Mark Richt's consistency can't cut it anymore in Athens
Steve Spurrier. George O’Leary. Frank Beamer.
Over the last three weeks, Mark Richt has gotten three reminders that nothing lasts forever.
Some of the longest-tenured head coaches in the country have resigned from their positions over that span, and they’re the kind of men who each turned a graveyard into a garden. Consider that Spurrier is responsible for all three of the Gamecocks’ best seasons in terms of wins. O’Leary holds all four of the best seasons for the Knights. Beamer holds all 13 — yes, 13 — for the Hokies.
In his own right, Richt has maintained the Bulldogs’ backyard, but maintained doesn’t cut it between the hedges.
Georgia has put up 141 wins since he took over in 2001. The only Power 5 schools with more are Ohio State (158), Oklahoma (155), LSU (150) and USC (146). However, it’s the quality of the wins that’s more important. The Buckeyes, Tigers and Trojans all won national titles over that span, while the Sooners won the year right before that in 2000.
The Bulldogs have been ranked among the AP top 10 at some point in 11 of 15 seasons under Richt, which is phenomenal. However, they’ve only reached No. 1 once, and that was in 2008.
And Georgia has appeared in 18 straight bowls, 14 of which have come under Richt, and that’s tied for the 7th-longest active bowl appearance streak in the country. However, it doesn’t say much when the only major bowl appearances came in 2002, 2005 and 2007 — all in the Sugar Bowl — and the team hasn’t been to one since.
Not winning an SEC title in exactly 10 years doesn’t help either.
One could say all the consistency and success should still be reason to celebrate and that all of the above shortcomings are basically first world problems to many other developing schools. But that’s life, and death, in the SEC.
Richt has been as great of an ambassador as the school could’ve ever asked for, and he’s done it for 15 years. It wouldn’t be appropriate to fire Richt, who at the least should be asked to resign like his counterparts at those other programs have done recently. There’s just a sense in Athens that Richt simply isn’t hungry enough to put Georgia over the hump. He certainly fed Bulldogs fans more ammunition there when the team settled for a field goal inside the 10-yard line while trailing 20-0 in the third quarter against an archrival.
After the game, Richt essentially put a gag order on himself and his players, apparently because of what might be said on Twitter and such.
Richt said, “It’s one of those times you’ve got to guard your words.”
It’s ironic because by doing that, the rest of the country actually got a perfect view of the state of the Georgia program, and it’s not good. Putting tape over their mouths seemed like hitting a panic button, much like the decision to start quarterback Faton Bauta out of nowhere and throw him in the fire against a fearsome defense that wound up intercepting him 4 times. He said he felt like it was time to make a change at the position, but many are saying the same about his position now.
It isn’t like Richt hasn’t been in this spot before in his tenure at Georgia, but this feels different. Now, different seems like a concept worth entertaining with how Florida is doing under first-year coach Jim McElwain.
Richt has kept Georgia’s lawn looking like one of the best on the block for some time, but the school needs a change of scenery before things get uglier.