Friday, April 27, 2012

Mark Richt, Poker Player

Aces didn't lose...this time. (Image: Hipple)
No, I don't think Coach Richt plays poker, you know with casting lots and whatnot. However, as a poker player, it is easy for me to see what type of player Coach Richt would be. He is a NIT. 

For those not into poker lingo, go here. In fact, I'd say he is a Super NIT. He plays premium hands, won't bet to force someone to make a bad decision even when he knows he's got the best of it, and will fold the second he thinks his hand has been beat, regardless of situation or reasoning. He doesn't do anything differently in hopes his big hands won't lose.

He plays to not lose.  

We saw that at it's best and worst at the Outback Bowl. The offense was unspectacular in the first half, save one 80 yard play and a drive that ended in a missed blocking assignment on 4th down inside Michigan State's five.  The defense was spectacular and more, scoring a safety, having a hand in the punt return TD, and holding Michigan State on their side of mid-field the entire first half.  In the first half, Georgia rode the strength of their defense and outside a couple of home runs, didn't take any down field shots against the rest of the half. 

Look at that paragraph. Two shots down field, 140 of Georgia's 210 yards in the first half came on two plays. You may ask, what does it matter, Georgia's defense had the Spartans strangled. 16-0, bitches. Can't get the ball up-field past us.

Except they did.  

Georgia came out, ran the ball and dared Michigan State to catch up. Like a NIT who is ahead, but won't bet the flop, Georgia just checked and called. We had a winner, right?

So the second half happened and we saw the defense get figured out some. Grantham's bunch still played fairly well, but not nearly as well as they did in the first half. For one, Kirk Cousins threw the ball over twice as much in the second half, with Michigan State recognizing that the short swing passes and the running plays weren't working (and recognizing the underneath drag routes that had vexed Georgia early in the season were still vexing, especially on one side of the defense). 

Georgia for its part, kept running the ball into the middle of the defense that was top ten nationaly in rush defense. We rushed the ball 15 times in the first half, compared to 20 in the second half. That accounted for 32 of our 51 yards rushing. If you are doing the math, that is a drop off of over a yard per carry. The long down field passes? Nothing doing. Bad shit goes down when you throw deep. To Michigan State's credit, they ramped up the pressure on Murray, which wasn't hard to do (I did promise snark). However, we didn't give any looks to the TEs or the RBs in the second half. Our counter to the strong pass rush was more running? 

We became as vanilla as could be at the worst possible time. In poker parlance, we checked and called all the way down hoping our winner would stand up.

Just maddening. Our coaches are if nothing else, consistent. We'd won all season running the ball late into games and asking our defense to win. In that regard, we'd done ok with that strategy. Not in Tampa. Michigan State drew out on us because we didn't put them away with a little gambling.

Even his reasoning for the place kicking was NITy. He went with the 'safe' call by asking Blair to go back out. My thoughts on that remain the same and were elocuted much better and at more length by Michael Elkon (h/t Blutarsky).

I do know that if Coach Richt did play poker, I feel pretty confident I could tell you what his cards are within a one or two hand range every time. I also feel comfortable he'd let me (and the table) draw to my hands, because he wouldn't want to get burned win a strong hand.  In that way, football coaching and poker  takes some gamble. However with football, you can control your cards a bit with recruiting. 

We keep hoping Coach Richt will coach differently. The sample size is large enough to say he won't. Can he recruit the players it'll take to win it all playing his style of football? I don't know.


Editorial note: I wrote this post within 24 hours of the Outback Bowl, but decided not to post it. After spending the last three weeks pondering why I haven't felt like writing about football, it seemed this was pretty on point, at least in regard to last season. I simply updated the grammar to reflect the passage of time.

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