Winning doesn’t cure ills

sports@macon.comOctober 19, 2011 

You would think a team that has won five in a row would have quieted concerns about the status of the football program. Instead, the debate about the future of Georgia football is at a fever pitch.

Sure, Georgia has rebounded and won five games in a row after losing the first two of the season. The four conference opponents they have beaten, however, are a combined 1-13 in the SEC, and the Bulldogs have only won by an average of 10 points per game.

The win over Vanderbilt on Saturday did nothing but make the debate more intense -- and, unfortunately, personal. Georgia did not play well at all, but the Bulldogs won. And therein lies the dilemma.

They really haven’t had a great game all season. Well, maybe the Coastal Carolina game, but bringing that up is silly. They have been lucky to win these past four SEC games and arguably should have lost maybe two of them.

If you are a UGA fan and criticize the team for its lackluster play, you could be quickly reminded by others that “A win is a win,” and if you don’t like that “You should probably go root for someone else.”

Really? That’s what this has become? A situation where if you happen to be unhappy with the play of the team, despite winning games against bad football teams, your loyalty to the program is questioned?

Much of the debate, of course, is about whether Mark Richt should remain as the head coach going forward. I have been critical of Richt during the past three years and still have serious doubts about his dedication and love for the game of football.

Richt has dedication to his players, and he wants to make a difference in their lives. But I’m just not convinced he can do that and win a championship. And whether you agree or not, it’s a legit question.

Saturday night, Isaiah Crowell did not play in the first quarter against Vanderbilt. Richt was asked at halftime why Crowell didn’t play. His response was, “Because I love him.”

You have got to be kidding me. Come on. Would Nick Saban have said that? Would Paul Johnson have said that?

And I bet several people who just read the last graph, of me posing those questions, have stopped reading. How dare I question why Richt would say such a thing in that setting?

The answer is simple -- because this is football. It’s football. It’s not Romper Room. It’s not a third-grade teacher watching kids on a playground. Why couldn’t Richt have just answered the question truthfully, instead of saying something that would only give his critics more ammunition?

The ironic part of Saturday was the end of the game. As UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham walked toward Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin to congratulate him, Franklin motioned to safety Shawn Williams. Grantham absolutely lost it, telling Franklin to do something that I couldn’t even try to disguise in this column.

Some UGA fans loved Grantham taking up for his players and showing emotion, while others thought he acted unprofessionally and should’ve taken the high road.

So we’ve got the head coach at halftime telling a reporter he didn’t play a player in the first quarter because he “loves him,” and then at the end of the game the defensive coordinator telling the opposing head coach to, well, you know.

That almost describes the dichotomy of the UGA fan base. It’s that bipolar right now. Some are just happy with wins no matter how it looks, and if you complain about how they are winning, you are called names. Others who have legitimate concerns are simply just skeptical of what this team would actually do if it played a quality opponent.

There is only one way to pull the entire UGA fan base together. If Georgia can beat Florida on Oct. 29 in Jacksonville, everyone will be happy, regardless of what the win looks like. But, unfortunately, that is not something Richt has proven he can do, winning only twice in 10 seasons.

And if he loses, it will be interesting to see if those who have taken up for him will still be supportive.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com.

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