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Monday, August 3, 2009

Is Richt on the Hot Seat?

Read that headline again, then ask yourself, on a scale of one to 10, how stupid does it sound? Much like Nigel Tufnel's amp, that scale should really go to 11.

And yet, it hasn't stopped dozens of writers and columnists from asking it this offseason, most notably Paul Finebaum, who posed the question in a recent column for the Mobile Press-Register. A year ago, there would have been little tolerance for such hypotheticals, but apparently 10 wins doesn't get you what it used to.

For his part, Richt isn't paying much attention to any of the talk -- although he is aware that it has been talked about.

"I don't really dwell on those things so I don't know exactly what everybody said or what they think about me," he said. "When it comes to that kind of thing, I try to focus on what I can control. My job is to do the best I can for this university to prepare players and coaches to reach all the goals and expectations they have. ... I'm focusing on the process of building a championship team and doing it in a first-class manner. That's all I can do. I really can't control the perceptions or anything else for that manner."

Nor should he have to. But since players report for fall practice today, I think it might be worth trying to do a little of that perception control now.

First, it's always good to get a little perspective. As the Senator pointed out last week, what Richt has accomplished in just eight years at Georgia is beyond anything fans could have expected upon his arrival.

Then let's take a look at how Richt stacks up against the competition.

Best winning percentage, all active coaches:
Pete Carroll, USC (88-15, .854)
Urban Meyer, Fla. (83-17, .830)
Bob Stoops, Okla. (109-24, .820)
Mark Richt, UGA (82-22, .788)

*Note, it should probably be pointed out, too, that A.) Richt's bowl record (6-2) dwarfs that of Stoops (4-7) and that the majority of Meyer's record, as impressive as it is, was built in lower conferences (not that he's done too bad in the SEC).

How about closer to home? Here are the top SEC team's record during the past eight seasons:

Georgia 82-22
LSU 82-22
Florida 77-27
Auburn 72-30
Tennessee 69-33

Of course, all four of the non-Georgia teams on that list have had coaching changes in that time, so perhaps wins and losses don't have much to do with it.

After all, all the talk regarding Richt's job performance has never been about wins and losses. It essentially surrounds one key fact: He hasn't won a national championship yet, while Florida and LSU have each won two during his tenure.

That's really the big problem for Richt. While the chips have never fallen just right for a national title at Georgia, a few other coaches have managed to make the process look pretty simple. It's not.

Yet the argument I hear most from people who are, let's say, less than enthusiastic about Richt is this: The guy's not a bad coach, he's just not going to get it done at a national-championship level.

First off, Richt is a lot better than "not a bad coach," but let's humor the notion for a minute anyway. Since Richt arrived at Georgia, there have only been four non-voluntary coaching changes at a school that won eight or more games the previous season. (Of note: I'm defining non-voluntary in the most liberal of interpretations, so any instance in which there appeared to be even minor pressure for a coach to step aside is included.) Here's the list:

Arkansas - Houston Nutt (8-5) to Bobby Petrino 5-7
Michigan - Lloyd Carr (9-4) to Rich Rodriguez 3-9

Nebraska - Frank Solich (9-3) to Bill Callahan 5-6

UCLA - Bob Toledo (8-5) to Karl Dorrell 6-7

The first thing to note is, most schools aren't stupid enough to dump a good coach, and my guess is that Georgia fans don't want to see their school lumped in with the UCLAs and Arkansas of the world.

But the bigger point, in case you weren't reading closely, is this: The combine record of the coaches who left in their final season was 34-17. Their replacements, in their first seasons on the job, finished 19-29. That's an average of four FEWER wins the next year under coaches who were supposed to be better alternatives. Anyone want to bet Lane Kiffin or Gene Chizik drastically alters that scenario this year?

The bottom line is, you don't get rid of a good coach because there aren't that many of them, and Mark Richt is better than a good coach.

Which leads me to the biggest reason people need to stop wondering about Richt's future. If you're going to make a change, you better be sure you have a better plan in place for the future, and that's no easy task.

Maybe Richt can't win a national title. There's really no way of knowing until either a.) he wins one or b.) he stops trying. But that's true of all coaches who have yet to win a title. In fact, here are the only active (or potentially active) coaches we're 100 percent positive have what it takes to lead a team to a national championship: Urban Meyer, Les Miles, Mack Brown, Pete Carroll, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban, Jim Tressel, Butch Davis, Phil Fulmer, Bobby Bowden, Steve Spurrier, Joe Paterno and Dennis Erickson.

That's it. That's the list.

I know this entire post has been preaching to a very small minority of Georgia fans (and probably mostly to a fair number of college football columnists who have far too little to write about), so I apologize if this was a wasted exercise for the rest of you.

But here's the question I want to ask that vocal minority (and anyone else who wants to answer it): Look at that list again and tell me, which of those coaches would drop what they're doing now to come to Georgia? And of those, is there even one that you'd spend more than two seconds considering swapping Mark Richt for?


jferg said...

Even the "thought" of this is ludicrous. In the vein of SNL...can I ask "REALLY"???

CMR's seat is no hotter than an eskimo's ass sitting on an ice cube while having liquid nitrogen poured over him....and that's pretty freakin' cold.

No Dawg fan wants to get rid of Richt. Only those few "writers" who have nothing else to talk about so they make up stories. How about this one for a new headline: "Is Oprah on the verge of bankrupcy?" or how about "Is wind the new oil"?

"Erroneous! Erroneous! Erroneous on both accounts!" Jeremy Grey

Bernie said...

Finebaum needs a "Brain Tap". (I liked the Tufnel reference) I'm old enough to still consider the late 70s - mid 80s the Glory years of Georgia football.

But what CMR has built AND is building is something special. I wouldn't trade him for anyone. Pete cheats, Bob takes December off and Urban just sucks.

MikeInValdosta said...

You took a lot of steam out of my response with your closing...

The reality is, excluding the "Walker Years", unless you are collecting Social Security, this is the best run of Georgia Football evah!

I love Vince Dooley, but Richt will go down as Georgia's greatest coach, and he will do it without scandal.

There are some unrealistic fans that believe it is our birth right to win National Championships, but there is no history to back this up.

Paul Finebaum is a pure and simple muckraker. His efforts to weaken Richt are motivated by his desire to aide others in recruiting.

I couldn't agree more with jferg and Bernie.

IveyLeaguer said...

"Is Richt on the Hot Seat?"

Ridiculous. I wouldn't trade Richt for any coach in the country.

He's built the best overall CF program in America by doing it the right way. And he still ranks at the top of the League even though we've been in a 3-year slump.

With any luck whatsoever we'll come out of that slump this year. And we're certainly due for a Title, an SEC Title that is. The NC comparisons are weak and faulty. Without sheer luck, Florida and LSU would have ZERO NC's. With that same luck, Richt could have 2 NC's, 2002 and 2007.

Richt will get his NC's, but that will not make him a better coach.

The god that Finebaum currently serves, though an outstanding coach, did not win a SEC Title in his second season at Alabama. That places him behind the pace of Miles, Meyer and, that's right - Richt. He also failed to win as many games, SEC and otherwise, in his first two seasons as Richt did. If he fails to win the SEC Title this year, he really falls behind the eight ball at Alabama in terms of the pace established by the League's top coaches.

Should not Saban's seat be considerably warmer than Richt's?


Will Q said...

To answer your last question: No. I don't care if the applicant had won five national championships. Coach Richt wins ball games and he runs the program the right way.

What really kills me about all of this is that just last year, Richt was regularly in the top 5 coaches in the country because of the 2007 season. Then Florida is roundly pick to win the SEC even though Georgia is given the pre-season #1 ranking, and just because Florida DID win the SEC, Richt suddenly couldn't coach a Pop Warner team and the fans are supposedly sticking lit Sterno cans under the chair in his office.


NCT said...

"Richt will get his NC's, but that will not make him a better coach."

Yep. Couldn't agree more.

I've heard and read some crap about Richt lacking a "killer instinct". I reckon Saban (who has yet to put two consecutive 10-win seasons together in his entire coaching career) and Meyer are thought to have "killer instinct" because, well, they're serious. And they point and stare. And they call out journalists. Our coach has an "aw, shucks" and "WWJD?" kinda vibe. But he wins games. I don't know that chastising reporters or announcing that ex-quarterbacks who criticize the team's performance aren't welcome any more (take that!) helps two win games. They just make fans feel like there's a "tough guy" in charge.

No, I'll take the nice guy who wins games over the a-hole who wins games. And Urban looks like a rabbit.