I found an interesting echo in Mark Bradley’s love letter to Mark Richt (boy, I bet Paul Johnson feels jilted) of something I once posted.
Namely, how did Mark Richt right the Georgia Bulldogs after going 6-7 in 2010 and starting 0-2 in 2011. And much of it, I’d suggest, had to do with faith. Richt knew what he believed, and he kept believing even when not many fans – and writers, let’s emphasize – shared that belief.
If I had to put my finger on what’s wrong, I’d call it a crisis of faith. I don’t mean that in a religious sense. (By the way, of all the arguments I’ve seen about what’s wrong, blaming Coach Richt’s religious convictions for the slide has to rank as the dumbest.) Rather, it’s a systemic doubt: the coaches lack faith in the players to execute and the players lack faith in the coaches’ ability to deploy them efficiently and effectively.
And that’s why I think, admiring though he is, Bradley doesn’t get this exactly right. This wasn’t some purely internal battle of Richt’s belief system. This was about getting everyone associated with the program back to buying in to what Georgia football should be – a tough sell, especially since Richt had given little indication up until then that he was willing to look at what was going wrong. It wasn’t about “knowing what he believed”; it was about recognizing that he either had to adapt credibly or die. Richt fleshes that out in this quote:
“You really have to know what you believe. You can’t be so stubborn that you refuse to change if you believe you should change. Don’t not change because it’s a prideful act of not letting someone say, ‘I told you so.’ Sometimes your motivation for not changing can be prideful rather than practical. But there are certain things that if you truly believe are the right things to do and the right way to go about it … Regardless of the result, that’s what guides you and what keeps you moving down the track in confidence rather than fear.”
I can think of plenty of coaches who would never admit to something like that, or might say something like that without truly meaning it. But I can’t think of very many whose ego would let them say it and act upon it. And that is a remarkable thing.
Any doubts I had about Richt’s ability to turn the direction of the program around from the funk it was in just a few seasons ago were completely demolished the night of the 2012 SECCG. The outcome of the game was disappointing, but the effort those players and coaches gave in that game wasn’t. It was light years removed from what I watched in Knoxville.
I don’t know if Bradley’s right to say that engineering the turnaround is the greatest accomplishment of Richt’s career. But I will say this: hearing someone like him mention Georgia having a legitimate 2013 national title chance without a trace of mockery sure beats where we were for a while.