This season’s struggles don’t mean UGA was wrong to fire Richt

Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio, left, is greeted by Georgia head coach Kirby Smart after an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Coming to grips with reality. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Today’s AJC includes a little something from yours truly, the headline of which serves as a spoiler: “Hired to win big, UGA’s Kirby Smart has produced very little.” Perhaps some among will be asking: “Weren’t you the guy who wrote that Mark Richt needed to go? Are you flip-flopping already?”

Answers to those questions: Yes, I was; no, I’m not.

It’s entirely possible that, were Georgia still being coached by Richt, it would be better than 4-4. But the belief here is that it wouldn’t be a lot better than 4-4, and the same argument we made then would apply now. Namely, that Richt had taken the Bulldogs as far as he could, that there were no championships to be won, maybe no more division titles.

That was the reason Georgia needed to move on. I believed that then. I believe that still.

Whenever a program changes coaches, there’s a chance the next guy might be no better, or even worse. Over the course of eight games, Smart has made a hash of things, as opposed to making hay. He conceded Monday that nobody was being maximized on offense, and I’d suggest that could extend to the entire roster. At the moment, Georgia looks as bad as Georgia ever looks.

But moments yield to moments, and there will be other seasons for Smart and Georgia. Rivals rates the Bulldogs No. 5 nationally in its rankings of 2017 recruiting commitments; ESPN has them No. 3. As mentioned earlier, Georgia’s talent level has reached a generational low. The only cure for that is a string of big recruiting hauls.

Those who harrumphed that a program of such eminence shouldn’t hire someone who’d never been a head coach might well be proved correct. Smart hasn’t exactly looked like the next Urban Meyer, or even the next Tom Herman. (Then again, Herman’s once-ascendant Cougars have lost two of their past four games.) I say again what I said last fall: Smart in 2014 was what Richt was in 2000 — the long-serving No. 1 assistant at the nation’s best program. Any risk was a well-considered one.

We can’t yet know how Smart will be as head coach, though we note that, in his Year 1, Richt was 5-3 after eight games with three SEC losses. (There’s a tiny asterisk to that: Georgia was due to play Houston on Sept. 15, but that game was postponed until Dec. 1 in the wake of 9/11.) As for the peaches-to-oranges comparison of how Smart has done against how Richt is doing … let’s not waste many bytes on that.

For the record, Miami is likewise 4-4 after losing four in a row, which doesn’t mean much if anything. The Bulldogs and Hurricanes are different teams in different leagues. Should Miami beat Pittsburgh on Saturday while Georgia is losing to Kentucky, it won’t mean that Greg McGarity chose poorly. (Nor would a reversal of those results prove that the Georgia AD was utterly justified.) Those are parallel universes.

I can’t defend Smart’s performance in his first eight games as Georgia’s coach. I concede that I expected more. (I picked the Bulldogs to go 10-2 and, even as late as last week, wasn’t sure they’d lose another game.) But Smart’s first Georgia team is 4-4 against an underwhelming schedule, and that last part is what’s most troubling.

Florida is again positioned to win the SEC East — though it would be no shock if the Gators lost at Arkansas and LSU — and even the rowdiest of Reptiles wouldn’t suggest that Jim McElwain has yet returned that proud program to greatness. Tennessee just lost to South Carolina and is dealing with the stunning departure of Jalen Hurd. The division was again wide open.

Even if Georgia doesn’t possess talent of Alabama’s stripe, that’s no excuse for 4-4. In no year should Georgia lose to Vanderbilt. Most of these players weren’t recruited by Smart, but they’re his now. To invoke that word again, he hasn’t exactly maximized resources. If Georgia under Smart never gets better than it is now, he’ll be gone soon. But if this is the worst it gets for this program and this coach, we can write this off to transition and try to forget it happened.

Long story made not exactly short: Year 1 under Smart has been a dud, but there will be other years. To criticize his performance isn’t the same as saying Georgia was wrong to hire him, or wrong to have fired Richt. There’s time for Smart to grow into the job. But the clock is ticking, as clocks invariably do.

Reader Comments 0

263 comments
bills68
bills68

....same AD also fired a good baseball coach named Perno-- see a pattern here ?....,

RangeRover
RangeRover

Simple Facts:

2015: 10-2 W/L Record without a legitimate starting QB

2016:  4-4 W/L record to date with virtually the same team with Chubb back and the nations number 1 QB recruit.

If that's not regression, what is?  

DawgNole
DawgNole

@RangeRover

Uh, better polish up the ol' research skills there, RR. That 2015 record was 10-3.

Still a regression, of course, even w/o padding the results.

Happilyretiredmark
Happilyretiredmark

Everything that goes on at Alabama is Sabans.  Defense, offense, special teams....all Sabans.  Sure he has help but if anyone thinks that the national championships, the players....were a result of Smart...then you are not very wise.  They meet, they discuss, then they do what Saban tells them.  Getting an ex coach from Saban, to me, means you are getting a guy that ultimately, rarely makes an important call on his own.  

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Happilyretiredmark

"Happilyretiredmark"???

I'll bet that's exactly what ol' "mark" (Richt) wishes he was right about now.

JDJacket
JDJacket

I'm a tech fan and I said from the beginning that firing Richt was a huge mistake. He is the 5th winning active coach in NCAA today! Not to mention he is a great human being.....


Good luck with Kirby, lay in your bed!! You made it!


Richt will win a national championship at Miami in the next 5 years.

Georgia will still be ??? Searching for a championship?


Grass ain't always greener on the other side.


Just sayin!!



DawgNole
DawgNole

@JDJacket: "I'm a tech fan . . . ."

________________

That's all you needed to say, and that alone disqualifies you from taking potshots at your daddy, UGA.


bills68
bills68

The Bell Tolls-- "typical nerd".... gee, sorry your application was rejected- maybe study up some more...

TOJacket
TOJacket

I think Kirby is either Dawgphlem'suncle or his wife?

CrackerBox
CrackerBox

Nothing like bringing in a guy with no Head Coaching experience and watching him fail terribly.  This program was NOT in a state of decline.  Top recruiting classes yearly and the past records indicate success for the most part ( no, not a Richt fan ).  The OC and the line coach should have already been fired.  Nothing like having a  star running back and watching him go no where.  The coaching sucks. 

dawg fan
dawg fan

@CrackerBox  It wasn't in a state of improvement either.  We were stuck in neutral with Mark Richt and going nowhere.  Oh big whoopee he could win 10 games.  *Golf Clap*  No one else on Earth besides his adoring fan club cares.  I could give a flying crap about 10 win seasons if there is no realistic expectation of anything more and there wasn't under Mark Richt.  He was a choke artist of the highest caliber.  There are no participation trophies in college football.  Maybe Kirby isn't the answer and is the big failure you think he is (a little strong this early in his tenure IMO), but Mark Richt wasn't the answer either.  It was proven time and time again to any reasonable person.

dawg fan
dawg fan

Well said Bradley  It's just funny to me how the Mark Richt Fan Club has turned on Kirby after 8 games but when we went 14-12 in 2010 and 2011 under their hero you heard nothing but excuses out of these people.  Mark Richt needed more time.  He upped the win total after that but it was never against anyone of significance and the beat down embarrassing losses to the big boys continued at an alarming rate.  Yet, Mark Richt needed even more time according to his fan club.  They were ready to give him all the time he needed or wanted because he's such sweet guy I guess, but now they turn on Kirby after 8 GAMES.  One word=FRAUDS.  These people are and will remain total frauds and are not real Georgia fans.  As for me, I think Kirby will get about 1 or 2 more years to get it in gear and that's the way it should be.  I don't worship a head coach and put the head coach above the program.  I'll leave that to the FRAUDS.  Thanks.   

DawgNole
DawgNole

@dawg fan: "Well said Bradley."

_________________

Dang, you feelin' OK?

Gomez Addams
Gomez Addams

I agree with every word.  I was in favor of getting Kirby in there.  But if things don't turn around by this time next year, it's time to think about moving on until we find the right dude.

lanny aldridge
lanny aldridge

UGA now has more payroll for on and off field coaches than ever before. What are we getting for our money?

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

Dear tech fans; 13 of 15 and counting. 


What else is there to say? irrelevant, overrated, delusional? Not when it comes to playing you apparently.


You have nothing on UGA.


Academics? Recruiting? Clemson and FSU don't own you but we do.




bills68
bills68

@twelve of 13.... you should get some help with your inferiority complex...

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

I love tech fans jumping on here using the same statements about UGA fans, unrealistic expectations, not being elite, and so on.all you ever talk about and think about is beating a team that owns you every year. 


Let it be clear; UGA is elite over tech and has won 13 of the last 15 meetings and that isnt going away. So take your butt hurt elsewhere. 2009 was vacated and did not count cause you cheated and played a kid that broke the rules. In the books that way and it is not changing no matter how much you cry about it.


So it makes perfect sense for you to be on here running your mouth about a program you say is irrelevant that continues to own you. Why don't FSU and Clemson own you like UGA does if recruiting and academics were the real issue? Real issue is you choke against UGA and we own you.


As for the little ten whiny guy that also is a tech fan. It is apparent you are not going to win anything this year just like last and are going to be rolled by Michigan. You lost to Penn State and even the dawgs beat them without a coach. You played Northwestern real tough and will lose two of the next three and end up in Tampa or Orlando. Very impressive and UGA had no trouble with Penn State.



Jse1960
Jse1960

5 of 6 welcome back! Have a nice time in Jack?

Jse1960
Jse1960

Well it looks like one of them is now ranked 10 and is in position to win the east again

DawgNole
DawgNole

@TOJacket

There you go, calling God stupid again.

And you think you belong at the adults' table?

Not a chance!

Contractor1
Contractor1

I thought it was time to move on from Richt who I believe lacked the passion the Georgia fanbase exemplified.  Of course, that may have been necessary as the fanbase are a bunch of loose cannon buffoons that count National Championships in the pre-season.  The issue is not talent.  Not really sure why this writer is still employed, but Georgia has the same talent every coach across America was recruiting, and it shows through all recruiting services that Georgia has maintained its position as a recruiting power.  Now, what you get out of your players is a different story, as Alabama is very good at that, but Georgia has lacked.  Once again, it's not a lack of talent, it's a lack of pulling that talent out.  Get that through your thick skulls.

SmokinDawg
SmokinDawg

Thanks for the clear-headed article.I wouldn't agree, though, that the year has been a dud. While it certainly has been a disappointment in terms of results and apparent lack of improvement, there is clearly a new sheriff in town with higher expectations and a deeper commitment to accountability than the last one. 


It remains to be sees whether or not Smart's commitment to a new style of play is the smart kind of stubborn that insists everyone must buy-in to the new style of play no matter what or the stupid kind of stubborn that refuses to adapt mid-course based on the resources at hand.


However, I am surely glad that we no longer have a coach who will say in public that any SEC game is not a "must win" game (like Richt did before losing 45-42 to South Cackalacky in 2011). Once Richt's remaining entitled softies are gone, the new recruits will be conditioned from Day 1 to expect a tough row to hoe every game, with the pot of gold waiting at the end.



The Doom
The Doom

"Those who harrumphed that a program of such eminence..."


A program "of such eminence"?


What planet are you living on? Georgia has had decent years here and there but they are not an elite program. Never have been. More like a middling program that has good years and the occasional really good year every once in awhile. This is a program that has won all of 2 SEC titles since Herschel Walker 33 years ago and no national titles.  

Jse1960
Jse1960

You really want to compare histories of OSU and UGA?

DawgNole
DawgNole

@OH:IO

Stop deflecting, lying hypocrite, and tell the good folks how your heroes have performed in bowl games vs the SEC that you love to berate.

DerekGator
DerekGator

Stop making the excuse that GA does not have talent.  Last year's recruiting class ranked 4th and the 5 year average recruiting ranking is 6th.  GA has talent, the talent will not get significantly better.  Stop making that excuse.


You are paying a coach $3.75 mil for on the job training.  Have you not learned from the mistakes at FL, The SEC is not the place to learn how to be a HC.

Contractor1
Contractor1

@DerekGator  Thank you for sharing my same thoughts.  It's too easy for them to blame recruiting, yet the facts do not stand behind them.  You have a garbage offensive coordinator and Richt held on to a bad defensive coordinator for waaaaaaay to o long.

Surelyyoujest
Surelyyoujest

Firing Richt was the correct move - hiring Kirby was not...

sonenb
sonenb

First, Mark, you are as usual way off base. Richt has lost 3 on virtually the last play of each game and, secondly, you made a foolish remark about Florida as they will be back to back East champions.  If you could ever become anything other than judgemental you might end up being a decent sportswriter.

Under-Educated White Guy
Under-Educated White Guy

Just ask yourself this:  How many schools would have fired a coach whose team went 10-3 in each of the last 2 seasons?


Pretty stupid move if you ask me.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Under-educated White Guy

So you prefer 10-wins (including a couple of powder puffs a year) over championships--after 15 seasons???

Raise your standards.

Sonic The HedgeHog
Sonic The HedgeHog

While there were those that said something was missing during CMR's last few years, I would say the same for KS's first year. This team is not performing anywhere close to their ability. That rests on the Coach's shoulder or at least it has in the past in the press. Players must play...but coach's put them in position to make plays...BTW our OLine should not be as bad as they are performing. Which really is the root of the problem.

ChetThomas
ChetThomas

I'll say the same thing here I have said other places: While I was aghast at CMR's firing, what's done is done, and there is no going back. Give KS some time to establish his program and learn how to be a head coach instead of a DC. In time, this program has every chance to prosper.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DerekGator

You're hardly in any position to be on here running your ignorant yap--considering the duds your school has hired.

DerekGator
DerekGator

@DawgNole @DerekGator :  We learned from our mistakes, I would say that you are the ignorant one for not paying attention to our mistakes.  We clearly demonstrated that hiring defensive coordinators with no HC experience does not work.  FL has proven that the  SEC is not a place for on the job training. 

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DerekGator

I paid plenty of attention to your mistakes. I don't hire the coaches.

You made the same mistake twice, so no, it's not I who's the ignorant one.

By the way, who the hell has your team played this year that's worth a damn? Seems like you started out pretty strong in '15, too.

C'mon back at season's end; then we'll make a call on your Bucky Beaver coach.

Rufus69
Rufus69

I can't believe that Kirby Smart was the best candidate we interviewed.  Oh, wait a sec...my bad.



Rufus>>

willgordon
willgordon

I'm tired of hearing - from posters not from this article - that everything that has gone wrong is due to Richt. Look, I'm fine with getting another coach (I wasn't in favor of it but I'm OK with trying something new). But about half the posts - no matter what the problem - blame it on Richt. Look he's gone. Some of what he did in the past matters. But he isn't coaching the team now, isn't responsible for bad coaching now. I mean - would those same people, if we were undefeated, be saying "but it's all Richt, that's why we are winning." 


Instead they'd be - rightly so - praising Smart. 


This has turned into a disaster. Is it because of Smart's coaching? If it isn't because of his coaching then what impact is he making? Does he have any responsibility at all for this train wreck, or is it on Richt's head?


Could be that after he gets some experience as a head coach and gets the kind of recruits he needs for his system that all will be roses. If so I'll sure be glad. But, meantime, I wish we could stop putting everything that happens on Richt as act as if Smart has no impact at all on the team. 


Weirdly I think even Smart would prefer that. It's his team now.