Should We Fire Mark Richt?

[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.

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6 thoughts on “Should We Fire Mark Richt?

  1. I think Richt’s judge of character should be a reason for firing! How many arrests have the fans had to read about this year? Seems Richt has brought the Florida Sate mentality to Athens. Not only is he losing key games, he is making alumni ashamed of their school! I live in North Carolina now, and Duke struggles with the football program, but their players are high in academics and don’t get arrested…I would rather lose with their players than win with thugs!!!

    If your gonna have thugs on your team you should at least have a National Championship to go with it…..and Georgia can’t get close so what’s the use!!

    UGA Alumnus 1997.

  2. Mark Richt is a nice guy and, by all accounts, a good man. What I find troubling is the lack of discipline on the team (alluded to by Adam) and the seeming indifference to marginal play. Richt has blown off the fact that UGA is among the most penalized teams in the country, saying FSU had heavily penalized teams and won. Well, Nick Saban has already put together a better program with far fewer penalties. I also took exception with Richt’s veritable coronation of Matthew Stafford. Stafford really only had one good season (2008.) He drew unwarranted praise in 2007 when, if you look at his stats, he was at or near the middle of the pack for just SEC QB’s. Stafford’s inability to make even decent decisions were a HUGE factor in the Alabama loss. This leads me to Mike Bobo, arguably the worst active O.C. in the SEC. Isn’t the point of a good offense to keep the defense off-balance? UGA under-performed in 2008. Thank God for Knowshon. If you look at the season, UGA could have easily lost three more games (SC, UK, and AU as well as LSU which scored as many offensive points as UGA while Scott averaged nearly 7 yards per carry.) Under Richt, there have been flashes of brilliance and stretches of stupidity. Who tries to run the ball late in the game when you’re up by 3 points and the defense is stacking eight and nine guys in the box? Mike Bobo and UGA, that’s who. Richt has become notorious for playing to not lose rather than sticking with what put points on the board. Next, Richt’s downright stubbornness in not firing Wilie Martinez will be Richt’s undoing. Under Van Gorder’s four seasons, UGA gave up 30+ points once. In the four years under Martinez, UGA has given up 30+ points 11 times! What is maddening is then seeing Martinez leave in guys like Brian Evans who, until WM finally benched him, averaged giving up more than one TD per game. Also, just look at the game against MSU in the bowl game; WM had UGA in a two-deep zone on 3rd and 6! Sure, you don’t want to give up a big play but having the corners 12 yards off the ball on 3rd and 6 is just sheer incompetence. Need I even bring up the inches-from-being-converted 4th and 20 play? Letting a pathetic QB put up better than average numbers when his average was established in a conference that went 1-6 in bowl games again speaks for itself.

    I disagree in the assessment that there aren’t a lot of good coaches out there. Look at what Derek Dooley has done at Louisiana Tech in just a couple of seasons. His team is more fundamentally sound and a hell of a lot better tackling than the teams hitting the field under Richt. If Dooley had the recruits UGA is getting, Louisiana Tech would be a team that would make even the best coaches nervous. Dooley is just an example. Given that UGA will not even be contending for a conference title in the foreseeable future, it seems that Damon Evans is willing to aspire to mediocrity (oh, and a team of undisciplined thugs.)

  3. Needing to chime in here also. In my humble opinion firing Mark Richt is beyond belief. Not a national championship coach? I disagree. It was he who kept FSU alive at the top 10, due to his Offensive plays. When he left for UGA, look what happened to FSU, down they went and have been down since.

    Let’s look at the overall picture here. First, the Offense. When Richt took over at UGA, he was calling the plays from the sidelines and coaching the QBs. When Mike Bobo took over the Offensive Coordinator and QBs coach position, UGA started to choke a bit. It was Richt’s coaching and play calling that gave David Greene his success. Maybe we need to look in that direction.

    As far as the running backs are concerned, Caleb King is a great North-South running back as is Samuel, but those kind of backs only are as good as the Offensive line, since it is those guys who are responsible for opening up the holes for North-South runners to break into the secondary. Get that resolved and you open up the passing game as well.

    Now let’s look at the Deffense. Martinez is a great Defensive Coordinator, however, it seems that what is lacking on defense is passing defense Maybe the Defensive Backs coach needs a looking over.

    The last area is injuries. Now football is rough and injuries will happen, but it seems that every year, since I can remember even before Richt, UGA has been hit with more injuries in the season then normal. Maybe the Strength and Conditioning Coach and staff needs a looking over.

    That’s just a starter, I’m sure I can spend much more time detailing certain things that need adjusting, but I think you already know where I’m going with this. So as for me keep Mark Richt and start changing other things, mainly the “good-ole-boy” situation that may be responsible for keeping some of these sub-par coaches and staff on board.

  4. Offer the job to Steve Spurrier or the guy at Boise State or TCU. If any one accepts. Bye bye Mark Richt! So many great reasons for firing the coach have been given here.

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