I give credit where credit is due to Team Speed Kills’ cocknfire for pulling off a difficult feat – a fair-minded analysis by an outsider of the Mark Richt-is-on-the-hot-seat meme.
That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he posted, of course.
Start with this rebuttal to a post of mine:
It is not based entirely on objective merit. This is sort of a spin off of the first point, but it’s aimed specifically at statements like “It’s a sad world we live in when somebody can compare the current resumes of Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt and conclude with an apparently straight face that Richt sits on the hottest seat in the SEC East.” While I’m not arguing that Richt is on the hot seat, that doesn’t really count as something that does away with the conversation, for a couple of reasons. First, the expectations are generally higher at Georgia than they are at South Carolina. This is, to an extent, what South Carolina is trying to change. But it would be hard to fire Spurrier over a string of non-losing seasons in Columbia when it’s the longest string of non-losing seasons since the Gamecocks joined the SEC. Unless Blutarsky is actually arguing that Georgia will now accept South Carolina-level success, which he’s welcome to do, the differences between Spurrier’s record and Richt’s doesn’t apply.
The problem I have with this line of thought is that he seems to be comparing the expectations of the South Carolina fan base with a meme that’s been largely whipped up by the media. I obviously can’t speak for the entire Dawgnation, but my impression both from what I’ve seen on the ‘Net and speaking with fans is that whatever heat Richt had on himself last year as Georgia struggled through a disappointing 2009 campaign dissipated for the most part with the dismissals of Martinez, Fabris and Jancek.
Now, cocknfire counters that later in his post with an observation that “memes don’t simply fall from the sky” – meaning, I suppose, that the media’s (excluding Finebaum’s) harping on Richt’s situation is reality based – and points to Georgia’s won-loss records for the past two seasons, as well as its erratic performance on offense. But if that’s really the case, how does he square that with his insistence that Spurrier gets a pass simply because the Gamecock fan base has lower expectations? I think he’s underestimating the allure of the site hit, quite frankly. Either that, or he ought to go back and take a look at Mark Bradley’s work in December and January.
By the way, I don’t buy that lower expectations-in-Columbia line. Spurrier didn’t get hired to generate, as cocknfire puts it, “the longest string of non-losing seasons since the Gamecocks joined the SEC”. And the reason he’s gotten a pass on that level of production isn’t because that’s what the South Carolina fan base has been willing to settle for – good Lord, these are the folks who predict the Year of the Gamecock as a matter of routine – it’s because that’s what comes with the territory when you hire a legendary coach who’s bigger than the program he’s taken on. It’s damned hard to fire saviors. Even when they no longer walk on water.
Since he brings up this question…
Predictions about next season are largely irrelevant. Caveat: Unless the coach fails to meet expectations again. That’s why I differ with the other part of the Get the Picture post I linked to above: “I’ve got a proposal for everyone who wants to indulge in this tiresome hot seat speculation: tell us what the 2010 belly flop will be and why. Otherwise, you’re just jerking our chains.” Actually, I’ve outlined exactly why I think Georgia could have another subpar season next year. But, again, we return to the odd part of this whole hot seat conversation: You can be on the hot seat and have a good year, and odds are that you will then no longer be on the hot seat. Fans reward winning. But that doesn’t mean you’re not on the hot seat to begin with. If your contention that Richt is not in danger of losing his job is based at least in part on the notion that he’s not going to have another subpar season next year, the question I would return would be: What do you think happens if your prediction that he will do well next season doesn’t come true?
… he deserves a response. First off, the problem I have with his premise is that he’s this close to having his argument dissolve into tautological meaninglessness. Any coach, from Urban Meyer on down, can go on a hot seat if there’s a long enough dry period. So saying that Richt could enter the danger zone if he keeps compiling subpar seasons isn’t a very bold statement, or something that I would disagree with. (Notice also that he’s back to judging the head coach from the fans’ perspective.)
I’m not sure if this counts as a direct answer to the question, but if you want to know when I think Richt’s seat legitimately goes warm, it’s when I counter in the affirmative to this question: is there somebody out there who Georgia can realistically hire who will do a better job? Right now, I’ve got a head coach who has a decent shot of winning 100 games in 10 years of SEC play, yet has recognized with the changes on the coaching staff that there’s room for improvement. Are there coaches out there who I’m certain could have done better over the last two seasons? Sure – but I don’t think Meyer or Saban would be interested in moving to Athens any time soon. And there isn’t much of a list after them.
One other thing worth a comment in response: “Michael Adams is not going to fire Mark Richt — that’s not his style.” Seriously? Michael Adams unceremoniously fired a head coach three seasons after passing him an under the table quarter of a million-dollar bonus. If for some reason he comes to believe that he could get away with canning Richt, that’s exactly his style, new athletic director or no athletic director. The present day reality is that there’s no heat coming from that direction, either.
So in the end, what are we left with? The harshest comment from a Georgia partisan that cocknfire can come up with is a rather innocuous post from Groo at dawgsonline that if things go badly enough in 2010 Richt could be in some legitimate trouble. Well, gee, sign me up with that. I don’t think any rational Georgia fan would disagree with this sentiment:
… At the same time, it would be devastating to go 7/8-5 against this schedule. You’re trading Oklahoma State and LSU for lesser opponents. The home schedule is extremely favorable. Five losses against this schedule would include some very, very bad losses as well as losses to rivals that don’t sit well even in the best of years. Think about which five teams on this year’s schedule you’d accept losing to. Improvement in relatively obscure areas like kickoff coverage won’t mean much if the offensive line doesn’t live up to billing or if Georgia’s highly-rated starting quarterback isn’t ready for prime time.
What would be far more damning of Richt’s current situation, and far more convincing that the fan base is now showing serious signs of discontent, would be if cocknfire could cite some Georgia bloggers posting the kind of heated criticism of the program that we’ve seen from Finebaum and Bradley (or even members of the media who point to that kind of criticism as evidence that Richt is on a hot seat). Me, I haven’t seen any of that in the post-Martinez era.
I don’t want to come off sounding too harsh here. After all, cocknfire is sensible enough to acknowledge that Richt isn’t on any sort of hot seat today. But I think it’s only fair to note that responding to idiots, cynics and attention whores who try to create controversy where there isn’t any, or at least shouldn’t be any, isn’t the same thing as turning a blind eye to a program’s shortcomings. When they actually exist, that is.