December 2, 2009 marked a major change in the Georgia Bulldog, Mark Richt led, coaching era. By dumping embattled coach Willie Martinez and two members of his defensive staff, coach Richt proved to the fans that he is a coach first—and a friend second.
Many in the Bulldog nation felt it was too little too late, while others saw the move as a step in the right direction.
However, no matter what side of the fence you land on, one thing was for sure—2010 would find a defense that would either be changed for the better or inexplicably aimed toward the worst.
The beginnings of the search proved quite promising as big names like Kirby Smart (Alabama), Ellis Johnson (South Carolina), and even Tyrone Nix (Ole Miss) made the rounds.
However, as we now enter day 19 of the search, we find more names leaving the list than finding their way on to it. That has meant more media scrutiny, more fan nail-biting, and more passersby misinterpreting the lack of a hire as a sign of trouble in Bulldog country.
It's understandable to think that coach Richt might be a bit too slow in making this decision, but truth be told, why should he be in a hurry?
Whoever the next guy is will likely not only be the savior for Georgia's football program, defensively, but for coach Richt's job as well. Let's face it, even coach Richt isn't above being let go if things don't pan out with the new guy.
College football is no longer the bastion of cool that it was where long-term gods like Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno could weather the storm of a few bad seasons without the fear of losing their jobs.
No, in this day and age, where boosters and alumni rule the roost and the cash coiffures, a coach is as expendable as a pair of old Nikes—and even the good ones get tossed if they fail to live up to whatever expectations an administration has.
Case in point—Rich Brooks, the head coach at Kentucky, was actually on the hot seat this season—imagine that.
Kentucky, a historically BASKETBALL school, was going to fire the man who made Kentucky relevant in football. They were thinking of letting go of the man who has as many wins in the last four-years (30) as it had between 1990-97 (31)—go figure.
So it's not about "what have you done?", it's about "what have you done for me lately?" That sentiment, I'm sure, has not escaped the rather keen observation of our beloved coach Richt.
The most recent flap surrounds the handling or, perhaps, mishandling of new Illinois defensive coordinator, Vic Koenning.
It's unsubstantiated as to how much truth there is to the story that Georgia did or did not offer Koenning the job in a timely, and professional, manner. But Koenning, for his part, had this to say about his conversations with Georgia :
“There was some dialogue, and it made for an interesting last 16, 18 hours, you might say, but when push comes to shove, the character and the drive and the enthusiasm that [Illinois] coach [Ron] Zook exhibited makes sure there was no doubt in the outcome."
That last bit lends some curiosity to the whole, Richt and Georgia "couldn't make up their mind" theory as "character" has never been something that coach Richt has been devoid of. So, it's interesting that Koenning chose to use that particular word in his answer—probably much ado about nothing.
Either way, the search flows on and here's what we all know for certain—for now:
-According to coach Richt, it's a "crummy" time of year to be looking for a new assistant as most guys are still coaching at their current jobs and not looking to leave before the season is done.
-He doesn't want to put any kind of timetable on the search and concedes that it could be January before a hire is made.
-The scheme brought in by the new coach makes no difference to him, because as current defensive line coach Rodney Garner has stated, our players are flexible enough to fit whatever scheme that is brought in by a new guy.
The only true concern in this process has been the recruits for 2010.
So far, we have been able to hold on to our commits, but the longer this search goes on, you have to wonder if defections to schools with staffs already in place will become a factor.
As a Dawg fan, the allegiance to the red and black is definitely tied to the 'G' on the helmet and not the headphone wearer on the sideline. In the end, we just want to see our guys do well and if that success happens to come with a great man like coach Richt, all the better.
Former Texas Tech coach, Spike Dykes, was once quoted as saying the following:
"....as a coach, you lose about 10 percent of your friends every year. And that's in a good year; attrition is proportional to losing.......I never met a coach who didn't do what he thought was best to win every game. You don't win every one, of course, and you make mistakes, too. So, along the way, your personal bandwagon develops more vacancies on an annual basis (taken from the book, Spike Dykes Tales from the Texas Sidelines)."
There is no doubt that coach Richt has lost a few of his friends and fans during this last three weeks. Lucky for him though, there are still plenty of us who are willing to have a little faith that his "due diligence" in finding the right man for the job is due less to uncertainty and more to just wanting to be certain.