Coach of the year

Ron Higgins writes, “Mark Richt might be the best football coach in SEC history that has spent the most time on the hot seat.”

I’m of a generation that recalls a time when fifteen and twenty-year head coaching careers at the same school weren’t rare, so on one level, that Mark Richt has survived at Georgia for twelve seasons doesn’t make me sit back and go wow.  But when you measure his tenure in Athens by other coaches, as Seth Emerson does here, it’s rather remarkable.

As he summarizes, since Richt’s hire, “the rest of the (pre-expansion) SEC schools have churned through a combined 33 coaches, not counting the four new ones to be hired, or interim coaches.”  Thirty three!  (Soon to be thirty seven.)  Holy moly.  The longevity, while remarkable, isn’t what impresses me most about Richt today, though.  It’s what he’s done in the last three seasons that does.

As Dan Wetzel puts it,

There are only three coaches still in the hunt for a national title, and Richt is the only one who had significant parts of his fan base either crying for his firing or expecting it to be inevitable just two years ago.

That was December 2010, at the completion of a dreadful 6-7 season, complete with a loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl where the Bulldogs managed a pathetic two field goals against a Conference USA defense. The team was hampered by the suspension of three players, and the program’s first losing season since 1996 came on the heels of an already worrisome 8-5 campaign. Even worse Auburn, coached by Gene Chizik of all people, was about to win a national title starting a superman quarterback from outside Atlanta.

Hey, I plead guilty.  And the reality is that you can point to a moment more recent than two years ago if you want.  But, perhaps improbably, Richt’s picked himself up, dusted his team off and has the program on the brink of something every Dawg fan has hoped for – maybe even expected – since the 2002 season.  That is something to celebrate.

And it’s worth acknowledging how difficult a task it’s been.  I’ve written before that I’m a believer in the battleship theory of big college football programs like Georgia’s.  They’re hard to turn around quickly.  That’s especially true when you’re asking a coach who’s steered the battleship into troubled waters in the first place to be the one to make the course correction.  Inertia is a bitch.  Yet here we are.  Richt’s made an effort to reinvent his approach, often at the cost of affecting personal relationships that matter greatly to him, and it’s made a difference.  We can all argue about the timing, but the truth is that there are plenty of coaches who wouldn’t have the humility to admit that what once worked no longer did.

Yes, the header is facetious in a way.  The preseason expectations surrounding Georgia were high enough that this 11-win season isn’t as special as what’s gone on at places like Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M (although there is this).  But as a fan who’s watched this program’s one step forward, two steps back dance for more years than he’s liked, this has turned out to be an exceptional year, one to savor.  And that’s why from my selfish standpoint, Mark Richt is my COTY.

79 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

79 responses to “Coach of the year

  1. Lrgk9

    Yep – Mark Richt has looked in the mirror and made changes. Introspection, Humility and Growth are fine personal characteristics. We all want him to succeed. (well, exceptions being Bill Shanks and Rolo.)

    GATA

  2. gastr1

    My name is Gastr1 and I approve the Senator’s message. Very nice.

  3. Carolinadawg

    I agree to a point, but we have to win Saturday for this to be an “exceptional” year.

    • Georgia hasn’t been in this position for thirty years. Go take your quibbling elsewhere.

      • Ban him Senator. This is no place for nay sayers

        • You’ve got to be kidding me.

        • charlottedawg

          This is a Georgia football blog, which means we can discuss the positives AND the negatives, and no discussing either does not make you a better or worse fan, hence this forum has tolerated and welcomed both so long as the discourse is civil.

        • Cojones

          Cheez Joy. I’d be gone in a NY minute, not as a nay sayer, but as a chip-on-my-shoulder blogger here. If the Senator wasn’t wide open, you and I both would be long gone. I had a couple of close scrapes last year and some aren’t too happy with my current posting, but if it wasn’t this open for opinions, I would have been long gone along with about 50 others.

          No other site comes close and that’s why I came here.

          Joy, let me give a little insight about these bloggers using only one example: There are Law enforcement professionals who blog on here and when you and I post extracurricularly about mj, their hackles are raised high. When the subject came up with Rambo and others players, there was a great discussion on here for legalization, both pro and con. Most of us took up for the players no matter which side of the issue one was on. I blogged in a pedantic manner and later posted what I thought was humor about the subject. One of those posting was repetitive “Smoke’em if you Got’em”. That comes from my service days and was usually stated by the person in charge when breaks were taken. It’s humorous in it’s naivete and even in the early 60s was followed by a troop snikker. It doesn’t take too much imagination to figure that some posters may have e-mailed Bluto to do something about it. That and a few other issues have sorely tried Bluto, but he left the lines open. That’s why the gtp site has no rival.

          You might make sure to click onto advertisements to show the advertisers that we want this site to continue. I repeat, there is nothing like this site. If individuals are able to persuade Blutarsky about others they don’t like, you and I would be the first ones off here. I like you and your comments. Others don’t like either of us. Meh.

          • AthensHomerDawg

            We may not always see eye to eye but I always have your back Cojones. Bluto is too set in his ways to be influenced by much. I think he sandbags sometimes. He reminds me of a retired judge practicing law at the Commerce Building back in the day. He was my first attorney when I wore a younger mans clothes. He was a scrappy lawyer for sure.

          • Keese

            You’ve come a long way cojones, but for the record I was not one of those with issue

          • Cojones, Where have you been all my life? So, sorry I was just teasing. This is a very hectic week for me. Deadlines and commitments …I come to GTP so I can be myself with no judgement. Let’s leave the Judgement to G-D. Forgive me Carolina Dawg. You know in the beginning I thought you were a friend of mine I grew up with in Atlanta. Dr. Davis, a gynecologist in Spartanburg. He used to raz me like you did in the beginning.but he never called me a C __T. Senator, call off the ban. Thank you so sorry.

      • Carolinadawg

        No thanks.

        • I didn’t think you would. ;)

          • Carolinadawg

            Just trying to bump up your number of hits, good sir!

            • NC Dawg

              Actually, Carolina, I’d hate to see you go, even figuratively. Your posts often highlight opinions not necessarily held by the masses, which in itself gives them value. Plus, even when you sound grouchy, I get the sense that you really care about the program. You say things with little or not filter; I appreciate the “no BS” approach. But it’s hard to keep exchanging diverse opinions without insulting each other, and I need to do a better job. Sorry about any times I was offensive. Go Dawgs! (I would say, Go Heels, but it looks like a long year there in ACC basketball).

  4. Coty. A man of G-D. CMR is kinda like a Prophet to college football. To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. to the only G-D our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Yeshua now and forevermore. Amen

  5. NC Dawg

    There are times when a man actually deserves credit. This is one of those times. Go, you Mark Richt. Damn fine man.

    • Normaltown Mike

      “There are times when a man actually deserves credit”

      There are also times when a man doesn’t deserve credit

  6. Rusty

    I’ve got one of the signed Modak prints from the 2002 SEC Championship season. I looked at it yesterday for the first time in I don’t know when…Coach has aged, but aged well. Good memories.
    How sweet would it be…

  7. Watchman

    Coaches of good teams don’t get enough credit for keeping them good and making them better. The turnarounds and unexpected winning seasons (see Freeze and Sumlin) tend to draw all the attention. But there’s a pretty good arguemnt that it is even harder to keep a good, near-great or great team on top than it is to get there in the first place.

    I made a argument elsewhere earlier in the year that was similar to yours here for Richt that Nick Saban should be considered for coach of the year this season based on continuing to win because of the staggering amount of talent Bama lost from last year’s team to the early part of the NFL draft. But what Richt has done is probably even harder–to go up, slide back a little, and then get up again. The number of guys who have done that successfully is awfully small.

    As a Bama fan I am really excited we’re playing you guys for the title. I think either team will clock the overrated Irish (and can you tell me why Fighting Illini and Fighting Sioux are so offensive the NCAA bans them but Fighting Irish isn’t???) and that this game can and will be one for the ages. Because I’m old I remember when Bama and UGA played a lot–usually to start the season. Now we’re ending one together, and I can’t wait.

    • Cojones

      Because Micks like to fight. The Indians just defended themselves fiercely. If the Indian people don’t like it, we should be sensitive to any complaints. In FSU’s case, the Seminole Nation felt that it glorified the tribe. I agree.

  8. sniffer

    The group of juniors, now seniors, who returned and deferred millions of NFL dollars says more to me about Mark Richt than anything else. Those players came back for the sole purpose of bring glory (personal and team) to Georgia and they believed in their coach.

  9. Jrod1229

    If we lose in a not good fashion Saturday all the people are going to come right back out of the woodshed screaming he can’t ever do it. Getting this win is huge on so many fronts.

    • Macallanlover

      The win would be significant, no doubt, but the “fans” who re-emerge have no signifcance at all. You are right, how many times have they proven to act like buzzards and appear whenever they suspect a chance to feast off someone else’s sadness? Who really cares anymore about what they say? They aren’t “one of us”, whether they pretend to have our best interests at heart or not.

      I can understand the Senator’s position about allowing them and not banning them, but truthfully, I prefer Florida, Auburn, and TN fans to them….at least they are sincere. I respect someone more for a having a different opinion than I do but cannot tolerate a flip-flopping, fair weather, wimpy, pussy. Don’t trust them, don’t respect them, and tired of their act. Best for Georgia fans to stick together and weather the inevitable adversity that come severyone’s way at times than to let them into our midst. They might can post, but they cannot be a Red and Black fan to me, and they can never be trusted to be in the foxhole with us. Hard to be lower than how I perceive them.

      We are doing just fine without them trying to hurt the program, and so is Mark Richt. I think this group of players have shrugged off the negatrons and haters by adopting a bunker mentality. This may indeed be this team’s time but even if they stumble, I have seen this program pick itself up, make themselves a “player”, and those who return will compete again next season. No doubt they would kick these bandwagon folks off their float, and so should we. Miserable people should be stuck with each other, they have no place in our house. They want so badly to be right because they have taken these extreme positions, but they are just sad, little people and have missed all the fun of being a UGA fan. Screw ‘em.

      • I think this program can survive negative comments on an unofficial blog without breaking a sweat, Mac.

        • Macallanlover

          I agree Senator, was not suggesting otherwise. I am just suggesting they be assigned an “appropriate weight” as situational posters, no different than a trial lawyer would suggest you view a family member’s, or best friend’s testimony. All programs have ups and downs, both over the long haul, and often within a season. Selectively taking sniper shots when the facts may support your position is cowardly. Not to start another argument about annoying phrases but they are who they are. Also, “They are what we know they are”, and they aren’t worth arguing with anymore because they aren’t sincere.

          One good thing about CMR’s tenure, they spend more time in hiding than out in the light of day….like rats.

          • Cojones

            I just cringed at the incivility toward coaches that smacked of rednecks following the sorry lead of FU fans concerning Zook. They acted as if our coaches had no redeeming value and I suspected many of never having responsibility for other people’s jobs, meaning they were never in a position of a boss. Any boss knows that firing people who work for you is an admission that you can’t manage positively or get an employee back on track. A boss knows that people’s lives, along with their family’s lives, are extremely important and calling for others to fire individuals shows that they don’t know who is responsible in an organization for terminations. As soon as you take a firing stance on anyone in business, you are in danger yourself.

            If you can’t be loyal to coaches and team, why do you call yourself a fan? Right or wrongly, they are your team. Why seek to tear them apart just because you can? Criticism is voiced every day about plays, etc that we would have liked to have seen, but how courageous can you be when calling for someone’s job as a part of your criticism?

            Thank goodness, the bs spewed by some fans was ignored. They ought to give Mark the “Patience of Job” Award to go along with COTY.

            We all are a bunch of crazy bastards/bitches with too much time on our hands who can’t afford cocaine (just making a funny. I have never knowingly touched the stuff since I’ve always been aware of how addictive it is).

            • Mayor of Dawgtown

              The hypocrisy is what really bothers me. Calling for the coach’s head after one loss, then resurfacing as a “fan” of the program when things go well is the epitome of that. If UGA loses the SECCG those same naysaying SOBs will return to their original mantra. Bank on it.

      • Dog in Fla

        They need to get with the program, jump on the team and come on in for the big win

        And always remember Rule #10

        http://www.military-quotes.com/murphy.htm

  10. NC Dawg

    It would be very special to win on Saturday and get to another NCG against Notre Dame. But it’s still a very good season. We should have no complaints.

  11. This – “that there are plenty of coaches who wouldn’t have the humility to admit that what once worked no longer did” – doesn’t seem to correspond with his “I know what the hell I’m doing” bulldog club moment a couple offseasons ago. I’ll buy his book when he retires if for nothing else to see how much McGarrity forced his hand.

  12. SemperFiDawg

    I read the Wetzel article this a.m. and wondered if you would comment on it. As crazy as it sounds, I read yesterday on a forum a thread titled “Is this a must win game for Richt?”, and many responders answered in the affirmative. Personally I fully support Richt and simply can’t understand the mentality of those who would have another coach. To me he embodies the concept that good guys do finish first. The problem in my opinion is most fans see the finish line as a crystal football. Yes, he is a coach and gets paid to win games. I get that. I believe his record speaks for itself. The true finish line however, is when the boys he coaches/mentors can look back on their lives and be proud of not only what they accomplished, but that they did it with integrity and dignity. That’s an intangible that’s not in his contract ,that you can’t put a dollar sign on. You think Saban, Miles, Meyer, Chiznic, Spurrier, Petrino offer that? For that I’m damn proud he is our coach and no one else’s, and regardless of how the game turns out Saturday he’s a winner and so are the boys he coaches.

  13. ChilliDawg

    Mark Richt has lost control of his detractors.

  14. W Cobb Dawg

    Contrary to Higgins, CMR spent very little time on the “hot seat”. It didn’t start until the end of his 9th season, and lasted until he won 10 in a row. He obviously went through and made a lot of adjustments during that period, and the results speak for themselves today. Although the ad nauseum media hype & meme dragged on much longer. Other than that 15 month (or so) period, only the most assinine sports commentators spoke as if CMR’s job was ever in jeopardy.

  15. IndyDawg

    I’ve been a Dawg fan since tuning in the radio just in time for the Appleby to Washington pass during the Ga-Fla game in ’75. As an undergrad at UGA, I witnessed Herschel run up and down the field. Been high and low with the Dawgs’ fortunes every year. But this is the 1st year where I can say I want the Dawgs to win not just for the pride of my alma mater and as a team. I want them to win it just as much for a host of DGDs: starting with Coach Richt, Jarvis Jones and Aaron Murray. Add to this list as you want and you won’t have any argument from me.

    • WF dawg

      Second that, Indy. And I also keep thinking, “If not now, then when?” It’s the best offense we’ve seen in Athens in a long time and probably the most talented defense as well. Add to that the fact that we control our own destiny after 12 games. If not now, when?

  16. It’s funny how over here in SC they keep talking about their 11 win season last year as if it were the next best thing to the NC. Here we could conceivably have a 12 win season that many would feel was a disappointment. It’s not. Remember how far we’ve come. These kids are special and will invade the NFL.
    Just hope the kids don’t lose hope. They can come back from anything but that. Take the punch that is coming. It will. Get up. Play your fundamentals. Grind back. We’ve dominated the third quarter. Their Strength and Cond. seems to have paid off in many games this year. Trust it again guys.

    • Governor Milledge

      I’ve seen & heard a number of SC fans refer to their present run as the program’s “Golden Years.” Which it is, but their run is about equivalent to nearly the entire Richt era run, year-in and year-out

  17. Slaw Dawg

    I think more than anything else, I’d savor a win this week because of the recognition it’d bring to Coach Richt, a man who probably doesn’t much need the accolades. It’s similar to how I felt about Dooley in ’80. Each deserves it for being both a great coach and having done it the right way, and for being a credit to his institution and his profession. It’d do my favorite sport a lot of good, especially in the wake of its recent scandals, if one of its nicest guys managed to finish first.

    Gotta say, too that despite the nervous Nellies among us, or the moments of nervous Nelliedom by even the stalwarts (including me, I admit), I’m proud that overall we, as a fanbase, have shown patience with a class guy who represents our institution well. We have that habit, at least compared to our sister fanbases. I wonder how many other SEC football programs have been led by 4 head coaches over the past 48 years, or 6 over the past 72? Or combined sustained success on the field with no bowl or title bans, no vacated wins, no ugly asterisks next to winning seasons? The phenomena are not unrelated.

    • Cojones

      I think you missed the guy that Dooley replaced. Miller’s Time?

      • Slaw Dawg

        Nope, I remembered poor ol’ Johnny Griffith. From ’64-today, we’ve had Dooley, Goff, Donnan and Richt, and then, of course, Butts and Griffith for the preceding 24 (so I really should’ve said “6 over the past 73.” I did my history majorin’ at good ol’ UGA, and they taught me how to count my decades!

    • ChilliDawg

      Somewhere Ray Goff is asking the fan base for “one more chance.”

  18. FtWorthDawg

    I think the world of Coach Richt. I think he should be the coach at UGA for 25 more years. He represents the University of Georgia with integrity, class and honor while teaching his players to do the same. But even if we were to win the National Championship this year I still do not think he should win the coach of the year this year.

    Bill O’Brien has done a coaching job at Penn State that will be talked about for many years to come. The turn around that he has made in that program with the players that he has is simply INCREDIBLE! If I had a vote I could not let an opportunity go by without rewarding the efforts that they have made there, no matter what my allegiances are.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      + on O’Brien. psu never should have let paterno buffalo them into keeping him long, long after he should’ve stepped aside. Took them all of 1 season to find a coach just as good, if not better.

      • Cojones

        Yeah. And their big RB, given the opportunity, went to USC where he is playing. What if he was still at Penn St?

  19. Dboy

    Senator.

    From day # 1, Richt has been excellent head coach. He made 2 simultaneous errors in judgement that nearly tanked the program and cost him the HC job: hiring a defensive coordinator and an offensive coordinator with no prior experience / track record, at nearly the same time. Although promoting coaches from within is a common practice, it is a dangerous one (see Andy Reid of the Philidelphia Eagles current situation when he promoted his longtime friend and longtime Oline coach to Dcoordinator…bad plan.) It has taken years for Bobo to really learn his craft, and Martinez never made it.

    In my personal line of work, there is a supervised training period of >5 years before you are considered ready to perform on your own. I have no doubt that there is a similar learning curve when it come to directing a high level college offense or defense. If Richt wanted to “break in” Bobo under his own tutelage, then Grantham is the type of defensive coach Richt should have hired rather than Martinez. Martinez was a newbie without a defensive mentor around to help train him.

    Fortunately for everyone, Bobo has learned on the job (not without some significant bumps along the way) and Grantham resurrected the Defense before Richt was himself fired. I credit Richt for righting the ship, but I hope he learned from this experience the next time we need a coordinator replaced.

    • Cojones

      Who was D coach who was chosen over Martinez and everyone thought that was so hot and is now looking for a job after Auburn-chopped liver? Martinez was here several years as assistant before he got the job.

      Hope you get a chance to learn something about Richt on this blog since the facts don’t fit your “analysis”. I can see why it may take 5 plus years of supervision in your field. Do you work for ESPN or the NCAA?