What’s wrong with UGA? Sad to say, it starts with Mark Richt

"The meeting of the Mark Richt Fan Club is called to order." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"The meeting of the Mark Richt Fan Club is called to order." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Mark Richt’s teams use to have all the answers. Whether it was P-44-Haynes in Knoxville or 70-X-Takeoff in Auburn, his Georgia Bulldogs would win the sort of breathless games that stamped Richt as college football’s next great coach. But it has been a decade, and Richt hasn’t taken Georgia to the pinnacle — got close a couple of times — and nobody sees him that way anymore.

If you’re looking for what has gone wrong with this program, there it is: Mark Richt never quite finished the drill. Georgia was No. 3 in the final polls after the 2002 season and No. 2 according to the Associated Press after 2007 and No. 1 according to everybody in preseason 2008, but the Bulldogs could never do as Florida and LSU and Alabama did — they couldn’t get to the BCS title game and win.

And now they’re 1-4 and Richt isn’t the sleek young man just in from Tallahassee; he’s a 50-year-old who has been on the job a decade and who seems at a loss to arrest the slide. This isn’t to say he’s a bad man or even a bad coach, but it is to say that in college football the blame must always fall upward: There’s a reason head coaches are multimillionaires.

It’s convenient to say that Georgia in Year 10 under Richt resembles Florida State near the end of his mentor Bobby Bowden’s reign. Convenient, and also true. Attention to detail has slipped. Players appear to be coaching themselves. Players also seem incapable of conforming to team rules and community laws.

A college coach can override almost any embarrassment so long as he wins 10 games as a matter of course, but Richt’s team is but 9-9 over the past season and a quarter. And you simply cannot play .500 ball and have 10 players arrested in one offseason.

The belief here is that Richt will not be fired this season or in its aftermath. The belief here is also that Richt stands before us a damaged coach. There was no reason for Georgia to lose to Mississippi State or Colorado, no reason other than that these Bulldogs no longer expect to win. They’ve seen themselves caught and passed in the SEC. They’ve seen their gimmicks — the blackout against Alabama in 2008, the black helmets in Jacksonville last season — fall flat. They’ve seen teams with lesser talent being coached up.

There was a time when we would have expected Richt to solve any problem, but that time is gone. The slide of 2006 — four losses in five games — was halted by three rousing victories at season’s end, but come 2009 the Bulldogs were back in the same place, needing to beat Georgia Tech and win a bowl to salvage a season.

This winter Richt steeled himself and fired three-quarters of his defensive staff, but nothing much has changed. Tackles are still being missed. Coverages are still being blown. The whole operation comes off as disjointed, distracted, dysfunctional. It’s as if the Georgia Bulldogs awoke one morning and found themselves reinvented as the Kentucky Wildcats. (Who, not incidentally, beat UGA in Sanford Stadium last season for the first time since 1977.)

The effect has been stunning. How long since we’ve seen the Bulldogs so inept? (Even Ray Goff’s otherwise lousy 1990 team managed to beat Alabama.) It would be one thing if Georgia wasn’t good enough to compete, but nobody can seriously believe that a roster including A.J. Green, Justin Houston, Branden Smith, Aaron Murray, Orson Charles and Washaun Ealey is without talent. Ask Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen if he’d trade rosters with Richt. Heck, ask Paul Johnson.

Rule of thumb: If it’s not the playing, it must be the coaching. What worked for Richt for five years and two SEC titles has stopped working. (He lost 13 games those first five seasons; he has lost 18 in the four-plus seasons since.) This team of 10 returning offensive starters and the new 3-4 defense hasn’t won a game in a calendar month.

The optimum course would be for the man making the millions — that’d be Richt — to seize the wheel and steer this program back to excellence. But if he could, wouldn’t he have done it by now? It’s the age-old question: What do you do when you’ve run out of ideas?

(Take the guys swimming? Nope. Tried that already.)

894 comments Add your comment

Vixzilla

October 4th, 2010
11:26 am

Mark Bradley

October 4th, 2010
11:27 am

Kudos, vixzilla.

Sug

October 4th, 2010
11:27 am

Richt’s final poll finishes at Georgia:

2002- #3
2003- #6
2004- #6
2005- #10
2006- #23
2007- #3
2008- #10

THAT’S PATHETIC!!!

SHOULD HAVE BEEN #1 EVERY SEASON!!

Mark you’re so right, wow, look at all those terrible finishes, worst than any coach in the nation!!

WinderDogg

October 4th, 2010
11:28 am

Morning Mark..

Mark Bradley

October 4th, 2010
11:29 am

Howdy, WinderDogg.

Corey

October 4th, 2010
11:31 am

All you ever hear from Georgia fans is 90 wins in 9 seasons. Big deal. Nothing special there. Oh yeah, top 5 winning percentage among coaches with 5 years of coaching, so what? Uh yes, some cite the top 10 finishes, like 4 in a row, big deal, Meyer & Saban will do that someday. #2 finishes in 02′ & 07′, controversial no less, not impressed. Yeah, yeah, we know, Richt’s never had 2 seasons outside of the top 10 since 1986, big deal, any coach can say that.

WinderDogg

October 4th, 2010
11:32 am

It is not he is a bad person or coach, but time for a change to get us to the top…we have been 2nd tier behind Florida and could not reach the top. Now we have fallen…Just need some new direction. He will coach again and do not feel sorry for him at $50,000 a week…We just need some fire. Some of these kids were coached harder in high school…that is why they are 4 and 5 star athletes..

Vixzilla

October 4th, 2010
11:32 am

BoBo needs to be demoted to a lesser role TODAY!. Richt needs to get closer to the game and take over this offense. It is beyond rediculous. Strength and conditioning is poor. Alabama looks like me compared to our boys. This weekend we will likely lose to the worst UT team I have ever seen. Yet Dooley is coaching them up. They will come into our ouse and punch us in the throat……AGAIN!! I am miserable sick. Help us Obiwan Kanobi….you’re our only hope!

WinderDogg

October 4th, 2010
11:34 am

Meyer and Saban play for National Championships…Richt will not be able to say that any time soon…

Corey

October 4th, 2010
11:35 am

Who cares if Richt’s sent more players to the NFL than any other SEC coach? Big deal. Yeah, I know, Georgia has more captains in the NFL right now than any other school, so what, 1-4. Sure, Richt’s a top 10 recruiter almost every year, so what, anybody can do that in Georgia. I hear ya, richt’s team is top 10 in revenues according to Forbes every year right? Lucky, it’s all luck.

Concerned Dog Fan

October 4th, 2010
11:35 am

Great Article Mark,

We all like Mark Richt as a person. He is a great guy, but when you look at his work compared to Les Miles, Urban Meyers, and Nick Saban, it is safe to say Mark Richt has won as many ballgames in the SEC as these coaches. What separates Mark Richt from these coaches is that he has not been able to elevate his team to the National Level, that is winning a National Championship or even get us to the Big Game.

ICEMANcometh10

October 4th, 2010
11:35 am

Richt is a good coach…………………………..just not a head coach.

ugajimmy

October 4th, 2010
11:37 am

its the direction of the program SINCE 2008 that is the problem.. and not just “rebuilding,” but the off and on field problem. thats the argument that bradley presented. how about you make a response to that instead of foaming at the mouth over richt’s stellar coaching history.

PMC

October 4th, 2010
11:37 am

It’s been kind of downhill since they hired Willie Martinez. He was the wrong man for the job and that was obvious during the first half of the Sugar Bowl against West Virginia. They have been a soft poor tackling defense since.

bevanscds

October 4th, 2010
11:38 am

So all those years Georgia finished 6-6 and 4-7 and 6-5 under Vince Dooley in the late 60’s and early to mid 70’s was becasue he ran out of answers and he was not the right guy to fix it? Yeah. I sure am glad that Georgia got rid of him after his first losing season…oh wait he had like 5 losing seasons and coached 25 years? Any other school in the south would have neamed their stadium after Mark Richt for what he has done in 9 1/2 years and still here we are talking about firing the guy. How about we talk about something meaningful and realistic.

coachx

October 4th, 2010
11:38 am

I’ll be at the game Saturday vs. Tennessee with 93,000 other Dawg fans supporting Richt and the Dawgs !

Go Dawgs !

PMC

October 4th, 2010
11:38 am

Even the year they finished #2 in the nation. That defense STILL wasn’t very good. They still lost games they shouldn’t have because the defense underachieved.

Jerry

October 4th, 2010
11:39 am

Some of you guys try and downplay the 1-4 start, by comparing Richt to Saban, who’s had 6 years at 6 losses or more, 7-6 recently at Alabama. Bogus. I know, Pete Carroll, Saban & Patterson all recently had terrible years too. No excuse. Sure, Richt’s never had a season with less than 8 wins in 25 years as a coach, but that’s not that unusual.

Mark Bradley’s right, it’s all Mark Richt’s fault. And Richt deserves none of the credit for any of the good things he has done in the past. Let’s just focus on 1 thing, the 1 win, 4 loss season in 2010.

es54

October 4th, 2010
11:39 am

Only rats leave a sinking ship. Things get fixed one way or another. Go dawgs, pull it together!

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

October 4th, 2010
11:40 am

agreed MB, this whole program has spun out of control. UGA will be lucky to win 1 or 2 games this year. something or someone has to give.

chilidawg

October 4th, 2010
11:40 am

Operator: “Information. What city, please?”
McGarity: “Boise, Idaho.”

Ray

October 4th, 2010
11:41 am

Mark, you are dead wrong. As others have stated–CMR is probably the finest coach in UGA history. Has he fallen on hard times recently, yes. Can you measure the talent, character, abilities of CMR based on recent history. Why be so short-sighted. There are seasons in a man’s life and seasons in a school’s journey. All of those seasons are not mountain top experiences. When you have a man like CMR–you don’t bail on him. 7 out of 10 seasons have been excellent. 2 of the last 3 years have shown some great challenges but not cause for alarm. We are going to lose a lot of games this year–already have. That does not mean that we need to fire everyone in sight. On other blogs we are being asked to send a letter of support (with check if possible) to the AD in support of CMR. I plan to do that today. The goal being 5,000 letters of support. Mark, you are stirring up the flames in the fire Mark Richt crowd. Come on…do you really believe UGA is better with CMR? As others have said, he is young, talented, experienced…his best years are ahead if cooler heads than yours prevail.

CK

October 4th, 2010
11:43 am

Mark-

Excellent journalism here.

Nice job presenting 1 side of the story, great credibility.

Nice job, perhaps your finest work.

ugajimmy

October 4th, 2010
11:43 am

i’m not upset with no nc game. thats just silly. i’m not even very upset with the 1-4 record. its how the games have been played that is the problem. the fact that richt refuses to change anything. the fact that richt sits over there and plays his cool look pretty game of sitting emotionless on the sidelines. the fact that richt got onto grantham for rebuking players who made mistakes thus eliminating his ability to rile up his troops. and the fact that we run the same tired offense that everyone adjusted to years ago and relies entirely on mismatches and domination. richt’s teams have hardly showed fire the entirety of his tenure. its time for a change.

MURPHY

October 4th, 2010
11:43 am

I agree if Richt knew how to fix it we would be 3-2 right now. I hate its come to this but we must make wholesale coaching changes and possible wholesale player changes. I can believe that some of theses players will accept this no desire to play attitude from others they are going into battle with every Sat.

ugafan86

October 4th, 2010
11:44 am

Why not let Figgins play… he can block, they have options in the passing game, but you can get the same production out of a backup …Bruce Figgins, who despite starting as a freshman and sophomore now don’t see the field his junior yr….plus the ability to make them a vertical threat in the passing game. I think Bobo has something against this kids I really thought it was Lilly…but another player(a good source) told me BOBO Hate Figgins

dawgmanwayx

October 4th, 2010
11:44 am

sug, you left out 2009 and the current year. Just an oversight I know.

5150 P.O.A.D

October 4th, 2010
11:44 am

UGA did win the Tiffany Crystal Handcuff for this years Fulmer Cup.

Snake Doc

October 4th, 2010
11:44 am

What is the number one goal of a college head coach? To win football games – Period
What is the second goal? To win a National Championship – Period

Richt has accomplished the first, he will never accomplish the second.

With that in mind, all you blind homers and blind belue’s out there: Whats the solution?

Buzz29

October 4th, 2010
11:44 am

We can’t do anything right over here on North Avenue. Hell, we can’t even suck as much uga.

Chaz

October 4th, 2010
11:45 am

Turnovers, boneheaded penalties, poor execution, off-season arrests…these are caused by lack of discipline. Richt came to Athens with the ‘Fininsh the Drill’ mantra and instilled discipline that had been lacking for years. But for some reason, those days are gone. A couple of weeks ago I thought we had slipped back to the Donnan days- a talented team that could compete in every game but just couldn’t make it to the top. Now we are back to the Goff era- a poorly coached, under achieving team where someone rises to the occasion every week to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

We are undisciplined & underachieving. That’s sad.

Dawg with bag over his head

October 4th, 2010
11:46 am

As I have been saying all season, the only way to turn this around is to clean house. We now have three seasons worth of evidence that says this coaching staff has lost its way. The most telling quote from the Colorado game was CMR’s “I don’t know why we waited so long to go the A.J.. How can the HC not demand that his best playmaker get the ball? How can the HC not blame himself for this decison? We need to change the whole attitude/philolsophy of this program. We should move on to a coaching staff that demands discipline on and off the field, that can evaluate and develop talent, and that doesn’t settle for anything but the best from its players.

SmyrnaMan

October 4th, 2010
11:46 am

being 1-5 is about as cool as a grown man barking in opposing fans faces. Its seriously one of the most disturbing things in SEC football

codger

October 4th, 2010
11:46 am

I also thought that the high poll finishes were great until I realized that we never played a top tier team in a bowl. We beat FSU in the Sugar, without their starting QB and Hawaii. Rich Rod and West Virginia outcoached us completely. We have mostly beaten second tier Big 10 teams in bowls. It is looking like the Goff years again. Losing is one thing, but we have been forced to watch fundamentally unsound football for a couple of years. Our coaching is subpar. No other program in the country would consider hiring Bobo as their offensive coordinator.
And don’t get me started with the timeouts!

PMC

October 4th, 2010
11:46 am

WHat he’s got to do is unify everyone.

That’s probably going to entail Richt taking over both playcalling and personnel on the field duties. It’s got to be his call.

Sug

October 4th, 2010
11:47 am

Georgia didn’t even finish ranked in the top 25 in 2009. Can you believe it?? I didn’t even list 2009, because Richt’s team was unranked. Unreal. Shoud have finished #1 that season too!!

Ray

October 4th, 2010
11:48 am

5,000 letters of support for CMR. Join the effort today. Send your letter to the AD office. Lets not lose the greatest coach in UGA history.

Dave Dawg

October 4th, 2010
11:48 am

Possible Richt replacements: Chris Peterson (Boise State), Gary Patterson (TCU), Jim Harbaugh (Stanford), Will Muschamp (Texas)

Dawgs73

October 4th, 2010
11:48 am

It’s definitely not promisiing for the remainder of this season, but the larger problem is the overall direction of this program. This is not just a one year swoon, this has been brewing for at least the past 3 years and UGA is trending downward. Mark Richt is not capable of leading the Dawgs to a National Champioinship, and for those of you that believe that he will MAGICALLY become something he is not, you’re delusional.

As stated many previous times, it will take a National Championship calibur coach to elevate this program to be competitive in the east/Sec conference (due to having NC in Bama, Fla, & Lsu). It’s been time to wish Richt well and start searching for a new coach.

TrueDawg

October 4th, 2010
11:49 am

Ray,
Where are these letters being sent and what sites?
I want to get in on that. These are hard times for UGA fans but no need in firing the head coach. Who would we bring in here people? GO DAWGS always and forever

Snake Doc

October 4th, 2010
11:49 am

Put down the pipe Ray! Greatest coach in UGA history? I sure hope you’re being sarcastic.

Snake Doc

October 4th, 2010
11:50 am

@TrueDawg – Whats your solution to the problem?

NC Dawg

October 4th, 2010
11:50 am

Mark Richt – great Christian man, great coach and I admire the work he does with these young men. Nothing personal, but college football is a business. The company isn’t offering the best product anymore. It’s time to “new and improved” this team.

bevanscds

October 4th, 2010
11:51 am

I’m going to jump in my time machine to 1971 or so and write a letter in a type writer and buy some ads in the classified to fire VInce Dooley. Georgia is going in the wrong direction in his leadership. He will never win a National Championship. Look at Bear Bryant and Bud Wilkinson and Shug Jordan. Dooley has accomplished nothing compared to them. THe defense underperforms and the offense just can’t get it together. What is the mailing address to the editor?

dawgmanwayx

October 4th, 2010
11:51 am

sug, get over it. The decline has been happening for 3 years. #1 every year? hell, we’re #11 in the SEC.

WInderDogg

October 4th, 2010
11:51 am

It is amazing that CMR has such a following. I am a Georgia football fan…have been everywhere with them. I want what is best for UGA and it is not Richt. I will still support them everyday, but someone else will come in making $3 million a year and will produce. We will then all cheer for him..there is no way anyone can be happy with where the program is and how far it has fallen..If you want your recruits back, win. If you want fans to sit in the 600 section for all that extra revenue, win. If you want to justify salaries, win. Nothing else really matters, because we can’t keep them from being penalized on the field or by the police at this point…Alabama punched us in the mouth on national tv with 40 in the 1st half…we have gone down since…

CSpin

October 4th, 2010
11:51 am

Is Mark Richt much different than Bobby Cox? (situationally speaking)

Yeah, I just dropped that bomb.

Barrett

October 4th, 2010
11:52 am

Mark-

Tremendous rational skills.

Let’s see, if you have a bad season, it’s bcause you can’t turn the program around. Got it.

Saban went 7-6 at Alabama.

And turned it around.

Wrong again Mark.

mcdaviddawg

October 4th, 2010
11:52 am

Richt hasn’t coached in so long that he no longer knows how. Replacing BOBO won’t help, he’s doing what Richt wants. If Richt is allowed to return next year the program will begin to seriously lose talent. It’s already a train wreck. Attendance will tank. I know my eight season tickets will be up for the taking. It’s no fun to watch this kind of coaching. The real losers here are the players who are not being coached and who’s futures are damaged. The most honorable Richt should do the right thing and quit. I’ve been going to games since my first game against Auburn in Columbus and haven’t seen many years as hopeless as this one. FIRE RICHT!

Roaddawg80

October 4th, 2010
11:52 am

To me the whole situation is about discipline. We have no discipline. Ealey should have been out of the game as soon as he fumbled against Missippi State and wasn’t. Vance Cuff should have been benched after his 1st personal foul or his second, needless to say his third.

The players think they can do what the want and get away with it and it started with the excessive celebration in 2007. Be more disciplined on the field. Alabama lost 9 starters last year and are more disciplined.

I am not saying fire Mark Richt but he has got to get control. It is a dawg eat dawg world. Enough is enough already.