Monday, November 2, 2009

Just how bad is it?

Georgia's demolition (again) at the hands of the Gators wasn't unexpected, given the recent history between the two programs. There may have been a glimmer of hope coming into the game, in that we had two entire weeks to prepare and Florida had looked less than stellar on offense for the last few games. However, if your O isn't clickin', UGA has just the prescription to fix what ails ya: a healthy does of "D," Free-Willie Style.

I'm going to take a look at some defensive history here, though that in no way excuses the rest of Saturday's debacle: The ridiculous "weak sauce" of the surprise XFL uniforms. The inability of our QB (a supposed "game manager" and studious 5th year senior) to not lock onto receivers, throw the ball away, or hit his target accurately. The rampant and continuing lack of discipline on both sides of the ball, resulting in yet another avalanche of debilitating penalties. The juvenile and minor league sideline celebrations. The bang your head against a granite countertop, inexplicable special teams coaching. The befuddling result of two weeks of coaching preparation that promptly put us down by two touchdowns in a matter of minutes. (Not that there weren't some bright spots amidst the Halloween horror. Butler and Walsh continue to perform at an All-American level. The running game actually looked solid. The offensive line coalesced somewhat. Bobo's playcalling didn't make me want to set myself on fire).

Once again in an important game, the defense of Willie Martinez was poorly schemed, woefully prepared and exhibited the sturdiness of Charmin in a rainstorm. Just how bad has it gotten? Let's take a stroll down memory lane, shall we?

Note: when we refer to "major rival" games, I'm including scores from (only) games against South Carolina, Clemson, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Georgia Tech). All other statistics come from the season's full slate of opponents, including in and out of conference teams, bowl games, SECCGs and the smattering of home game cupcakes.

First up, let's take a look at the scoring statistics from some underperforming teams from the Goff era:

H/C Goff Goff Goff
D/C Bell Bell Bell
Yr 1989 1990 1993
Record W6 L6 W4 L7 W5 L6
Avg Pts Allowed 16.5 27.5 26.3
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 21.7 32.4 31.2

For Rival Games Only

Avg Pts Allowed per Game 20.8 29.8 29.2
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 23.5 32.6 27.2

The D actually put up some decent numbers in Goff's first year, giving up only 16.5 points on average, 21.7 points in the six losses. Also, in all three years, the difference between the average performance of the D and the performance of the D in the "games that matter" wasn't that much - a delta of 2 - 4 points.

Now let's take a look at Goff's next two teams, when he changed D Coordinators twice:

H/C Goff Goff
D/C Campbell Kines
Yr 1994 1995
Record W6 L4 T1 W6 L6
Avg Pts Allowed 25.7 23.4
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 37.6 33.7

For Rival Games Only

Avg Pts Allowed per Game 27.1 29.6
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 29.0 37.5

The points given up by the D remains, on average, in the mid-20s. However, you start to notice something: When we lose, we're giving up points by the bushel. Especially in the games that matter. (Compare the 37.6 ppg given up in a loss during the Swamp Fox's time on the sidelines to Goff's first year, when we only gave up 21.7 ppg. Also, in Goff's last season, we surrendered an average of 29.6 ppg against our rivals, and a whopping 37.5 ppg in losses to them).

That, among many other things, was enough to get Goff fired. So let's take a look at two Jim Donnan squads. His first and his last:

H/C Donnan Donnan
D/C Kines Gibbs
Yr 1996 2000
Record W5 L6 W8 L4
Avg Pts Allowed 23.4 17.7
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 27.5 27.8

For Rival Games Only

Avg Pts Allowed per Game 37.8 27.8
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 43.3 27.8

Average ppg allowed from Goff's last year to Donnan's first was about the same, and we improved by almost a TD in our performance in a loss. But look how we performed against our primary rivals: Giving up just shy of 38 ppg and over 7 TDs per game in a loss against rivals. Yikes. The D improved (how could it help but?) by the end of the Donnan regime, giving up an average of 17.7 ppg, but look at those last three numbers from 2000. Do they seem similar? That's because they are all the exact same. We lost four times. We gave up 27.8 ppg in those four losses. And all four were against our primary rivals. And that was all she wrote for Coach Donnan.

So how does that career-killing performance compare to the Men of Martinez? Well, let's go to the numbers (note: full season for 2008, season to date 8 games for 2009)

H/C Donnan Richt Richt
D/C Gibbs Willie Willie
Yr 2000 2008 2009
Record W8 L4 W10 L3 W4 L4
Avg Pts Allowed 17.7 24.5 29.4
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 27.8 45.0 32.5

For Rival Games Only

Avg Pts Allowed per Game 27.8 35.8 35.8
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 27.8 45.0 35.3

Almost any way you look at it, the D that got both Donnan and Gibbs shitcanned was appreciably better than what's been going on in Athens the last couple of years. This year's 29.4 ppg given up is the highest of ALL the years compared. Willie's 35.8 ppg in the games that matter (for two years running) is astonishingly high (more than five TDs per game!) and second only to the Donnan/Kines debacle from 1996.

Whew. That hurts my retinas just looking at it (and without an eye gouge courtesy of Brandon Spikes). How do all these porous units compare the "Glory Days?" Glad you asked. Here are the same categories of numbers from a few SEC Championship squads:

H/C Dooley Dooley Richt
D/C Erk Lewis BVG
Yr 1980 1981 2002
Record W12 L0 W10 L2 W13 L1
Avg Pts Allowed 11.4 10.2 15.1
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 0 13 20

For Rival Games Only

Avg Pts Allowed per Game 17.2 7.7 17.3
Avg Pts Allowed in Loss 0 13 20

THAT, my friends, is what good D looks like. Now, every year can't be a championship year, but there's a vast gulf between giving up 10 - 15 ppg on average, and almost 30. And there's a Big Damned Difference between holding your rivals to 17 points (or 7.7!) and the current Willie benchmark of over 35.

Now, is this a fair analysis? We all know the old saying about statistics. And there are a lot of variables to consider, too. Injuries. The changing nature of the game, and the more prolific offenses of recent years. The longer schedule and additional games. The varying quality of opponents on the schedule, and the up and down cycles of the conference and our primary rivals. But you can draw a few conclusions:
  • We're currently performing on D at a level that historically, has gotten people fired.
  • Even worse, in the games that matter most to the team, to the coaching staff, to the players, to recruiting, to championship aspirations, to the alumni base, to the monetary contributions, to the regional and national media and to the overall shine and health of the program....we're getting killed. And getting killed at an exponentially horrifying clip.
  • Despite protestations of hard work and buckling down; and despite the glow of highly ranked recruiting classes from fertile ground, we're just not getting any better. In fact, we're getting worse. Much, much worse.
  • Whatever magical juju it is that makes Dawgs into "Junkyard Dawgs," we haven't found it recently. And I'm not a coach (nor have I been in "The Arena"), but I don't think the answer lies in garish fashion statements or aggressiveness that results in penalties (penalties that extend opponent drives, shortchange our drives, and yet don't add any intimidation or productivity to the whole mess).

So how bad is it on D? And where's rock bottom? The numbers will bear that out, but the most important question is, what the hell are we gonna do about it?


  1. Bill Lewis was the DC in 1981, not Erk Russell. Great work though.

  2. Thanks Anon, you're right. Somehow I messed up the column header on the cut and paste from excel. Now corrected. (If only it was so easy to change defensive coordinators!)

  3. Amen. we've gone from an intimidating, ass kicking D with Brian VG to a soft bunch that can't tackle, miss their assignments, and have a penchant for late hits. In short, the D for all it's talent sucks. But the offense isn't much better especially with Cox. After 2 games everyone except Bobo and Richt new we had another Joe T situation and we should have been trying out others especially Aaron Murray. Saturday coach richt loudly and clearly stated the season is over. Willie MUST go and Bobo has a year to get the offense in gear. Like Spurrier stated, we recruit all this talent and get our asses beat

  4. I've got to call this spot on.... Excellent analysis.