Has Mark Richt earned the right to fix the problem at Georgia?

 I’m not going to sugarcoat this. What I see from the football team at the University of Georgia is not good. I picked Colorado to win last Saturday because I really wondered how much fight was left in this team. To Georgia’s credit, and I trust Tim Tucker’s judgment on this, effort was not the issue Saturday night in Boulder. The inability to execute basic plays in pressure situations and the inability to play defense at the most fundamental level was the problem.

Based on my mail and the folks who call in to my radio show, there are a lot of people who are convinced that the Georgia football program after 10 years under  Mark Richt has lost the necessary edge of coaching,  talent and game day savvy to compete at the very top of the SEC.

I get all that and when a team is 1-4 all those arguments can be made and they are fair. Still,  I am not backing away from this position: I believe that Mark Richt will be head coach at Georgia next season. But if this season continues to go South, some tough decisions are going to have to be made.

When things start going bad, the reaction always seems to be to fire the head coach because people believe there is always another Urban Meyer or Nick Saban waiting around the corner. You just have to go out and find him. Rarely do coaching transitions go that smoothly.

 Florida had to go through Ron Zook in order to get to Urban Meyer. Alabama went through Mike DuBose and the devastating NCAA probation that followed. Then it was two years of Dennis Franchione, an embarrassing episode  with Mike Price, and Mike Shula before Nick Saban returned them to the promised land. And also remember that Rich Rodriguez took the Alabama job and changed his mind or Saban would probably not be the coach today.

Changing head coaches in this league isn’t a simple process. A lot of the time the program has to go backwards before it goes forward again.

As I said a week ago, I look at Georgia and I see a team that isn’t very good. The offensive line has underachieved. The running backs aren’t bad but they aren’t All-SEC caliber. It’s easy to blame the defensive problems on the scheme but these guys were getting gashed pretty good last year running the old scheme.

Yes, you can make the point that the landscape of the SEC has changed pretty dramatically since Mark Richt won his last SEC championship in 2005. Meyer and Saban have raised the bar, there is no doubt about that. You can argue that it’s hard for any coach to maintain his edge after 10 years in one place. At some point you wonder if the players start tuning out the head coach.

But understand that when you let go of a guy who is a proven winner, you are taking a tremendous risk. Ole Miss couldn’t understand why it wasn’t as good after Eli Manning left. So they forced out David Cutcliffe, who only led the Rebels to five straight winning seasons. They wanted somebody more exciting in Oxford and chose Ed Orgeron, a good recruiter who wasn’t ready to be a head coach then and will probably never be a head coach again.

Tennessee was two bad passes away from winning the SEC championship in 2007. But after 16 years under Phillip Fulmer fans wanted something new and exciting instead of the tried and true. They wanted a rock star as their head coach like Alabama and Florida had in Saban and Meyer. So they hired a sun tanned Wonder Boy from Southern California. And we know how that one turned out. He’s back at USC and Tennessee had to hire a solid man in Derek Dooley to clean up the mess. Now Tennessee is looking at several difficult years before the program can be restored.

Greg McGarity, who became Georgia’s athletics director in July, learned from Vince Dooley and Jeremy Foley, two of the best ADs ever. He hasn’t told me this but I’m guessing that the last thing he wants to do just five months into the job is let go of a head coach who has won a pair of SEC championships (2002, 2005), played for another (2003), and might have had the best team in the country in 2007.

Having said all that,  there is no question that things are not going well in the football program at Georgia and that something needs to be done. So how about this:

McGarity sits down with Richt at the end of the season and says: “Coach, here is what I see. We should be competing consistently for the SEC East championship and right now we are not at that level.  In order to do that, what do you need that you currently don’t have? Whatever it is, I’ll get it for you. But I want you to identify the problems and then give me a plan to get us back on the right track.”

If you’re Mark Richt, you have to be willing to look at everything. Start with yourself and your level of commitment. Do you have the passion and the fire in the belly to do what is necessary to get Georgia back on top?

Then you have to look at your entire organization. What about your recruiting organization? Are you bringing in the right players but just not developing them to the SEC championship level? Or, is your talent evaluation not good enough?

You have to look at your strength and conditioning program. Is everything being done there that can be done? Look at the way Alabama’s players fill out their uniforms and look at yours.

What is the level of accountability throughout the organization? Have you changed? Are you doing things differently from when you first got here? You have to look at everything because at this point everything has to be on the table.

If Greg McGarity is satisfied with that plan, then everybody moves forward. I just believe that Richt has earned the right to fix what is wrong. I know a lot of people disagree and I respect their right to do so.

I would argue that Saturday’s game with Tennessee is a very important 60 minutes of football in the short term history of the program at Georgia. The crowd may be flat. They saw Georgia lose a heartbreaker to Arkansas on Sept. 18 followed by two inexplicable road losses at Mississippi State and Colorado. They are upset and dispirited. Coach Richt, you and your team have to change that with the way you play on the field. We are at the point where the team needs to lift its fans.

Here is what drives fans crazy. They feel that wearing the Georgia uniform and having the chance to play at Sanford Stadium is a privilege. They are emotionally invested in the program and have been for generations.   The fans would like to believe that Georgia’s players feel the same way. Fans that I hear from are starting to wonder if the players care about Georgia as much as they do. And that is not a fun place to be.

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706 comments Add your comment

just saying

October 5th, 2010
10:22 am

Richt can lead the team out of the tunnel , he can even lead the team out of the desert into the promise land sing Glory Hallelujah and ugay is still 1 ans 4..You do realize you have had a top ten recruiting class the last ten years? I mean, you have the cream of the crop in recruiting and your 5 stars have given you 1 win over Lafayette..and now you all want to gather and sing Kumbayah,…Good luck with that..bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaah

Herschel Talker

October 5th, 2010
10:23 am

This is silliness. Richt deserves no chance because Mark Richt is the problem. How is Mark Richt going to turn himself around? This is pure idiocy.

CrimsonPride

October 5th, 2010
10:24 am

Georgia fans ——> Whiners

The level of whining by Georgia fans is just stupid now.

STHU !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Einsteindawg

October 5th, 2010
10:24 am

Herschel,
The only way Richt can “turn himself around” is doing the hokey-pokey.

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:25 am

CrimsonPride = backwoods hillbilly from the lowest educated state in the south.

PALADIN DEATH DEALER

October 5th, 2010
10:26 am

Dawgs73:
You are a nobody just like me and you weighing in on what the Head Coach at UGA makes and whether he get another chance to right the program won’t make a hill of beans….Don’t waste your time…..

UT96

October 5th, 2010
10:26 am

Gator Mike, politics played a huge role in the Fulmer deal. Actually, the straw that broke the camels back happened whn we played Bama and they virtually took over our stadium. They had about 35,000 or so there and at the end of the game was doing their Rammer Jammer cheer after our fans had cleared out. At that point the board of trustees gave their blessing to give Fulmer the boot.

NC Dawg

October 5th, 2010
10:27 am

Georgia’s next coaching search will be VERY easy. It will start with Muschamp and end with Smart. 2 alums, great coaches. There won’t be a Ron Zook era if we fire Richt. One of those guys will come, I have no doubt.

gomdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:27 am

JOHN, FIRST IT DOES HURT , GEORGIA IS NOT YOUR TEAM OR YOU WOULD ACT DIFF. I READ NOTHING BUT HURT FROM YOUR WORDS.

tulevol

October 5th, 2010
10:27 am

Interesting comments today. I don’t think UT will beat UG this weekend. Here’s why: LSU hangover will still affect them, that is why UG is favored so much. Game is at GA, Richt back is pressed against the wall so hard it hurts. GA finally puts a complete game together on Saturday. That is the realist in me. The fan in me says that the Dawgs suck eggs, and I hope UT beats you guys by 40 points. Fact is, both teams are struggling right now, and whoever has the mental edge will win this game. And I want UT and UG back to being ranked, and strong.

Gimmicks

October 5th, 2010
10:28 am

If CMR is going to lead the team on to the field, perhaps he should wear red panties and a black helmet. At this point any gimmick would be worth trying to turn the season around. Once the inmates are lead on to the field, then they can have a thug dance in the end zone.

gomdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:28 am

MUSCHAMP JUST GAVE UP 2 LOSES . LOVE SMART BUT HE’S NOT A HEAD COACH

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:29 am

Another problem I have with UGA is the fact that we rent our logo from the Green Bay Packers. Time for a new logo.

cajdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:29 am

I don’t like the question. It is a fun question for blogging purposes, but hopefully Greg Mc. won’t consider whether Richt “deserves the right to fix the problem” when comtemplating UGA coaching future at the end of the year. That is a terrible basis for making a future decision…should I hold Apple stock in the future because it has done well for me in the past? etc. etc.

Bryant

October 5th, 2010
10:29 am

Simple Dog We have one rule in our family. There will be no fall weddings. We preach it to our kids from the day they are born. Part of the job for parents is to teach their children to prioritize. This has never been an issue and never will. As for friends they understand that I will send a nice gift but will be unable to attend.

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:29 am

gomdawg

I don’t know why there is hype around Muschamp. What’s he done?

crickets….chirp….chirp…..

gomdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:30 am

BLACK OUT FOR SATURDAY BLACK JERSY

What?

October 5th, 2010
10:31 am

Preston 2 things:

1. The seasons are longer now and reaching your vaunted 90 wins in 9 years is not as difficult as it once was.

2. If we play a 13 game season, 7 of those should be W’s right off the rip (At places like Boise State that number is 10). That leaves another 6 games. Split those games and boom 10 wins. Richt in his best seasons loses a third of these games. Lately though it is not that we lost…it is HOW we lost. At least 2 games a year under Richt–even in the best seasons, the team is clearly not ready to play. This conversation is particularly timely because most of the time it is UT that embarasses us. Remember when we went in to the Florida game with a chance to win? I do. Those times are long gone brother.

I think if we keep Richt, we will never be as good as Florida or Alabama. If you want to never be the best, I think we should keep him. A big game coach he is not.

Bill

October 5th, 2010
10:31 am

Gomdawg
You can’t assume they will lose yet and 4>3
Plus as another poster said, Mack Brown won a national championship 5 years ago.

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:31 am

“It will start with Muschamp and end with Smart. 2 alums, great coaches.”

Just because they are alumni doesn’t mean they’ll come back. No way Muschamp leaves Texas to come to UGA. Kirby Smart will end up going to a bigger school with a better football tradition.

UGA should start talking to Stanford’s coach, Boise’s coach or Oregon’s coach.

NC Dawg

October 5th, 2010
10:31 am

so Muschamp loses all credibility because they lost a rare game at Texas? How do you know Smart isn’t a Head Coach?

PALADIN DEATH DEALER

October 5th, 2010
10:32 am

just saying:
Just keep pulling them out against those like mighty Wake Forest…When the ROBOT leaves, things will return to normal at Tech with all those recruits yall bringing in….

UT96

October 5th, 2010
10:32 am

TuleVol, I tend to agree with you about Saturday. That was the worst loss I have ever witnessed as a UT fan. I just know if our guys heads will be in the game Saturday.

gomdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:32 am

REAL , WHO GIVES A SHZT.

bwell

October 5th, 2010
10:32 am

Mr. College Football, I agree FINALLY a sport columnist that support CMR and not bashing the coach. I have said all along, be supportive, for TEN YEARS we won; ok now we are loosing, every program goes through a period of a down season. The real problem TB is we as a Bulldog Nation has seen Meyer and Saban come in after CMR and won nat’l titles and we only came close; but no cigar! So our Nation is mad as heck and of course we want what Fla and Ala have……… championships. I give CMR at least two more seasons and if things do not get better than yes sad to say he may have to resign. I’m believing next season we will be a top 5 team and all this will be gone. CMR is great for Ga and everything will work out find.

That Guy

October 5th, 2010
10:32 am

Anyone who says Georgia doesn’t have the players or athletes is a damn liar. You get the best of the best year in, year out. Your problem is that your players are stupid, reckless, and undisciplined. Some of that can be attributed to the coaching staff, but there is only so much Mark Richt and his staff can do to prevent your idiot players from being stupid.

NC Dawg

October 5th, 2010
10:33 am

why wouldn’t any alum want to come back to Georgia? We have as much big time football potential as anyone. Mack Brown ain’t retiring anytime soon either.

ArkDawg

October 5th, 2010
10:34 am

TB makes some good points, but if you agree with the Schultz article then we would have to make the assumption that he is not “OBSESSED ENOUGH.” How does one change from being not obsessed enough to obsessed enough. Keep in mind, even though TN went through hell after Fulmer, I think if you asked any fan they would say that it will likely be worth it in the long run with Dooley. At least he is OBSESSED about winning and has his priorities in order, TN football in FIRST and FOREMOST. I don’t know if that is necessarily the first first priority for most people, but that is what I want my coaches first priority to be. I don’t think that’s the case with Richt.

gomdawg

October 5th, 2010
10:34 am

BILL, JUST POINTING OUT EVEN THE BEST TEAMS HAVE PROBLEMS

What?

October 5th, 2010
10:35 am

Also…Tony mentions this meeting with the AD as the answer as if this has not already been taking place.

If this has not been taking place every year it is no wonder our team makes the same exact mistakes every year!

tulevol

October 5th, 2010
10:35 am

UT96, that one was tough. I just wonder how our guys will respond. I believe in our coaching staff saying and doing the right things, but that was a super tough loss for our players, and they will respond one of two ways at Sanford on Saturday, I hope it is positive.

DAWG Colonel

October 5th, 2010
10:35 am

Spot on. The problem in Athens is attitude. Organizations take on the personality of the leader. CMR is a great gentleman but needs to instill some fear in everyone….players as well as coaches.

Watch the movie “Miracle” a few times…you will understand what I am talking about.

“He will do whatever it takes”.

Fleming Island Dawg

October 5th, 2010
10:36 am

Earlier I got jumped on for correcting a minor error on how we beat Alabama in 2007. Wasn’t trying to hang my hat on that win I’m just a geek who likes to correct mistakes. I’m a fan win or lose I don’t go around saying wow we are better than you but was accused of being selective on wins an losses because our program has slumped. 2 years is a big slump. I’m a Falcon’s fan, Braves fan, win or lose just a fan who loves to watch football. Since I was accused of being selective I went back 20 years and with AL we are 4 and 4.

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:36 am

“we only came close; but no cigar! ”

Georgia was never close to winning a title. Every school in the SEC, minus LSU and Florida, has to go undefeated in the SEC. Whoops, scratch that. Every school in the SEC is held back from playing in the title game unless you are Florida and LSU. Alabama had to go undefeated in order to do that. Auburn just got screwed in 04.

So, unless you go undefeated in the SEC, you will not play for a title unless you are LSU and Florida. Those schools are not capable of going undefeated.

bamafan

October 5th, 2010
10:36 am

Real – my my a bit testy. Your comments seem to indicate that you are fairly realistic about UGA, past, present, and future. That builds your credibility. However, your ugly hateful tone is embarrassing your mother. Get a life. Bama fans are everywhere. I think I will stay on this blog just to irritate you.

Chris Phillips

October 5th, 2010
10:36 am

I agree 100% Tony. Great article. I hope McGarity and Coach Richt will read this.

Mark "Crimson Crier" Ingram

October 5th, 2010
10:36 am

UGA don’t need to get rid of Richt. They need to request Obama to bring “hope and change” to UGA by installing a new highly unqualified football czar for UGA to bring about all the wonderful kinds of improvements to UGA that the highly unqualified Obama czars have brought to the US of A!

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:38 am

Fleming Island Dawg

Was it a Bama fan? If so, I’m sure they’ll claim 2007 as a National Title for themselves. They are good at pretending to win national titles.

82Dawg

October 5th, 2010
10:38 am

@Herschel Talker …who would you suggest to come in and fix the problem?

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:40 am

“However, your ugly hateful tone is embarrassing your mother. Get a life. Bama fans are everywhere. I think I will stay on this blog just to irritate you.”

Another Bama hypocrite. Hey bamafan, did you graduate from college?

Bama fans are not everywhere. 90% of them reside in the worst educated state in the south. Alabama. The other 10% managed to move elsewhere.

PALADIN DEATH DEALER

October 5th, 2010
10:40 am

That Guy:
You obviously know very little about how to rate talent???? Some of the people who rate these guys don’t know a whole lot more than you do….What a player does when he gets to college is what counts, not what he does in high school…..Georgia has only A.J. Green who might be able to start for Alabama or Florida….You would probably tell me that the UGA running backs would put the
Bama running backs on the bench, and either would probably beat out Demps….You don’t know your A$$ from second base…..and i resent being called a damn liar…..

UT96

October 5th, 2010
10:40 am

Gator Mike, by the way, I’m finding some humor in the fact yourself, being a Gator, is defending Fulmer. Personally, I just don’t see it but there is some humor in it none the less:)

That Guy

October 5th, 2010
10:40 am

Bwell:

“I’m believing next season we will be a top 5 team and all this will be gone.”

Hmm.. Where have I heard that before? This year, last year, the year before, etc.? National prominence doesn’t come just like that. Please name me the last team to have a losing record one year, and then finish in the top 5 the next year, because that’s where y’all are headed. A losing season, and now you’re predicting a top 5 finish next year? 3 of your 5 offensive linemen, whom you said were going to be the strong point of your team this year, and seniors. And your line has been your weak point. Right now, you’re in the same position at the runningback position that you were in a few years ago with Ware, Brown, and Lumpkin. You have a lot of them, but none of them are very good. Ealey fumbles too much, Caleb King has been hurt most of the season, and Carlton Thomas just isn’t very good. AJ Green is gone after this year, and let’s be honest, he was your only source of offense against Colorado. So please, tell me Bwell, how you, in your right mind, think you’re going to finish in the top 5 next year.

Real

October 5th, 2010
10:41 am

Mark “Crimson Crier” Ingram

AWESOME!!!! Well, at least the thug football players would agree with you on that one!

3rdn8

October 5th, 2010
10:43 am

@ Real

do you not get ANY love at home?

Fleming Island Dawg

October 5th, 2010
10:43 am

And as far as being told we went downhill from the Alabama game in 2007 I guess being 10-2 that year including beating the mighty Tebow and number 2 in the country to 10-3 the next is really going downhill. I see the decline as last year with 8-5 which some teams would love and this years debacle the start of a decline not 2007. I guess I’m wrong though.

JB

October 5th, 2010
10:43 am

We ALL agree Mark is a fine man, but in 2011 or 2012, a new coach will be on the Sidelines for the Dawgs………….He does not have the talent, coaching or time to save it……5-7 this year and 7 -5 next ( maybe) will impress no one.

ugajimmy

October 5th, 2010
10:44 am

great piece. although i don’t think richt has the fire in him any more its true that mcgarrity should sit him down at seasons end and force him to evaluate him and the program. give richt the opportunity to right his wrongs. and if richt doesn’t have the level of commitment that is necessary (and quite frankly he doesn’t seem to right now) things should be done. but richt has done enough here to deserve that chace

UGA Snake Bit

October 5th, 2010
10:44 am

First off Da Wild Rebel is an idiot.UGA will not have a 2-10 record and Ole Miss beating Bama is not gonna happen,UGA really did not play that bad against the UC this weekend and should have won the game when King fumbled but they didn’t.UGA scored 21 sraight points during the game with AJ Green in the game and when he came out with cramps the offense got stagnent,the offense is a much much better unit with AJ.It’s hard to believe one player makes that much of a difference but it does.UGA will beat TENN and will go on and win at least 4 more games,Murray has played very well but the defense seems lost.There is too much talent on this team to lose 10 games.Firing Richt would cause UGA to lose recruits and put the program in reverse,let Richt if he desires so to get back on track,but I’m not really sure the fire is still there for Richt but I can only hope it is.

bamafan

October 5th, 2010
10:44 am

Fleming Island Dog – for the record, UGA won in 2007, 2003, 2002, and 1990. Bama won in 1991, 1994, 1995, and 2008. I, too, spend too much time trying to correct factual errors on this blog. Two many opinions asserted here are actually factual mistatements. Also for the record, Bama did not win the national title in 2007; no Bama fan would make that claim. 2007 is hard to erase from our memory as it included four losses in a row. Bama feels the UGA pain, but folks like Real cannot handle it.