The offseason is a vast void stretching from a week after New Year's Day to the Thursday before Labor Day, which must be filled through such largely ephemeral exercises as ranking the S.E.C. coaches.
All of them rank Nick Saban and Nancy Meyer ahead of Mark Richt.
I take nothing away from Coaches Meyer and Saban, but I have a hard time seeing the rationale behind putting either of them ahead of Coach Richt.
Ah, yes, Coach Richt has not yet---emphasis on the yet---won a national title, whereas the other two have. Were those coaches' national championship campaigns better than Coach Richt's best season, though? I don't think so.
In 2006, Coach Meyer's Florida Gators went 13-1, captured the S.E.C. championship, and won a B.C.S. bowl game over a major conference champion.
In 2003, Coach Saban's Louisiana State Tigers went 13-1, captured the S.E.C. championship, and won a B.C.S. bowl game over a major conference runner-up.
In 2002, Coach Richt's Georgia Bulldogs went 13-1, captured the S.E.C. championship, and won a B.C.S. bowl game over a major conference champion.
In 2006, the Gators' only loss was by 10 points. In 2003, the Bayou Bengals' only loss was by 12 points. In 2002, the Bulldogs' only loss was by seven points.
In 2006, the Gators won the S.E.C. championship game by 10 points. In 2003, the Bayou Bengals won the S.E.C. championship game by 21 points. In 2002, the 'Dawgs won the S.E.C. championship game by 27 points.
There are, of course, distinctions to be drawn between those three teams---for instance, the Ohio State team Florida faced in Glendale was significantly stronger than the Florida State team Georgia faced in New Orleans---and I in no way dispute the legitimacy of Florida's and L.S.U.'s claims to the national championship.
However, the primary difference between the '02 'Dawgs and the S.E.C. squads that subsequently won national championships is the luck of the draw. The Red and Black went 13-1 in an autumn in which two B.C.S. conference teams went into the bowl games with undefeated records. Had the Bulldogs' 13-1 S.E.C. championship campaign come in 2003 or in 2006, Coach Richt would have a national title; had the Tigers' or the Gators' similar seasons come instead in 2002, neither Coach Meyer nor Coach Saban would have hoisted the crystal football.
Once again, that is not to deny the legitimacy of Florida's achievement this year or L.S.U.'s achievement in 2003, nor is it to suggest that Georgia somehow was robbed of a chance to play for the national championship in 2002. It is merely to illustrate that, however different the spoils of victory may have been, Coach Richt's best season was the equal of Coach Saban's and Coach Meyer's respective best seasons.
Coach Richt has twice as many S.E.C. championships and thrice as many S.E.C. championship game appearances as Coach Meyer. Coach Richt has the same number of S.E.C. championships and twice as many 10-win seasons as Coach Saban. While arguments certainly may be mounted in favor of Coach Meyer and Coach Saban, the case for Coach Richt is equally strong and anyone who argues otherwise is selling something.