ATLANTA – Following back-to-back losses to Alabama and Tennessee, Georgia head coach Mark Richt is in a familiar place: trying to tune out the growing number of critics calling for his firing. It’s true, Georgia should have put out a more respectable showing against the Tide. It’s also true the Dawgs should have beaten the Volunteers, keeping alive their national title hopes. But those making Richt – and Richt alone – the scapegoat are missing the larger point. Here are five reasons why Mark Richt is the best possible coach for the University of Georgia.
1. Coaches Don’t Make Plays
Never was this more evident than Saturday at Neyland Stadium. Did Mark Richt fumble that kickoff late in the second quarter? No, that would be Sony Michel. Did Mark Richt drop a wide open, perfectly-placed touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter? Nope, Reggie Davis. If Richt could be out there making those plays, he would. The NCAA, however, is a stickler on eligibility and Richt ran out of that a long time ago.
2. Big-Time Recruits Are On The Way
One of the knocks on Richt is that, yes, he can recruit, but he doesn’t win with those recruits. Do you take a chance on a better X’s and O’s coach, who can’t bring in as much talent? That’s not really a winning formula in the NFL farm system that is the Southeastern Conference.
Ole Miss is winning because Hugh Freeze started bringing in five-star athletes. Vanderbilt was respectable for a time because James Franklin was able to sign players the school previously hadn’t even touched. Auburn currently has one of the best offensive minds (Gus Malzahn) and one of the best defensive minds (Will Muschamp) in the country running their program. They’re winless in the SEC because the players aren’t performing.
Add to that, the fact that if Mark Richt were fired, highly touted recruits like Jacob Eason and Ben Cleveland would more than likely re-open their recruitment and head elsewhere.
3. Things Really Aren’t That Bad
The segment of UGA fans who want Richt gone act as if they think this program has hit rock bottom. It hasn’t.
The wounds are still fresh from last year’s 30-24 overtime loss to Georgia Tech – the Dawgs’ first loss to their in-state rivals since 2008. “How could we lose to them!? They’re so bad!” Turns out the Dawgs lost to what would become a consensus top-ten football team who manhandled a Mississippi State team that spent half the year ranked number one in the country. There have been worse losses.
They also cite last year’s Belk Bowl appearance, where Georgia dominated a nationally ranked Louisville team 37-14. “It’s the Belk Bowl! That’s so far beneath the dignity of this program!” Yes, but the Dawgs were only in the Belk Bowl (traditionally beneath the dignity of the program) because of a re-shuffling of the bowl system. They were in that particular bowl because they had never played in that particular bowl. The powers that be in college football want different destinations for schools and unique match-ups in the bowl games; hence the showdown in Charlotte with former DC Todd Grantham.
As far as the state of the program, take a look at where Tennessee was when Phil Fulmer was forced out. Or the mediocrity that forced Florida State’s Bobby Bowden into an early retirement. Or the complete disarray at Texas that pushed out Mack Brown. Georgia ain’t there…and it’s not even close.
4. Who’s Your Next Head Coach?
We have fun at 92-9 the Game listening to and interacting with the “sky is falling” crowd after a Georgia loss. So I kicked back Saturday night and listened as Georgia fans tossed out their list of coaches who should roam the sidelines in Athens:
– Jon Gruden
– Tony Dungy
– Chip Kelly
I kid you not. And that’s just the first three names that were thrown out. I’m not sure which is the most laughable, but none of those is going to happen. In a million years.
Georgia is a great job and they could certainly land a good young head coach or hot coordinator to take over should a coaching change happen. Not everyone can win ten games a year and compete for SEC titles, though, in a pressure cooker environment like the one in Athens. Georgia currently has a coach who can do both.
5. Mark Richt Is A Rare Commodity
NCAA investigations are the norm at most major programs. At Georgia, not so much.
Yes, A.J. Green screwed up and lost part of his 2010 season. And yes, Todd Gurley screwed up and lost part of 2014. Those isolated incidents really had nothing to do with Mark Richt or his staff.
As far as we know, Richt’s players go to class – actual classes, not like the stuff at UNC – and they make the grades. When they don’t make the grades, Coach Richt does not unduly influence, pressure or otherwise bully professors – see Rutgers – into giving better grades.
If we’re honest, there’s a part of the population who resent Richt because he’s a Christian and he’s brought many of his players over the years to Christ. That’s the reality in America today – spreading the gospel is a terrible thing and how dare he? He’s not going to stop, and that’s no reason to fire him.
Unless the recruits stop coming, the wins stop coming, or the program falls into scandal Mark Richt is your coach, Georgia Bulldog fans. Nothing’s going to change that and you might as well enjoy what still could be an SEC championship season.