Moments That Made Mark Richt: Free Willy

Dean Legge writes about the ten moments that made Mark Richt at Georgia.

Willie Martinez had been with Mark Richt from the start of his time in Athens. But by the end of the 2009 season, Richt knew he had to let Martinez go - and it was one of the defining moments of his career at Georgia.

After two years of disappointing results on the defensive side of the ball, Richt fired Martinez and two other defensive staff members the week after the Bulldogs stunned No. 7 Georgia Tech. More than any one thing, poor recruiting on the defensive side of the ball came back to haunt the Bulldogs.

Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno did their part to cover up defensive issues in 2008, but the floodgates open in 2009 with a defense that just plain failed in big moments (vs. No. 4 LSU, 20-13) or in entire games (vs. Tennessee, 45-19; vs. No. 1 Florida, 41-17).

The narrative at the time among critics was that Richt would “never fire Martinez” because of the personal relationship between the two. But Richt had no choice but to sever ties. Georgia had fallen out of the AP’s final rankings for the first time in Richt’s tenure - something had to change.

"It was definitely not a one-year, knee-jerk reaction to one season, I can promise you that," Richt told reporters. "It was more a decision that was made over the course of time, more time than just one year."

On December 2, 2009, Martinez was dismissed, and it was one of the defining moments of Mark Richt’s time in Athens.

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