So the game in Jacksonville last Saturday was close — so close that, despite being down by two touchdowns at halftime, Georgia could have beaten Florida.
There’s a problem, however, in celebrating being close to beating a team. Sure, Florida had outscored UGA 90-34 their past two meetings. So I guess losing by only three is a step in the right direction.
How sad is that?
If Georgia had a little more luck Saturday, the issue of Mark Richt’s future might not even be discussed this week. Baseball legend Branch Rickey once said, “Luck is the residue of design.” It’s the design of this program that is also in question.
And if his record against Florida were better during the past 10 years, Richt’s status would not be an issue. But his record against Florida is why many fans are upset in the first place.
It’s also easy to note how mediocre Georgia has become during the past five years. Richt’s Bulldogs are 23-16 against the SEC since 2006 and only 13-12 against the SEC East.
Compare that to Jim Donnan’s five years at Georgia. He was 25-15 against the SEC from 1996 through 2000 and 14-11 against the SEC East.
Donnan got fired. Richt might have the same fate.
Bottom line: Richt’s record of 2-8 against the team in your division that you’ve got to beat just won’t cut it. Steve Spurrier has been gone since 2001, which was Richt’s first season. So you can’t blame the bad record against Florida on Spurrier and his dominance against Georgia.
And if Richt couldn’t beat the Gators, this year when they are not that good, at least compared to what they usually are, when does he expect to beat them?
Saturday’s game was so bizarre because there just weren’t a lot of impact players on either team. How long has it been since we’ve said that? It was two mediocre teams who happened to play a pretty entertaining game. Usually, Georgia and Florida have plenty of talent on the field. There was talent but just not a lot of elite talent.
That’s part of the problem: the Bulldogs don’t have enough impact players. They certainly don’t have an impact running back, which is a huge issue. Caleb King and Washaun Ealey now look like Melky Cabrera and Matt Diaz platooning in left field for the Braves. Neither one is evidently good enough to play more, so they split time at the position.
Aaron Murray is a good quarterback, but he needs more impact players around him.
There are two questions Georgia fans must ask regarding Richt: First, is he the man that can turn this around? Second, is a core talent base there now to make a significant improvement next season?
Richt probably will be asked to change some of his assistant coaches after the season — for the second year in a row. Will that be only a Band-Aid? Is he going to bring in a hotshot offensive coordinator like he did with the defense last year? And will he finally admit Rodney Garner’s special ties with the high school coaches in Georgia are not working?
Garner needs to go. It’s just time for a change. The best players for Georgia on offense are all from out-of-state. That’s unacceptable, especially when players from in-state (such as Cam Newton) are doing well elsewhere.
Georgia probably will lose A.J. Green and Justin Houston early to the NFL. Those are impact players, but who can replace them? There doesn’t seem to be many stud players waiting to take over next season. And that’s because the recruiting has slipped in the past few years and created a substandard roster.
Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was caught in a picture showing the choke sign to Florida kicker Chas Henry before the winning field goal in overtime. Are we sure Grantham wasn’t directing that at Richt, because that’s what he’s done in his 10 years against the Gators?
John Cooper got fired at Ohio State 10 years ago because he couldn’t beat arch-rival Michigan. Cooper was 111-43-4 in 13 seasons with the Buckeyes, but he was only 2-10-1 against the Wolverines.
If Chan Gailey had beaten Georgia a time or two, he’d still be at Georgia Tech. Instead, he’s losing with Buffalo in the NFL.
So we’ve seen what losing to your rival can do to a coach. If Richt’s not careful, he could follow.
— Listen to The Bill Shanks Show each weekday afternoon from 3-6 p.m. online at www.foxsports1670.com.