On Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville, Mark Richt won a game he most desperately needed. And judging by some of the chatter on Georgia messageboards, there are more than a few Dawg fans disappointed with their team’s 24-20 victory over Florida.
Because many of Richt’s critics already believe he’s past his prime, that the SEC has caught up to him, and that he’ll never be the one to win “the big one” in Athens. Better UGA had lost to the dreaded Gators and sealed Richt’s fate than to have him live another day and survive for another season.
That’s not uncommon thinking, of course. Those fire-eating anti-Richters aren’t the first bunch to root against their own team for what they believe to be the greater good overall. (I liked Pete Carroll as the coach of my Patriots, but the end of his three-year reign I wanted him to lose so he’d get an ouster. So I understand the thought process.)
In speaking to a Georgia sportstalk show host this morning, I was told that his email inbox had been filled with “yeah, buts” over the weekend:
“Yeah, but Georgia only won because Florida turned the ball over twice.”
“Yeah, but Georgia played terribly on special teams and didn’t deserve to win.”
“Yeah, but the coaches didn’t have the team ready as they fell behind 17-3 early.”
“Yeah, but this Florida team just isn’t very good.”
All may be true. But you can bet those folks pshaw-ing UGA’s win on Saturday have never credited Richt in past years by saying things like, “Well, Richt’s team should have won and we can’t blame him for those fumbles.” Yeah. Right.
Well, it doesn’t work both ways. The bottom line is the score on the scoreboard. Winning is winning, whether the opponent plays well or not. Just as losing has been losing, whether Richt’s Bulldogs have played poorly or played well, only to be undone by a bad break or clumsy turnover.
After an 0-2 start to the season, the Bulldogs are now 6-2 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. Considering South Carolina’s schedule (at Arkansas, Florida at home) and the way the Cocks’ offense looked Saturday night in Knoxville without Marcus Lattimore, the Bulldogs (Auburn and Kentucky at home) appear to be in the East Division driver’s seat despite USC holding the head-to-head tiebreaker.
If the Dawgs drop a game or two from here on out, the calls for Richt’s head will start anew. And if Georgia comes from behind to win the East, that accomplishment will be pooh-poohed by the “we need a new coach” crowd. “He backed into it.”
Tough noogies for that bunch.
If Richt wins eight or more games it will be the 10th time in 11 seasons that he’s reached that number. If he records nine or more wins it will be the 8th time in 11 seasons that he’s accomplished that. And if he wins the East Division, it will be the 4th time in 11 years that he’s taken the Dawgs to Atlanta. And only a 6-7 2010 season would mar his otherwise spiffy record.
Like him or not, coaches who put up those kinds of numbers aren’t fired. Whether he wins ugly or wins pretty, as long as Richt keeps winning, the heat of his seat will continue to cool.
Much to the chagrin of those who’ve already decided he needs to go.