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What Urban Meyer's Retirement as the Florida Gators' Head Coach Means for Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs

You’ll have to pardon me if I’m a little bit gun shy here; I bid a respectful farewell to Urban Meyer last December, after all, and he made me regret that show of decency . . . repeatedly. This time around, therefore, I come to bury Coach Meyer (metaphorically, of course), not to praise him.

In case you’ve been under a rock since around 2:30 this afternoon, Urban Meyer has resigned as the head coach of the Florida Gators. Yes, again, although it sounds a lot more real this time. Last year, Coach Meyer made his decision in the midst of a health scare, which can cause anyone to react erratically; this year, he seems to have realized the toll coaching has taken on him and responded appropriately after careful consideration. Going 7-5 will do that to a guy.

Jeremy Foley spoke of Urban Meyer as a guy who wanted to spend more time with the family that he loved. I could be crass and roll my eyes at such a statement after the infamous reversal following the "I got my daddy back!" exclamation of a year ago, but, if, after putting football ahead of faith, family, and health last December, Urban Meyer has re-ordered his priorities this Christmas, I say good for him, and better late than never.

This all could have ended very, very badly. After being taken to the hospital at the end of a pressure-packed 2009 season, Urban Meyer quit abruptly before reversing course just as quickly, and that decision ultimately could have sent his health into a downward spiral that concluded in a tragic denouement. Fortunately, if belatedly, he saw the light before allowing that to happen, and all we can do is wish Urban Meyer well. 2010 was his worst season as a head coach, but it did little to diminish the extraordinarily successful career preceding that disappointing, but not more than merely disappointing, ending.

Now it is time to look to the future.

I agree with Year2 that Dan Mullen will succeed Urban Meyer in Gainesville and Gus Malzahn will succeed Dan Mullen in Starkville. While Kirby Smart could prove to be the wild card that reshuffles the deck in that scenario, I strongly suspect that Jeremy Foley will be making a trip to Jacksonville to entice Coach Mullen back into the Florida fold while Coach Meyer’s former offensive coordinator is in town for the perhaps presciently named Gator Bowl.

There is no denying Coach Mullen’s credentials---I believe he should have been named the SEC Coach of the Year, given what he did with what he had---but it is hard to believe that anyone could be more successful than Coach Meyer was. Granted, it was hard to believe when Urban Meyer was hired at Florida that anyone could be more successful there than Steve Spurrier had been, but the recent resurgence of the Florida State program makes this a tough time for the Sunshine State Saurians to be in transition. The Gators could take a step back, however slight; given the fact that six of the last nine series meetings in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party have been decided by margins of seven or fewer points, a slight step back by Florida may be all the steps back we need.

If all goes according to Year2’s sensible prediction, that will send the SEC’s hottest coaching commodity, 2010 Broyles Award winner Gus Malzahn, to Mississippi State. If, as many suspect, Coach Malzahn is the true power behind Gene Chizik’s throne, the most exceptional autumn in Auburn history could be followed by the winter of the Tigers’ discontent, as Cameron Newton goes pro, the architect of the Plainsmen’s impressive offensive attack bolts for cowbell country, and the NCAA investigation continues. One small step back for Florida could be one giant leap to the rear for Auburn.

In short, it is too early yet to know for sure, but there is the distinct possibility that two of Georgia’s three biggest rivals are about to get worse . . . and Mark Richt is 9-1 all-time against the third. Skeptics have asked, somewhat sensibly, how the Bulldogs will be better in 2011. To that reasonable inquiry, I now respond simply: we don’t have to be better, as long as everybody else is worse.

We send our best wishes to the Meyers, congratulating Urban Meyer on a stellar career and hoping this Christmas season brings joy to his family and him as they begin this new chapter of their lives together. As we bid Urban Meyer farewell, though, we in Bulldog Nation should look ahead to a future that now appears just a tiny bit brighter . . . and we should appreciate the fact that it may not be entirely coincidental, after all, that Santa Claus wears red and black.

Go ‘Dawgs!