ATHENS - Mark Richt can probably sympathize with Gene Chizik. Neither is a stranger to the coaching hot seat. Their fates, however, could be different.
In fact, you could call Chizik the anti-Richt: Chizik's overall record as a head coach is abysmal, except for one great year, when he guided Auburn to a national championship. Richt has a great winning percentage at Georgia, one of the best in the country, but still has critics in his own fan base because of the lack of even a BCS title game appearance.
“It’s a business where there’s a lot of people who are very passionate about what we do," Richt said Tuesday at his weekly news conference. "Everybody knows football to a certain degree, but not everybody understands exactly what it takes to put a team together and to put a game plan together and try to get players in the right frame of mind to play every single week, and even as players to try to do it themselves. We’re all human and there are ups and downs. ...
"It is kind of a roller coaster, and sometimes you do go up and down, and you just don’t know how close you might be to having a really good football team if you’re just patient for one more year. I think a lot of teams go backwards because they make changes when maybe they are on the verge of something good happening and then if you make change and you start over again, it’s hard for all the cumulative reps that you’ve had to all of sudden blossom. I would imagine it’s hard to try to figure out as a decision maker if that team is close or if they are not.”
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Richt's bosses at Georgia gave him that rope after 2010, when the Bulldogs went 6-7. And the team rode out more hot-seat talk after the 0-2 start in 2011. Since then, the Bulldogs are 18-3, and with a win on Saturday would clinch a second straight appearance in the SEC championship game.
Richt was also asked what it would mean to get back to the SEC championship game this year, in a year they were the favorite to do so, versus last year, when it was a surprise.
“I look at everything on a year-to-year basis," he said. "This is this season, what is our goal, what do I think we can accomplish? What kind of a team can we become? If we make it in 2012, then we accomplish what we set out to do in 2012. Have we reached our full potential as a team yet? I don’t know. I think at times we’ve seen the best of what we can do offensively and defensively and maybe even in kicking. But have we done it all on the same day? Not very often, and that’s still a goal for us to try to get to a point where everybody can play their best week in and week out.”
Auburn, by contrast, is 10-12 since it won the BCS championship, including a 2-7 mark this year - with the only wins coming against Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State.
Richt was asked Tuesday what he thought when he saw a program like Auburn fall so quickly two years after winning it all. He answered by talking about the difficulty of the SEC, what he called "the fine line" between winning and losing, and harkening back to his own program's situation a couple years ago.
“Even the year we went 6-7, how much of a different team did we have than some of the teams that might have gone 10-2? Probably not a whole lot different," Richt said. "Not making a play here or making a bad decision there as a coach or the other team just making a play that day. It’s not all that mind-boggling to me because it’s just a really tough league.”
Georgia senior Sanders Commings had a more succint way of putting it. The cornerback was asked if it felt weird going to Auburn with the Tigers a two-win team, after going there two years ago when the Tigers were unbeaten on the way to a national title.
"That's crazy. If you think about it, it's kind of crazy," Commings said. "Two years ago they didn't lose a single game. Now they've only won two. I mean, that just shows you college football is crazy. Also, they had a guy named Cam Newton two years ago."