Members of the coaching fraternity most often stick up for another when a job’s on the line. And in most cases, ex-coaches don’t call for the heads of the guys currently coaching at their old schools.
So it should come as no surprise that legendary Georgia coach Vince Dooley took up for Mark Richt in a short Q&A with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. But that doesn’t make his argument wrong:
“If you stay in this business long enough, you’re going to go through some down times. Joe Paterno had about four losing seasons in five years before he went on his run. Bear Bryant, in 1969 and ’70, had some struggling times. He got beat by Vanderbilt up in Nashville. I remember his athletic director saying he was going to look for a new coach. At the end of the season he said, ‘I looked all over the country and can’t find one better than the one I got right now.’ I’ve been through it myself. In fact, we’re celebrating the ’71 team reunion this week. That was an 11-1 team that finished sixth or seventh in the country. But the two years before that were down years. We won the SEC championship in ’66 and ’68 prior to that. So yo have to be able to weather those down years and go forward. Every coach has to go through it. And usually you come out a better coach by having gone through it. So I’m confident Coach Richt is going to address it…
Coach Richt is a proven coach. He’s the type of guy you want at Georgia, the way he conducts himself, his character and the way he represents the university. I think he has the support of the greatest majority of people because they believe in him. I believe in him, too. So I think he’ll come out of it as other coaches have gone through it and have come out of it. He’ll be fine. He’ll be here a long time.”
Like Bear Bryant whom he mentioned, Dooley coached in a very different age. He coached before million dollar salaries, wall-to-wall media, and Mt. Everest-type expectations.
Starting in 1964, here are Dooley’s records at Georgia in five-year intervals:
1964-1968… 7-3-1, 6-4, 10-1, 7-4, 8-1-2… with two SEC titles
1969-1973… 5-5-1, 5-5, 11-1, 7-4, 7-4-1… with zero SEC titles
1974-1978… 6-6, 9-3, 10-2, 5-6, 9-2-1… with one SEC title
1979-1983… 6-5, 12-0, 10-2, 11-1, 10-1-1… with three SEC titles
1984-1988… 7-4-1, 7-3-2, 8-4, 9-3, 9-3… with zero SEC titles
In the current environment, would Dooley have made it to his 17th season to win a national title with Herschel Walker? Easy answer. No. No way. He likely would have been fired in 1969 or 1970. Possibly in 1973 or 1974. Maybe in 1977 or 1979.
For comparison, his what Richt’s 10-year run looks like:
2001-2005… 8-4, 13-1, 11-3, 10-2, 10-3… with one SEC title
2006-2010… 9-4, 11-2, 10-3, 8-5, 6-7… with one SEC title
With two losses to Top 10 teams to open the current season, a vocal chunk of the Georgia fanbase wants Richt adios’d.
“But, John, you said it yourself, it’s a different day and age.”
True enough, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be an age of insanity. Mark Richt never had a losing record until last season. In fact, until last year he’d always had at least three more wins than losses at the close of each season.
So what is the expectation level in this new age? Perfection? A 20-year run with 20 consecutive winning seasons and a trip to Atlanta every December?
If Richt finishes with a losing record this fall, we at MrSEC.com would have a hard time keeping him, too. After all, there’s the reality of selling tickets involved in all of this, too. But Richt’s decline to date has been just two years long (if you count 8-5 as a “major” decline). The jury is very much still out on this year’s squad.
Vince Dooley said exactly what we would expect him to say about Mark Richt. And everything he said is right. We’re not saying Greg McGarity should hand his coach a lifetime contract. But we do think — despite the writing that appears to already be on the wall — that Richt should be given at least until the end of the season to be judged.
But why wait past mid-September, right? It’s a different day and age.