Well, like most Georgia fans, I woke up yesterday morning from what I thought was a nightmare, and then quickly realized it was reality. We lost to Tennessee. I’d like to think that I speak for all Georgia fans when I say "I’m pissed off." We didn’t just lose some game, we lost to Butch Jones and a mediocre Tennessee team (which has become the joke of the SEC this season). And to top it all off we blew a 21 point lead. Most elite programs (Alabama, LSU, etc.) would be devastated by back-to-back loss’s like this, but not us Georgia fans. No, we aren’t surprised at all. Yet another team, with lofty preseason expectations, not living up to hype. Yea, we’ve seen this script many times before. Now, Mark Richt is a really nice guy and is the ideal ambassador and representative for this University off the field. (For the record, I do really like Mark Richt as a person and think that he is a great guy.) But, what most people tend to forget is that his job is to win football games and more importantly championships, not to be the patron saint of Georgia. And to be blunt, he hasn’t been doing his job very well for a while now. In the real world, if you don’t perform and fail to meet the expectations of your employer, you usually get fired (no matter how nice of a guy you are). Now, I don’t like/enjoy calling for people’s jobs and try to resist the urge as much as possible, but after you get blown out by Alabama at home (again), lose to ****ing Tennessee, and appear to be heading towards a 10th straight season without a championship, heads need to be turned and more importantly moves need to be made. So, Ladies and gentlemen, after 15 seasons as the head coach at The University of Georgia, and ZERO national championships, it’s finally time to fire Mark Richt.
For the record, Mark Richt was exceptional his first 6 seasons at UGA. He took us to 2 BCS bowls, won two SEC championships, had 10+ wins in 4 seasons, recruited well, etc. I could reel off stats and facts for hours that would prove he was one of the best coaches in football. But, Richt made a major change going into the 2007 season, which looking back was the start of his downfall. After experimenting with it in the 2006 Chick-fil-A bowl, He decided to take a step back and turn over the play-calling and offensive coordinator duties to Mike Bobo, which was a huge turning point in the program.
Before I move on, I’d like to address the 2007 football season separately. I’d argue this season as an anomaly because it was the very first year that Mike Bobo was calling plays, and I cant help but believe that Richt was still heavily involved in the play-calling and the offensive scheme. Most people would argue that it takes at least a FULL season, sometimes longer, for a coaching change to really take effect. A great example of this would be Nick Saban going 6-7 his first year at Alabama and then turning in around and going 12-2 and making the Sugar bowl in his next season. So, because of this 2007 being categorized as an outlier, I am going to put it in a class of its own and count it towards Mark Richt’s superb record and accomplishments during the first half of his tenure at UGA.
Since that 2007 season Mark Richt has been down right abysmal and mediocre at best considering the resources he has available at UGA. Since 2007, we are 68-31, which amounts to a .687 winning percentage. That basically means that his teams have averaged about a 9-4 record every season, which is pretty good if your Maryland or Iowa. Over that same time span, he is now 14-22 against top 25 ranked teams (compared to a 24-13 record before 2008), with an average margin of defeat of about 13 points in those games. Even more frustrating is his 4-13 record against top 10 teams, with an average margin of defeat of 17 points in those games. Georgia has also lost to an unranked opponent 9 times since 2007, and has lost at least one game by over 15 points each of these seasons. To make matters even worse, of the 31 games that Richt has lost, Georgia was favored in 21 of them. The numbers don’t lie people. Based solely off of his performance over the past 8 seasons, I honestly don’t even think Vanderbilt would hire him.
So what has gone wrong over the past eight seasons? How has Mark Richt become so medicore? To start, Richt has made some questionable personnel decisions over the years. Promoting Willie Martinez to DC after Van Gorder’s departure was a mistake, Todd Grantham turned into a disaster, and Mike Bobo’s tenure as Offensive coordinator was controversial to say the least. Coordinators are extremely important in college football, and UGA has definitely been lacking in that department over the years.
Richt’s coaching style has changed as well. When he was the offensive coordinator at Florida State and a young buck at Georgia from 2001-2007, he was aggressive, creative and fearless. But, over the years Richt has become much more conservative. He definitely appears to coach by the "play not too lose" instead of the "play to win" philosophy in close games. As a result, crucial coaching decisions have cost Georgia numerous games over the years including: Georgia Tech (squib kick decision) and South Carolina (throw instead of handing off to Gurley) in 2014, Nebraska, Vanderbilt, and Clemson in 2013, the Alabama game in 2012 (spike the ball!!), the list goes on and on. Most people would argue that he just caught a bunch of unlucky breaks, but football can sometimes be a game decided by a few major decisions and for some reason it appears as if Richt more often than not seems to make the wrong one. Those decisions are the difference between a National championship team and a 3 loss capital on bowl team. The should, woulda, coulda game that UGA fans know all to well is a direct result of these questionable decisions.
It’s not just Richt’s coaching decisions that cost Georgia games though, It’s his demeanor and personality as well. This is going to sound crazy to some, but I honestly believe that he is too laid back and nice to win at a high level in college football, especially the SEC. 18-21 year-old kids feed off energy and emotion, both of which Richt definitely appears to lack. As a result, Richt’s teams have appeared to be unprepared and unmotivated to play in games every year, always suffering one, (sometimes even a couple) unexplainable and more importantly unforgiveable losses. The Alabama game this season, every loss last season (especially Florida), South Carolina and Vanderbilt in 2013, the list goes on and on. This might sound crazy as well, but in my opinion a head coach in football also has to have a tough/dark side as well. He needs to strike fear in players and referees hearts at times. Players need to know that there are and will be consequences for their mistakes on and off the field, and referees need to be worked. Yes, I did just say that. Georgia seems to get the wrong end of flags way too often in crucial situations of games fairly frequently, and I also blame this on Richt. Working referees/staying in their ears all game long is a BIG part of the game. Coaches like Nick Saban, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier, etc. wouldn’t be yelling at the zebras for 3 hours if they didn’t think it actually payed off, winning them over a few calls throughout the game. I mean think about it, If you were a referee and you had one guy tearing you a new one after every call you make and another not really bothering you at all, which one are you more likely to screw over late in the game? I know it sounds ridiculous, but working the refs is a part of the game that Richt for some reason doesn’t seem to play.
As most people have figured out by now, Richt can’t develop/utilize talent either. Most schools watch their best football players leave school, enter the NFL, and never pan out. The cycle makes sense considering the enhanced level of play in the NFL. Well, at Georgia it’s the opposite. Year-in and year-out Georgia fans watch in amazement as former players who experienced ok/mediocre careers at UGA, develop into stars in the NFL. Geno Atkins, Danielle Ellerbe, Marlon Brown, Justin Houston, and Reshad Jones are just a few examples. Then there was the 2008 preseason number 1 team. Looking back, that 2008 Georgia football team might have been the most underutilized group of athletes ever. That team included future NFL starters: Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, AJ Green, Clint Boling, Ben Jones, Cordy Glenn, Geno Atkins, Justin Houston, Akeem Dent, Danell Ellerbe, and Reshad Jones. You give that team to Saban and he doesn’t even come close to losing a game all year. But of course, Mark Richt pulled a Mark Richt and somehow lost 3 games that year. (I’ll never forgive him for that season) Talent definitely hasn’t been the issue; coaching has.
Last, I’d like to discuss the present state of the program and the direction that it seems to be going under Richt’s leadership. Georgia has been favored in every game (yes every game) the past 2 seasons, and we’ve somehow managed to lose 5 of them. Included in those 5 losses are two humiliating, 18+ point losses. It’s now also been almost 10 years since we’ve won an SEC Championship. After suffering so many losses in big games as well as mind boggling upsets to lesser ranked opponents, there appears to be a major culture problem within and surrounding the Georgia football program. I honestly believe that our players go into big games hoping to win/not to lose, instead of expecting to win. I know that’s at least where our fan base’s mindsets are at right now. You know there’s a problem when you get slaughtered by 28 points, at home, on national television and nobody’s surprised or even pissed off. Here’s the scary part: Most Georgia fans and probably players are used to it, and have even come to expect these kinds of losses on a yearly basis. I know one thing, if Alabama lost by 28 points at home, Nick Saban’s house would be lit on fire.
After following Georgia football religiously over the past 15+ years, I’ve come to live by one truth every season. "Mark Richt gonna Mark Richt." Georgia fans and the administration need to ask themselves this question: Would you rather win 9-10 games every year, have a nice guy as coach, be pretty good, and never win a national championship or roll the dice a go for it all? People don’t always like change, but every now and then you’ve got to mix it up a little bit and try something new. FIRE MARK RICHT!