Mark Richt has been the head football coach of the Georgia Bulldogs for 13 years. He's been very successful, but Richt remains a very polarizing figure.
I am not Richt's biggest fan. He 'lost' me the night Alabama grabbed a 31-0 lead in 2008. Remember the black out, when Georgia was highly rated and Alabama embarrassed the Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium?
Richt peacefully paced the sidelines as his team floundered in front of a national television audience. I know it's not his nature, but he should have flipped out at the pathetic performance and the poor preparation against a team that would soon become the elite team in the SEC.
I just do not believe Richt will ever lead UGA to a national title, and isn't that the goal?
Or is it? Sometimes I wonder if that's what UGA fans actually want.
Richt is popular for two main reasons. First, he's a good man. That's admirable and it is a tremendous quality for any person. But it should not dictate the opinion of whether he is the right man for the job at Georgia.
Second, Richt has been more successful than his two predecessors - Jim Donnan and Ray Goff. Therefore, it is occasionally mentioned when Richt is under fire, "Do you want to go back to the days of Georgia football before Mark Richt?"
This is an awful viewpoint. It's like saying, "You know Bobby Cox was good as the Braves manager because he was better than Russ Nixon and Chuck Tanner."
Fact is Richt will eventually be judged because of his successor, at least to an extent. Whenever Richt is replaced, the next coach's success of failure will go a long way in writing Richt's legacy.
For example, if Georgia hires someone that eventually wins a national title, then that person will be viewed as being the coach that got Georgia to a place Richt was unable to reach. But if that coach is less successful than Richt, then many, particularly Richt's ardent supporters, will believe it was a mistake to ever let Richt leave the Georgia sideline.
But to believe no one can ever do any better than Richt really downplays the potential of the Georgia program. It should be unlimited, considering the resources the athletic department can provide and the talent base that is in Georgia's backyard.
I always laugh when people who disagree with my opinion of Richt ask this question: “Well who do you think you can get at Georgia that will do better?” I can have a list of my personal favorites, and that list might not jive with Greg McGarity's list. He's the athletic director and he'll be the one that will make that call at some point.
And if I supply a list of names of coaches that I believe would be good candidates, like David Shaw or Pat Fitzgerald, for example, the quick comeback from most would be, "He's never going to leave his current job to come to Georgia."
That is hilarious. Why would David Shaw, after two years at Stanford, not want to come join a SEC school like UGA? I'm just using this as an example, mind you, but this is usually the response I get when I mention a few names.
If people don't believe a coach like Shaw would come to Georgia, then this is not the elite SEC program many pretend it to be in the first place, which is something not many UGA fans will admit to anyway.
Georgia fans should be furious at what Auburn has done this year. Sure, they've been lucky, but that happens when you have a special season. Auburn was 3-9 last year and is possibly going to win its second national title in four years if they beat FSU next month.
How does that make you feel Georgia fans? Forget about thinking your program can never equal Alabama's program. How about instead striving for the success happening at Auburn, who is one of your biggest rivals?
But there are those that don't care Georgia has a 10-19 record against ranked opponents since 2008. They will counter that you should see how many of those 29 ranked opponents were actually ranked at the end of the season. That's absurd. Fact is when those teams were well-thought of and took the field against UGA they won more often than not.
Would that record against ranked opponents put Nick Saban on the hot seat in Alabama? Some wanted to put him on notice after he lost to Auburn a few weeks ago. If Alabama started to struggle, even with all their success under Saban, he would also feel the heat from a fan base that has high expectations.
How about Steve Spurrier? As much as he's loved in South Carolina for the success he's brought the Gamecocks, if he goes 10-19 against ranked opponents in the next six years do you think South Carolina fans would want to keep him around?
Richt hasn't won a conference title in nine seasons, and yet for some he has the currency to avoid criticism. If the last SEC title had been in the last five years, that might hold water. But we're coming up on a full decade since UGA has won the SEC. There is no reason Richt should be that protected even when his results have been substandard.
Some believe an 8-4 record is not that bad. I was scolded by a reader after my Sunday column questioning Richt's comments last week at the Gator Bowl press conference. The reader believed 8-4 was not mediocre, and simply points to the injuries as a reason for the less than stellar record.
He's obviously ignoring the defense, or lack of it for Georgia. Sure, they had young players and numerous NFL draft picks had to be replaced. But don't we hear every February how much great talent Richt is bringing into the program? Are those players misevaluated or simply not being developed well?
And this is not a one-year situation. Georgia hasn't had a good defense in many years, and if you can't stop opponents, you're going to do something like go 10-19 against ranked opponents.
What will be acceptable next season? If UGA goes 8-4 again, what will the excuse be? Well, they had to replace Aaron Murray, or maybe more excuses for the defense. There should be no excuse. Georgia should have the talent ready regardless of the situation to be a top contender for the conference championship.
This wouldn't be as much of an issue if other teams from other conferences were winning national championships. But seeing SEC teams win over and over again puts even more pressure on Georgia to join the party.
Georgia fans will watch next month as yet another SEC team fights for a national championship. They'll do it with a first-year head coach, which truly shows how important a coach can be to a team's success, doesn't it?
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.