Briefly stated, the Peter Principle is an idea that as long as a person is successful, they will eventually be promoted to a position beyond their ability. Perhaps it’s finally time for the Bulldog Nation to question whether Mark Richt embodies the Peter Principle in his position as head coach at Georgia.
Honestly, it pains me to write this article. I admire Mark Richt both as a football coach and a human being. There is no denying that he has done wonderful things for UGA, including leading Georgia to its first SEC Championship since the Vince Dooley era—two, in fact.
But the fact is, Georgia hasn’t won the SEC since 2005. UGA supporters are, or should be, running out of patience with Richt.
The timing of this piece may seem like a knee-jerk reaction to a crushing defeat by a South Carolina team that is quickly becoming one of Georgia’s bitter rivals. But honestly, that game is just the latest in a long line of disappointing losses against quality opponents in recent years.
The fact is, Richt’s coaching career may have peaked as an offensive coordinator and perhaps it’s time to accept that he won’t ever enjoy the same kind of success as a head coach that he did as an OC.
It started at Florida State, where Richt was the offensive coordinator from 1994 to 2000. Richt consistently put one of the best offenses in the nation on the field in his tenure with the Seminoles, culminating in a National Championship in 1999.
After accepting the head coaching job at Georgia in 2001, it appeared that Richt had seamlessly made the transition to head coach. After all, he led the Bulldogs to their first SEC Championship in 20 years in 2002, and another in 2005.
An argument can be made that Richt’s early success at Georgia should be largely attributed to the fact that he was pulling double duty as the offensive coordinator for the Bulldogs as well as the head coach.
Late in 2006, after a lackluster second half of the season, Richt turned full-time play-calling duties over to first-year offensive coordinator Mike Bobo before the final regular season game against Georgia Tech. In reference to the decision, Richt was quoted in an article appearing on USAToday.com: “I want to be a better head coach. I think this could possibly help me do that.”
Judging by Georgia’s performance on the field since then, Richt was mistaken. Since becoming solely a head coach, Georgia has regressed as a team. Maybe not to level of the perennial 8-4, or worse, team it was under head coaches Ray Goff and Jim Donnan, but regressed nonetheless.
Georgia has only made one appearance in the SEC Championship Game since Richt relinquished control of the offense in 2006—getting blown out 42-10 against LSU last season.
Richt and company continue to sway top recruits to Athens, but cannot seem to translate that recruiting success to victories on the field against quality opponents. Since 2008—Richt’s second full season as solely a head coach—Georgia has lost 16 of 18 games against teams that finished the season ranked in the top 25.
Richt and the Bulldogs have one more regular season game to prove they are capable beating a quality opponent when they take on Florida in Jacksonville later this month.
A win against the rival Gators could go a long way in silencing some of Richt’s critics. On the other hand, a loss is almost certainly going to rekindle the hot seat talk for Georgia's head coach.
So did Richt peak as an offensive coordinator? Are we seeing the Peter Principle play out in Athens with Richt at the helm?
It certainly appears there is a strong argument to be made that he did and we are. I honestly hope that’s not the case, but I fear that it is.