Several years ago Mack Brown, who had just started at Texas, spoke at a Touchdown Club or other such function and told this story about his time at North Carolina: When he first arrived at North Carolina, the outgoing coach gave him three envelopes numbered sequentially, with instructions to open one envelope (in sequential order) whenever his job was on the line and do whatever it said to do inside.
Mack Brown had a rough first year at North Carolina. The fans were all up in arms. So he opened the first envelope. Inside was a slip of paper that said, “Blame your predecessor.” So Mack Brown went out on the speaking circuit and spoke about how the previous coach had messed up recruiting and how he would need time to straighten everything out. The next year, North Carolina improved. They did well for several years after.
In 1994, North Carolina lost several key players and had a down year. Again the fans were up in arms. Mack Brown opened the second envelope. Inside was a slip of paper that said, “Fire some assistants.” So he fired several assistants. The next year North Carolina improved, and went on to become a Top 10 team. Texas came calling, and Mack Brown took the job. As he was unpacking in Austin, he found the last envelope, still unopened. Out of curiosity, he opened it. Inside was a slip of paper that said, “Prepare three envelopes.”
It is now time for Mark Richt to get busy preparing three envelopes for his successor at Georgia.
I have no idea who that successor will be. But whoever he is, he can’t get here soon enough.
Because it is glaringly obvious that Mark Richt has run out of ideas at Georgia.
His team is two touchdowns worse than Mississippi State, a former SEC doormat and a team that Georgia has not lost to since I was in diapers. They are 0-3 in SEC play–the only 0-3 team in the entire SEC, I feel compelled to note–for the first time since Ray Goof. Mark Richt now owns a three-game losing streak for the first time in his entire career.
Given that, one would think that Mark Richt would have had his charges playing with some semblance of a sense of urgency and desperation at Mississippi State this week. Throughout the past week, Mark Richt was questioned constantly about his players being in a funk after losing two straight, and he constantly reassured us that they would not be in a funk. How’s this for not being in a funk: In the first three minutes they went three-and-out and allowed Mississippi State to score a touchdown in only four plays.
These days, it seems that Mark Richt is constantly questioned about the state of his program and the direction of his program. Just a couple of short years ago these questions would have been unthinkable, but now they are inescapable. After the Arkansas loss, someone challenged Mark Richt on what assurance he could give that the program was headed in the right direction, not just for this year but for two and three years down the road. His response: “The bottom line,” he said, “is if you’re a true fan, in my opinion, you’re going to support your team no matter what. I don’t think you’re going to just love the boys when they win and hate on them when they lose, you know.”
True enough. Mark Richt does have a point there. But for an embattled coach whose fans are openly questioning the state and direction of his program, that was the WRONG thing to say and the WRONG time to say it.
The last time Georgia started 0-3 in SEC play was in 1993. Ray Goof was the coach then, and the season was excruciating proof that he was bankrupt and devoid of ideas for making Georgia football relevant in the SEC East. It took a couple of years after that, but eventually the UGA athletic leadership reached the same conclusion and Ray Goof was gone.
Mark Richt has achieved far more in his tenure at Georgia than Ray Goof could ever have dreamed of even in his wildest dreams. He won two SEC championships in four years at a school that had not won one in twenty years prior to his arrival.
But the SEC landscape has changed drastically since then. LSU, Florida, and Alabama have all won national championships since Mark Richt won his last SEC championship. South Carolina, Arkansas, and possibly Auburn are all ascendant powers now. Even Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Kentucky are improving. And Georgia has failed to keep up.
Now the program is in free fall, hemorrhaging conference losses, doing things that have not been done at Georgia since Ray Goof, and losing to teams that Georgia hasn’t lost to since I was in diapers.
No longer does any opponent fear Georgia. As a matter of fact, Georgia is now the chic team to play if YOU are looking for a signature win to establish YOUR program.
The old Steve Spurrier critique of Ray Goof–‘Georgia gets all these players, I don’t know what happens to them”–is just as poignant now as it ever was then. Since when does all that blue-chip talent coming through Athens square with 0-3 in SEC play? How does a program with all those five-star recruiting classes coming in get to be two touchdowns worse than Mississippi State?
This is all about coaching, people. It is a MASSIVE failure in the area of coaching.
“This one’s embarrassing for me. As a head coach, I’m responsible for everybody in this program, from the trainers to the managers to the walk-ons, to the kids to the coaches — everybody.” So said Mack Brown after his team inexplicably got punked by UCLA in Austin this week.
Can any of you out there imagine these words, or anything sounding remotely similar to these words, coming out of the mouth of Mark Richt?
Didn’t think so.
The loss to Mississippi State this weekend was a tipping point in the minds of many Georgia fans who now see Mark Richt as the problem, not the solution. I am part of that number.
I have tried to remain positive, and I expect you, my readers, to take note. I tried to stay positive when Georgia was getting its doors blown off over at the Dead Cockroach. And I tried to see the positive while acknowledging the problems that surfaced against Arkansas. So I don’t want to hear any of you out there saying that I am always down on my team.
In light of what I have seen this weekend, I cannot stay positive anymore.
It is time for Mark Richt to go. He has clearly run out of answers. I have my own ideas of who I would like to see take his place, but in the end, I don’t care. I just want him gone and somebody else with fresh ideas in his place. The sooner the better.