Imagine this: You are the head coach at a major SEC school. You had success in the early years of your administration, but your program has fallen upon hard times in recent years. To put it in concrete terms: After going 24-11 against Top 25 opponents in your first seven years, you have since gone 2-8 against ranked opponents.
The fans howled. The critics roared. Some questioned your passion and mental toughness. Some stated that your program had lost its way. Some were even saying that you had lost your players and that you no longer deserved to be the head coach.
You finished your latest campaign with a pathetic, humiliating effort against a mid-major opponent in a lower-tier bowl game. This gave you a losing record for the year–your first losing record ever as a head coach. And the howling of the critics and disillusioned fans reached a fever pitch.
So you made some changes to your staff. You revamped your entire strength and conditioning program. Your AD changed some things around and relieved you of some administrative responsibilities so that you would have more time to focus on doing the things you need to be doing in order to coach successfully.
You went out and won big on the recruiting trail. The program was reenergized. Better quality talent was coming into the program. Surely better days were ahead. You gave your fans reason to believe.
For your season opener, you faced a highly ranked opponent. You had eight full months to prepare for this. And you did prepare. You talked it up to your players. You made sure they had the date circled on their calendars.
And when the big day finally arrived, it was a colossal flop. Your team, faster, taller, bigger, stronger than its opponent at every position, looked lost. Uninspired. Overwhelmed. Outmanned. Outclassed. Outcoached. In every phase of the game.
Needless to say, you got punked. You are now 2-9 against ranked opponents over the past four seasons (including the one currently in progress).
Your next game against a ranked opponent is also your conference opener, and it is only days away. Your level of desperation has just gone up by a factor of, like, ten gajillion.
Now, here you are in the postgame news conference, trying to give answers for the gruesome train wreck that just unfolded right before our very eyes during the previous four hours.
So how do you respond?
If you’re Mark Richt, you laugh. You crack jokes.
…After some standard introductory comments — “They were better than we were. We’ve got a lot of work to do before next week. But we know everybody is 0-0 in league play” — Richt actually laughed. Yes, laughed. He turned to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Chip Towers, who had been pestering Richt all week about the status of safety Bacarri Rambo, laughed and said that Rambo would not be suspended for the South Carolina game. Richt had been playing coy with the media, but Rambo was held out Saturday as expected for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Laughter may be a defensive mechanism for Richt. But his team just got whacked with a 2 x 4 in the season opener. Is laughing in the post-game new conference really a good idea?
Mark Richt, ladies and gentlemen. He’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your servers.
Try to imagine Nick Saban laughing at a postgame press conference under similar circumstances. Or Steve Spurrier. Or Urban Meyer. Or Paul Johnson. Or Chris Petersen. Could you do it? Didn’t think so.
This isn’t about wanting to see Mark Richt blow his top and start throwing visors on the sidelines during the games, a la Steve Spurrier. This isn’t about wanting to see him show up mad and start slinging chairs around at the postgame press conference.
This is about wanting to see that he cares. Wanting to see that he feels the same pain that all the rest of us Bulldog faithful from Rincon to Ringgold and elsewhere in the country feel when our team is humiliated on a national stage. Wanting to see that he feels the same sick feeling in his gut that all the rest of us feel when Georgia loses to somebody it hasn’t lost to since I was in diapers (cf Mississippi State). Wanting to see that he feels the same cannon shot to the heart that all the rest of us feel when we see all the Florida flags flying proudly from all the cars all around town every year during the week after Florida-Georgia. Wanting to see that he is committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that these things never happen again–or if they do, that they happen very infrequently.
Wanting to see that it matters to him that the Bulldog faithful who have entrusted him with the leadership of their beloved team are hurting because our once-proud program is now being dragged through the mud.
I don’t see that.
And I certainly don’t see it when Richt shows up at the postgame press conference after just having his ass handed to him on a silver platter carved up into a million slices by a Mountain West opponent, and starts cracking jokes.
Mark Richt may be laughing, but I’m not. This is no laughing matter.