Where Mark Richt is concerned, the retort to any who dare question why the Georgia Bulldogs keep him around—while other coaches come into the SEC and win championships—has always been, if not him, then who?
First, let me clarify that I’m a Richt supporter. I’ve supported him at 12-1 as well as at 6-7; and while it was certainly harder to do when the record was the latter than when it was the former, I still did…and I do now.
Second, on that same line, let me say that the very reason I lend this support—aside from the fact that he is the guy the program I love and pledge my undying allegiance to has chosen for the job—is because I still haven’t seen a better option.
Rivals college football analyst Mike Farrell sums this thought process up very well in the statement below:
“I think Richt is a great fit at Georgia,” Farrell said. “Sometimes the discussion has to be had about whether the next guy would actually be better than the current guy and I don’t know who is out there that could be better for Georgia. [emphasis added]
“The program recruits so well that it always seems like they are underperforming and that almost always goes on the head coach, but the expectations there are national championship or perceived failure. He has won the conference title, he has been in the SEC title game and BCS games and now the next step is all that is left and that corner just hasn’t been turned.”
Being a passionate SEC fan is tough because, whether you want to admit it or not, you’re always looking at the SEC school that’s doing better than yours, and wondering why yours isn’t doing the same.
As a Georgia fan, you don’t want Florida, South Carolina, or Tennessee to do well because that likely means Georgia isn’t. And, if there is a tiebreaker to be had, you want it to be one that doesn’t make Georgia the odd team out. And if there has to be a road block for Alabama getting into the BCS Championship again this season, you sure as hell didn’t intend to see it going through Missouri!
My support for Richt is nothing new, but as the proverbial hot seat chatter ramps up yet again—funny how that wasn’t even part of the conversation after Georgia beat LSU—I thought it important to inject a little perspective into the discussion or, rather, I felt it best that I at least let my stance be known, just in case anyone might take it upon themselves to wonder.
For the record, I am not saying changes aren’t needed; clearly something has to be done about the defense’s propensity towards under-achieving, despite the talent level, and someone may need to have a talk with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo on how to better roll with the punches where play calling is concerned (craft a playbook that works just as well without the marquis guys as it does when said guys can play; I’m not saying the results will be the same, but at least you don’t end up making your All-American QB look like a lost puppy on the football field), but those things can be fixed and you have to figure if there is one guy who wants them fixed, it’s Richt.
I understand the frustration from the fan base. Trust me when I tell you I’m still seething over the Mizzou loss, wanted heads to roll after Vanderbilt, and have found myself questioning if this team, as currently configured, has enough to beat Auburn or Florida. But…and it’s a “but” I have to mention, that’s the irrational, loose cannon, wildly passionate, Knob Creek on a Saturday night fan in me talking.
The rational, cooler headed, “Lady Sportswriter” in me asks more pointed questions: Would we have won those games if there weren’t so many injuries? Is the success, or lack thereof, of this defense really about the youth or could it be about the scheme? Are we recruiting better depth at the positions we’ve seen the hardest hit so that the drop-off doesn’t continue to be so substantial in the future?
No matter what you think of Richt, the bottom-line is he’ll likely retire before he’s fired. He may not be hoisting a crystal football at the end of this season, but I’d be damned if he isn’t keeping Georgia in the conversation for one nearly every season he’s at the helm. And, aside from Les Miles and Nick Saban, name me another SEC coach who has been able to do that as consistently as he has over the last decade plus?
Does saying as much make me sound like just another Mark Richt apologist? Perhaps. But, in my opinion…I’m just being honest.