College football, like many things in this world, is a "what have you done for me lately?" business? As a result of this culture change (sorry for the James Franklin reference), horrible to decent to moderately successful coaches find themselves on the chopping block. Among these coaches just a short while ago was Mark Richt, who will go down as one of the top two or three coaches in the history of Georgia football.
I can remember sitting with my buddy scratching our heads and drying our eyes after the Dawgs lost to Central Florida in the 2010 Liberty Bowl wondering how the Georgia Bulldogs, ever so ripe with talent, could have just turned in a 6-7 campaign, Coach Richt's worst (by far) to date. I'd be lying if I denied that we both questioned whether Richt was the right guy for this program and whether the football team had simply plateaued under his leadership.
Doubts regarding Mark Richt's future in Athens spread like wildfire across the Bulldog Nation when our Dawgs started the 2011 season with an unimpressive loss to Boise State (ugh) in the Georgia Dome and followed that up with an inspired but careless 45-42 shootout loss to the hated Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina squad Between the Hedges. Those doubts subsided a bit as the Dawgs finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak but resurfaced after a blowout loss to LSU in the SEC Championship Game and an underwhelming give-away loss to an inept, yet opportunistic, Michigan State team in the Outback Bowl. That one still smarts. Losing to a Big
Twelve Ten is unacceptable.
Despite suspensions to key players, some of which lasted through the fourth game of the season, the Dawgs escaped the first month of 2012 undefeated and calls for Coach Richt's head were slightly muffled. That was until the boys forgot to get off the team bus in Columbia, South Carolina one miserable night in early October. Richt haters used that as proof that the 2011 SEC Championship berth was all smoke in mirrors due to a soft schedule, that Georgia always lost to good teams, etc. Those cries were heard loud and clear throughout the Bulldog Nation until the curb-stomping of hated rival Florida in late October. Not only did Coach Richt's Dawgs beat the #2 team in the country, they won their second straight game in Jacksonville since 1989. Calls were now louder for Larry Muschamp's head in Gainesville than Mark Richt's in Athens.
Not to mention that the Dawgs have also been playing a much more balanced and consistent game since drubbing the lizards in Jacksonville. This style of play just resulted in utter (or udder?) humiliation of Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium, just two years ago a house of horrors for then-redshirt-freshman QB Aaron Murray.
What Coach Richt has done as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs is win and win consistently. In this knee-jerk-reaction world we're living in, stability is a wonderful thing. Just ask Tennessee fans how they feel about firing Phil Fulmer, one of the better coaches in their football program's rich history, because he wasn't "winning the big one anymore." I can assure you there are no Auburn fans sitting around this morning in their snuggies nursing a physical and emotional hangover from that beating their War Tigle Plainsmen received last night saying, "Gosh, that 2010 season sure was magical. I'm so glad Gene Chizik is our head coach. Going 0-8 in the SEC is the bee's knees!"
Phil Fulmer was Tennessee's Mark Richt, albeit a much larger and less classy version. The same could be said for Tommy Tuberville, a less classy and more gangly Coach Richt with very large ears, although some folks are still arguing whether he was fired or forced to resign from his job at Auburn.
My point in reminding you of these two loveable characters is that sometimes we as fans lose sight of what's truly important when we perceive that our coaches can no longer win "the big one." Mark Richt is not only a top-notch football coach, he is a man of impeccable moral character for whom I would be proud to see my son(s) play ball.
The only argument I hear from anti-Richt folks these days is, "He's not as good as Nick Saban." OK, sure. Well, despite the fact that Saban has about ten years on Richt as a head coach in terms of experience, I can't think of too many coaches who are as good as Saban. Yes, St. Nick has had some epic battles with Les Miles and Kevin Sumlin's Aggies showed just yesterday that he can be beaten, but the second you find a coach who can beat Nick Saban year in and year out, let me know. Until then, get behind Coach Richt and the Dawgs or get the heck out of the way. We're headed to Atlanta for the second straight year.
Go Coach Richt Go Dawgs!