Friday, December 4, 2009

Looking Back, With Fabris and Willie and the Boys

Sorry for the poor country music reference.

To the delight of many Bulldog fans around the globe, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez exited stage left earlier this week, taking with him several years of a defense in decline.

What was so astounding about Georgia's defense was the general feeling it gave the fans and, presumably, the opposing offense on a given day. Where it used to be nothing short of surprising when an opponent put together a 12 play, 85 yd TD drive against the Dawgs' D, it had now become surprising for Georgia to get a 3-and-out, never mind a turnover.

To channel my inner Christopher Walken (no, not another stinkin' cowbell joke), do you know why the New York Yankees always win? It's because of those damn pinstripes.

Clearly, they've got great players, coaches, etc, but there's just something so key about the intimidation factor. Where teams used to fear the Bulldog defense, and knew they would be lucky to score 20 pts, they could now be confident that they would have a field day.

That is a big reason a change was necessary. Ostensibly, a new DC equals a new defense. Even if Willie was on the right track toward improving the D, it would still be difficult to get that fear factor back.

I'll also go on record as saying that I don't believe Willie was an idiot, a fool, a moron, a clown, or any other expletive-laden disparaging word he may have been called. That's not to say he wasn't out-coached on occasion, but the main problem was not that he didn't know how to stop opposing offenses. The main problem was that he wasn't able to convey his knowledge and ideas down the line to where they would translate to on-the-field success.

I think that, beyond loyalty and not wanting to fire people that he's worked tens of thousands of hours beside, that's why it took Richt so long to let Martinez go. I just get the feeling that Martinez would sit down and do a heck of a job explaining why a game plan will work, and in too many cases, why it should have worked.

In the end (which is where Georgia's defense took it too many times), there just needed to be some new voices shouting on the practice field and from the sideline. Talent is important, and maybe Georgia did not have the talent to be a top 10 defense this year, but they'll always have enough talent to finish better than 10th in the SEC in scoring defense.

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