficult to see if this will be so much a battle as Patterson watching to see what Kelly does and learning from him. Oh, and rookie Patterson’s a five-star recruit and will fill in nicely next year. Talk about depth, Hugh Freeze. Last year’s competitors Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade have both left the school, with Buchanan deciding to concentrate on academics and Kincade off to Grambling State.

Projected Winner: Kelly

Mississippi State

Damian Williams vs Nick Fitzgerald vs Elijah Staley vs Nick Tiano

Replacing Dak Prescott is going to be really difficult for the Cowbellers. We all know that. Williams is seen as an early favorite thanks to his 6-1, 228lb build- which according to blog “For Whom The Cowbell Tolls” – compares him more to Dak’s predecessor Chris Relf or any imposing running back out there – while Fitzgerald’s a tiny 6-5, 227lb. Staley also plays for MSU’s basketball team. The blog hints that Fitzgerald should win the job, but God knows.

Projected Winner: Williams 

Texas A&M

Nick Starkel vs Jake Hubenak

Wow. This was very different a few months ago, when we could wait for the Spring battle between Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen. Unfortunately, Jake Spavital managed to enrage both camps, and they both transferred. Sumlin’s move of getting rid of Spavital was too late. Spavital’s now at Cal, so good luck Bears. Anyway, Starkel was a three-star QB while Hubenak has the in-game experience, having played 5 games for the Aggies, including starting the bowl loss to Louisville, where he had an OK game (302 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, QB rating of 58.3). Hubenak might be the favorite in most camps because he’s got the experience, but Kevin Sumlin’s pretty good at throwing in freshmen…

Projected Winner: Hubenak

 

Why Mark Richt’s firing at Georgia was coming

I don’t know what the world is coming to in our profession. I think when you win nine games, that’s a pretty good season, and especially with the body of work that he’s been able to put together there for however years he’s been there. …I hate to see people that have the character and quality and ability to affect young people in a positive way like Mark Richt not be a part of our profession.” – Nick Saban.

Last Sunday, Georgia released a statement that they had decided to end the career of Mark Richt “by mutual consent”. Richt was gone, and the atmosphere around Athens has been like a funeral. There were some fans who went straight outside the Georgia offices to show their support at the firing of Mark Richt. After all, it’s a shame to get rid of one of the SEC’s most decent coaches, isn’t it? Mark Richt wasn’t a crap-talker (like Steve Spurrier), an idiot talking about his marital exploits (Bret Bielema), or a loveable idiot (Les Miles) or a Napoleon-like control freak (Nick Saban). Richt was about making his players winners on an off the field. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.

Sometimes Richt had to boot players who decided that The Good Life wasn’t for them, and preferred to steal, to beat their girlfriends, and to smoke pot even after they had been arrested. Les Miles didn’t fire one of his players, Jeremy Hill, after he threw a punch at someone. He left it to a player vote as to whether the team would like to keep him. Richt gave players two or four-game suspensions, while other coaches in the same position in the SEC gave them one or two, coining Spurrier’s fantastic quote: “I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.” This year was a banner year for Georgia’s athletic behaviour, because no-one was suspended during the regular or off-season.

Would Georgia fans have swapped a few arrests for a trip to the SEC Championship Game this week? Absolutely.

           LUCK AND LOYALTY

And despite winning two SEC Championships and six SEC Eastern Division titles in his 14 years and amassing a 145-51 record, Mark Richt didn’t have a lot of luck.

In recent years, season-ending injuries to Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell and Nick Chubb as well as members of his defense all but eradicated Georgia hopes of reaching the promised land. It seemed like no team in the SEC could injure themselves like Georgia did, and the team wasn’t as deep as some would have liked. And why not so deep? Recruitment loyalty. If every player who committed to Georgia early-on had actually stayed a Bulldog, Georgia would have had a Top.5 recruiting class for year in, year out. A couple of years ago it was Derrick Henry. He’s doing OK at Alabama. Now it’s top running back B.J. Emmons. Now, top UGA recruit Jacob Eason, who is meant to be the saviour of the UGA passing game, is now visiting Florida. If he decides to go to Gainseville, you can be assured that the Dawg fans might be burning down McGarity Island, to misquote Larry Munson. My take on recruitment loyalty is that Mark Richt didn’t text the kids 400 times a day like certain SEC head coaches did, and in a world where high school kids want to “feel the love” all the time, a coach who actually had other priorities in life didn’t make them feel ‘loved’, so they went elsewhere to get their ego stroked.

THE END HAD TO COME

But although it’s sad to see one of the SEC’s great coaches get booted, it’s hardly surprising.

His record against Florida was 5-9, and 2-4  against South Carolina since 2010. He’s also 2-3 against Alabama since Nick Saban was in charge (3-3 overall). And losing a 21-point lead to Tennessee, breaking a long winning streak didn’t make the locals happy, either. And during the final years of his tenure, Georgia’s ability to fall to pieces while the game was won was quite incredible. That probably didn’t help him, either.

A blog noted that since 2007 , Georgia’s record was 1-10 against teams who ended the year in the Top 10, and 2-10 against teams who were Top 10 at the time. Georgia has not been a top 25 team half the time since 2007 (2009, 2010, 2013, 2015). To say that the firing had been coming would be an understatement.

And the blog noted that the future’s bleak in 2016, after the graduation of 20 seniors and the departure of others to the NFL. To

Add to that this season, where offensively Georgia went from great to clueless (we’d blame a lot of that not necessarily on Richt so much as Brian Schottenheimer, who many will be hoping gets his marching orders in the next week), and struggled with a crappy Auburn, a mighty Georgia Southern and an even-mightier Georgia Tech. For $3.31m, that’s not what Georgia boosters and administrators expect – especially for a team that some felt would challenge for a National Title in 2015.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Was it sad to see Mark Richt go at Georgia? Sure. Was it surprising? No. People had been asking for his head every time Georgia had one of those comical/heartbreaking losses people talked about. Will he land on his feet somewhere else? Yes. And that’s what happens to good guys.

 

 

 

 

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