This week, Georgia football head coach Mark Richt got defensive. He was asked a question by a reporter at the Gator Bowl news conference in Jacksonville, Fla., about the expectations of his fan base.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season 8-4. There were reasons, mainly significant injuries and a porous defense. But it was still a disappointment to fans who expected more.
Richt didn’t exactly see it that way.
“I don’t know why you’re on this thing; we’re here to celebrate a bowl. You’re talking about all that, but I think our fans are fantastic. They understand you can’t win every game, obviously,” Richt told a reporter, according to www.UGASports.com. “We’ve both (referring to Nebraska, Georgia’s opponent) had successful seasons or we wouldn’t be here, so I’m not looking at it as an unsuccessful season. We certainly wanted to win the SEC, without question. We were not able to do that, but there are 14 teams in our league. Everybody goes in a little bit of a cycle sometimes, and we certainly had our challenges throughout the year, as well.”
Let’s analyze this. First, technically, Richt is correct. It was a successful season in that it was a winning season. But if he thinks college football fans in the South look at an 8-4 record as a success, he’s just not thinking clearly. The Georgia fans usually do not and should not accept a record that is mediocre.
And 8-4 is about as mediocre as you can get, even with all the injuries this team faced.
This program has too many resources and too many advantages to be mediocre. One of the best talent bases is right in its backyard, and every February we hear about how great the recruiting classes are, only to be disappointed at how the depth and talent level is not where it was expected to be going into each season.
Richt continued, “I’m proud of our guys. I think they’re fantastic. We’ve got a great coaching staff and tremendous support, so I think things are going well, quite frankly.”
No one expects Richt to throw his players under the bus, or to even publicly go after his coaching staff even though everyone else is. But to paint that type of picture when his program is regularly considered one of the most underachieving in the country is borderline delusional.
Georgia’s defense did not do well this past season, quite frankly. It hasn’t been good in a long time.
What’s wrong admitting that in a very tactful way instead of trying to portray that nothing is wrong?
The fact is, Georgia is not an elite football program. It has not won a national championship in 33 years. It has not won a conference title in nine years. Meanwhile, since that last Georgia national title, five different SEC teams have won it all, and it has happened a total of 11 times. Obviously, it’s happened seven years in a row, and Auburn could push that to eight in a row if the Tigers beat Florida State in January.
Richt had early success in his tenure at Georgia with two conference titles in his first five years. But again, what has happened since that second SEC championship? The Bulldogs lost the SEC title game twice and finished second in the nation once, but it’s mostly been seasons that have not met expectations.
But Richt seems to have a long leash and is never challenged on these types of comments. It must be because he’s a nice guy.
Here is a significant sign that it’s not going as well as Richt pretends it to be. Since 2008, Georgia is 10-19 against ranked opponents. That is mediocre. That should be unacceptable.
Years from now, how will Georgia fans remember the tenures of Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray, two of the best quarterbacks in the program’s history? Well, neither won a conference title or a national title. Yet the coach recites lines like he’s starring in the next Pollyanna movie.
I am occasionally criticized for believing that Georgia should be as consistent and as successful as Alabama. There’s only one Nick Saban, some would say. But is it too much to ask for Georgia to be like, say, Auburn, a team that might win its second national title in four years next month?
Richt has had a successful run in 13 years as Georgia’s head coach, but seeing yet another SEC program compete for a national championship while the Bulldogs go 8-4 and have the coach try to sugarcoat things is not something that should be accepted.
Instead, the fans should simply ask, “When are we going to get there, Coach Richt?”
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.