First let me say unequivocally that I bleed red and black and that I am a die hard Mark Richt supporter. Have been for years. And I am absolutely fed up with all of the "hot seat" talk and the "get rid of the bum" talk by short-minded fans and sports writers who are just looking to stir the pot.
The Richt detractors will say I'm making excuses and have rose-tinted glasses. Well, making excuses is not in my nature—giving reasons is.
It goes without saying that the last two seasons have been disappointing for the Bulldogs and their fans. But moving from 2008 to 2009, we lost enormous talent; we were absolutely cursed with serious injuries to our O-line and many more of our big play makers; we were culminating in the final destruction of Brian Van Gorder's second generation junkyard dawg defense by Willie Martinez. And oh yea, the less than stellar Joe Cox.
Yet Coach Richt still managed to pull eight wins, put 52 points on Arkansas, beat Auburn for the fourth year in a row, beat a supposedly unbeatable No. 7 ranked Georgia Tech (ending their one season win streak against the Dawgs), and rip Texas A&M apart 44-20 in the Independence Bowl.
This year has truly been a re-building year. We have a completely new defensive staff and defensive scheme that had to be learned from scratch by veteran and rookie players alike. We had a freshman QB. Arguably our best player and the best receiver in college football, AJ Greene, was out for a third of the season. And face it, we had to play SEC opponents this year that were greatly improved over last year—South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Auburn. But our wins have been blow outs and our losses have been close.
It's delusional to think that a team or coach can sustain a 10 win/season average forever. There are going to be slumps and resurgences. I would challenge any reader to name any head coach—even the most successful—who didn't have a few eight win, seven win or even six win seasons. Mack Brown is 4-6 right now! Urban Meyer is 6-4.
The SEC goliaths of recent years—Alabama and Florida—are looking not much above average this year. We tied Florida in regular time and lost the game in OT by one freshman mistake. And if it weren't for turnovers and Aaron Murray's one less than outstanding game, Florida would have been ours. In my mind, we are every bit as good as UF this year. The "detractors" (along with the Gator fans) would fail to see this though.
In 2011, we will lose some talent on both sides of the ball. That's CFB. But that talent will be replaced.
I know, the naysayers will argue back: "But with this kind of team performance and record, what kind of recruiting season will we have?"
My response is: "stars" are overrated. Recruit those diamonds in the rough and coach them up."
The naysayers will then say: "The coaches have consistently failed to 'coach up' talent."
My response is: "We have a new staff of defensive coaches. They've been doing a pretty good job of "coaching up' in a very short time. And if that remains a problem on the offensive side, it's time for more assistant coaching changes."
Other changes we will see in 2011 are that these other SEC teams that have done so well this year will lose more and bigger talent than we will. We will be that much more comfortable with our new defense. And Aaron Murray will continue to improve exponentially. I see 2011 likely to be a very good year. And what's more I see 2012 as a great year. I'm talking our next SECC—and possibly a NC bid.
I'll not give in to the "what have you done for me lately" fans. They need to become fans of a team where their whining is more legitimate. Nor will I stand by quietly and watch the "let's have fun and bash Richt" sportswriters. They're doing nothing more than prostituting their profession and credibility.
How long after Dooley retired did we have to suffer through TRUE mediocrity? Too long! If Coach Richt goes, we'll be looking at a repeat of those ten years of insigificance. That's unacceptable.
We've got one of the best coaches in college football. We need to keep him and support him. Let him bring us back to SEC dominance.