ATHENS- I am going to go ahead and say it. I did not want to say it, but another year has gone by and I think now is the time. The University of Georgia football program is not going to win a national championship with Mark Richt as the head coach.
Four years ago I would have been burned at the stake for even mentioning these thoughts but now is the time to face the facts. Since D.J. Shockley helped lead the Bulldogs to an SEC championship in 2005, the Georgia football program has been on a downward slope that has brought fans, players, and coaches to this point.
Since 2005, Georgia is 10-10 against the SEC east. In 2006, the Bulldogs lost to Kentucky and Florida away from Athens but lost at home to Tennessee and Vanderbilt. In 2007, fans recall a spectacular second half of the season run that had Georgia in the National Championship hunt but there was one problem. Georgia did not win the SEC. The Bulldogs lost at home to South Carolina and got embarrassed on the road against Tennessee. But, the second half run of 2007 earned Georgia a #1 ranking to start 2008. That #1 ranking was only held for one week due to injuries to the Bulldogs depth chart. Whether it was lost in week one or week ten it did not matter because Georgia suffered humiliating losses to Alabama, Florida, and Georgia Tech. After 2008, Georgia sent Stafford to the NFL as the number one pick and Moreno as the twelfth pick. In 2009, Bulldog Nation rallied around the idea that Joe Cox was the second coming of D.J. Shockley who was the last to lead Georgia to an SEC title. That scenario disintegrated quickly as Georgia lost their season opener to Oklahoma State and ended up dropping four more games the rest of the season.
So here we stand, 10-10 against the SEC east and 14 losses all in the last four years. It is hard to remember because Mark Richt’s first five years were so exciting, but before that Georgia suffered a similar depression. Donnan was all but forced out of Athens but in his last four years are actually better than Mark Richt’s past four seasons as Georgia’s coach. In Donnan’s last four years, he lost 13 games and was 13-7 in the SEC east.
I know that there are scenarios for each coach that has caused the teams not to play the way they desired them to play, but facts are facts. Georgia is 1-3 against both Florida and Tennessee in the past four years and Tennessee has not been that good recently. What infuriates me is that we have lost 7 home games over the past four years. Half of coach Richt’s losses of the past four seasons have come between the hedges of Sanford Stadium. It is hard to go on the road and win in the SEC, but we are struggling to defend our home field.
I do not believe that coach Richt is trying any less than he did his first five years as the head coach, but something has changed. Mark Richt is a great and honorable man, but I believe he is concerned more with his athletes’ development off the field than he is on the field. He is a Christian man and he is using his job as a ministry to his players. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. But, since Richt has been at Georgia there has been roughly 50 arrests or suspensions to Bulldog football players. Coach Richt’s philosophy seems to be mirroring his faith in that he is recruiting good players even if they struggle with discipline. He believes he can make a difference in their lives on and off the field and change their negative characteristics. I am sure there are many cases in which he has mad outstanding differences in players lives, but there is no avoiding that over the past four season Georgia has had discipline issues.
I think the major difference in the last four years and the first five of Mark Richt’s career at Georgia is that he had firm leaders on the team during the first five seasons. From 2001-2004, Richt had David Greene and David Pollack. D.J. Shockley mirrored Greene’s leadership ability because he learned from him for four years. After 2005, Matthew Stafford came in and changed the system. While Stafford was a great quarterback, he did not have the same mindset as Greene did during his college career. Greene wanted to play college football, Stafford on the other hand had always dreamed of playing in the NFL. College was a stepping-stone for Stafford to get to where he wanted to go. Since Pollack, Georgia has not had an outstanding leader on defense. Rennie Curran was close but not the same.
Also, Greene and Pollack shared the same mindset as Richt. I am not going to be naive and think that they did not get into their share of trouble, but they saw eye to eye with coach Richt. Right now, Richt is struggling to find a leader for his team.
Not only does Georgia not have a leader but also it is apparent that the Bulldogs are missing something. We are two games into the 2010 season and our defense still wont tackle correctly. The players do not appear to be giving every bit of themselves to coach Richt and Georgia’s system.
In my opinion, I think Mark Richt has lost the respect of several of his players and is losing his grip on the team. Zach Mettenberger was dismissed from the team for off the field issues and Montez Robinson was booted from the team for attacking a coed. There have been countless suspensions and arrests of football players over the past 10 years. Washaun Ealey drove on a suspended license and was involved in a hit and run when the coaches deliberately told him not to drive until he got his license back.
– Christian LeMay, the 5-star quarterback for our 2011 class, was suspended for 8 weeks at Butler High School in North Carolina. He decided to transfer and not play football his senior season. He since has been working out with a trainer, but this case shows he has trouble with discipline.
I could go on and on about how players have broken team rules but I would make this post exponentially longer then it already is. In my opinion the football players at the University of Georgia know that coach Richt is a forgiving person. His faith calls him to that. There is nothing wrong with forgiveness, but the players at Georgia are beginning to take advantage of Coach Richt. If they respected him, they would stay out of trouble off the field and not drive drunk or assault females. Players would tackle and give their all. I look at the Georgia sidelines during games and there is no chemistry, no passion, and no unification. Right now, Georgia is formed of a bunch of individuals trying to get to the NFL. Nine seasons ago, the Bulldogs were a unified team that set their sights on an SEC championship. A team goal, not an individual goal.
Ultimately, I think coach Richt’s program peaked in 2004. We had a season after Greene and Pollack where we played like a team, but since then it has been a downhill slide. Richt has not been able to control his players and keep them out of trouble. I do not like Bobo’s offense, I think Granthem’s defense is much better then Martinez’s bend but don’t break scheme. But, ultimately I think the problem is much deeper than that.
Nick Saban has been called slimy, despicable, and a great coach. It goes for Urban Meyer, Pete Carrol, and Steve Spurrier as well. Mark Richt is a family man, while Urban Meyers neglects his health and his family to pursue recruits during the Gators off-season. Pete Carrol is a slimy snake that left Southern Cal in a mess but he also led them to one BCS National Championship (2004) in two tries and two AP National Championships (2003,2004).
Mark Richt believes in Faith, Family, and Football in that order. While I personally agree with that and applauded coach Richt for being a man of values that doesn’t make him a championship winning coach. Maybe a championship caliber coach does not look like the role model Richt is.
Maybe coach Richt will shock the world this year or next and prove me wrong. I hope he proves me wrong. I pray he proves me wrong. I would like nothing more than to see the good guy win. In a world full of great athletes with less then shady morals, I would love to see the stand up guy win one. But, when push comes to shove, what is it going to be? Are we going to settle for average so we can be proud of who our coach is as a person, or are we going to demand excellence for how our coach is on the field? I am literally torn to pieces on this. I love who Mark Richt is as a person, but over the past four years we have not had a team that lost fewer then two games. As a fan of Bulldog sports, I want to win championships. But, as a fan of good people I want to keep him and continue to give him a shot. I think bottom line, I want a championship. But, I would hate to have to look Richt in the eyes and be the one to fire him. Bulldog Nation what will it be? A championship? Or our coach?