Georgia Football: Waiting for Superman
This column is not an argument for anything.
I’m not trying to tell you what Georgia should do to right the ship or what action would sink it.
I just want to try and describe the problem and why there really is nothing that can be done anymore.
The saddest takeaway from UGA’s most recent season-ending-injury-laden debacle in Knoxville is that the Dawgs are very much still in the hunt for the SEC East Title.
That is terribly sad because hope is the cruelest form of punishment. Despair can turn to laughter quicker than hope to sobriety. The fall back to Earth is always longer than the sudden drop to the mat after a sucker-punch.
UGA might just pull off an improbable run to the Georgia Dome. But that run seems more than unlikely given their recent form. What seems much more likely is what most UGA fans have come to expect: a season wherein an overrated UGA team comes crashing down under the weight of outside expectations.
This is not to say that Georgia is not a great football program. By all accounts it is, and there will be an innumerable amount of columns, tweets, and Facebook posts that want to tell all Dawg fans how great we have it. Look at Mark Richt’s winning percentage! Look at what happened to Tennessee when they fired Fulmer! Who would you get that’s better than Richt is?! He’s such a great man! All of this is certainly correct and many a #FireRicht crazy should heed these warnings.
But what the “ARE YOU CRAZY?!” crowd misses in its self-righteous brow-beating of the everyday sports fan is this: Georgia is by far the worst “great” program there is. And there are no stats that can measure if that’s a desirable experience or not, these past two weeks have left this writer questioning his allegiance to the comfort of always making a bowl game in Tampa.
Now, let me say that very little of that is Mark Richt’s fault, if any of it.
Mark Richt has produced National Championship level teams but been given no help above him in the polls to a startling degree. As Barrett Sallee has rightly pointed out Richt had a National Championship level team in 2012. If C.J. Mosley’s tip falls to the turf instead of Chris Conley’s chest the Dawgs might just have stolen the ring at last. If Miami or Ohio State lost a game in 2002 Georgia might have had a second-year head coach in the BCS Championship Game. Finally, in 2007 if Tennessee had stumbled against Vandy (or not walked all over Georgia earlier in the season) the Dawgs would’ve had a shot at LSU for another Title berth.
We all know this story. And, in fact, we’ve all been telling these stories to anyone who would hear them for longer than Sallee or Schultz or Silvers have been writing columns on them. Most of us were there and knew the stakes and knew how close Richt came and knew that there was very little more to be done about it.
These columns, mind you, are exceedingly easy columns to write while sounding correct. There is no statistic to definitively prove that UGA will never win a Championship under Mark Richt same as there is no statistic to ensure that UGA will. You are dealing only in measures of probability, not certainty. And you will always sound more “correct” when arguing for something that seems probable on paper as if it were a virtual certainty. But this is sports, where probability is only employed for comic relief.
Frankly, those who feel that Georgia will never compete for a National Title under Mark Richt are wrong. Georgia already has been competitive on the national level under Richt. On paper, this team should have at least one title under their belt.
And yet here we are.
You see, that’s the problem that I want to make sure I’m not overlooking. UGA has competed for a National Title. We just haven’t won one. And it is very difficult, looking back on those years, to see how our “coming so close” is now being used as an argument for calm and restraint many years later.
The hardest truth of the world to learn, and the surest way to tell a grownup from a child, is this: there are some questions to which there are no answers.
You can call Georgia’s run under Mark Richt underachieving, but that term will always depend upon your standards and some would say that expecting a multi-year dynasty from a head coach is simply unrealistic.
You can call Georgia’s run under Mark Richt bad luck, but this feels foolhardy as one would surely not call Alabama’s excellence since 2008 “lucky.” They’re just good.
You can call Georgia’s run under Mark Richt undeserved, but this seems naive. There are no rewards for the virtuous in a game that constantly lies about how virtuous it is.
The only thing to call Georgia’s run under Mark Richt is “good.”
Something must be done about this poor run of form. But what?
There is nothing to be done.
The Mark Richt era will go on as long as Richt will coach. Greg McGarity has a 10-win coach that will keep his program in the black so long as he continues to wear the headset. Not only that, Mark Richt is a helluva fundraiser, recruiter, and community member. He is not going anywhere.
It remains to be seen whether the Dawgs are going anywhere. At least, anywhere to which the Dawg Nation would like accompany them.
They are without the lifeblood of their team, Nick Chubb, lost to a torn PCL. They have a barely serviceable quarterback in Greyson Lambert and no one behind him who might step up and take the mantle. They are vulnerable on defense, looking much younger than expected. All of these are both bad luck and the result of bad development. Both on Mark Richt and outside of his control at the same time.
Again, all of this is a familiar story. We were saying things like this in 2010, and that team was two seasons away from being five yards away from a shot at the National Title. Maybe this is the downturn year before Jacob Eason, with a freshly healed and hungry Nick Chubb, arrives to save the Dawgs from mediocrity.
As ever, the Dawgs are waiting for superman.
The real question is not what we can do to change that.
The real question is whether or not they will ever be doing anything else.