"Every dawg has its day." Or does it?
The exception to the sometimes annoying cliche is Georgia head football coach Mark Richt. After leading a powerful Florida State offense to two national championships during his decade-plus tenure, the Bulldogs picked up on Richt's scent.
The man was the consummate coach on two grounds: he brought out the best performances from his players, and had a strong moral fiber that would keep a program away from NCAA violations. At the time, it seemed like Richt could have been the best rising head coach in America.
Any observer of college football in the early 2000s noticed that Georgia quickly reemerged as a perennial national title contender. For the first time since the 1980s, Georgia won the SEC Championship (2002 and 2005). Each season, though, one or two mishaps on the field cost them a shot to play for it all.
Some might say that means Richt can't win close games. But remember, it takes a bit of luck for a team to go undefeated. Mark already should have one national championship ring; the 2002 crew just happened to have one loss in a year that saw two other team finish their schedules unscathed. If it had been almost any other year, his squad would have won it all.
In 2006 and 2008, Florida's teams finished No. 1 but had imperfect records. Alabama and Auburn, though skilled, needed breaks to go their way ('Bama player Terrence Cody blocking Tennessee's last-second field goal; Auburn coming from huge deficits against South Carolina and Alabama) to finish their respective seasons undefeated. And for crying out loud, 2007 LSU had two losses and was still crowned champion!
Does Mark Richt have to have a 10 win Georgia team and/or an SEC title game appearance to keep his job?
"We get the circumstances! But, when will we get a national title?"
For the sake of the honest, salt-of-the-earth man who patrols the sidelines, I say within the next two or three years. Heck, his recruiting ranks in the top 10 nationally every off season. Game-changers like Caleb King need to light a fire under themselves, and star recruits like AJ Green need to stay out of trouble. After adjusting to these off-field issues and the growing pains, Georgia will be primed to be national champions.
In short, you'll get a national title when your defense is back to respectability, when you resuscitate your running game, and when lady luck happens to be on your side.
"But what specifically will he have to do to keep his job?"
Georgia must meet one of two requirements this year in order for Richt to be retained: get at least a 10-win season and/or get to the SEC Championship Game. Note that I did not say that Georgia had to win the SEC title game; arriving in Atlanta in December will prove that the staff has the players rushing their way in the right direction (namely, the end zone). They certainly have the talent in Aaron Murray, so as long as the defense is satisfactory (although spectacular would be preferable) Georgia will post its best record since 2008.
So, frothing Bulldog critics, please don't be too judgmental to your commander on the sidelines. There have been some valleys for the team, but look at his adversaries: Nick Saban, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier. Despite all the potholes that could leave him making excuses, the head coach still has wielded a convincing 94-36 record. He's managed to weather the storms of the competitive SEC for a decade, so Richt deserves to have some slack for the missed opportunities recently.
Like his mentor, legend Bobby Bowden, once said: teams go through cycles. Every peak has a trough, and every trough has a peak. So prepare a pathway for the Bulldogs, because they are coming back and they're coming strong.