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Paul Finebaum Hits Mark Richt With His Purse, But Doesn't Put His Weight Behind It

Permit me to begin by emphasizing that I have nothing against Paul Finebaum personally. I’ve never met the man, nor have I ever listened to his radio show. Yes, he was responsible for getting me bumped from a radio interview last week, but I made it onto the air the following day, so no harm, no foul.

In light of some of the outrageous things Finebaum has written in recent weeks---one of which led him to explain that he didn’t say Urban Meyer was a serial killer, but instead said only that he was like a serial killer---I anxiously awaited the column teased by the Mobile Press-Register on Monday. It promised that Finebaum would tell us "how fans are beginning to grow restless in Bulldogs country."

I steeled myself for the sort of over-the-top invective only Finebaum can produce. What comparisons would he draw? Would he liken Mark Richt to Ted Bundy or Caligula or Nathan Bedford Forrest? I waited with bated breath, but what I got was . . . this.

After revisiting each of the Bulldogs’ three losses last season, Finebaum concluded his second paragraph with what surely would serve as his launching pad for the inevitable excoriation, declaring: "The damage was done and fans have been grumbling ever since."

Finebaum then dived headfirst into ripping Mark Richt to shreds, saying of the aforementioned grumbling:

The sound has not been thundering or unremitting, but it has been enough to make some key followers of the program wonder if a small problem couldn't lead to a bigger one down the road for Richt, whose name has never been synonymous with hotseat.

What?!?! All right, so there’s been some "grumbling" . . . but it hasn’t "been thundering," nor has it been "unremitting"? Well, in any case, there’s been some grumbling, just of the quiet and occasional sort. Anyway, the grumbling has been sufficient to . . . hold on, what was that again?

The sound has not been thundering or unremitting, but it has been enough to make some key followers of the program wonder if a small problem couldn't lead to a bigger one down the road for Richt, whose name has never been synonymous with hotseat.

See there? We have a problem. Admittedly, Finebaum acknowledges that it’s "a small problem," but it’s making people question and doubt and declare that . . . actually, it’s just making people "wonder" whether it "couldn’t lead to" another problem.

Soon, perhaps? Well, no, "down the road." Does this leave Coach Richt imperiled? Well, no, his "name has never been synonymous with hotseat." If that passage had been any more equivocating, noncommittal, and watered down with caveats and qualifications, we college football fans would have needed Slate’s William Saletan to declare it the Finebaumism of the Day.

What followed was a halfhearted and superficial paint-by-numbers rundown of the challenges facing the Georgia program. The Bulldogs sometimes have discipline issues . . . although Mark Richt deals with these effectively and this offseason has featured notably few off-field incidents. The Bulldogs have trouble beating Florida . . . as do other top-tier SEC programs. The Bulldogs face many challengers on a daunting schedule . . . as historically has been the case. The Bulldogs must compete with many high-profile programs in recruiting . . . an arena in which they are doing just fine.

Lest we be left to wonder whether Paul Finebaum went on vacation for a few days and left his kindly grandmother to pen this halfhearted effort, the fire-breathing pot-stirrer threw in this peroration:

And if you don't think Georgia fans can fall completely out of love with Richt, Tommy Tuberville and Phillip Fulmer have plenty of time on their hands right now to tell you how it's done.

Of course, falling out of love with your coach requires first that you at one point fell in love with him, and, while Phillip Fulmer and Tommy Tuberville certainly were respected at their respective institutions, neither ever was the object of as much affection as Mark Richt. Indeed, many of us on the outside looking in commented on the apparent lack of affection many Tennessee fans had for Coach Fulmer and many Auburn fans had for Coach Tuberville, in light of their resumes of achievement.

Bill King deftly dealt with Finebaum’s last lame attempt at animadversion when he wrote:

I realize that in the state where Finebaum works the fan bases tend to have a love/hate relationship with their coaches; they either elevate them to sainthood or start sending projectiles through their windows at the first sign of trouble.

But the idea that Georgia would even consider getting rid of a 10-win-a-year coach because he hasn’t won a national championship is patently absurd.

Even if the wheels came off this year and Georgia won, say, less than eight games, Richt would not be anywhere near the so-called hot seat. . . .

Richt teetering on the hot seat? That’s about as likely as Tim Tebow breaking a sweat in the Charleston Southern game.

Precisely. Frankly, I’m disappointed in Finebaum, who made a name for himself by being the inflammatory agent provocateur of the SEC. I was looking forward to firing back in response to a snotty and irresponsible takedown. What I got instead was a second-rate attempt to offer guarded criticisms. I expected Finebaum to deliver a chop block, not an arm tackle.

Clearly, Paul Finebaum’s heart wasn’t in taking Mark Richt to task. Could it be that we actually have a head coach who is good enough at his job and decent enough as a human being that even the nastiest mad dog in the Southeast won’t bite this man?

Go ‘Dawgs!