I wanted to go ahead and get this out there before the Auburn game, because depending on the outcome of the game, the following statement could be construed as a knee-jerk reaction:
I fully support Mark Richt as coach at UGA and think he is the man for the job.
If you are a frequent reader of the Grit Tree, this sentence should come as no surprise to you. I’ve been as ardent of a Richt supporter there is. However, even I have been rattled. I guess everyone goes through these sort of things. I was wavering on if I thought it was time for Richt to go.
It wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to the Florida game, either (and no, this isn’t a response to whipping Kentucky). I had these thoughts since the end of last season. My internal conflict intensified, not after the South Carolina game, but after the Tennessee and Vanderbilt games. After Missouri and Arkansas, I was like everyone else in America, praising Coach Richt. But after the Florida game I was near despondent. I have never broken up with a serious girlfriend. My wife is my college sweetheart. Wanting to part ways with Coach Richt was the closest thing I knew about a breakup.
It was the aftermath of the Florida game, when I saw all the negativity out there on the internet and on Twitter, that strengthened my resolve. I was in a low place, but after some time to think, I snapped out of it. Here are my responses to the often-cited criticisms:
Mark Richt doesn’t care about winning, and he isn’t enough of a competitor.
Of all the complaints, this is the biggest BS one of them all. The man doesn’t put in the hours, the years of coaching in the SEC if you don’t have a competitive spirit. Just because he doesn’t make a jackass of himself on the sideline, like Will Muschamp, it doesn’t he mean he doesn’t care.
I mean, for crying out loud, the man had to have hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago. He was in intense pain as he walked up and down the sideline. Coach Richt has made plenty of money, and could make plenty of money if he ever decided to go into another field, TV or another coaching job. If he wanted to become a missionary, he could do so.
Clearly, he wants to coach, and he wants to win.
Oh, and ask Penn Wagers if Mark Richt is a docile and passive coach.
Mark Richt will never put Georgia in a position to win a National Championship.
I’ve tried this exercise before, but humor me again.
Which of the following teams were more deserving to play for a BCS National Championship?
Team A: Beat teams who had a combined record of 78-62 before the bowl game, had one loss to a 8-5 team by 7 points. Beat 4 teams who finished in AP top 25.
Team B: Beat teams who had a combined record of 60-69 before the bowl game, had one loss to an 8-5 team by 7 points. Beat 4 teams finished in the AP Top 25.
Both of the above teams won the SEC Championship with 1 loss. Team A is UGA in 2002. Team B is LSU in 2003. The only difference? Outside circumstances dictated who played for it all. Yes, even the great and almighty Nick Saban has needed a little bit of luck to win the National Title.
Saban did go undefeated in 2009. But his 2003 team needed help. His 2011 team needed help, and I still argue that Oklahoma State should have played LSU for it all. His 2012 team needed a lot of help to get back in the conversation, though give the Crimson Tide credit for winning the SEC Championship that year. Georgia was finally the same recipient of luck in 2012, and just couldn’t quite get it done in Atlanta. While the loss to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game was disappointing and heartbreaking, I certainly wouldn’t call it damning.
How many times have we all said, “If there was a playoff in the Richt era, Georgia would have a National Championship?” In the current format, the 2002, 2007 and the 2012 teams would have certainly made the playoff. Maybe even the 2005 team.
Georgia has been to Atlanta 5 times in Richt’s 13 seasons, and are a win Saturday from probably making that 6 times in 14.
Sure, I’m as disappointed as you are about not winning a SEC Championship since 2005. I cringe when I see the talent we have had over the years, and all the Dawgs making contributions in the NFL, and have those players not help Georgia win it all.
But the criteria for winning it all has changed. Sure Richt couldn’t win the National Title under the old criteria. But don’t you think we should see how this new playoff structure plays out before we start jumping to conclusions?
Georgia could hire another coach and they could come in and win a National Title immediately.
Let’s go back to 2001. The following coaches have played for a National Title, with bold representing a win:
Larry Coker, Frank Solich, Jim Tressell, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban (3), Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, Urban Meyer (2), Les Miles, Gene Chizik, Chip Kelly, Brian Kelly, Gus Malzahn, Jimbo Fisher.
This is a very exclusive list…somewhat. Ask yourself, is Nick Saban walking through the door at Butts-Mehre? Is Les Miles? Urban Meyer? Pete Carroll? Do you want Jim Tressell, Bob Stoops, or Mack Brown? Chip Kelly isn’t coming. Neither is Gus Malzahn. I don’t want Frank Solich or Jimbo Fisher.
Everyone after 2010 was saying, “Dan Mullen should be the next head coach.” Of course, now that looks good. No one in their right mind after 2012 would dare say Dan Mullen over Richt.
At one point, I thought Kyle Fitzgerald at Northwestern would be good. Same with Al Golden. I think that has proven to be incorrect.
The point is, it is cyclical. After 2010, Georgia fans would have loved to see Gary Patterson be the head coach in Athens. After 2013, after TCu went 7-6 and 4-8, Patterson wasn’t the trendy name. He is now.
Consistency is the key. Georgia has been close many times, could be really close now with a playoff. For every Auburn example, I say look at Tennessee or Alabama. Alabama went 10 years from the end of Gene Stallings before Nick Saban came in. They suffered through Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula. 4 head coaches in 10 seasons. Alabama had 5 losing seasons during that time period, and several other 7-5 or so.
Be careful what you wish for.
Georgia’s record versus ranked teams is bad, therefore the program is trending downward.
The best sports talk radio host in the history of the medium, Bill Shanks, was going through Richt’s record versus ranked opponents since 2008. He said that since the record was mediocre, therefore the program was on the decline. Going by his criteria-teams that were ranked at the time Georgia played them, I calculated that Georgia is 12-19 since 2008. Why choose 2008 as your arbitrarily assigned starting point?
The reason I ask that is Georgia wasn’t very good at all in 2008-2010. Georgia went 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 in 2010. The point is, Georgia didn’t had a hard time winning period during that time, regardless if the team was ranked or not. They did not have good teams, period.
I’ve said before that 2009 was the last year of the “old” Coach Richt, and 2010 began the career of “new Coach Richt”. Recruiting has improved in the past 4 years, administrative changes have been made, and Richt has made changes to his coaching staff.
Against ranked opponents, Georgia did as follows: 2008, 3-3; 2009, 1-3; 2010, 0-3: 2011, 2-4; 2012, 2-2; 2013, 2-3; 2014, 2-1.
I think it is unfair to judge the 2014 team based on the sins of the 2008, 2009, and 2010 teams. In the past three seasons, 2012-present, Georgia is 6-6 versus ranked teams. In the past two seasons, Georgia is 4-4 versus ranked teams. And this year, Georgia is 2-1 versus ranked teams.
If you are being fair, you can’t be too critical of the 2013 team and the coaching job there. The team that started the season obviously wasn’t the team that finished the year.
2010 was the low point, but the program has been on the upward path since then.
In conclusion, there are things that Coach Richt does that drives me bonkers. He is not perfect, and not immune to criticism. Can we complain? Sure. Can we be critical? Of course. Should we have the torches and pitch forks on standby after every single loss? Absolutely not.
Things were bad a few years ago. Things are getting better. Coaching is there. Coordinators are there. Recruiting is there.
But he is a fine coach, and I think we are should stick with Coach Richt, warts and all, to lead us on to bigger and better things. If things turn south again, like in 2008-2010, then we may have to revisit this conversation.
But for now, be patient. Stick with it.