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Monday, August 3, 2009

Is Richt on the Hot Seat?

Read that headline again, then ask yourself, on a scale of one to 10, how stupid does it sound? Much like Nigel Tufnel's amp, that scale should really go to 11.

And yet, it hasn't stopped dozens of writers and columnists from asking it this offseason, most notably Paul Finebaum, who posed the question in a recent column for the Mobile Press-Register. A year ago, there would have been little tolerance for such hypotheticals, but apparently 10 wins doesn't get you what it used to.

For his part, Richt isn't paying much attention to any of the talk -- although he is aware that it has been talked about.

"I don't really dwell on those things so I don't know exactly what everybody said or what they think about me," he said. "When it comes to that kind of thing, I try to focus on what I can control. My job is to do the best I can for this university to prepare players and coaches to reach all the goals and expectations they have. ... I'm focusing on the process of building a championship team and doing it in a first-class manner. That's all I can do. I really can't control the perceptions or anything else for that manner."

Nor should he have to. But since players report for fall practice today, I think it might be worth trying to do a little of that perception control now.

First, it's always good to get a little perspective. As the Senator pointed out last week, what Richt has accomplished in just eight years at Georgia is beyond anything fans could have expected upon his arrival.

Then let's take a look at how Richt stacks up against the competition.

Best winning percentage, all active coaches:
Pete Carroll, USC (88-15, .854)
Urban Meyer, Fla. (83-17, .830)
Bob Stoops, Okla. (109-24, .820)
Mark Richt, UGA (82-22, .788)

*Note, it should probably be pointed out, too, that A.) Richt's bowl record (6-2) dwarfs that of Stoops (4-7) and that the majority of Meyer's record, as impressive as it is, was built in lower conferences (not that he's done too bad in the SEC).

How about closer to home? Here are the top SEC team's record during the past eight seasons:

Georgia 82-22
LSU 82-22
Florida 77-27
Auburn 72-30
Tennessee 69-33

Of course, all four of the non-Georgia teams on that list have had coaching changes in that time, so perhaps wins and losses don't have much to do with it.

After all, all the talk regarding Richt's job performance has never been about wins and losses. It essentially surrounds one key fact: He hasn't won a national championship yet, while Florida and LSU have each won two during his tenure.

That's really the big problem for Richt. While the chips have never fallen just right for a national title at Georgia, a few other coaches have managed to make the process look pretty simple. It's not.

Yet the argument I hear most from people who are, let's say, less than enthusiastic about Richt is this: The guy's not a bad coach, he's just not going to get it done at a national-championship level.

First off, Richt is a lot better than "not a bad coach," but let's humor the notion for a minute anyway. Since Richt arrived at Georgia, there have only been four non-voluntary coaching changes at a school that won eight or more games the previous season. (Of note: I'm defining non-voluntary in the most liberal of interpretations, so any instance in which there appeared to be even minor pressure for a coach to step aside is included.) Here's the list:

Arkansas - Houston Nutt (8-5) to Bobby Petrino 5-7
Michigan - Lloyd Carr (9-4) to Rich Rodriguez 3-9

Nebraska - Frank Solich (9-3) to Bill Callahan 5-6

UCLA - Bob Toledo (8-5) to Karl Dorrell 6-7

The first thing to note is, most schools aren't stupid enough to dump a good coach, and my guess is that Georgia fans don't want to see their school lumped in with the UCLAs and Arkansas of the world.

But the bigger point, in case you weren't reading closely, is this: The combine record of the coaches who left in their final season was 34-17. Their replacements, in their first seasons on the job, finished 19-29. That's an average of four FEWER wins the next year under coaches who were supposed to be better alternatives. Anyone want to bet Lane Kiffin or Gene Chizik drastically alters that scenario this year?

The bottom line is, you don't get rid of a good coach because there aren't that many of them, and Mark Richt is better than a good coach.

Which leads me to the biggest reason people need to stop wondering about Richt's future. If you're going to make a change, you better be sure you have a better plan in place for the future, and that's no easy task.

Maybe Richt can't win a national title. There's really no way of knowing until either a.) he wins one or b.) he stops trying. But that's true of all coaches who have yet to win a title. In fact, here are the only active (or potentially active) coaches we're 100 percent positive have what it takes to lead a team to a national championship: Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban, Jim Tressel, Butch Davis, Phil Fulmer, Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier, Joe Paterno and Dennis Erickson.

That's it. That's the list.

I know this entire post has been preaching to a very small minority of Georgia fans (and probably mostly to a fair number of college football columnists who have far too little to write about), so I apologize if this was a wasted exercise for the rest of you.

But here's the question I want to ask that vocal minority (and anyone else who wants to answer it): Look at that list again and tell me, which of those coaches would drop what they're doing now to come to Georgia? And of those, is there even one that you'd spend more than two seconds considering swapping Mark Richt for?


Calder said...

:Golf Clap:

Anonymous said...

We know the saying about opinions. Unlike some others, I can listen (read) others' viewpoints without getting all bent out of shape. My opinion is that replacing Richt is LUDICROUS!!! If he were gone, we would really notice all the things he does that we take for granted. I care more about SEC championships. That's the only thing a team can control.

Anonymous said...

I believe Richt will eventually get an NC...he has assembled a quality staff and they all know how to recruit...if you think about replacing him,who can you get that's better? it's a short list of coaches and they would be pricey to get...

OTOH,Damon Evans knows UGA has what it takes to compete and excel in the East...facilities,fan support,money,etc.I don't think DE will wait forever though.

Of course,Florida has to be handled somehow(the entire SEC has that problem)...

Anonymous said...

Of the coaches from that list that would drop everything to come to UGA, I can see only one and that's Dennis Erickson who won with Jimmy Johnson's recruits and then left UM on probation. Larry Coker won with Butch Davis' players. See a pattern here. Anyway, Dennis Erickson would definately come here (no thanks) and perhaps Butch Davis (intriguing). An outsider could be Phil Fulmer perhaps to exact some revenge on the Vols, but, again, no thanks.

Richt will get a National Championship. Within the next 3 seasons.

Anonymous said...

We should keep Richt but anyone who thinks he has assembled a good staff is kidding himself other than Searles. The proof is our performance in the big games. Beating Central Mich does not mean anything but being clobbered by Alabama and Fla means everything. This is going to be an interesting year as we will see how well they can coach. Either you are going to be right or we will be correct. I hope you are right but I doubt it.

hanDAWG said...

Richt is excellent, as I chronicled recently at Big Hairy Blawg ("Richt's Golden Era") . Very well written/stated blog today, Mr. Hale. With my regards,
Hanish "HAN" Vance

Tommy said...

Let me start by saying that Richt is a good coach and has done well during his tenure at UGA. He has won two SEC championships, only two in my 27 years.

The truth is that the seasons are longer now, so 10 wins does not guarantee you anything. If you are a true dawg fan, one that is red and black to the bone, then you would not be satisfied either. We don't want to be a team that is happy with 10 wins. We want to be a team that can win the big games, that dominates it's conference, that plays for the national championship. You may be thinking "dominate the SEC, yeah right," well UF seems to dominate it, whats the difference between UF and UGA??

The article commented on the winning percentages of current coaches, last I checked, Richt was still behind Carroll of USC and our arch-nemesis Meyer of UF. Until we can win in Jacksonville regularly, and take care of the SEC east, then 10 wins does not mean much to me. With the recruiting classes that we have each year, there is no reason that we should not be able to get to that next level.

So, "Richt in the hot seat?" I say yes he is; maybe not for his own coaching, but for the coaching under him. Look at the stats from last year, UGA was ranked 10th in the SEC for scoring defense per game. That is horrible. We only beat out MISS St. and Kentucky. Come on guys, championships start with the defense, if we can't keep the other team off the scoreboard, how are we supposed to get to the promise land? Look at the defensive stats since VanGorder's departure. Martinez should have went this off season, and if the defense continues to perform at the same level as the past years, Richt should go to.

If any coach in America wants to only win 10 games a year, win his conference every now and then, and never play for it all, well that coach will never have a team that will compete on the national level.

Anonymous said...

Why look at stats since VanGorder left: look at the players. I'm not saying Willie is a great coach by any means, but it's also unfair to compare last season's starting 11 to 2002-2004's. VanGorder was a great coach, but he benefitted from exceptional players. Willie hasn't had that. And perhaps it's his own fault for bad evaluation in recruiting.

And sorry, but have you forgotten where UGA was when Richt arrived? We would have killed for a 10 win season. You have a team capable of winning 10 games often enough, you'll have things fall your way eventually.

Anonymous said...

Butch never won a nc...the majority of players were recruited by him but he never won a nc.

Ron Zook was responsible for the majority of the '06 gators but he doesn't get on the list either.

Redcrake said...

"Of course,Florida has to be handled somehow"

I'm not so sure they do. To me, the closest thing one can compare Tebow to in terms of impact on his team is Herschel Walker. Tebow has won 2 MNC's and a Heisman. Herschel won 1 MNC and a Heisman and the Dawgs could have easily been in consideration for another.

When Herschel left, what happened to the Dawgs? 1 good year with some experienced players followed by 3 mediocre ones. Until I see what Meyer does in a Tebow-less universe, I am not prepared to state that he is a better coach than Dooley.

While the psychological aspects of the last couple of decades need to be conquered, I sincerely believe a Tebow-less Gators squad will be coming back down to Earth quickly with losses to UGA and others. Nobody...and I mean nobody in the history of college football has stayed on top for long -- and I don't think Urban has the chops for a Woodenesque dynasty a la UCLA.

Frank Garner said...

If Richt is on the hot seat the state of college football is nuts. Since Richt arived at UGA Georgia has won 2 SEC championships and played for another. Florida has won two. Auburn has one and LSU has three. Everybody else has zero. National championships are a crapshoot. LSU and Florida have two while Auburn went undefeated in 2004 and didn't get a sniff. That Auburn team could play with anyone anytime but they were shut out of the championship while OU was being eviscerated by USC. I'll stick with CMR.

Anonymous said...

I have heard no serious GA fan even remotely insinuate that we needed to get rid of Richt, I can't even remember any members of our lunatic fringe portion of the fan base (which all southern schools have) hint at firing Richt since 2006. This is only coming from people like Finebaum who are hoping against hope that we self destruct or who are trying to plant seeds of uncertainty in the minds of recruits, pretty pathetic if you asked me.

David Hale said...

I agree that it's an absurd notion, but just reading back through the comments, you'll find some people who disagree.