Mark Richt is almost certainly not on any kind of real hot seat at Georgia, and doesn't deserve to be: Since 2000, he's ended the Bulldogs' 20-year SEC championship drought in 2002, added another conference title in 2005, led a struggling team out of a midseason slump to a No. 2 finish in the final polls in 2007 and won at least 10 games six times. The Bulldogs finished in the top 10 four years in a row from 2002-2005, the longest streak of the decade in the SEC and matching the Herschel Walker years from 1980-83 as the best run in school history. He's well on his way to becoming the most successful coach Georgia's ever had, and is already the longest-tenured boss in a trigger-happy league. . . .
The rational, skeptical half of my brain (the half I tend to trust) dismisses the Fulmer/Tuberville template as a timely but outlying coincidence, and negative recruiting as simply "in the game" – lord knows what the same coaches allegedly undercutting Richt were telling recruits about Urban Meyer's uncertain future at Florida. (And lord knows it didn't work.) At the same time, the credulous, pattern-seeking, "where there's smoke there's fire" half of my brain is thinking the perpetual hot seat is just "in the game" now, too, in a conference whose financial and emotional stockholders demand consistent returns from multimillion-dollar CEO coaches on their increasing investments in tickets, lavish facilities and outsized television contracts. With great salaries come great expectations, etc.
Richt is widely perceived as the most decent guy in the business, like Fulmer, a far cry from the burgeoning mercenary model that's paid such dividends for Florida and Alabama. If the defensive overhaul under new DC Todd Grantham doesn't take, or if new quarterback Aaron Murray struggles as a redshirt freshman, this could be the year we find out if nice guys can still afford back-to-back five-loss seasons at places with a bottom line like Georgia's.
Richt said he has done his best to soak in some new ideas that Grantham and fellow first-year assistants Scott Lakatos and Warren Belin have brought to the table, too.
"It’s a healthy exchange of ideas," Richt said. "A lot of times you spend a lot of money to fly around to different schools to get details of what’s going on, but how much can you get in a one- or two-day period compared to a guy just being there, living there."
Richt has already decided to implement two suggestions of his new staff.
First, he’ll be going back to a Monday through Thursday practice schedule, with walk-throughs on Fridays. Last season he had the team practice on Sunday and gave the players Monday off, but he’s since reconsidered the plan in light of some input from his new assistants.
Grantham also suggested revamping the daily meeting schedules, so rather than open with special teams work, Richt will address the entire team first, then break off into special teams and segment meetings. Richt said it’s a schedule used in the NFL and makes organizing meetings much simpler.