Archives for October 2015

Mark Richt: the best man for a difficult job

coach Mark Richt

coach Mark Right

Famous tennis instructor Dennis Van der Meer has often said that a player’s IQ is cut in half as soon as he or she steps onto the court and the games begin.

His quip translates to mean in the spur of the moment during heated competition, people tend to make ill-advised, emotional decisions as opposed to rational and reasonable ones.

Apparently, that would also be an appropriate way to describe many Georgia Bulldog fans, especially during football season.

Fans who are calling for a coaching change have let emotion shape their comments, which often lack logic and intelligent thought. People are called “fans” for a reason.

It’s short for fanatic.

These “fair-weather” fans have unrealistic expectations for the present, and a very myopic vision for the future.

The truth of the matter is that Mark Richt is an excellent football coach.

However, his team has already lost twice this season. Some of our fair-weather fans (apparently those few suffering from temporary insanity) have called for Mark Richt to be fired.

To fire Coach Richt at the end of this season wouldn’t just be dumb, it would be one of the most stupid decisions in school history — and that even includes Jake Scott’s legendary death-defying ride over Stegeman Coliseum on a motorcycle.

Bulldog and NFL star Jake Scott

Bulldog and NFL star Jake Scott

Coach Richt is currently one of the best in the business, and when he finally retires, he will ultimately be considered one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. The fair-weather Georgia fans currently calling for his ouster may be wondering — how can anyone make such an outlandish claim, considering the fact that Richt hasn’t even won an SEC championship in the last ten years? Not only that, he’s failed to win even one national championship during his tenure at the University of Georgia to this point. Well, allow me to retort.

My question in response to the fair-weather fan is this: is a national championship really the best measuring stick of a coach’s ability?

If so, why doesn’t Gene Chizik currently have a head coaching job?

As far as I’m concerned, Georgia could lose every game the rest of this year (they won’t) and I wouldn’t budge — I want Mark Richt to stay, because I see the positive steps and improvements in our program. And I see the incredible talent being assembled in the 2016 recruiting class.

Two years ago, I might have been tempted to agree with people arguing for change. Todd Grantham was Georgia’s defensive coordinator, and Coach Richt stubbornly refused to fire him. Richt’s loyalty to his own coaches appeared to be holding us back. Before Grantham, Richt held on to Willie Martinez longer than fans were willing to tolerate, and reluctantly fired him.

The defense perpetually failed to match the production of the offense, year after year. Georgia won a few big games every year in spite of our defense, yet always underachieved and fell short.

Then, a minor miracle occurred — to my stunned amazement, Grantham left on his own accord to take the same job with Louisville, and Jeremy Pruitt had wanted to work for Mark Richt for a long time.

From that day forward, UGA’s defense has shown dramatic improvement in both talent and execution. Given a third year to put more of the players that can execute his schemes on our roster, Georgia should transition from a very good defense to elite under Jeremy Pruitt and coaches Ekeler, Sherrer, and Rocker.

Now I’m not a psychiatrist or any sort of medical professional, but I think anybody who doesn’t think Pruitt is the best defensive coordinator Georgia has had since Erk Russell might need to have their head examined. Flashes of the old Junkyard Dawgs have already been shown by his defense.

In short, Georgia is continuing to move in the right direction. Richt has already made the necessary changes and adjustments that should allow his program to finally make the step from perennial contenders to champions. The current president and athletic director have finally shown they’ve made a full commitment to having proper resources and facilities.

All Coach Richt needs now is time, patience and continued support from our fan base. Anyone who looked at the UGA roster prior to the start of the season and had dreams of undefeated seasons was more hopeful than realistic, considering the considerable turnover between seasons, with Mike Bobo leaving for Colorado State and Brian Schottenheimer coming to Athens from the NFL.

Firing Coach Richt this season, no matter how many games are lost, would be both short-sighted and stupid, two characteristics that I feel confident do NOT describe AD Greg McGarity.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is also an excellent football coach and even has NFL experience, but I’d rather have Mark Richt leading Georgia over Harbaugh, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, or any other head coach who may currently be perceived as the superior leader.

Nick Saban has a win-at-all-costs mentality that some fans would like to see from UGA, without realizing that Saban couldn’t continue his success at UGA without requiring the school to lower their standards. The Georgia Way calls for winning with integrity. Frankly, that rules out Nick Saban, even before taking his salary demands into consideration.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban

Alabama Coach Nick Saban

Saban’s questionable ethics include cutting players by placing them on permanent medical disability, “gray-shirting” and other practices that allow the habitual over-signing of more recruits than his program can legally accept in a given year, and even admitting to his program a player dismissed from UGA for allegedly beating his girlfriend.

To be brutally honest, if hiring a guy with the scruples of Nick Saban is what it takes for the Bulldogs to win a national championship, I’d prefer UGA kept coming up a little short every year.

However, with just a little more patience, I’m fairly certain that being satisfied with the program failing to reach its full potential isn’t going to be necessary. Many fans believe that the level of talent recruited into UGA’s program has always been on par with Alabama and Florida, but that simply hasn’t been the case.

While I was skeptical that an indoor practice facility was necessary, the fact Georgia hasn’t had one seems to have suggested to recruits in previous years that the Bulldogs weren’t fully committed to competing at the highest level.

Drax the Destroyer

Drax the Destroyer

But if Mark Richt didn’t know how to coach college football, phenomenal high school QB Jacob Eason wouldn’t want to travel 3,000 miles from home to play in Athens next year.

Let’s be honest; when a freaking Guardian of the Galaxy talks about a high school quarterback committed to UGA on his Twitter feed and newspapers report it, the attention of other talented athletes is drawn to Athens to play with him. Just imagine what it would be like to have Drax the Destroyer as one of your inside linebackers.

And by no means is Eason alone. Highly sought blue-chip prospects Mecole Hardman, Kyle Davis, Derrick Brown, Isaac Nauta, Demetris Robinson, Shyheim Carter, Willie Allen, and several others may be joining Eason to fill out the best recruiting class Georgia has ever assembled, if all of them commit to the “G”.

Georgia is considered the favorite to sign most, if not every one of these players, which could become a domino-effect. The 2015 class currently being assembled has the potential to add considerably more talent to the roster in one season than even the touted 2011 “dream team.”

It’s important to note that Jacob Eason has stated for the record that the only reason he might not be at UGA in January would be if Mark Richt isn’t still coaching the Bulldogs. He’s already signed his financial-aid agreement.

Coach Bobo’s move to Colorado State had no impact on Eason’s commitment — he wants to play football for Mark Richt. Period.

Why, you might ask?

Surely Coach Richt’s success coaching Heisman Trophy winners Charlie Ward, Chris Weinke, and first overall NFL draft pick Matthew Stafford has had some influence on his decision.

12112318_758741567582659_2542897415543644732_nBut I also suspect it also has a lot to do with the relationship Mark Richt has cultivated with his players.

Please consider Mark Richt’s reaction to senior placekicker Marshall Morgan’s miss of an “easy” 26-yard field goal attempt in their recent game against Missouri.

Coach Richt immediately comforted his player, who probably felt as if he’d let the whole team down and may have lost the game. Almost every fan in the stadium and probably most of those watching on television may have felt that way, too.

Not Mark Richt.

He told Morgan that he still loved him. That his worth was not determined by a single mistake. Fans may have forgotten by now, but that wasn’t Morgan’s only mistake that game.

Earlier, he left an onside kick attempt short of ten yards, giving Missouri possession of the ball with excellent field position.

Rewarding the loyalty and love of his coach, Morgan was clutch on his last field goal attempt, and Georgia won a hard fought defensive battle, 9-6. In recognition of his efforts, Morgan was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Fair-weather fans complained that Richt’s game plan was too conservative, but they also were complaining that the onside kick was too risky. Losing to Alabama and Tennessee was completely unacceptable, but winning by a field goal wasn’t enough to please them, either.

Contrast the exchange between Mark Richt and Marshall Morgan to Jim Harbaugh’s postgame press conference. Coach Harbaugh threw his punter under the bus for bungling the very last play of the game against Michigan State, which cost Michigan the victory.

Coach Harbaugh blamed the referees for his team’s loss, claiming they made several bad calls.

He also blamed the last play on a bad snap. Coach Harbaugh even went so far as to say that his punter only needed to field the ball cleanly and do his job, and the game would have been won. The kid must feel terrible.

In other words, Jim Harbaugh blamed everybody but himself.  He refused to take any responsibility for a very questionable call to punt. Seriously, was he that afraid his defense couldn’t stop a Hail Mary pass that it was worth the risk of a bad snap or a blocked kick?

Please compare Harbaugh’s comments to what Mark Richt had to say after his disastrous call for a squib kick at the end of last year’s game against Georgia Tech.

Coach Richt immediately took full responsibility for his mistake. He offered nothing but effusive praise for the tremendous effort by his players to put the team in position to win.

And that’s exactly what a truly great leader should do.

Why evolution is probably false

Dr_Kenneth_MillerI’ve never wanted nor pretended to be a biologist. I prefer to blame this possible character flaw on the fact I never liked dissecting animals, or the smell of formaldehyde.

My approach to science has always been “need to know” — meaning if I decide that I need to know something, I’ll put a little effort into figuring out how it works.

In the years since graduating from college I have certainly learned how to make children and grandchildren. For the longest time, I felt like that was enough knowledge of biology to satisfy my curiosity; I knew how to do my part to perpetuate of the species, and that was all I thought I needed to know.

When these evangelists for atheism like Richard Dawkins began using their belief in evolution as justification for attacking belief in the existence of a creator God, I decided it was probably time for me to learn a bit more about this theory used to justify their claims of having eliminated the possibility that a supernatural God could exist.

The Business Dictionary provides an excellent definition that I like which describes information as “Data that is (1) accurate and timely, (2) specific and organized for a purpose, (3) presented within a context that gives it meaning and relevance, and (4) can lead to an increase in understanding and decrease in uncertainty.”

As a former professional software developer, that definition seems both useful and apropos. Computers accept raw data as input. Software applications inside the computer process that raw data to convert it into useful information.

The key phrase in the definition was “specific and organized for a purpose.”

DNA is very compacted, specific information– genetic raw data is processed by organic cells and turned into information exponentially more complex than computer machine language.

The best analogy I can think for DNA is that it seems to be a perfectly blended recipe comprised of four nucleotides organized into specific sequences to produce one unique living organism of the same species as the parents — we know from experience that hybrid animals are biological dead ends.

However, advocates of evolution theory typically take a dim view of criticism. They will vociferously object to the idea of intelligent design being offered as an alternative for evolution theory.

Dr. Ken Miller has openly said that he believes people like me who have raised questions about the theory of evolution are motivated by bias toward religion and belief in the supernatural rather than scientific curiosity.

I would respond to that accusation that my stubbornness stems from the inability of experts such as him to answer my questions, which admittedly pose challenges the theory of evolution.

And before I swallow Darwin’s theory hook, line, and sinker, I need to know what mechanisms allow physical transformation that could most easily be described incredible shapeshifting that allegedly takes over many generations — the transformations necessary to evolve from apes to men must be nothing short of spectacular.

Nevertheless, I have frequently been accused by my critics of being too dumb to understand the theory of evolution, which strikes me as a relatively simple concept. Given enough sex, isolation, and time, monkeys can allegedly evolve into men.

I’ve learned to consider the source, and to take into account that that the most obnoxious and personal insults come from less well-educated people and frequently contain numerous grammatical errors and misspelled words. My thirst for knowledge exceeds my ego. I’m willing to swallow my pride and risk the wrath of my critics to make myself clear. It also helps that more intelligent people like Dr. Miller tend to be very courteous and respectful, so risking the potential embarrassment of asking the question often proves to be well worth the effort.

My response to my critics is always the same: my inability to understand how the theory of evolution works in the real and observable world to cause the origin of new species certainly hasn’t been for the lack of trying.

What biological process(es) other than sex, isolation, and time, might exist that allows monkeys to turn into men? It seems we are missing a critical piece to the Big Picture puzzle.

I’ve read a lot of books on evolution theory, including The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins, and of course Jerry Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True, in my attempts to understand the theory of evolution yet my fundamental “how did it happen?”questions have remained unanswered to my satisfaction.

Evolution theory isn’t a terribly complicated concept, in my opinion. It may be summed up using only three words: descent with modification.

According to this theory, because you don’t appear to be clones of your parents or grandparents, you may safely assume that several million years ago, your ancestors were apes. Not modern apes, of course. Extinct, common ancestor apes that we know weren’t gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, even though we don’t know what they were.

My problems with this theory of evolution are fairly simple and straightforward: if humans evolved from apes, how did this happen? And if every living organism is related through descent by sex, isolation, and time, then we are cousins to all plants and animals on Earth.

So here we go, one more time: apes have 24 pair of chromosomes (48 total.)

Humans have 23 pair, or 46 total chromosomes. a mismatch in count.

About ape-to-human evolution Dr. Miller has said,

If a whole primate chromosome was lost, that would be lethal. So there’s only two possibilities. And that is, if these guys (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and humans) really share a common ancestor, that ancestor either had 48 chromosomes or 46.

Nevertheless it seems to be quite logical to assume that at some point in time, a living organism with 48 chromosomes must have given birth to an organism with only 46, if we’re going to work from the assumption that humans descended from other primates.

After reading those books and many others on evolution theory, I published open letters written to biologists Jerry Coyne, Francis Collins, and Ken Miller so that I might also learn why design is considered inconceivable and descent believed without question.

Replies from Dr. Miller and a response that came from Dr. Benoit LeBlanc on behalf of biology professors (in lieu of Dr. Coyne) were published in unexpurgated form.

1506128_10151920696573075_80923712_o

My question remains simple: how did humans really descend from creatures that resembled the one as claimed in the picture to the right?

According to the theory of evolution, the answer is simply sex, isolation, and time.

In this video Dr. Miller said,

What must have happened is that one pair of chromosomes must have gotten fused. We should be able to look at our genome and discover that one of our chromosomes resulted from the fusion of two primate chromosomes. So we should be able to look around our genome and you know what? If we don’t find it, then evolution is wrong, and we don’t share a common ancestor.

When I wrote Dr. Miller to question his use of the word “fusion” to describe the joining of two chromosomes, he assured me that the word was appropriate, though the official biological term for the phenomena was a “Robertsonian translocation.

A little research on Robertsonian translocations taught me the following:

  1. Robertsonian translocations are rare mutations caused by the fusion of two chromosomes in offspring created by sexual reproduction.
  2. Most cases of Robertsonian translocations are either harmful or fatal to offspring (trisomy 13 (Down), trisomy 21 (Patau), and Edwards syndromes.)
  3. In the event of “balanced” Robertsonian translocations, the individual is not harmed because no genetic information has been gained or lost.
  4. Variations in the number of chromosomes caused by fusion does not create a new species. There is a healthy human male allegedly discovered to only have 44 chromosomes, but in reality chromosomes 14 and 15 merely joined together. Nevertheless, the article found at the Stanford Tech Review reported that the man’s “chromosomes are arranged in a stable way that could be passed on if he met a nice girl who had 44 chromosomes too. And this would certainly be possible in the future given his family history.”

But how could this this possible?

If this man can’t produce viable offspring with anyone except a “nice woman” with a matching count of 44 chromosomes (presumably with the same two chromosomes fused), how could we ever have a new species of humans that only have 44 chromosomes?

If these traits are both rare and undetectable within members of a population, how do the “44s” know to pair together in order to produce viable offspring?

Before I can believe evolution is true, I need to know how these things could happen.

This article was titled Why evolution theory is probably false for these reasons:

  1. Robertsonian translocations are rare events, and usually detrimental or fatal.
  2. Genetic information cannot be added or subtracted to an existing genome without causing the offspring serious harm.
  3. Robertsonian translocations do not cause the origin of a new species. Therefore, if translocations have no relationship to the origin of new species, then any examples of an apparent translocation between two species could only be coincidence or illusion.
  4. The primary feature of other genetic abnormalities such as Klinefelter syndrome is sterility.
  5. The title of Jerry Coyne’s book is Why Evolution is True, but I don’t think it is true. I’m allowing for the possibility that I might be wrong, however.

Evolution theory tells us that unguided and unintelligent processes gradually transformed less intelligent animals into more sophisticated creatures, including from apes to human beings simply through sex and isolation, given the vagaries of time.

The “experts” can produce evidence that they claim “proves” species have originated in this way, but they don’t have the foggiest idea how it possibly could have happened. The ape on the right above had to have mated with a male ape that looked like her and matched her genetics. There’s nothing I’ve discovered in biology that might explain why their descendants would ever look significantly different.

Genetic material cannot be accurately described as information until it has been processed according to specific rules by an intelligent application to produce meaningful results.

Otherwise you end up with useless gibberish.

[hat tip to Maurice D. for posting the YouTube video featuring Dr. Ken Miller titled “How to Shut Up Pesky Creationists” that inspired this article.]

 

Fair-weather fans

imagesI graduated from the University of Georgia in 1983. I am a Bulldog who bleeds red and black.

In contrast, my dad never had any sort of solid connection to any particular school or football program. Rocky didn’t go to college. He was what I refer to as a “fair-weather” fan, meaning that he’d ride the bandwagon when things were going well, but at the first signs of trouble he’d be ready to hang the captain from the main mast and jump ship .

While I was in school, a Bulldog banner usually welcomed me home every Thanksgiving and remained on display until the Christmas decorations went up. But those were the glory days of Herschel Walker, Erk Russell and the Junkyard Dawgs.

Georgia won just about every regular season game during those three years, so Rocky never had time to switch his allegiance to another team before the season was over.

However, once Vince Dooley retired, the football program went through a long period of decline under the leadership of Ray Goff and Jim Donnan. I still remember a small plane circling over Sanford Stadium at every home game, pulling a banner behind it that read, “Fire Ray Goof!” and wondering if Rocky had paid for it.

Being only a fair-weather fan, Rocky loved to aggravate me if UGA was struggling when my family and I visited for the holidays. Sometimes I would even find a Yellow Jacket banner flying over my parking space when we visited for Christmas, if Tech was having a better season than my Dawgs, or managed to beat us that year.

If Rocky hadn’t died in 1997, he probably have called this week to play “Rocky Top” to me over the phone, knowing just how irritated I would get.

The game we lost to Alabama was disappointing, but the loss at Tennessee was an exceptionally bitter pill to swallow, mainly because of the gleeful, celebratory reaction of a few immature and classless Volunteer fans to the injury suffered by star Georgia running back Nick Chubb.

Because Rocky most often repeated what drunk and disgruntled Bulldog fans were saying as they hung out together in one of his favorite bars, our conversation this week probably would have gone something like this:11960191_1627447094203739_8671574475968344016_n

He wouldn’t bother to say hello, knowing I recognized the phone number. He’d jump right into attack mode. “The Bulldogs suck They’re terrible. They’re never going to win another championship, as long as Richt is their coach.”

“Hey, Dad. Thanks for calling. Nice to hear from you. Is it still hot down there? (the question refers to Savannah, not Hell.) I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. The Bulldogs have already won two SEC championships since Mark Richt became coach.”

“Oh yeah? It’s been ten years,” Rocky would probably say.

“We were five yards away from winning the SEC and playing for the national championship only a couple of years ago, in spite of the fact our defensive coordinator was Todd Grantham.”

“Seriously, son…Georgia can’t win the big game anymore. Alabama crushed them in Athens. This past weekend they blew a three touchdown lead to Tennessee and lost in Knoxville.  They lost their best player. This season’s over. I’m telling you, Mark Richt is the problem. He’s gotten too soft.”

coach Mark Richt

coach Mark Richt

“Are you out of your mind? You didn’t see him throw his headset at the end of the Tennessee game, when we were called for a false start, and he thought the clock would be run off? Good thing you don’t know how to read lips. I know what he said, too. Coach showed plenty of emotion on the sideline just this past Saturday…Okay, for the sake of argument, I’ll play along. Who would you hire to replace him? You can forget about guys like Nick Saban and Urban Meyer — neither of them would take the pay cut. As far as losing Nick Chubb is concerned, I admit that was a terrible and unfortunate injury. The season isn’t over by a long shot though, and the future actually looks bright.”

“What if UGA hired the TCU coach, Gary Patterson?”

My eyebrows would naturally arch in surprise at the suggestion. “What about him? Patterson does win a lot of regular season games, I’ll give you that much. But when he stepped up in competition from the Mountain West to the Big 12, the first two seasons his teams went 7-6 and 4-8.”

“TCU is ranked in the top three this year.”

“True fact. Patterson’s teams have won a lot of games, to be sure. And you want to know exactly how many? His record at TCU is 132-45, a win percentage of .746, good enough for seventh place on the list of active coaches with the highest win percentage. Guess who’s right behind him in eighth place, with a record of 136-48 (four more wins) and a percentage of .739? Georgia head coach Mark Richt. They’ve won the same number of national titles — zero thus far. My point is, Coach Richt has won more total games playing a much tougher schedule in a tougher conference than Gary Patterson. Don’t get me wrong — Patterson is an excellent coach. But he wouldn’t be a significant improvement over Mark Richt. Georgia would regress, if Greg McGarity lost his mind and fired Coach Richt.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Two words: recruiting momentum. You don’t pay attention to what’s coming down the road, and I do. One kid won’t turn a team into national champions by himself, but Jacob Eason can make the difference between getting close and getting there. His talent is attracting other talented players to Georgia — this year’s recruiting class is shaping up to be something special. We’ll find out how special this team can become starting October 23rd, when #5 ranked wide receiver Kyle Davis announces his commitment. Tight end Isaac Nauta, athletes Mecole Hardman and Demetris Robertson, DL Derrick Brown, and several other highly rated prospects have expressed serious interest in committing to the program between now and February. If we fired Richt and his staff this year, there’s a good chance we won’t get most of them, and we would probably lose Eason. He’s coming to UGA from Washington to play for Mark Richt.”

Rocky never gave up easily.He would counter, “What about Kirby Smart?”

“Seriously? What about him?” I would reply. “Two more words for you: Will Muschamp. What does  Muschamp have in common with Kirby Smart? He was the defensive coordinator under Saban before Smart, before he went to Texas to work for Mack Brown. Hiring an unproven defensive coordinator as your next head coach strikes me as a pretty risky move. Besides, are you giving up on Jeremy Pruitt only one full year after giving him the DC job?”

Sooner or later, my resolve to defend Mark Richt against criticism would begin to annoy Rocky. “Well, you can still forget about the rest of this season,” he’d say. “Georgia will finish with a mediocre record and play in a meaningless bowl.”

“If we beat Missouri and Florida loses to LSU in Baton Rouge, which becomes more likely now the Gator quarterback is out for the year, we could give them their second SEC loss in Jacksonville and be tied for the SEC East. We’d own the tiebreaker. A national title is probably now out of reach for this year. We’ll need to run the table and win our remaining games, but Georgia may be able to control their own destiny, at least in the East. And you’ll be right back on the bandwagon. Now let me ask you a question — before the season started, what exactly were your expectations?”

My logic and his inability to persuade me would be grating on Rocky, so he probably wouldn’t answer that question.

Instead, he’d change the subject and say something sort of random, like: “Georgia needs a special teams coach.”

To which I would reply, “That’s sort of random, isn’t it? Are you reduced to nitpicking already? Alabama blocks one punt for a touchdown, and suddenly our coaches don’t know how to coach special teams? I like Lilly, Sherrer and Ekeler. If there was a letup where our blocker eased off instead of missing the assignment, you don’t think maybe the fact that a kid from Southern University named Devon Gales was paralyzed on a special teams play the previous week might have affected our guys? They are human beings, you know. By the way — remember what you taught me: be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”

“What do you mean by that?” Rocky would naturally ask.

“Do you remember how Georgia came to hire Jim Donnan? It was in desperation. Glen Mason quit a week after accepting the job and decided to stay at Kansas. There’s no guarantee you’re going to find a better coach to replace Richt. It’s far more likely Georgia would get worse, not better, by getting rid of the coach. Stay the course.”

That might keep him quiet for the rest of the week, perhaps even until Georgia loses another game.