Author Archives: jasonisasmith
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.
The DudeYouPodcast in which I trash the idea is barely even edited yet but it seems that #FreeFaton will be declaring mission accomplished.
Gridironnow.com, where friend of the blog Ashley Barnett is a regular contributor, is reporting that Faton Bauta will be the University of Georgia’s starting Quarterback against Florida on Saturday. Michael Carvell of the AJC has posted a story that only cites the same report so no one is calling it just yet. But still, this seems like it might be real. [For what it’s worth, my preferred iPhone sports app The Score also went with it as of 10:57 PM EST]
Hold on to your butts.
God help us all.
Evil Richt have mercy on us.
More on this as we have it.
You red and black fiend of great devilry, wrapped in the wholesome image of an FCA Chaplain whose doesn’t even know what ‘Netflix and chill’ means, where have you gone?
To what dark place have you slunk to hatch your machinations?
Have you been wounded or, dare I say, have you given in to fear? Surely you have never tasted fear, you hateful ghoul. Surely not.
But where are you if you are not hiding?
I hailed the day that saw you rise, where you tugged the strings of the marionette that was the UGA coaching situation. You moved Third and Todd to Louisville and somehow swept away the golden child of Tallhassee in the night, right from the arms of Jimbo Wormtongue. You sent your team into the endzone to risk ejections, suspensions, and even your job just to turn the tide of a rivalry whose tide seemed a tsunami not to be turned aside. You dressed a team obsessed with their own moral superiority in black.
And it all worked.
But now those days seem lost to an age where none now live to remember them. Who will sing your noxious glory in the halls of Williams-Brice, Jordan-Hare, Neyland, or The-NFL-Stadium-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named when step on their faces with your fabled boot of hobnails? Who will tell their children of your conniving deeds? Your sinister tricks? Your swindling heart?
None remember to sing these songs, and that silence is deafening.
Yet, there are rumors you might be on the move again.
Travelers from the hills beyond the Tanyard tell of whispers. Whispers of QB change, of onside kicks, of fake punts, and even made field goals.
All of this are probably hearsay and idle gossip, but their falsehood only confirms that something might at last be afoot.
If Bauta is not the Quarterback come this Saturday’s battle then at last we know that you have returned, returned to spread the scuttlebutt and subterfuge that once made you fearsome. If the change does happen then we know that you have returned to torment even your own into submission, to crack the ebony whip at the back of your stallions.
I pray the tales are true, but I fear the worst.
No matter the truth of these things, in the end we are faced with a single, haunting truth: you are not the coach we deserve.
Not really. Not when we use the Good One to prop up our delusions of moral superiority, as though our bloodlust and greed were atoned simply by the fact that the Good One is our coach.
But you are the coach we need now, despite the pettiness of our need.
We need you, especially now when we lack the tools to get the job done and lack the favor of the gods to steal wins from the aeries of better-prepared, better-skilled teams.
We need the trickster of old.
Where art thou, Evil Richt?
You are our only hope.
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.