Georgia Football: Mark Richt’s Window Has Probably Definitely Closed
The window was real.
The moment the window opened is tough to pinpoint.
You could say the window opened the moment Urban Meyer left Florida in the dark of the night because he was letting the game slowly kill him.
You could say the window opened the second Tennessee hired Lane Kiffin, setting off a series of dominoes that included couch-burning, butt-chugging, and illegal substitutions.
You could say it opened the moment Todd Gurley signed at Georgia.
Whenever you say it opened, the window was very real.
What is the window, you ask?
The window was the period of time in which Mark Richt’s teams, on paper, should have won the East every single year. And by winning the East, they had a very real shot at earning a spot in the National Championship via a win in Atlanta.
Florida, their primary obstacle to such a feat, had hired a buffoon that I’m proud to say UGA helped produce. Tennessee had also hired a UGA product that was absolute garbage. Both programs were locked in a downward spiral with no signs of pulling out of the dive for a number of years. And yet here was Georgia with a four-year quarterback, a loaded backfield, an incredible stable of receivers, and the weakest SEC East the world had seen since before the days of Steve Spurrier.
The window was real and it was wide open.
We all know the story of how UGA handled this window. ACL’s were torn. Autographs were sold. Field Goals were missed. And a slew of other head-scratching, surrender-cobra worthy moments came to define this window of time.
In short, UGA managed just two SEC Championship appearances after 2005. One a blowout loss to LSU, the other a loss to Alabama that shall not be discussed further. All while Missouri, of all teams, emerged as the most consistent power in the Eastern Division. They could have, and many would say ‘ought to have’, been the East’s representative for five straight years from 2010 until 2014.
Think about that for a moment and feel the rage.
UGA will not be going back to the SEC Championship game this year, with Saturday’s loss to Florida all but sealing the Division title for the Gators.
This is not to say that the Dawgs won’t make it next year, after all Jacob Eason is coming to save us. But winning the Eastern Division next year will certainly be a tougher ask than it has been for the past five years.
Tennessee, who also beat UGA in spectacular fashion, is clearly back. In fact, the scary thing about Tennessee is that their true talent base is just now finishing their sophomore or freshman years. The Vols were never an easy victory, but this year was a harsh reminder of just how easy we’ve had when the boys in orange come to town.
Still, a revived Tennessee is scary but they are not terrifying. Tennessee, after all, does have to play Alabama every year.
The real terror is that both Tennessee and Florida are reviving at the same time, and at a pace that is turning out to be much faster than the experts predicted.
Florida’s revival has not been the long, torturous Windows-95-ish restart that we all hoped it would be. McElwain has walked into a dominant defense, a serviceable offense, and, frankly, a toothless main rival that is basically a sure division win. They will recruit well. They will be better than fine, it seems, for the foreseeable future.
Now, most folks have defended Mark Richt because, hey, at least we aren’t back in the Goff or Donnan years, right? But the scary thing is to realize that both Goff and Donnan were beset by a situation similar to the one I see developing now — dominant teams from Tennessee and Florida.
Goff could never get his program off the ground mostly because he wasn’t a very good coach, but add to that problem peak Steve Spurrier and peak Phil Fulmer in your own division? Goff was never going to get out of that division alive, even if he had been a coaching phenom.
And a phenom he was not.
Now this isn’t to say that Mark Richt is Ray Goff or Jim Donnan.
It is only to say this: Mark Richt’s window has probably closed and does not look to be reopening any time soon.
That’s not Mark Richt’s fault, per se. It is simply the most accurate interpretation of the facts as I see them.
The next few years won’t be pretty. UGA won’t fire Mark Richt. Mark Richt may or may not retire. But from where I sit, Richt appears out of answers. There is very little to be done about any of this, sadly.
All that remains is to wait it out.