Georgia Football: I’m Ready for the Mark Richt Era to Be Over
I just can’t bring myself to do a GIF post after the game yesterday.
Honestly, what on earth do I have to post?
The Chubb run is obviously going to be something of legend once that kid gets the show all to himself. Other than that, the game was full of Florida runs, UGA being bounced off the line of scrimmage like something from a “Breaking Madden” episode, and ‘Mark Richt face’ looking up at the clock and scoreboard as if they were unsolvable mysteries.
About midway through the 3rd quarter, when it became absolutely obvious how this story was going to end, I left the house to go to the store. I remember walking through the aisles not even really remembering what I was looking for. I also realized that I had mismatched socks on and that I’d forgotten to change out of my bedroom shoes. I could hardly think of anything through the gnawing pit that dropping and dropping and dropping in my stomach.
This feeling—which I’ve felt far too often since 2001—has led me to the following conclusion:
I’m ready for the Mark Richt Era to be over.
I’m not saying we should fire Mark Richt after the Florida loss.
I’m not saying we should ever fire Mark Richt.
Or Mike Bobo. Or any current member of University of Georgia coaching staff.
I’m not even saying that Mark Richt won’t finish his career as the greatest UGA coach of all time. If he wins one or more National Titles I think he will have earned at least an argument for that honor.
I’m trying to get at a certain feeling that I have. A certain inevitable course of events that I just can’t get out of my mind.
You see, for me—and I imagine for a great deal of other UGA fans—there is this sinking feeling that the elusive National Title will continue to be just that: elusive.
There is this unyielding dread that a Mark Richt National Title will continue to be the dollar bill on the fishing line, the carrot on the stick, the Holy Grail hanging just close enough that we’ll leap over the precipice to get it but find it is just far enough away that we cannot get back, and so we will plummet into the deep chasm of bourbon-soaked “drown-your-sorrows-after-another-Florida-loss” nights that awaits us.
This feeling of inevitable failure could be enough to pull the trigger on the Mark Richt era and many in the coming days will probably call for that to happen.
But there is another bottomless pit out there.
It’s called the “coaching search.”
Almost no one gets it right (cf. Hoke, Brady). Sure we’re all waiting on Kirby Smart. And maybe he’ll be great. But I seem to remember another Saban disciple who went on to be the most in-demand young coordinator, only to subsequently be snagged by a great SEC school. He turned out to be less than stellar. His name was Will Muschamp.
You see, I’ll never advocate that we fire Mark Richt because I know with Richt we are always relevant, always in the hunt for a trip to Atlanta, and, as a result, always in contention for a playoff spot.
But I can’t get over the fact that the folks who say Richt is ‘too nice’ or ‘doesn’t have the killer instinct to win at this level’ have a point.
It has always seemed like the gut-wrenching paradox of the Richt tenure is that it takes a loss like this one to Florida to wake a team up into its true greatness, BUT that a loss like this also sinks any chance of the National Title they deserve.
Hence, you have the 2007 season.
Don’t get me wrong, that was one of the most incredible seasons of football I’ve ever witnessed. I’m not sure I’d trade it for anything.
But the loss to an abysmal Tennessee team that year only proves this point. It took that loss to wake up a UGA team that looked to be able to beat any team in the country by year’s end. But that loss to UT made it so that our sudden rise in form was for nothing. Sure, it was fun to watch. But even in today’s playoff environment a loss like that probably scuttles any hope of getting in.
And that’s where we’re left again today. Looking down the closing stretch where we could still win the East, still make it to Atlanta, still shake the world with a surprise SEC Championship, but it’s all tinged with the sobering realization that all of it is probably for nothing.
What’s worse, it will mark the final year in the career of one of the greatest college football players of all time, a player with whom we failed to even win a conference title.
When you think about the run of talent Mark Richt has had it really does become utterly maddening that we haven’t won anything more than a few SEC titles. David Green, David Pollack, Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno, A.J. Green, Jarvis Jones, Blair Walsh, Brandon Boykin, and finally Todd Gurley have all come and gone, with basically nothing but a Sugar Bowl destruction of Florida State and Hawaii to show for it.
It is all the things we don’t know that cause us such torture.
Would another coach have built a championship team with that kind of talent?
You really can’t say.
And you really can’t blame Mark Richt either.
There are too many other factors involved, too many bounces that went the other way, too many all-time greats on the other side of the ball to lay it all at his feet.
But you can’t help but think that these 14 some odd years will be years that will not be remembered with nothing but fond feelings.
You have to think that the years of the Mark Richt Era will haunt UGA fans as the days of what might have been.
And yet there seems to be the universal sentiment that a Mark Richt Championship will be worth the wait. And so we continue to seemingly wait for the apocalypse, for the time that good guys win championships, for the time when UGA is always up for and thrives in the Cocktail Party, for a time when honesty and academic success and ‘the right way’ are rewarded.
But surely we’re not all naïve enough to think that such a time is coming soon.
And perhaps we’ve all experienced just enough of the workings of this world to know that nothing like that is coming on this side of the veil.
I will shed many a tear when Mark Richt hangs up the headset. After all, he has been my coach in the way that Vince Dooley was my Dad’s coach. But part of me, and how big a part I’m not sure yet, will breath a long and deep sigh of relief.
Because the terrible weight of being ‘good but not great’ might finally get lifted off the shoulders of the Bulldog Nation.
I love Mark Richt.
But I’m ready for the Richt Era to be over.