[UPDATE: It has been three years (almost) since I wrote this, and I can see that it still gets a lot of traffic whenever Georgia puts in a disappointing loss (which is happening an awful lot these days). So I feel compelled to note that this is not my opinion now.
This was originally written back in 2008. When I wrote it, I was operating under the assumption that Georgia would continue to at least maintain the status quo that existed back then, or something reasonably close to it. Obviously that has not happened.
Firing a head coach is a drastic remedy, and one that should be undertaken with great caution. Whenever you make a coaching change, there is always the risk that a bad hire could take your program into the wilderness and it would take years or even decades to recover. But sometimes that risk must be taken. Had Georgia maintained the 2008 status quo, I would not have felt justified in calling for Mark Richt’s firing. But in seeing how badly Georgia football has deteriorated in the years since 2008, I now feel that it is something we have to do.]
I’ve noticed that in the wake of Georgia’s disappointing performance at Florida last week, there has been a surge in the number of people who come to my blog looking for the search term “fire mark richt”. This always happens whenever Georgia experiences a disappointing loss.
I, for one, feel your pain. Here are my thoughts on this issue:
First of all, Mark Richt is NOT a national championship-caliber coach. If he was, Georgia would have won at least one national championship by now.
Georgia has had four opportunities to contend for the national championship during Mark Richt’s tenure. Each time, Georgia has choked at some point along the way. In 2002, Georgia’s best team ever since the days of Herschel Walker was undone by a loss to a mediocre Florida team struggling to find its way under a first-year head coach. In 2004, Georgia was hyped as a national championship contender and started the season at No. 3, in prime position to contend for that national championship. But an early loss to Tennessee knocked them out of the national championship picture, and a later loss to Auburn kept them out. In 2007, Georgia put together an impressive late-season run and made a most compelling case for themselves to be included in the BCS title game. Too bad that Tennessee had already shot them down earlier in the season. And in 2008, Georgia was once again hyped as a national championship contender and started the season at No. 1 in every preseason poll known to man. But Alabama and then Florida made it known to the entire watching world that this emperor had no clothes.
With all of those blown opportunities to contend for the national championship, it is quite clear that if Mark Richt was ever going to win a national championship at Georgia, he would have done it by now. Thus it is quite clear that if Georgia is ever going to win another national championship to go alongside the one that Herschel Walker got for them back in 1980, then Georgia is going to require a significant coaching upgrade.
Having said that, let me say this: I don’t think we should fire Mark Richt.
The decision to fire a head coach is one which must be made with great caution. There are legion examples of programs that have gone the wrong way in making a coaching change, and have ended up in the wilderness for a frightfully long time as a result.
LSU fired Mike Archer after the 1990 season and replaced him with Curley Hallman. Curley Hallman had turned several heads up to that point as head coach of Southern Miss; Southern Miss had beaten Alabama and put a scare into several other elite-level teams. But as head coach at LSU, Curley Hallman only proved adept at attempting to turn the heads of coeds.
Arizona brought in John Mackovic in 2001 because they wanted him to implement a new, wide-open offense that would lift them out of Pac-10 mediocrity. But John Mackovic plunged them even further into mediocrity; Mike Stoops is in his fifth year of trying to clean up the mess left behind by Mackovic and the fans are starting to lose patience.
Nebraska fired Frank Solich in 2003. After Houston Nutt made a laughingstock of them by allowing their plane to sit on the Fayetteville tarmac for three days before telling them he wasn’t interested, they brought in Bill Callahan to implement the West Coast offense. But the only thing Bill Callahan implemented was mediocrity, division, and a culture of distrust. Bo Pelini is now in his first year at Nebraska; indications are promising but he still has a lot of work to do to clean up the mess left by Callahan.
Georgia should not fire Mark Richt unless they have somebody significantly better waiting in the wings. But there are not a whole lot of coaches out there that are better than Mark Richt. I don’t see Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Meyer, Butch Davis, Bob Stoops, Mack Brown, or any coaches of that ilk beating a path to Georgia’s door. So I say that we should not fire Mark Richt.