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Mark Richt's Best Team?

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A bit of auditory flame bait gets the desired reaction, then causes sincere reflection on Mark Richt's tenure at UGA.

Scott Cunningham

So this morning, I found myself listening to a rather crummy sports talk radio station out of Atlanta (which will remain nameless but which I am sure you all can guess).  I'm frequently left with little choice but to tune in to this particular station because its just about the only one I can pick up from my underground bunker in Jackson County.

Today, the following question was raised: Is the 2014 team Mark Richt's best?

Now , I wasn't able to hear the responses to said question because unlike the gentlemen asking it, I have a real job and I had to go to work. And who knows, maybe they went on to have an enlightening discussion about the merits of the 2014 squad and how they'll go on to win the National Championship this year. However, given the history of this station and their modus operandi, it is much more likely that this question was raised sarcastically or to raise the ire of the Georgia Bulldogs fanbase. Perhaps to get one or two folks on the air hooting and hollering and generally make UGA look stupid. Maybe the goal is to prop this up as Richt's "best team ever" as a means to point out how much Mark Richt is underachieving (which is, of course, their favorite talking point).

And I'll admit that it initially had the desired effect on me.  I audibly proclaimed "Hell no!" to no one but myself and got all worked up about it for about 30 seconds.

But none of that really makes much difference because as ridiculous as that question was to begin with, once I calmed down and realized I was falling prey to the flame bait I genuinely had to ask myself:

Which team was Mark Richt's best?

First off, I don't think there is any way you could possibly make a legitimate argument that this year's squad has any hope of sniffing the top of that list.  That isn't to say this team may not have success... they could even run the table (college football being the unpredictable and fickle mistress that she is).  There are some really high quality skill players and I'm liking our front 7 a good bit, but there are way too many holes in the secondary to compare with some of Georgia's other defenses and, with all due respect to Hutson Mason, we don't have a typical Mark Richt QB under center.

Its tempting to say that the teams of 2012, 2007, and 2002 were his best based simply on the fact that they were at least in the National Championship conversation late into the season. Frankly, you'll never convince me the 2007 team didn't deserve a title shot after all the lobbying and absolute media nonsense that went into shuffling the entire Top 5 around at the very end of the season. If you'll recall this is the year Kirk Herbstreit said Georgia shouldn't go because they didn't win their conference after lobbying for Ohio State to play Michigan for the title the year before.  That doesn't have anything to do with this really other than I just like reminding people that that's how Herbstreit rolls.

Anyway, the 2012 team had some pretty apparent flaws masked by a beast named Jarvis Jones and the 2007 squad came on strong late in the year (like so many Mark Richt teams seem to do) but I don't know that I would call them the "best." And we'll get back to 2002 in a minute.

Some might point purely to talent on a given team, but we've had pretty stellar talent during the Richt era.  That isn't to say there haven't been years when there was a talent deficiency at a particular spot (2013/2014 secondary and Offensive Line most years come to mind), but when you think of, say, Richt's Top 5 teams, I don't know that you can really distinguish that much between the overall talent level.

If you take everything into account to try to come up with an overall "best" Mark Richt team, for me it has to be the 2002 squad.  You start off with the players: David Greene (who was more than competent and clutch if not spectacular). Musa Smith may not be Knowshon or Gurley but he rushed for over 1300 yds. Terrence Edwards put up over a thousand yards receiving and Fred Gibson had almost 800.  And the defense... my God the defense! David Pollack, Thomas Davis, Tim Jennings, Bruce Thornton, Robert Geathers.  Greg Blue was playing off the bench for pete's sake! And they had 16 interceptions!  UGA ranked 4th in the nation in Points Allowed per game... wouldn't that be nice to return to???  The team played strong from the beginning of the season to the end (except for that stupid loss the %#*&$@! Gators).  They beat 5 Top 25 ranked teams.  Almost any other year of the BCS era, they would have played for the National Championship.

I can't think of any other year that I felt more confident about winning week in and week out.  To me, that's the definition of the "best" team of a coach's tenure.

But what do you think? I'm interested to see which of Coach Richt's teams everyone thinks is the best. There are probably 3 or 4 that you could make a convincing argument for.  And what should the criteria for "best" be? Is it wins and losses? NFL-caliber talent? How much fun they are to watch?

Sound off in the comments...