Before I begin, let me get one thing straight…I do not want Mark Richt to remain the coach at UGA for the following reasons:
1) I think he is a good guy
2) I am content with the teams play on the field the past 2 seasons
3) I am content with the teams off-the-field behavior the past 12 months
Mark Richt is a good guy, but that is not why he should remain head coach of the Bulldogs, regardless of the outcome of the UGA-GT game. The wins have slipped and there have been alarming red flags, but I believe it is still too early to jump the gun and fire the guy.
I for one believe Aaron Murray is a special talent. He is tough, has all the skills, and looks comfortable in an offense that averages 30+ points per game. We knew there would be some struggles with a red-shirt freshman at that position, but Murray is as good as advertised. What the program needs now is to ride this special talent in the system he looks so good in for at least another season. Does Coach Richt need to start calling plays again? I would say yes, because that is what a guy with a struggling program does.
Second, you could put together a pretty nice list of candidates that you believe would be the next guy to come in and quickly put the Dawgs back in the thick of things nationally again. Drew Collins at 680 the fan has an excellent wish list with some “juicy” names. What concerns me is what happened to Tennessee earlier this year. Georgia may be a better job than Tennessee, but they are similar, and the Vols were turned down by 5 guys before they hired Derek Dooley.
1) Kyle Whittingham
2) Jon Gruden
3) David Cutcliffe
4) Will Muschamp
5) Troy Calhoun
We have seen improvement all season in kick-off coverage, penalties, turnover margin, and many other statistical categories that needed to be addressed. The main problems this season in my opinion have been:
1) Transition to new defensive scheme without the best fit in personnel has been rough at times
2) In-opportune fumbles have been the momentum changer in at least 4 losses (USC, Colorado, Mississippi State, Florida). I think bad luck has had a lot to do with these fumbles as Ealey was about to score on 2 of these, and Murray simply made a freshman mistake against UF. Colorado was a freak incident that can’t be blamed on coaching.
But you may argue that good coaching will negate fumbling. Why not coach up these guys so that they don’t fumble? Well, here is a list of teams that have more fumbles lost than UGA this year:
5) Virginia Tech
6) Oklahoma State
7) Boise State
It just so happens that two-thirds of the UGA fumbles lost this season took place at the worst time possible. It is going to happen this way some years; you can’t always get the ball to bounce your way.
3) The schedule that looked somewhat easy in the pre-season didn’t end up being easy at all. Early road games with a freshman QB and new defensive scheme against 3 teams that as of today are in the NCAA top 20.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to make a list of excuses, just trying to get some stats out to support Coach Richt. He needs to do better and he will be the first person to tell you that. He needs to continue to tweak things and try and get better because 5-6 should never be acceptable in Athens. I just don’t want to jump the gun, fire a proven winner in the SEC, and end up with someone that is not as good just to get a “changing of the guard” or “new blood.”
Most people are upset with their coach across the country. There are Texas fans that want Mack Brown out. Ohio State fans want Tressel fired. Oklahoma fans are fed up with Bob Stoops.
Look at how long it took Alabama to find Nick Saban. They had to endure Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula years. Nebraska is just now getting back to being nationally significant after firing Frank Solich in 2003 after a 9-3 season. Notre Dame has been stuck in mediocrity for 10+ years now. Even Florida had the Ron Zook era. It is very rare that someone that has been at an institution for 10+ years is fired and an immediate replacement is found that turns out to be the guy that gets them to the next level. Chip Kelly would be an example, but his kind is extremely rare.
It seems much more likely to me that firing Coach Richt after this season would produce another Ray Goff than another Vince Dooley.
Lets keep the recruiting class together, sign a couple more players (Crowell anyone?) and head into 2011 with some momentum. Oh yea, and beating Tech for the 9th time in 10 years would be a solid way to get that momentum started...