So what about Mark Richt’s future?
Welcome back to Overreaction Monday . . .
Skinny: 8-3 overall, 5-3 in the SEC. Last game: Defeated Georgia Southern 23-17 in overtime. Next game: Saturday at Georgia Tech.
Overreaction narrative: “Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity hasn’t said anything publicly about Mark Richt’s future. That must mean something!”
Reality check: I don’t know. I sent an email to Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity Monday morning, asking two questions: 1) Can you at this point guarantee that Mark will be back as head coach next season? 2) If you choose not to answer: Do you understand that it leaves open speculation that you’re considering making a change, or have already decided to make a change, and does that matter to you?
McGarity responded as he has to all recent inquiries on this subject. He wrote back, “Jeff, as I have said throughout the season, all of our efforts are focused on the next game, which is the Tech game this Saturday.”
So speculate away. As a general rule, a coach with an 8-3 record with a good chance to finishing 9-3 going into a bowl game does not get fired. The odds likely favor the norm right now. But the administration has been difficult to read on this topic. Georgia has won three straight since losing to Florida, when it lost all hope of going to the SEC title game and its season was pretty much defined. But beating Kentucky, Auburn and Georgia Southern doesn’t count for much this season, and that wasn’t going to sway the fire-Richt masses — especially with the Bulldogs nearly losing to Georgia Southern at home before winning in overtime.
The Georgia Tech game this week could provide some clarity. I’d expect Georgia to make Richt’s status clear after Saturday and before the bowl game. This much is certain: The fan base is split on this issue, so whether Richt is back or not there are going to be a lot of upset people.
Skinny: 6-4 (second in NFC South). Last game: Lost to Indianapolis 24-21. Next week: Home against Minnesota.
Overreaction narrative: “Matt Ryan is the worst quarterback in the NFC South.”
Reality check: I don’t believe that. However, if I had to take one quarterback to win a game today, I would certainly take Drew Brees (20 touchdowns, 9 interceptions) and Cam Newton (20 touchdowns, 9 interceptions plus six rushing TDs) over Ryan (15, 10) — and the competition between Ryan and Tampa Bay rookie Jameis Winston is closer than I ever would have guessed. Ryan has 13 turnovers: 10 interceptions and three fumbles lost (six fumbles overall). He still makes a number of great throws and commands respect in the huddle and in the locker room. But he seems to have regressed in his decision-making and he makes too many bad throws. His three interceptions in Sunday’s 24-21 loss to Indianapolis (and 40-year-old backup Matt Hasselbeck) brings his total to 10 this season. He has four multi-interception games. The Colts loss to the Colts was squarely on his shoulders: One interception killed a red zone drive in the first quarter. Another interception from the Falcons’ one-yard line went for a pick-six. That’s a 10- to 14-point swing. That’s the game. The Falcons’ defense held the Colts to 17 points and 276 yards in offense and forced three turnovers. That should be enough to win most games. Ryan told me recently, “It comes down to me being better.” He claims he is not struggling to adjust to the new offense and says he likes offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. If he was being honest on both counts, then this is all on him.
Skinny: 3-8 overall, 1-7 in the ACC. Last game: Lost at Miami 38-21. Next game: Saturday at home against Georgia Tech.
Overreaction narrative: “Whether Justin Thomas plays or not, we have no chance.”
Reality check: Disagree. The Jackets have a real chance at an upset. Certainly, oddsmakers think so. The Bulldogs are favored by only 4½ points, and that’s without any certainty that quarterback Justin Thomas (who left the Miami game with what appeared to be a neck/shoulder injury) will be available. Thomas can make plays to win games. But if he’s out, I don’t see Tech pulling it off. Redshirt freshman backup quarterback Matthew Jordan struggled for most of the Miami game and was charged with six of Tech’s nine fumbles (losing one). This is the Jackets’ final game because they won’t be going to a bowl for the first time since 1996. So emotion shouldn’t be an issue. But Tech has given away games all season so to assume those problems are going to go away now seems like a mistake.
Skinny: Traded centerfielder Cameron Maybin for two pitching prospects.
Overreaction narrative: “We’re going 0-162.”
Reality check: Oh, come on. They’ll go no worse than 12-150.
But seriously: I don’t have a big problem with the Maybin trade. He had a good season but never was viewed as a part of this team’s future, nor was he considered a major component of the trade that sent closer Craig Kimbrel and center fielder Melvin (B.J.) Upton Jr. to San Diego. Any fan who believed that was merely trying to look for another way to declare that trade a slam dunk in the Braves’ favor. That trade was about getting rid of Upton’s contract, and ONLY getting rid of Upton’s contract. President of baseball operations John Hart openly admitted that. He was willing to give away the best closer in baseball to dump relatively dead payroll. Maybin was an afterthought and he was going into his free agency season so it made sense to get something for him now because the Braves had no designs on re-signing him.
The overriding issue with the Braves right now is: Who’s going to play in the field? Or maybe with the team seemingly being in full-tank mode, despite general manager John Coppolella’s denials, management doesn’t care about that. So how much ground can you cover, Freddie Freeman?