Monday, November 27, 2006

Looking Behind the Curtain

Let’s start this week with a question: When is a nine win season and a conference division championship less than acceptable? The answer, of course, is when the combined record of the nine teams you beat is 44 – 62 and 18 of those wins came from two teams (Va. Tech and Maryland), when only three of those teams finished the regular season with a winning record (and, one of those is 6-5 with a game to play), when only three of the teams on your schedule were ranked at the time you played them (Notre Dame, Va. Tech, and Clemson) and you only beat one of them (Va. Tech), when only two of the teams on your schedule finished the regular season ranked (Notre Dame and Va. Tech), when you give up over 300 yards rushing in a humiliating nationally televised loss at Clemson when your team clearly quit after three quarters, and finally, when you lost your sixth straight game to your bitter rival because of the ineptitude of your quarterback and head coach. That, my friends, is win a nine win season and a conference division championship is less than acceptable.

If you remember, I started the college football season with a scathing article discussing why the Notre Dame loss was further proof that Chan Gailey should not be the head coach at Georgia Tech (http://atlantawad.blogspot.com/2006/09/new-seasonsame-pain.html#comments). Since that time, the Jackets won three games against inferior competition at home (Samford, Troy, & UVA), and then they went on the road and blew out Va. Tech. The Va. Tech win was something we had seen before in the Gailey era…a huge upset on the road against a big time program. The week following Va. Tech, however, was something we hadn’t seen before. Against what we would learn was a pretty decent Maryland team, the Jackets managed to rally in the fourth quarter and, for the first time in the Gailey era, avoided a let down following a huge win. In retrospect, it was the Maryland game that seduced us all, myself included. We all looked at this win as proof that this year’s version of the Jackets was different than all the previous Gailey teams. The truth is, like countless other members of an abusive relationship before us, we saw and believed what we wanted to. Even after the nationally televised humiliation at Clemson, we chose to fixate on the fact that we were still in the driver’s seat to win the Coastal Division. Hell, we even managed to convince ourselves that the Miami game was a “huge” game and a “defining” win, even though we were well aware that this was the worst version of the ‘Canes we have probably ever seen and they had quit on their coach weeks before. For God’s sake, we even chose to turn a blind eye to the fact that we only managed to score seven points against one of the worst teams in Division I-A football, UNC. Finally, however, this past Saturday, we ran out of blind eyes, and were forced to face the brutal truth: Coastal Division Championship or not, 9 wins or not, we weren’t any better this season than we have been for the past five seasons. Instead, we just had the good fortune of feasting on inferior competition and winning our traditional game that we probably shouldn’t win.

Look, I’m the first person to admit that I’m a glass half empty sort of guy. And, I also realize that it’s really easy to write about the shortcomings of other people, and it is way too easy to write articles about how coaches should be fired. Trust me when I tell you that I take no joy in it. Remember, I lived through Coach Cremins’ last days at Georgia Tech and I still remember verbatim every word Mark Bradley and the irresponsible journalists at the AJC wrote in the days and weeks leading up to his resignation. I hated every word, and I’m sure that there are people that would read this article and feel the same way about me that I felt about Bradley and Company back in 2000. All that being said, if you go back and read the article I wrote after the Notre Dame game, and then you go re-read the first paragraph of this article, I just don’t know how you can argue with a straight face that this season, or any season of the Gailey era, is satisfactory. Gailey’s most fatal flaw is his marriage to Reggie Ball. And, when you think about it, it was only appropriate that Ball had what might be the worst game of his career on the biggest stage this past Saturday. I mean, I don’t care how big an apologists you are for this guy, but you can’t make any excuse for a 6 – 21 performance with two picks and a fumble that went back to the house. Not to mention, this was the third straight year that Reggie Ball had the ball in his hands with less than two minutes to play and a chance to tie or beat UGA and this was the third straight year he failed. That’s right, he failed. And, that is no coincidence. He and Gailey’s failures have far outweighed and outshined the accomplishments.

The major goal of any Georgia Tech coach should be to beat UGA. End of story. Well, Gailey is 0-5 against UGA. So, let me ask you this…if you had one main objective at your job and you fucked it up five times in a row, do you think you would still have a job? No matter what happens this Saturday in Jacksonville, it won’t make up for the UGA loss. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. If you are a Tech fan and you feel differently, you clearly weren’t born and raised in Georgia. And no, 11-3 and an Orange Bowl victory won’t change my opinion of Gailey and the current state of our program.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, thanks to the efforts of new recruiting coordinator, Giff Smith, and our top notch facilities (all of which are the product of the insistence and success of Coach O’Leary), we are bringing in what may be the best recruiting class in Tech history. I don’t want Chan Gailey coaching these guys. I want Greg Schiano, Charlie Strong, or Brian Van Gorder. I want a young and energetic guy with a hunger to win EVERY game. And yes, in case you are wondering, I think Greg Schiano would much rather come to Georgia Tech than Miami. We have better facilities, more money, and more promise than Miami. In short, Georgia Tech is a better job than Miami. You know why most people probably think this is an insane comment? Because, Miami is the kind of place that fires coaches that win 80% of their games and a national championship when it becomes clear that he can no longer compete for national championships. In other words, because Miami expects more from itself, everybody else expects more from them. Perception is reality. Fire Gailey after this season, sign Schiano, and the rest of the country will take notice…in a hurry. Keep Gailey, maybe even win the Orange Bowl, and go 7 -5 next year, and nothing changes. All you are left with is another sign in the south end zone and a potentially endless string of losses to UGA. I know that to some of you the idea of firing a coach after his best season seems absurd, but all I can say is that sometimes you have to do something unconventional in the short term to hit it big for the long term. Isn’t that what the American entrepreneurial spirit is all about?

Okay, I’ve said my piece. I started the season by saying the same thing. Somewhere in the middle, I was seduced into thinking I may have been wrong. After Saturday, however, I realized that I wasn’t wrong after all. Usually, I hate being wrong, but this time, I really wish I was.