Mark Richt has been at UGA for 13 years, making him the longest tenured coach in the SEC. It doesn’t look like he is going anywhere soon, either, as he signed an extension last year to keep him with the Bulldogs for the next three seasons.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s say Richt has a bad season next year and the year after that. In that scenario, there's a good chance he'd be let go. If not, UGA officials could simply decide not to renew his contract if the Bulldogs are mediocre for the next three years.
It's also possible Richt could decide to resign as head coach before his contract is up. All these things are possible.
In any case, if any of these things were to happen, who would replace Richt as the head coach? Here’s a look at a few candidates.
The top pick would have to be Kirby Smart, who is the defensive coordinator at Alabama.
Georgia offered Smart the defensive coordinator job before they hired Todd Grantham, but he turned it down to stay with Nick Saban.
Smart, who played college ball for the Bulldogs, has been an assistant coach since 2000 and has been with the Crimson Tide since 2007. He has been so good as an assistant coach that he won the Broyles Award in 2009 and AFCA FBS Assistant Coach of the Year in 2012.
If Richt were to ever leave Athens, Smart would get a phone call from the Georgia officials before he could blink.
Another route for the Bulldogs would be to grab a head coach who's had success in a smaller conference.
Charlie Strong has been the head coach at Louisville since 2010 and has compiled a 36-15 record. In fact, Strong has led the Cardinals to two consecutive 11-win seasons in 2012 and 2013.
He also has experience coaching in the SEC, as he was the defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators from 2002 to 2009, when he helped them win two national titles. He also was the defensive coordinator for the South Carolina Gamecocks from 1999 to 2001.
For him to come back to the SEC would fit, and coaching in Athens would be the right place for Strong. The Bulldogs could use some toughness on defense, and Strong definitely brings that to the table.
Like Smart, Rodney Garner is very familiar with the Bulldogs program. He was part of the coaching staff for the last 15 years before heading to Auburn before this season.
Garner was the defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator for the Bulldogs since 1998 and was named the assistant head coach in 2005. However, when Gus Malzahn was named head coach for Auburn this year, Garner decided to join the Tigers coaching staff.
Now they're playing for the BCS National Championship.
Garner has coached a lot of great players during his time at Georgia, including David Pollack, Richard Seymour and Charles Johnson. With his knowledge of defense, recruiting and the UGA program, he would be a top candidate to get the job.
This is a wild-card pick, but Craig Bohl should be on the list of candidates to replace Richt.
For those who are wondering, Bohl is now the head coach at Wyoming. Before that, he was (and currently is until the season is over) the head coach at North Dakota State.
Bohl has been with the Bison since 2003, but other FBS programs only started to take notice over the last two years.
North Dakota State has won back-to-back FCS National Championships and currently have a 13-0 record. They are very close to becoming three-peat champs.
If he does well at Wyoming, Bohl will get a call from a bigger school. By that time, there’s a chance the Bulldogs will be looking for a head coach. It would be smart to put in a call to see if Bohl is interested.
Out of the four candidates, who would be the best fit?
It’s a tough call, and the honest truth is the Bulldogs would not be wrong for hiring any one of them.
All four bring something different and all four would get the most out of the players.
The most logical pick would be Garner because he has been a coach for Georgia for the last 15 years and he knows the recruiting area. Smart has been a fan favorite for the last three years and he’s waiting for his opportunity.
Strong has had success everywhere he has been and there’s no doubt he would love to return to the SEC. Bohl would be the least favorite of the four, but he has a relentless coaching style that has made North Dakota State a machine in the FCS.
The one thing all four coaches have in common is they are all defensive-minded coaches. It’s clear where the Bulldogs need to go if and when they need to find a new head coach.