Bulldogs Beat

Shanks: Perception, reality and fair criticism of UGA football coach Mark Richt

Earlier this week, Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report wrote a column about Georgia football head coach Mark Richt. It included several bizarre statements about a coach in his 15th year on the job.

“Perception is not always reality,” Sallee wrote, “because Richt has proven over time that he has the ability to lead his teams to near the top of the mountain and simply hasn’t received the luck that other ‘great’ SEC teams and coaches have benefited from.”

Luck? That’s what winning championships is all about now? So has Nick Saban been lucky winning a national championship at LSU and then three at Alabama? Was Urban Meyer lucky last season, winning a national title in his third year at Ohio State, after winning two in his six years at Florida?

Sallee referenced the bad luck Georgia had in the SEC title game a few years ago when Aaron Murray’s pass at the end of the game was tipped by Alabama’s C.J. Mosley. Sallee failed to mention the poor coaching decision of not telling Murray to spike the ball to stop the clock.

Now, I have been a loud critic of Richt the past few years. I think he’s a good but not a great coach. The love fest that follows Richt is ridiculous. When Georgia fans are asked, “What do you think about Richt?” and their response starts with, “Well, he’s a good man, but ...” that’s all I need to know.

Sallee failed to mention two big events of the 2014 season that have the Richt critics still fuming. First, what exactly was unlucky about what happened in Jacksonville against Florida? The Gators won 38-20, and then three weeks later they fired their head coach. Georgia was not prepared to play, and it was one of the most embarrassing losses in Richt’s era.

Then Georgia’s loss to Georgia Tech still stings. Let me just say, “Squib kick,” and end the discussion.

What Richt’s supporters don’t get is, those are the type of things that keep him from being great. There is usually a game every year that Georgia completely blows. Last year, it was the Florida game. How about the loss to Vanderbilt two years ago?

The game where Richt lost me, the 2008 Alabama game, is the signature example of this.

Richt’s time in Athens has actually been two very distinct seven-year periods. There is no doubt that in his first seven years Richt took Georgia to new heights. He won two SEC titles in his first five seasons. The Bulldogs were 24-13, a .649 winning percentage, against ranked opponents from 2001 through 2007.

What is that record against ranked opponents since 2008? It’s 14-21, a .400 winning percentage. Georgia hasn’t won a conference title in 10 years and hasn’t appeared in a BCS bowl since 2007.

Is that all about luck? How would that go over in Alabama? Could even Saban survive if his teams had a .400 winning percentage against ranked opponents?

Sallee wrote that Richt “produces great teams at times and does so in the face of expectations that are totally unfair to him and his program.”

Wow. So those who might expect Richt to beat ranked opponents at a clip higher than 40 percent of the time are being unfair to him and his program? Is that all Alabama fans expect from Saban, or maybe just a bit more?

This season, Georgia has five games on its schedule that should be looked at right now as guaranteed victories. The Bulldogs should beat Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt, Southern, Kentucky and Georgia Southern. But how will Georgia do in those other seven games? If the Bulldogs go 5-2 and have a 10-win season but yet fall short again of a title, should that really be considered successful?

Or would it be considered unlucky?

Georgia fans deserve more and should expect more. Richt is a good coach, but Sallee’s article just proved once again what’s wrong with the perception of Richt’s tenure in Athens. It’s been good, but far from great.

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 thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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