Win or lose Saturday, can Richt ever again feel safe at UGA?

"Let's try that play where we jump offside. That's working!" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"Let's try that play where we jump offside. That's working!" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The label “must-win” has affixed itself to the South Carolina game, but a more precise description is “darn-well-better-win.” There’s a chance an 0-2 Georgia could still make something of its season. Say the Bulldogs win nine of their next 10: Wouldn’t 9-3 with a strong finish coming after 6-7 be construed as, ahem, significant improvement? That said …

Beyond simply saving himself for next week or next season, can Mark Richt ever again be truly safe in this job?

When the second game of any season is deemed, however inexactly, a “must-win,” matters have already deteriorated. When something is so far gone, is there any going back? The Georgia-Tennessee game of Oct. 6, 2007, was considered a “must-win” for Philip Fulmer, and he won it 35-14 and rose from 2-2 to 9-3 and led the Vols to the SEC East title (shading Georgia on a tiebreaker). Great recovery, huh?

Reality check: Philip Fulmer was fired in November 2008.

The Fulmer parallel is often invoked regarding Richt, and it’s apt. Both men won big for a good long while. Both took two SEC championships. (Fulmer even won a BCS title, a prize for which Georgia under Richt has never played.) Then they stopped winning so much. Fans noticed. Fans began asking: “Is he still the right guy?”

When enough fans ask that loaded question enough times, games stop being games and become referendums on the coach. This week a man who has a finger on the pulse of Bulldog Nation estimated Richt’s job-approval rating at five percent. Should Georgia lose to South Carolina, what might the approval rating be? Two-point-five percent? Zero percent?

We need to ask this, too: Even if Georgia wins this game, will Richt’s doubters again become believers? Or will they just doubt a bit less until he loses again?

A coach cannot serve for long at the displeasure of his constituency: This has always been true, but it’s truer than ever in a world where the athletic director has an e-mail address and anyone with Internet access can post on Twitter and Facebook and AJC.com. With so much money in play and so many seats to fill, can any AD wage a protracted fight against the wishes of his fans?

Will Richt be coaching UGA in 2012?

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When C.M. Newton was in charge at Kentucky and folks were upset that Bill Curry wasn’t winning, the AD advised the dissidents to go find another school to support. Even with such administrative backing, Curry wound up resigning. When you lose so often that the roar of discontent drowns out the huzzahs raised in any victory, you’re a goner even before you actually go.

Richt is treading perilously close to that tipping point. Losing to Boise State mightn’t have been so bad on its face — the Broncos arrived ranked No. 5 in the land and were favored by Vegas — but the manner of the loss was devastating. This disjointed performance didn’t augur a new beginning; this was merely more of the same, which made it worse than ever. You sign the Dream Team and can’t stay onside? To borrow from Steve Spurrier’s  famous 1991 dismissal: “Georgia gets all these recruits, but I don’t know what happens to them.”

Should Georgia lose to South Carolina, as coached by the dastardly Spurrier, Richt won’t resign on the spot or be fired on Sunday. He might still win enough to keep his job. (For another year, anyway.) But here’s the bigger issue: Even a win over the Gamecocks won’t convince many folks that the 51-year-old Richt remains the daring young man who Finished The Drill way back when.

It might take another SEC championship to do that. It might take a BCS title. And if, after Boise, you espy such glory on the horizon … well, count yourself among that five percent.

By Mark Bradley

594 comments Add your comment

wardawg

September 9th, 2011
11:34 am

Vixzilla

September 9th, 2011
11:34 am

Vixzilla

September 9th, 2011
11:36 am

He just has to start coaching to the potential of his talent. That will translate to wins which will lead to championships which will smother the embers of mutiny.

Edward C.

September 9th, 2011
11:36 am

Long way to go this year but this is a MUST read for UGA fans on the downward trend we have seen in Athens the last few years. Made me think a little differently about the team and coaching staff. I think this website if fairly new but it is really good stuff.

http://coachesbythenumbers.com/should-richts-backside-really-be-on-fire/

Mark Bradley

September 9th, 2011
11:37 am

“The embers of mutiny.” Kudos for that, Vixzilla.

PMC

September 9th, 2011
11:38 am

Of course, just takes a few big wins.

Been there and Done That

September 9th, 2011
11:41 am

I can stomach a loss if they play like they know what they are doing.

PMC

September 9th, 2011
11:43 am

The telling thing may be that South Carolina has players that are so much better than Georgia’s “recruits” Georgia’s recruiting has fallen off massively similar to Fulmer’s issue in Tennessee. Georgia has recruited a ton of busts, and some of that is owed directly to Rodney Garner.

Georgia doesn’t have a caliber of player on the line even similar to Clowney and he’s a freshman. At RB, Lattimore is head and shoulders above anyone on the Dawgs team. OL, Yeah, the Georgia OL has been garbage for several years now.

Everyone whines about the coaching, but I don’t believe that the coaches are inadequate. It’s the talent that has fallen off.

DawginLex

September 9th, 2011
11:43 am

Lose and play lousy Saturday and all bets are off.

Play hard, fight until the end and come up short, a lot of us can live with that even though we won;t like the loss.

I would love for UGA to win the game but I am doubtful it will happen.

Hammerdawg

September 9th, 2011
11:43 am

When a head coach or anyone who runs a business will not or can not make
the decision of when to fire a non productive employee they are doomed and the organazation is doomed! FIRE BOBO!!!!

PMC

September 9th, 2011
11:44 am

These are the results of sticking with the wrong people way back in 2005.

Cmon man

September 9th, 2011
11:44 am

as long as uga has these shady and fair weather fans no he wont ever feel safe!

Bob Pettit

September 9th, 2011
11:45 am

The better question is can ANY coach in the SEC feel safe anymore? With all the national championships from multiple schools in recent years, the bar has been raised to ridiculous levels.

juice sourcer

September 9th, 2011
11:47 am

If I was mark Richt I would quit…meaning I dont need all these red neck loser Georgia fans busting my chops every day…screw all these losers….I will go somewhere else where I am appreciated or maybe just retire with all my cash to the beach.

GatorAtl

September 9th, 2011
11:47 am

Mark – I honestly believe Mark Richt needs to go. UGA needs a new coach and a new direction. It is time to hire a high profile coach. As much as I did not agree with Jeremy Foley at UFL, his hiring of Muschamp followed by hiring of Weiss is going to be good for FL in the long run. UGA AD needs to make that gutsy call.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 9th, 2011
11:48 am

Win Saturday and it silences the crowd a little, until they can roar at the next defeat. The ball has been set in motion unfortunately. Now all that is left is the waiting. Like the Dr. Suess book, O the places you will go, Mark Richt has found himself in the worst place, the waiting place.

Dontavius Supremo

September 9th, 2011
11:48 am

Everyone “likes” Mark Richt. That said, the reality of big time college football is that you must win if you are going to remain at a program. Even Vanderbilt fires losers.

Uuugghh...

September 9th, 2011
11:48 am

Well he told us all offseason that the glaring deficiencies we all saw last year were being addressed…giving us all hope. But all of that hope was dashed on the first offensive series last Saturday…then we were reminded for the other 50 someodd minutes that Mike Bobo was still calling the plays (save a precious few exciting unpredictable plays).

We still get good recruits…but instead of trying to put those great players into a position to succeed, Bobo shoehorns their skill set into the same tired, unimaginative offense that worked 15 years ago.

I bet we see The Bobo Special 3rd and 10+ draw play, that hasn’t worked since Knowshon was there, a whole bunch on Saturday. If we do…the coveted visor throw that we all long to see will not happen this weekend.

Maybe we’ll get that visor throw next year?

Inlet Dawg

September 9th, 2011
11:50 am

One win is just one win,this game or in the future,the problem I have is his teams are coming to games unprepared.Then they are poorly coached in all phases of the football game(offense,defense and special teams)Assistant coaches come and go CMR came in with some real good ones and has replaced them with a bunch of guys that would not make good Wal-Mart greeters.It does free up my weekends until I get the word he or his staff has been replaced.

coachx

September 9th, 2011
11:51 am

His approval rating is way higher then 5%. I’d put it at %50 before the Boise St game and at 25% now.

Losing to the #4 team in the country by 2 TDs is no big deal.

I do agree the South Carolina game is a must win. If UGA is 0-2 Then CMR’s approval may be closer to 5%.

codger

September 9th, 2011
11:51 am

It is not about wins and losses. He can only save his job if it appears that he can “coach” his team. it has been quite a few years since a Richt team looked well coached.

LHarding Dawg

September 9th, 2011
11:51 am

This is like telling a joke in the middle of a funeral. We have a very large game this weekend and Bradley is writing stupid articles.

Bryan G.

September 9th, 2011
11:52 am

Mark – this is not a good column. This is a great column. Kudos, sir.

Inlet Dawg

September 9th, 2011
11:52 am

Get rid of BoBo he does not understand the concept of Football!

SSG Desert Dawg

September 9th, 2011
11:52 am

I’m a 5 percenter. My approval rating for CMB, significanly less.

UGA 77

September 9th, 2011
11:53 am

Mike Bobo is the problem Richt has to deal with. As has been observed on countless occasions, he refuses to stick with what is working on offense and is unable to adapt as the game goes along. Very Ray Goff like. Richt has made his bed and now must lie down in it. I have supported Richt in the past but anyone who watched the Boise State game should be convinced. I could elaborate on the ineptitude of the game plan but the failure to realize our hurry-up and get off the field offense left the D gassed and with no emotional lift. Richt then laughs after that BUTT KICKING post-game. Very sad state of affairs. Change is desperately needed and the only change that might (emphasis on might) turn this season around would be for Richt to fire Bobo and take over the O. That might rally the troops and give the team a chance to win. With Bobo, like Goff, we will remain a non-factor in the SEC.

ATL Fan

September 9th, 2011
11:53 am

The only way I see CMR keeping his job is for him to go undefeated for the reaminder of the season. And if he gets a rematch with Boise State, win or lose, the team must be competative. Anything short of playing for SEC championship or national championship…well, bless his heart.

DawginLex

September 9th, 2011
11:54 am

Mark

You need to make your pick on the game so we all can go bet on the other team

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 9th, 2011
11:54 am

Edward C.

Nice link. It looks like UGA did not capitalize on the success of 02 and 05 in recruiting as the drop in talent being drafted. Also that 30 point a game stat is huge. Vangorder was a beast of a DC at UGA hince he now is doing it in the NFL. Good stuff to read.

needums

September 9th, 2011
11:54 am

I’ll say it now that Richt will not be here next year because he does not want to be here. This is the last year of his contract and if he wins and wins big it would be alot tougher to move on with his life and do what he reallys wants to do which is be a full time missionary. If he continues to lose then the fans will continue to ask for his head , alumni will stop giving money, the University will feel the pinch and he will either be fired or gracefully resign with no hard feelings and leave Athens with a huge wieght being removed from his shoulders. I say all of this because we all know that if he really wants to win he would change almost all of the plays that Bobo calls for the offense to something a little more creative that produces better results…….. but no he is on the sideline wearing his headphones and doesn’t change anything. This year is by design people mark my words!

Vain Jangling

September 9th, 2011
11:55 am

The final question is whether Georgia is content with being a slightly-better-than-average SEC team (which at this point they are), or whether they want, and even expect, to contend for SEC and BCS titles on some regular basis. Championship teams simply do not look like the Dawgs did last Saturday, regardless of the quality of the opponent. And Richt and McGarity can like it or not, but the opinions of alumni, boosters, and fans matter. The dismissive us-against-them attitude that the coach and the team appears to be taking, where the “them” is us, is a poison pill. I like Coach Richt. He’s a great recruiter. But I think also that he’s a sub par football coach, and he’s compounded that serious flaw by surrounding himself with more of the same. My final analysis? Whatever he does will most likely be too little, and too late. He’s looking like the guy at the helm of the Titanic, just after someone has yelled, “Iceberg! Dead ahead!” I just don’t think he can turn this ship around.

G8tor Beel

September 9th, 2011
11:55 am

Please, oh puhleeze, give Richt a lifetime contract for $10 million a year. in your heart, you know he’s worth it. He’s not over the hill, he’s just in a bit of a slump. Okay, it’s a prolonged slump, but really, he’s overdue to come out of it and lead the dogs to greatness.

Puhleeeeeeeze.

Kell

September 9th, 2011
11:56 am

Thank Ed for the article. Repost:

http://coachesbythenumbers.com/should-richts-backside-really-be-on-fire/

Exceptional analysis. 30+ point games. Didn’t realize it.

tampadawgs

September 9th, 2011
11:57 am

Look. I like CMR. i think he’s a great man, and has done a lot for this program. but the downhill slide has continued year after year. The team looked like it gave up in the bosie game. If cmr want to stay employeed at UGA, then he needs to be in ATL on 12/3/11 and in a BCS bowl game.

ol'#12

September 9th, 2011
11:57 am

CMR should start calling the plays as he did when he first arrived, i would not trust BOZO with my job security.

VA DAWG

September 9th, 2011
11:57 am

His inability to part ways with assistants during a change may cause his ouster (RG should have been gone with the rest of the defensive staff). Grantham should have been given the reins to the defense not a leash. I repect the man for his loyalty, but in times of change a clean sweep is needed. Hopefully, Bobo can find his mojo and save the season before this fanbase (delusional at times)implodes. As long as Richt is representing my University, he will have my full support as well as the players. GO DAWGS!

SSG Desert Dawg

September 9th, 2011
11:58 am

Is it me, or did it seem like Bobo’s no-huddle offense only gave Boise St. more plays? What is wrong with ball control offense, and keeping the other team’s really good offense off the field. It should not matter if you run more plays than you use to; what should matter is that you run more plays than the other team’s offense. UGA has a BEAST and a talented freshman in the backfield that want as many carries as they can get, and it is a lot easier to run block in a 3-point stance, than sitting back on your heels in a shotgun formation.

coachx

September 9th, 2011
11:58 am

Bobo is not the MAIN problem.

The defense has to stop giving up 30 points + a game.

G-Buck

September 9th, 2011
11:58 am

It is amazing to me that all these fans rant about Bobo and give the defense a pass. Wake up folks.

Damon Evans

September 9th, 2011
11:59 am

It’s no great mystery; Richt is history!

Bobo must gogo!!

Uuugghh...

September 9th, 2011
11:59 am

As I understood it, Garner will never be fired because he is the bag man.

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

September 9th, 2011
11:59 am

It all comes down to what Mike Bobo does on offense. He will take Richt down unless he can somehow learn how to call plays this week.

I would love to see a slant route this week. Screens should be plentiful with the chickens good pass rush. RUN THE DAMM BALL.

Go Dawgs!

SCJack

September 9th, 2011
12:00 pm

Excellent article and so pragmatically ‘right on’; so much so that the former CEO of Yahoo would most definietly agree.

Ed Pilcher

September 9th, 2011
12:00 pm

If CMR would just listen to me and run the Veer, all his problems on offense would be solved.

Hunk Erdown

September 9th, 2011
12:01 pm

“smother the embers of mutiny”???

If he doesn’t change Offensive Coordinators pretty quick Richt will be licking the frozen flagpole of unemployment.

Prime Time

September 9th, 2011
12:02 pm

They have looked LEADERLESS for a long time now. That says a lot.

VA DAWG

September 9th, 2011
12:02 pm

Message to Bobo….RUN. THE. DAMN. BALL.

He is too nice to be a coach---needs to throw out a few curse words

September 9th, 2011
12:02 pm

players don’t fear him and becuase of that the whole program has taking 2 steps back never to regain it’s momentum till he is gone—maybe Richt should hold up in a church and request asylum from the fanbase and media

JackDennis

September 9th, 2011
12:03 pm

Let’s be objective. Have his teams measured up to the recruiting? Good grief.

DawginLex

September 9th, 2011
12:03 pm

The defense got 3 straight 3 and outs to open the game. A good offense would have rewarded them by scoring points and keeping the ball allowing them to rest.

Instead, we went no huddle, looked confused and got penalties.

The defense lost its best player, got gassed and got no help from our inept OC.

That was the Boise game in a nutshell

Unless Richt takes over the playcalling tomorrow, i have little hope we will win.

Prove me wrong Coach