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Are the Florida State Seminoles Better Off That Mark Richt is the Head Coach of the Georgia Bulldogs?

Although Senator Blutarsky made short work of this article already, I thought an additional retort was warranted. It is one thing when Stewart Mandel begins yammering on about the probable perceptions of hypothetical Montanans; such pieces obviously are nonsense, so a single retort likely is one more retort than really is required.

The examination of the putative consequences for the Florida State Seminoles of Christian LeMay’s verbal commitment to the Georgia Bulldogs by my colleagues at fellow SB Nation weblog Tomahawk Nation, however, presents a detailed case in analytical fashion, and therefore warrants more than a mere cursory rejoinder. The author of the posting clearly has thought through his position, and he lays out his argument in painstaking fashion. Unfortunately, the facts he follows to his preferred conclusions largely are speculative, misconstrued, or false. Consider, for instance, the following excerpt:

The most important of these is that it affords Mark Richt greater job security. Mark Richt is a good coach, but good is the enemy of great and FSU fans should realize that Richt at Georgia is a very good thing for the 'Noles. Florida State does very well recruiting in South Georgia and routinely beats UGA for players within a 40 mile radius of Valdosta. Richt might talk a big game and could even win a few battles against the 'Noles given his renewed efforts in the region. But consistently beating the state school for highly prized prospects in Georgia is an important part of the 'Noles plan to get back on top. And Richt is much, much better than the alternative. What's the alternative, you ask? Why none other than Kirby Smart of Alabama.

Smart is considered the heir apparent to the UGA job whenever Georgia decides that Richt simply won't do. Granted, the Dawgs seem pretty content winning 8-9 games per season (or to put another way, losing 3+ games a season, which Georgia has averaged more than over the last 4 years), but most consider Richt on the hot seat. Smart is a beloved figure at Georgia after walking on and becoming a team captain. But he's even more beloved in South Georgia where he played high school ball in Bainbridge. Smart is an excellent recruiter and the last thing Florida State needs is for the state school to use Nick Saban's organizational recruiting techniques (that FSU is already using thanks to Jimbo Fisher) in South Georgia. Add to the inherent advantage of being the state school and that Smart is a better recruiter than Richt, that Smart knows the area perhaps better than anyone and would be immediately welcomed into all South Georgia high schools, and it's easy to see why FSU fans want Richt to stay at UGA for as long as possible.

Richt will be starting a promising redshirt-freshman quarterback in Aaron Murray this season. Young, talented quarterbacks buy coaches additional time that they might not otherwise be afforded. Adding Lemay to the mix only buys Richt more time. And who knows, maybe he can take Georgia from good to great (doubtful given his team's complete lack of attention to detail and killer instinct). . . .

Moreover, Smart is ready to be a head coach right now. If Richt stays at Georgia two or three more years, I can't see Smart staying as Alabama's DC waiting for UGA to implode.

First of all, it appears a new meme has taken hold in Tallahassee. Previously, it was claimed that Mark Richt would be FSU-bound as soon as Bobby Bowden retired, but, now that such a possibility (if it ever existed) has been taken off the board, we are told that Kirby Smart is assured of being a better head coach than Mark Richt. Why on earth would fans of a program recently taken over by Jimbo Fisher, after believing for years that Mark Richt was Bobby Bowden’s heir apparent, be so insistent that a former Nick Saban disciple would be better prepared to become a head coach after previously serving only as a coordinator than Mark Richt would be? Football hath no fury like a fan base scorned.

This is not to say that Coach Richt is above criticism; he isn’t, which is why he has received his share of it (and probably then some) in the last couple of years. Moreover, I would be willing to take some of these criticisms from certain fan bases; if an Alabama fan or a Florida fan argued that Mark Richt lacked the killer instinct of a Nick Saban or an Urban Meyer, I would be hard pressed to argue otherwise.

However, I don’t quite see where an ACC fan has any business questioning Coach Richt’s killer instinct. I believe I saw a bit of killer instinct on the sideline when Coach Richt bawled out his players while upsetting the Atlantic Coast Conference champions on the road. Surely there was some sort of killer instinct involved in the compilation of Coach Richt’s 12-1 record against ACC teams, right?

Georgia fans evidently "seem pretty content winning 8-9 games per season (or to put another way, losing 3+ games a season, which Georgia has averaged more than over the last 4 years)." That parenthetical aside is an exquisitely artful way of disingenuously culling inconvenient facts (facts such as the existence of the first five years of Mark Richt’s tenure in the Classic City, for instance), but where is the evidence of this purported contentment? Pick a Dawg Sports posting at random and tell me you think it was written by someone who was content in his Georgia fandom.

In reality, Bulldog fans’ reaction to winning eight games in 2009 was to demand the firing of the defensive coordinator; actually, some Bulldog fans’ reaction to winning ten games in 2008 was to demand the firing of the defensive coordinator. Even if evidence existed to suggest that we were "pretty content" with winning eight or nine games a year, how would anyone know, since the Bulldogs have won at least ten games in six of the last eight seasons? The two exceptions---a nine-win season in 2006 and an eight-win season in 2009---both resulted in Mark Richt making a coordinator change. When we don’t win ten, heads roll; sometimes, when we do win ten, there are calls for heads to roll. Those facts are indicative of contentment in the same sense that "Charlie’s Angels" was a show about law enforcement.

Beyond that, I’m not sure which claim is more preposterous, the latest placement of Mark Richt on the hot seat or the elevation of Kirby Smart to "beloved" status in Bulldog Nation. Had Willie Martinez not been fired last year, another substandard season in 2010 might have put Mark Richt on the hot seat in 2011; the clean sweep of the defensive staff, an earth-shaking shift in Athens that the piece quoted above fails even to acknowledge, put that possibility to rest. Even SEC gadfly Paul Finebaum couldn’t whip up much of a froth over the "Mark Richt is on the hot seat" meme. As for Kirby Smart, he might well be welcomed back to his alma mater with open arms if circumstances required, but, right now, there is little goodwill between the coach and the program that produced him.

Nevertheless, the Florida State faithful feel free to serve up unsupported assertions and ignore uncomfortable realities while offering such howlers as the claims that Georgia is "implod[ing]," Mark Richt’s program displays a "complete lack of attention to detail," and the Bulldogs cannot out-recruit the Seminoles in South Georgia.

What makes these claims so laughable is the pedigree of the attributes being criticized. Mark Richt plucked Florida State’s recruiting coordinator, John Lilly, from Tallahassee to serve on his staff in Athens. As Rob Suggs set forth in painstaking detail, Mark Richt patterned his program on the Seminoles’. However many dips the ‘Dawgs have encountered in recent seasons, they never found themselves looking up at Wake Forest on an annual basis. Coming from FSU fans, these critiques can only provoke a response of, "I know you are, but what am I?" After all, Georgia’s record against Urban Meyer contains one more win than Florida State’s does.

There are more than a few hints of envy and desperation in Tomahawk Nation’s attempt to show why it helps the Seminoles to have the Bulldogs land a high-caliber recruit who will assist Georgia in its efforts to recruit other elite players. In truth, the FSU faithful are whistling past the graveyard. Anyone who doubts that needs to consider this:

Team 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
Florida State 10-2 11-2 11-1 12-1 10-1-1 10-2 11-1 11-1 11-2 12-0 11-2
Georgia 4-7 9-3 10-2 5-6 6-4-1 6-6 5-6 10-2 9-3 8-4 8-4

Team 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Florida State 8-4 9-5 10-3 9-3 8-5 7-6 7-6 9-4 7-6
Georgia 8-4 13-1 11-3 10-2 10-3 9-4 11-2 10-3 8-5

The first chart compares the Bulldogs to the Seminoles during the eleven seasons in which Mark Richt was a Florida State assistant coach. The second chart compares the Bulldogs to the Seminoles during the nine seasons in which Mark Richt has been the Georgia head coach. If FSU fans think they’re better off having Mark Richt in Athens, they need to quit giving money to the athletics program and start giving money to the math department, because that’s the area of the Tallahassee campus most obviously in need of an upgrade.

Go ‘Dawgs!