Would Gary Patterson Make a Better Head Coach for the Georgia Bulldogs Than Mark Richt?

I am sick and tired of hearing people say "Well I mean who would we get to replace Richt"

When I hear those words I immediately dismiss the speaker as someone that the State should have euthanized at birth not only for population control but also in an effort to de-muddy the gene pool. I have selected Gary Patterson as the answer to that non-sense statement. He is far superior to Mark Richt in all phases and measurable that one would apply to a Head Football Coach

CCRider (June 15, 2011)

I wish I could claim that I read every Georgia Bulldogs weblog on a daily basis, but there are only so many hours in the day, which is why I was glad that Mr. Sanchez posted a link to a piece he had written at his weblog, Sports & Grits. For one thing, I thought Mr. Sanchez made a valid point. For another, it led me to the above-quoted posting by one of his co-authors.

Naturally, I take issue with CCRider’s assessment, both of my fitness, vel non, for inclusion in the gene pool and of Gary Patterson’s availability to succeed Mark Richt should we need a new head football coach (which, at the moment, we do not). However, I acknowledge that these are matters about which reasonable Red and Black fans can and do differ, so I am content to have us agree to disagree upon those topics.

What is not the subject of reasonable disagreement, however, is the claim that Gary Patterson "is far superior to Mark Richt" using the "measurable" criteria by which one fairly might judge a head football coach. Those measurable criteria are these:

Gary Patterson was born on February 13, 1960, in what was then Big Eight country. His coaching career began in the 1980s and included nine years as a college defensive coordinator (Cal Lutheran, 1987; Sonoma State, 1989-1991; New Mexico, 1996-1998; TCU, 1998-2000) before he began his first full season as the head coach of the TCU Horned Frogs in 2001. During his ten years on the job in Fort Worth, Coach Patterson has led Texas Christian to a 98-28 record that includes a 6-4 mark in bowls and a 61-18 ledger in conference play. Coach Patterson’s Horned Frog teams have posted double-digit wins seven times, have lost more than four games on three occasions, and have ended the season below .500 once. Since 2001, TCU has claimed four conference crowns (one in Conference USA and three in the Mountain West Conference), and Coach Patterson has been named conference coach of the year three times (once in C-USA and twice in the MWC). In his ten full seasons as the Horned Frogs’ head coach, Coach Patterson has guided TCU to seven top 25 rankings in the final AP postseason poll, including three in the top ten and one in the top five.

There is no denying that this is all very impressive, which is why Coach Patterson would be my second choice to succeed Coach Richt if, at the end of the 2011 season, the Bulldogs found themselves in the market for a new head coach. However, before we anoint Coach Patterson as "far superior to" Coach Richt, let’s give our current head coach his due. Measured by the same standards, here is how he fares in comparison:

Mark Richt was born on February 18, 1960, in what was then Big Eight country. His coaching career began in the 1980s and included eight years as a college offensive coordinator (East Carolina, 1989; Florida State, 1994-2000) before he began his first season as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs in 2001. During his ten years on the job in Athens, Coach Richt has led the Red and Black to a 96-34 record that includes a 7-3 mark in bowls and a 53-27 ledger in conference play. Coach Richt’s Bulldog teams have posted double-digit wins six times, have lost more than four games on two occasions, and have ended the season below .500 once. Since 2001, Georgia has finished first in the division four times and claimed a pair of conference crowns, and Coach Richt has been named the conference coach of the year twice (all in the Southeastern Conference). In his ten seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach, Coach Richt has guided Georgia to eight top 25 rankings in the final AP postseason poll, including five in the top ten and two in the top five.

In short, Gary Patterson and Mark Richt are two guys of identical ages with similar backgrounds who have attained comparable levels of achievement in their shared profession. Coach Patterson is marginally ahead of Coach Richt by some measurements, and Coach Richt is marginally ahead of Coach Patterson by some others, but the tale of the tape is remarkably equal.

Is it possible for a reasonable college football fan to prefer Coach Patterson to Coach Richt? Of course it is. Is there a legitimate argument to be made for the proposition that Coach Patterson’s career is waxing while Coach Richt’s is waning? Without a doubt . . . though the point might also be made fairly that what one man did in Conference USA and the Mountain West, the other man did in the Southeastern Conference, which is not exactly a distinction without a difference.

The idea that Gary Patterson "is far superior to Mark Richt in all phases and measurable that one would apply to a Head Football Coach," though? Clearly and undeniably, that is sheer abject nonsense. Far from suggesting that Coach Patterson is far superior to Coach Richt, the measurable criteria suggest strongly and unmistakably that Coach Patterson and Coach Richt are strikingly similar. The numbers might diverge between 2010 and 2011, as they admittedly did between 2009 and 2010, but, for now, it’s hard to find much more than a dime’s worth of difference between them on paper, which perhaps suggests that, if Gary Patterson is a quality football coach (and no one denies that he is), then maybe, just maybe, Mark Richt might be one, too.

If not, well, measurable criteria may not be the best way to argue otherwise, and, if we’re going to go with more amorphous intangibles, the latest data we have include a top-rated recruiting class, a stretch without a player arrest dating back nine months to October 11, a staff shakeup in the strength and conditioning program, and unimpeachable personal character in Coach Richt’s column.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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