Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
–Hamlet, Act I, Scene IV
This is going to be a long one, so buckle in…
I’ve never been one to put an edict on “Georgia should do X…” To me, that is short-sighted.
I’ve always said you know it when you see it. After the 2011 season opener against Boise State, I was near despondent. After the South Carolina game the following week, I was encouraged, even in defeat. I saw things that were positive. The 2006 season wasn’t nearly as disappointing as the record-with losses to Kentucky and Vanderbilt-would indicate. There were things that were encouraging and positive.
In 2010, a team that had a losing season actually was an improved team from the 2009 team. Though the results didn’t show it on the field, I saw a team that was getting better.
In 2013, though the results on the field weren’t spectacular, you saw a team ravaged by injury play hard and not give up. That was encouraging.
Something was there. You knew it when you saw it.
Something just isn’t right anymore in Athens. You just know it when you see it.
The time has come for Mark Richt and the University of Georgia to separate. Things are broken.
I don’t say this lightly.
If you agree with my sentiments, then you also have to acknowledge a few things, otherwise you are not being completely honest with yourself:
- I want to make something crystal clear: Mark Richt is not a bad coach. He is not the best coach in the SEC. But he isn’t awful. He has been good enough. He has been great. But he hasn’t been great enough, often enough. We clamor for championships, but we clamor for championships because of the success his leadership has brought on this program. But with success comes expectations, and expectations have not been met.
- And I want to make something else clear: his success wasn’t entirely front loaded. The early years with the Davids and Shockley weren’t a flash in the pan. The last ten years since the last SEC Championship, Georgia went 88-37 (70.4%), including 4 top ten finishes, two top 5 finishes, and two SEC East Division crowns (and should have been a third, had it not been for injuries in 2013). Not Alabama level of success, and not the level of the first five years, but let’s be honest. Many other programs would love to trade places with UGA during the past 15 years-and even during the past 10 years. I can think of a few that wouldn’t: Oregon, Ohio State, Florida State, Alabama, LSU and Auburn. What other programs since 2006 would not trade places with UGA? I can’t think of many.
- Overall, Coach Richt has done a tremendous job against the top rivals, with the exception of Florida, but the tide in that series has turned.
- Georgia Tech: 12-2
- Tennessee: 11-4
- Auburn: 9-5
- South Carolina: 9-6
- LSU: 4-4
- Alabama: 3-3
- Florida: 5-9
- If we make a change, odds say that the short-to-long term will go not go well. How many coaching changes have sudden improvement? I can count three major program coaching changes where the old guy who was successful at one point left and the new guy came in had quick, sustained success. LSU with Saban-Miles, FSU with Bowden-Fisher, and Ohio State twice, with Cooper-Tressell-Meyer. I didn’t include Auburn because I said sustained success, and they are not winning it in 2010 without Cam Newton and the cheating it took to get him there. The 2013 season for Auburn was a fluke stood up on miracle plays, and the last two seasons have proved that.
Alabama, the program we all aspire to be, spent ten years from Gene Stallings to Nick Saban wandering the desert. From 1997-2006, Alabama had 4 losing seasons, two 7-5 and one 6-6. It only ended ranked three times in ten years. Alabama’s record in those ten years was 67-55 (54.9%). It went through 4 coaches-five if count Rich Rodriguez canceling-before Mal Moore landed Nick Saban. Oh, and there was the whole NCAA probation issue, too.
USC is a dumpster fire right now. Tennessee is a mess. So is Miami. So is Texas. It took Michigan to get through the aforementioned Rodriguez and Brady Hoke before they got their Michigan Man. After starting 2-4 this season, including losing to Illinois and BYU at home, do you think Nebraska wishes they had Bo Pelini and his 9-4 records?
If you say you want a change, and I am saying that, change does not necessarily mean instant success. It did at Georgia once, when Richt replaced Donnan, and we reasonably can’t expect that to happen again. It doesn’t happen that often. The cupboard isn’t bare here like at other places, but also programs fall in the same funk and it is hard to get out of it. Which leads me to…
- Do we really think Greg McGarity is competent enough to make a good hire? Face it, when was the last great hire UGA has made? Mark Richt. If we want to go from good to great, what have we seen in any other sport that makes us think this administration is capable of doing so? Pat Forde said in his column that the right coach at Georgia could win a National Title. The wrong coach can go 7-5. We just need to be prepared for that (strong) possibility. And be there for each other. And finally…
- Unless things get really, really bad this season, Mark Richt isn’t going anywhere. He just signed a contract extension thru 2019. $4 million per year for the next 4 years is $16 million. Plus about a million bucks a year per coordinator who each have 3 year contracts. That is up to about $20 million. Plus other assistants and we are probably talking a total in the $25 million ballpark. Plus, having to take down all the pictures of him in Butts-Mehre! And let’s say you wanted to buy out a current coach. Plus, give them a $3 million per year salary. For an athletic department that is tighter than a tick with the dollar, and who is going to solicit private funds for half the cost of the IPF, dropping probably $50-60 million on a new coach to replace Mark Richt will be a hard decision for the bean counters to justify.
I read what Paul Westerdawg wrote, and I mostly agree with his sentiments. I started college during the peak of the Richt era. As a close friend told me yesterday, we had our youthful exuberance of football during his regime. My last year in college was 2007. I had a pretty good run.
I was in high school when I really started following UGA football closely. I asked my brother-in-law, who was a big fan, why Georgia would fire Jim Donnan. At the time, I didn’t understand. Georgia was always ranked and won games. He said, “Programs like Georgia can do better than 8-4.”
What Coach Richt has done has made us want more than 10-2. Under Coach Donnan, there were several inexplicable games a year that kept us from being great. Under Coach Richt, there are just one or two.
But if someone asked me why I would want a new regime, I would respond in similar fashion as my brother-in-law did to me 15 years ago with, “Programs like Georgia should be the bride, not always the bridesmaid.”
I want to make another point clear: I could care less about Mark Richt being a Christian. I am one. I am glad he is. But unlike many, that has never been a major point of my support for him. I liked him because he was a winner. Because he went about his business the right way. Because there was consistency. Because every season, as foolish as it was, every season there is HOPE that this could be the year. We have been so close so many times. I want Mark Richt to hold the trophy up and say “I did it!”
But instead of hope that we can win it all, this hope has been replaced by anxiousness. Every time a ball is snapped for a field goal, a punt is fielded, a pass is thrown, we are thinking, “I just hope nothing goes wrong.”
Georgia is better than this. Damnit, Mark Richt is better than this.
We are no longer hoping for success.
We are hoping things don’t go wrong.
Be honest. When Tennessee scored twice in about a minute and half Saturday, did you think we were going to win that game? I didn’t.
Can Mark Richt fix things? Sure he can. He’s done it before. Do I want to be proved wrong? Damn straight. But do I care?
I’m not so sure. But I am tired of seeing what I’ve grown accustomed to seeing. 15 years is a long time. We’ve had some good times. More good times than bad. Some great times.
But not enough great.
I wish, I really do, that the end of the season or in a year or so, this post comes back and bites me in the ass. I would love to be wrong. I’ve been defending this regime, ardently, and been proved wrong more often than being proved right.
15 years, this should be figured out. It needs to be someone else’s turn.
In my last post, I used the Lewis Grizzard quote, “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” After 15 years of looking at a dog’s ass, it is time to take a chance to see if the scenery looks a little different.
Now, I’ll be in my seat Saturday night. I’ll cheer loud like we are going to win the National Title. And don’t misunderstand me. I am not going to take cheap shots at Coach Richt. I am not going to say things like he doesn’t care about winning, or that he is a terrible coach. I am not going to be mean spirited, like Bill Shanks. I am not going to hope we lose; I will continue to passionately and feverishly support this team.
We need hope again. And right now, hope is nowhere to be found.
Something is rotten in the state of the Bulldawg Nation.
I don’t have confidence that Coach Richt can give us hope again.
It is time for someone else to bring that hope back.
…it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry’s contemplation of my travels, in which my often rumination wraps me a most humorous sadness.
As You Like It, Act IV, Scene I