Richt Decline Traced To 2005 A.U. (After Urban)

For those wondering what is wrong with Georgia football, I’m not sure Mark Richt is the problem.

Mark Richt

(What It’s Come To: SEC Champs or 1st Down @ Mississippi St?)

When Richt was coaching the Bulldogs without Urban Meyer at Florida, Nick Saban at Alabama and Les Miles at LSU, Georgia was stellar in the Southeastern Conference from  2001-04. In those four seasons, Richt won two SEC Championships while losing in the SEC title game another year.

He was an impressive 42-10 over and 22-8 in the league and it looked like UGA was finally on the brink of breaking through the glass ceiling that’s forever plagued the Bulldog program.

Then Florida hired Meyer.

Since Meyer took over the Gators, Richt is 26-17 in the SEC and 49-20 overall. Above average numbers until you find out the Dogs have gone 2-7 in their last nine conference games and 0-3 in the SEC to start the 2010 season. (Longest losing streak since 1990 - my senior year at UGA. Yay.)

Richt is 1-4 against Meyer with Georgia now 3-17(!) in the past two decades against the Gators. But wait, there’s always the most recent two meetings between Georgia and Florida, in which the Dogs were outscored 90-27 in two losses.

Despite that appallingly lopsided 20-game segment, Georgia still holds a 46-39-2 edge in the series. In other words, Florida has no absolute right to football dominance over its biggest rival. Georgia has had equally impressive runs over the Gators the past century, but thanks to Steve Spurrier and Meyer, the balance of power has shifted dramatically - for now.

Last Saturday, which Richt called, “obviously” the lowest point in his decade-long tenure at Georgia, the Bulldogs were embarrassed 24-12 by an also-ran Mississippi State team led by Meyer protege Dan Mullen.

Worst than the result though, at least to me, was Richt’s hollow comments about Georgia’s offensive strategy against the MSU defense after the game.

From Fletcher Page of the MACON TELEGRAPH:

Schematically, Mississippi State called numerous blitzes, Richt said, which tripped up the ground attack.

“We just, at times, called a couple running plays just blindly and just said, ‘Hey we’re going to run this no matter what,’ ” he said. “There times when we had success and some times we got hit in the mouth because of the pressures they brought. And again, until you look at the film, it’s going to be hard to say exactly. They did a nice job defensively.”

Let me remind you, that’s Mississippi State Richt is talking about.

So after yet another anemic offensive performance and your longest losing streak since 1990, what to do if you’re Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo?

Why … nothing.

Mark Weiszer of the ATHENS BANNER-HERALD:

Richt said he has talked to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo last season and this season about possibly returning to the coaches’ box on the press box level to call plays. “He feels real comfortable on the ground,” Richt said. “The information that we’re getting from upstairs has been very accurate. I don’t think it’s had an effect on how things are going

Weiszer also has these telling numbers in his lede:

When Georgia and Colorado last played on Sept. 23, 2006, the Bulldogs were the defending Southeastern Conference champions, a top-10 team that ran its record to 4-0 that day.

The win improved Mark Richt’s overall record at Georgia to 56-13 in five-plus seasons during which he led the Bulldogs to two SEC titles.

The Bulldogs’ record since then under Richt is 35-17, including 1-3 this year heading into Saturday’s game at Colorado.

If Georgia continues to stumble under Richt, I can confirm that rookie athletic director, Georgia alum and longtime UF athletic administrator Greg McGarity won’t stand by while the football program circles the drain.

Unless of course we’re talking next season.

Richt is still 91-30 overall and has a well-fortified contract through 2013 - which includes a $3 million buyout. (As any coach should at that level.)

Before moving on to Florida where he had a front row seat to the Gators’ dismantling of his Dogs the past two decades, McGarity cut his teeth in the Georgia athletic administration at the beginning of the end of the Vince Dooley era.

I don’t think Dooley’s inexorable connection to Richt - who Dooley hired - is a major factor in whether or not the coach keeps his job near term. UF-schooled McGarity is likely to weigh Richt’s still-impressive overall record and contract terms rather than working off the traditional, misplaced-loyalty model for which Georgia is notorious.

But save the appearance of an extremely generous donor, McGarity will give Richt another season even if the coach’s record this season falls through the floor. Though that’d be hard to envision, with A.J. Green returning this week against the putrid Buffs and a remaining schedule that in no way qualifies as a gauntlet of college football’s top programs.

But while Richt is probably on more solid ground than most know, McGarity at least claims he’s keeping the coach accountable despite the loss of Green the first four games.

McGarity this week to Seth Emerson of the COLUMBUS (GA) ENQUIRER-LEDGER:

“You’ve seen other programs that have injuries or have unfortunate things that develop, and someone else steps up. So I think what this has done has maybe let some other receivers develop, I think Kris Durham certainly has been one of the highlighted receivers. I think it gives others a chance to pick up and play. …

“It’s all how you look at it. A.J. doesn’t play defense, he doesn’t block, he’s not an interior lineman. I’m sure it hurts the team. But I think there are so many other moving parts with it – it’s the what-if word, probably the two worst words you could use in coach-speak. You can’t play the what-if game.”

In other words, your recruiting should be good enough that you can survive a stretch of games without your best player against fair-to-middlin’ SEC opponents and not get completely embarrassed - as Georgia has its past three games. (My words, not McGarity’s.)

So with the reality that Richt is going nowhere until, at the earliest, late 2011, what are the odds of a turnaround?

As stated, Meyer, Miles and Saban have changed the game in the SEC.

Now add in Spurrier, Bobby Petrino and what appears to be an up-and-comer in Mullen and - unless all of those coaches are simultaneously fired before the week is out - it’s hard to envision a scenario where Georgia will get to where it wants to be with Richt steering the ship. (Perennial BCS bowl contender.)

The Bulldogs have the donors, geographic recruiting base, amenable admission standards, facilities, fan support and national profile to contend for a national championship consistently. Unlike many SEC schools and otherwise, the Bulldogs have no inherent disadvantages preventing them from becoming what Florida is right now. Or Alabama.

Except their current coach.