Such has been the post-Florida uproar that a guy (meaning me) who wrote for Sunday that Mark Richt had been outcoached — by Will Muschamp, believe it or not — was chastised for daring to suggest in Monday’s offering that, if Richt were to leave, Georgia might not do any better. (“What about Auburn and Malzahn?” went one chorus. And because nothing can happen in college football without the Magic Name being invoked, “What about Saban?”)
At this point, I don’t know that I’m a Richt defender (I concede that he has liabilities) as much as I am a Richt realist. (I also concede that he has strengths.) But this week’s debate has become an either/or proposition: Richt should be fired because he can’t win it all, or Richt deserves to stay at Georgia as long as he wants because he has won so much and is a nice guy to boot.
(That line of thinking has prompted the usual rebuttal: “He can’t win it all because he’s TOO nice a guy! Saban’s not a nice guy!”)
All of which has set me to thinking, and for 14 years I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Mark Richt. I covered the first Georgia game he coached, and I was in Jacksonville on Saturday for one of his worst losses. I see both sides of the debate — though I’ll confess that I don’t much rate the too-nice-a-guy argument — and I’ve heard from folks who feel passionately that Richt needs to stay, same as those in the Richt-must-go camp believe what they’re saying.
I’ve also heard from a fairly dispassionate football man who notes that there are five quarterbacks from Georgia starting for other SEC teams — Auburn’s Nick Marshall signed with and played for Georgia, though not as a quarterback — and suggests that Richt’s chief failure is his insistence on sticking with a dropback passer in the era of running quarterbacks. That’s food for real thought, I must say.
All of which is to say: I’ve spent 14 years thinking about Richt, and I’m still trying to reconcile what I’m hearing with what I’ve come to believe. There was a time when I’d have considered him one of the nation’s 10 best coaches. I’m not sure I do today. At the same time, he’d probably fit into my top 15.
Meaning: Even after a terrible loss, I still think he’s a good coach. Which might not make sense to you, but that’s OK: In a week like this, I’m not sure it makes sense to me. But there it is.