But here we sit… another shot at the national title gone late in the season. This isn’t new. Its also about the time the yearly debate on Mark Richt begins. I take that back - we have this debate any time Georgia loses a game, or doesn’t perform up to the standard they did against Arkansas and Missouri.
Everyone in the SEC has the debate about their head coach after a loss. That’s what we do. At Georgia, Bulldog partisans also question their head coach after wins that are not impressive enough (see the chatter after the three-point win over the Vols).
After 14 seasons we’ve learned a few things about Mark Richt:
He’s yet to win the national title.
He’s a family man of faith.
He’s got standards.
All four are used against him at a moment’s notice.
I don’t care who the football coach at Georgia is - that’s not something I decide, and I also know that’s not a person who is going to be perfect. If Mark Richt isn’t getting the job done at the end of this season he should be fired. Same goes for anyone in any job. That’s the world we live in today. But Richt shouldn't be fired for failing to win the national title, and that's the best argument against him at this time.
Georgia, which had climbed into the top ten after winning five games in a row, was upset by Florida on Saturday, which is why has everyone in such a tizzy right now. The Bulldogs don’t control their own destiny in the SEC East, they have to travel to an improved Kentucky team before hosting a highly-ranked Auburn team in two weeks.
If Georgia wants to win the SEC East and beyond it is going to have to win both games. And it should be able to accomplish that even though its not going to be an easy thing to do.
The argument Richt critics get right is that too often the 14-year coach loses games like the one to Florida - to a team not better than the Bulldogs. Yes, Georgia has lost too often to the Gators, but Richt has (reality will show) turned a series that was once abnormally lopsided into an even fight, which Georgia taking control of late.
Georgia lost to South Carolina earlier this season. That’s one no one can explain, either. Last season the Bulldogs’ losses were as heartbreaking as they get: five losses, four of which were decided on the final play of the game; one was a miracle that likely took a good dog year off of Russ’ life.
The loss to the Gators was the first loss in two years were Georgia was just plain blown out, so naturally and correctly, fans are angry about that.
But with Mark Richt comes a never-say-die attitude. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen Richt written off only to see his teams rally to the finish line. That happened in 2002 (after Florida), 2005 (after Florida), 2007 (after Tennessee), 2011 (after South Carolina) and 2012 (after South Carolina). It very well could happen in 2014.
What critics of Richt get wrong is they think the coach gets a pass for being a “good guy”. He doesn’t. That Richt has standards and is a man of faith and cares about his family more than he cares about his job probably describes the vast majority of human beings.
I can tell you one thing - I care about my family vastly more than I care about my job… and if you think it should be some other way you are not only very likely a neanderthal, but you are also naive.
Jobs change; your family doesn’t.
None of that give Richt a pass. None of that makes what happened Saturday afternoon “ok”. None of that means Georgia’s season is done. None of that means that Richt should be fired.
People, too often, are so set in stone on Mark Richt. They are not willing to budge. They’ve decided they are going to support him to the bitter end or want him fired yesterday. Frankly, that sort of lack in give and take is what’s wrong with sports and society in general.
As poor a job as Richt and company did on Saturday one must acknowledge that, yes, this is one of the best jobs of coaching Richt has done during his career. The once-in-a-career madness that has been the Todd Gurley saga has been bizarre at best. That Georgia finds itself with the ability to still get to Atlanta without the services of one of the best players to have played at Georgia for half of the SEC schedule is, frankly, impressive.
That task hasn’t been completed yet, but I wouldn’t bet against this team winding up in Atlanta on the first weekend in December. If they are not there accountability can take place at that time.