Mark Richt was asked a good question at his Tuesday presser:
On if Georgia can win the SEC Eastern Division, if it would be as satisfying as the other three SEC Eastern Division titles the Bulldogs have won under Richt…
“In 2002, that was pretty special and miraculous winning that Auburn game. The thing I remember most about 2005 has got to be D.J. Shockley and how he persevered. That was a special year without question. Of course, I skipped the one [overall SEC Championship] we lost. I don’t know why. I don’t even remember that year. Let’s try to win this week.”
He’s being overly modest there. I’m still of the belief that 2003 stands as the best coaching job of his career. Sure, the defense was stellar and special teams were good. But that offense… no running game to speak of, wide receiver injuries all season and an offensive line that yielded a nightmarish 47 sacks left the two quarterbacks to get the crap beaten out of them all season. Yeah, the Dawgs were soundly defeated in the SECCG, but people tend to forget that they had a legitimate shot at the upset in Baton Rouge had Billy Bennett been on his game that day. Had they pulled it off, that season would have wound up very differently.
Anyway, that led me to wonder how this season would rank as a coaching accomplishment if Georgia ran the regular season table and finished 10-2 going into the SECCG. This year’s team is more talented on offense than was the 2003 group, but it’s had a whole different bunch of demons to exorcise. Coaching the first SEC team to start a season 0-2 and make it to the championship game is a noteworthy achievement.
The other part of what’s gone on is that Richt’s remade so much of the program in a very compressed amount of time. You can certainly argue that he had little choice in that, but still, I can’t think of many recent examples at other programs of an extensive overhaul like Georgia’s that succeeded.
I’m not ready to put the final stamp on things, of course. Georgia first has to get back to Atlanta before any final evaluation can be made. But it’s food for thought. What say you guys?