Mark Richt, Bo Pelini, And When Good Isn’t Good Enough

Echoing still from Sanford Stadium across Georgia, that dull roar you hear is the loud minority of Georgia fans coming out of their “Fire Mark Richt” woodworks in the wake of Georgia’s first loss to Georgia Tech in six years. It is a vocal minority, and even one that had a pretty decent case following the 2010 season– one which saw a 6-7 Georgia team lose to UCF in a no-name bowl game, followed by an 0-2 start in 2011.

We need to nip this one in the bud right now, though: Mark Richt isn’t going anywhere, nor should he.

We learned of the firing of Nebraska’s Bo Pelini this morning, and there are a lot of people who want to compare Pelini’s Nebraska program to Richt’s at Georgia. It’s a fair comparison, as Georgia’s .704 win percentage since 2007 is one percent lower than Nebraska’s in the Pelini era. Pelini has been a consistent winner at a historically strong program, and that was his downfall. He won 9 or 10 games in each of his seven seasons in Lincoln, and won or shared a division title in four of those seasons. Some may call that stagnant, I call it consistent.


Nebraska isn’t exactly a recruiting hotbed, as a large percentage of the Huskers’ best players over the years have hailed from Texas and California. As the game has evolved to incorporate more speed and less brute force, the country boys from Nebraska cornfields have been phased out of the game. After the ridiculous success of Tom Osborne and the underrated (58-19 in six years!) success of Frank Solich, it stands to reason that Nebraska fans would be spoiled.

In the modern landscape of college football, Nebraska is in a no-man’s land. I don’t think it will take long for the folks in Lincoln to realize they made a mistake firing a largely successful (albeit overly candid) head coach.

Which brings us back to Mark Richt at Georgia. As Andrew wrote this morning, Richt has done everything you can ask of a coach in an era where his conference happens to be the toughest conference in history. He’s averaged 9.6 wins a season (sound familiar?), moved swiftly to upgrade his staff when something hasn’t worked (see: Martinez, Willie; Grantham, Todd), and has weathered the storm of scores of new coaches’ “hey look what we’re building at _______!” recruiting pitches with yet another top class inbound in February.

Sure, there are losses that border on inexplicable for Richt. That’s the nature of the game of college football, and why we devote our falls to consuming, disseminating, and discussing it. One team wins, one team loses. But I would rather be in the hunt on a year-in, year-out basis than hold out hope for a magical run once every four or five years. That’s how you become Arkansas or Auburn.

There are people who say Georgia deserves a Nick Saban-type coach. There’s only one Nick Saban, and he is entrenched at Alabama. Although he seems it, not even Saban is impervious to the upset. He went 6-6 in his first year while establishing ‘the system’ in Tuscaloosa, and as demonstrated firsthand, that is not good enough in Athens. Also, what does the list of Sabanesque winners on the market look like right now? Unless someone knows something about exhuming corpses or cloning, I’ll wait for a good response.

A known quantity is generally better than the unknown, as tantalizing as the prospects of the unknown sound. Barring catastrophic injuries (as seen in 2013), Georgia is pretty much a lock to win 10, compete for the East, and finish in the top 15 in the country. Unless you are the ‘it’ program like a mid-1990’s Nebraska, early-2000’s Miami, mid-2000’s USC, or current Alabama, that’s all you can ask.

A new coach could be a coup a la Pete Carroll at USC, but could leave you with a scorching case of sanctions and Lane Kiffin. Or a new coach could be Lane Kiffin. Or Will Muschamp. Or Gene Chizik (minus Cam Newton). Or any other hot commodity that fails to prove he has the chops at the top level of the sport.

A new coach could bring in a ‘system’ that fails to fit the talents of his players, and leave the program in a spiral of mediocrity. Rich Rodriguez is proving again at Arizona that he can win almost anywhere, but Michigan didn’t give him the chance to fully incorporate his system. Now, a consistent power is struggling to reach six wins every year. (FWIW, Nebraska is going the way of Michigan.) If Georgia could drop everything and hire Chip Kelly tomorrow, would fans have the patience to wait out Kelly finding his mobile system QB, speedy receivers, and nimble linemen? I have serious doubts.

I bring that up because it underscores another beautiful Richtism: he and his assistants adjust the system to the talent, not the talent to the system. You have the #1 draft pick in Matt Stafford, or the SEC’s all-time leading passer in Aaron Murray? Go up-tempo and vertical. He did that. The best Bulldog since Herschel Walker in the backfield? Go 65/35 run. He did that too. In an ego-driven profession, coaches tend to think there is one way to go about things. Richt has the humility to see when things are wrong, and fix them. Good luck finding that again.

So yes, this is a little bit of a rant because of the (very real) similarities characterizing the current states of the Nebraska and Georgia programs. They’re both consistent winners, both historically and recently, and both stand to take a mighty tumble in the wake of a coaching change.

Let’s watch over the next couple of years how this Nebraska thing plays out. I’ll take my chances with CMR and another SEC and National Championship contender in 2015.

About Chadwick

Enjoyer of adventure, would support a Trump policy that requires a minimum IQ to tweet. @Chad_Floyd for fun, @ChadFloydKW for real estate.

Posted on November 30, 2014, in Alabama, Big 12, Blog, Daily Dose of Dawg, Georgia Bulldogs, Recruiting, SEC. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. First off let me say damn good post. For all the people out there are elitist jerks and feel like we should win every game and be perfect all the time. Wake up no one is perfect these kids will make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s how you respond to those mistakes that makes that makes champions. Our dogs may have had their ups and downs. That’s life. If you guys want to be the type of fan that just wants wins at any cost there is A bandwagon team you can jump on and follow a few clicks away I’m sure. Coach mark rig is a damn good coach. The values and lessons he teaches are dogs will get these voice a hell of a lot farther in life then any other coach. We may not be the team that wins national championships every year but damn it we come out strong and always have a shot a beating any team that lined up against us. For better or worse dogs for life. Go Dawgs!!!

  2. sorry guys but having a tough time dealing with this loss yesterday. I have been the biggest supporter of CMR but we must ALL admit that what happened falls totally on his shoulders. for a man that makes close to 70 grand a week should we expect more???? if don’t know…….just asking the question. gata jyd.

  3. Im sorry bud. I know it is hard to stomache a loss to tech of all people but putting the win all on richt is not right. I am sure though he would be the first one to stand up and say it was all his fault. The only things I am frusterated about is the Pooch Kick and Quavon on special teams. Richt didnt fumble the ball inside the goal line twice. Two freshemen did that. We have leaned on these new guys very hard this season, Im not even mad about that. It was really always a rebuilding year to begin with. Honestly with TG3 out like he was no one expected us to be where we ended up. No one new Chub would be such a damn good dawg.

    I just do not see any other coach out there with the same potential. Richt will get us a NC befores its all said and done. That I have no doubt of. The same guys who are running around with the pitch forks obviously forget where our team was at before Richt got here, I know for damn sure I am not the fan who wants to sacrifice the integrity of our program just to win. I mean look at FSU. Look at auburn. Makes me want to go throw up to even compare those teams to our dawgs. Our time is coming…

  4. I am not in the “Fire Richt” camp, but I dare say I am getting closer. I think that he has gotten us as far as he can. He is paid millions to win football games. The other stuff is nice, and maybe even more important, but his job is to win. He hamstrings himself too much with his own conservatism, friendliness, fairness, and openness. Yes, these are all wonderful things to have, but to win a championship you have to be brutal, harsh, uncaring, and have tunnel vision on nothing but winning. Look no further than Nick Saban, Urban Myers, Jimbo Fisher, or the University of Auburn. Do I want that of my Alma Mater, probably not, I do not want a jerk of a coach like Saban or Myers that care only of winning and do not think twice of rewarding seniors or honoring scholarships or that create medical hardships out of thin air. Nor do I want them to hide the legal and ethical troubles of their players like FSU or just go around recruiting the bad apples kicked off of other SEC teams like Auburn. However, that might be the deal with the devil that it takes now in college football.

    Richt is a good guy, a great guy. But can he get the job done? I know that it takes luck and not every team in college football can do. Actually, only one can every year. So, is Richt doing a good job? Yes. Is he doing a great job? Maybe. But does he have the hardware to show case in the trophy room. No. If that is what we want, are we willing to sell our souls? And if we are, which devil are you going to put it in the hands of?

    One confused Dawg.

    Austin class of 2004.

  5. Sadly there were people just like this author and the posters above who were in favor of keeping ray goff and Jim Donnan too. The argument that fans wouldn’t give the chip Kelley sequel replacement a chance is utterly preposterous. The mark richt experiment has had 14 years. The entire team turns over every four years (5 with redshirts and 3 with early entires). By my estimate that’s three entire turnovers of the roster and mark richt continues to underwhelm. A bad year or two of transition might be had, but when the Mississippi state and ole miss programs are ranked higher and gaining true national respect with first time big boy head coaches, to suggest Georgia with its money, talent base and facilities can’t do the same is underselling this university. What you have see to suggest that this is moving in the right direction is beyond me. If anything the richt great years were his first years, and since then it’s been a slow grinding spiral downward, not upward.

  6. yes Austin yes. agree 100%. just remember again he makes close to 70 grand a week. the question again…….should we expect more????? I love him as a person and what he stands for but……..tough call

  7. You ain’t getting an SEC contender in 2015. With the ones leaving and the possibilities of losing , Mitchell, Floyd, and Jenkins you will be lucky to go 7-4.

    • It’s a tough 2015 schedule, no doubt. But is there an SEC East team better equipped to handle Alabama and Auburn in their cross-divisional schedule? I think not.

      Every team loses players every year. I don’t think you lose both Floyd and Jenkins, and Lorenzo Carter is proving to be better than either of them. Ramsey over Mason should represent an upgrade. The young receivers all have shown flashes in limited opportunity due to the strength of the running game. Oh, speaking of which…you return a mostly intact OL with guys named Chubb and Michel. The secondary gets an infusion of talent and doesn’t lose anyone.

      Georgia’s window for the next 2-3 years is wide open.

  8. I’m not in the frothing at the mouth variety of the “Fire Coach Richt” camp. I love the guy, and I’d hate to see him go.

    But, I am in the “I’m 34 years old, I’ve yet to see a single team I’m passionate about win a championship, and I honestly don’t think Richt can get it done at Georgia” camp. I’d love to be wrong about that, but I don’t think I am. He’s not making progress. Quite the opposite, the fact is that he’s regressing.

    I’d hate to see Georgia part ways with Richt, but I’m downright desperate for a championship, and I don’t believe he can deliver it. Now, if he wins one–just one–he can stick around and be “good but not great” until doomsday, and I’d be perfectly content. Just somebody, anybody, win a championship for this fan and the fanbase.

  9. In the hunt? When has UGA been in the hunt to win anything? Richt has been there since 2001 and has exactly TWO SEC Championships. How many coaches with Richt’s tenure and talent dont have NCs? UGA will never win anything more than an East Championship under Richt. He consistently gets outcoached in games he’s supposed to win and never win games that matter. If you want 9-10 wins a year with a top 10 recruiting class every year and no chance of winning the SEC or a national title then he’s your guy. If you want a national title or SEC title then you have to look elsewhere. Auburn, Oregon, FSU all replaced National title winning coaches with damn good replacements so i dont want to hear the Richt apologist anthem of “we’ll suck if Richt leaves”. No one expects to win every game but he routinely loses games that he’s supposed to win (See Florida and S. Carolina). Dont compare UGA to fuckin Nebraska!!!!! You can trip and fall and win 9 games at UGA just off instate talent.

    • During that time, who else has SEC Championships period? Four schools: LSU, Auburn, Florida, Alabama. Not South Carolina, not Tennessee, not A&M/Mizzou/Ole Miss/Miss State/Kentucky/Vanderbilt/Arkansas.

      No chance of winning the SEC title? We were within five yards and a tipped ball two years ago.

      My point was not to say we were going to suck if Richt were to leave, my point was there is a lot more downside than there is upside. We are in the hunt. Go across the nation and name schools in better shape to contend year in and year out. I bet you won’t be able to come up with 10.

      Your last sentence just typifies the arrogance which gets schools in trouble. That in-state talent has to cover a LOT of schools.

  10. We just lost to our 3 biggest rivals in the same year. In a year that we have possibly the 2 best running backs in the country, a QB that has been in our system for 5 years, and a new DC that has been on 2 National Championship teams. 2 of the teams we lost to are terrible and the 3rd we gave the game away because of poor play calling….again. If you really dig into the numbers, we win against .500 or worse teams and split the rest. If the goal of the program is to win the East, we are failing miserably. We have won the East 2 out of the last 10 years. I am not looking for a National Championship, but would like to see us get through a season where we are not holding our breath that another team loses so we can reach our goal. If Richt was in the corporate world and missed his target more than 2 years in a row, he would be gone. So I would say that 7 is very generous. Who do we get, not sure, but if UGA is the big name program we fans like to think it is, we should have no problem attracting a top tier coach.

  11. First off to say that Richt moved swiftly to replace Willie or Grantham proves that you have no clue what you are talking about. It took him years and lots of pressure (including the worst defense in UGA history) to fire Willie, and he had no intentions of firing Grantham. Grantham left for more money and a job at Louisville. So, at the very lease retract that part of your story because it makes you look ignorant. Secondly, UGA has lost multiple games over his tenure due to special teams. He has taken the hard line stance that he will not hire a dedicated special teams coach. So, if you say he moves swiftly to fix what is broken I must be missing something. Third, his clock management skills are about as bad as they get for $5 million a year. He consistently uses timeouts when not needed, he uses them late, he goes into the 4th quarter with none, or ends the game with too many. I could sit down with you and watch every single game he has coached and point out horrible clock management decisions he has made in just about every one of them. Fourth, UGA has put as much talent in the NFL as anyone else in college football. I am not 100% on this (but pretty close) that UGA during his tenure has put more in the NFL than any other college that has “not” won a title. So, basically he does the least amount with the talent he has. Fifth, you are right that you can’t blame a coach for a freshman who fumbles on the 1. But, go back and watch that series. Watch after Chubb runs 65 yards and is huffing and puffing. Tough sh*t that he doesn’t get to “finish the drill”. Put one of you other players in who is fresh and maybe that ball is not fumbled. Tired people make mistakes more so than fresh ones. Period. When the tight games have come down to coaching decisions, the UGA staff has not done a very good job. Players play the game for sure, but when it comes down to a coaching decision (Give Gurley the ball on first and goal from the 4 in the SC game) the UGA caches have failed more than they have succeeded. So, do we fire the man or not? I would have to say that after 14 years and no NC the answer is yes. If he is going to be paid top dollar then he should perform and get results as a top dollar guy. Cut his salary in half and now you have another argument, But, this is a business (BIG business) and if this was a public company the CEO would be fired. Can we find someone better? I don’t know, but why not try? His record against top 20 teams isn’t very impressive. So, with the talent we get I think we can find a guy that isn’t going to Goff us, and who knows where new blood could take us. 14 years is a long time in todays coaching game, and I think fans have been patient enough. Go Dawgs! P.S: Please stop with all the BS about what a great guy he is. I really do not care. I want a NC!!!!

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