Legendary Georgia QBs Assess Current State of Bulldog Nation, Mark Richt's Job

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 2, 2015

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtStephen B. Morton/Associated Press

You could sense the wave of criticism coming as Georgia was busy getting blown out 27-3 by Florida in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party on Saturday, and now Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt is in the media's crosshairs.

The calls for his job have come from far and wide, and now the Bulldogs have to find a way to turn the season around during the final month of the season against Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. 

But where does the program really stand? 

It has been a recruiting machine under Richt, but the results don't necessarily reflect the talent that has flowed through Athens. Richt hasn't won the SEC in a decade and has missed out on the SEC Championship Game in each of the last three seasons.

"It's an area that's unfamiliar to me and an area that's unfamiliar to a lot of guys who were there when I was there," former quarterback D.J. Shockley (2002-2005) told Bleacher Report. "The program's in a position where they're not winning the games that they're supposed to and not getting the respect around the country that we're used to."

That futility has led the program into uncharted waters, according to FoxSports.com's Bruce Feldman.

While making a change at head coach might seem like it's the popular answer after the Cocktail Party debacle, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the right answer.

"I just don't think Coach Richt is the issue. I know people want to see him more 'fiery' and be like Nick Saban or other guys who go at other's throats," Shockley continued. "Coach Richt has that side of him, but people want more. I understand the frustration. I get frustrated as well. We want to compete on the national level every single year."

Richt has a 141-51 career record and two SEC titles to his credit, and he has led the Bulldogs to all five of their SEC Championship Game appearances—most recently in 2012, where they were one tipped pass away from earning a berth in the BCS Championship Game.

"It's not like he just forgot how to coach football," former quarterback David Greene (2000-2004) told Bleacher Report. "He's been an excellent coach his whole career."

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtTodd Kirkland/Getty Images

The biggest problem for the Bulldogs has been on offense, where they've been held without a touchdown for eight full quarters. Their last offensive touchdown came in the fourth quarter of their 38-31 loss to Tennessee—a game in which they lost a 21-point lead.

"Unfortunately, it's not just one thing," Greene said. "Offensively, right now it's very stale. There's a lot of talent on the team, but sometimes the players just aren't making plays. All of the little things that are so important in football, they're just not happening. Little things lead to big things. There's plenty of blame to go around everywhere, but here we are in November, and we still don't know which direction they're going in. It's tough to be this deep in the season really without any identity, offensively."

Part of the absence of an identity has been at quarterback, where Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert has struggled. He has just six completed passes of 30 or more yards this year, which is 13th in the conference behind players like South Carolina's Perry Orth and Auburn's Sean White—both of whom are part-time starters.

"Obviously, there are times where certain plays and things go wrong," Shockley said. "But just that he's willing to step out of his comfort zone and step away from the way he has done things over the last 15 years speaks to his desire to make it work. Taking the team down to Jacksonville on Thursday—he's never done that before. Starting a third-string quarterback in the middle of the season, he's pulling out all the stops to try to find a spark for the team."

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtScott Cunningham/Getty Images

The lack of a downfield threat in the passing game prompted Richt and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to start Faton Bauta in last week's game against Florida, despite being the third-team quarterback for the majority of the season.

"As an entire team, they just kind of seem lost...like they just don't know what they want to do and how they want to do it," Greene said. "A good example of that is starting Faton Bauta when he has zero starting experience. It just goes to show that what they've been trying to do just isn't working."

The coaches take the majority of the blame, but it comes down to players making plays. Georgia's defense gave up 413 yards to Florida, Reggie Davis fumbled a punt return that Florida recovered for the game's first score and there were enough missed assignments to fill the St. John's River.

"Defensively has been one of the brighter spots, even though it wasn't outstanding [vs. Florida]," Greene said. "But if the offense isn't having any success, it is kind of demoralizing to a defense. Special teams has really struggled. Costly turnovers and things of that nature are just killers. I can't even emphasize how much of a momentum-killer that can be, and I think the Florida game was a great example."

Georgia head coach Mark Richt
Georgia head coach Mark RichtJim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

All of the blame being placed on the head coach is part of the job but also only part of the problem.

"Obviously, Coach Richt is going to be talked about because he's the head guy, but as a guy who's been in that system and understand what Coach Richt asks of his players and everybody around him, it makes you wonder if they're recruiting different kinds of guys," Shockley said. "Are these guys coming in feeling too privileged after all that goes on in high school recruiting now?

"I remember when I was there, when we wore the 'G' on our helmet, we felt that it was a privilege to say that we're playing on the biggest stage and represent everybody that came before us. Sometimes I feel like the guys they have now don't have the same perspective."

It's also important to put the whole program in perspective. 

Richt played hardball with Georgia around the bowl game last year, and it worked out in his favor. He got a raise for himself, a much bigger budget to pay assistant coaches with and finally got an indoor practice facility approved—which has been the equivalent of spotting a Unicorn in Athens: a myth.

"Them dedicating themselves to Coach Richt and basically saying that he's the reason why we've had all of these advances means a lot," Shockley said. "That's why it's so hard when people call for his head, because he's a huge part of what's going on at the University of Georgia and how far it has come."

It's come a long way, too. Richt took over a program where 10-win seasons were more myth than reality, and all Richt has done is top the 10-win plateau nine times, including just last year.

Be careful what you wish for, Bulldog nation. You might get it.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

Related

    Another Roquan? The reel Nakobe Dean breakdown by the two men highly qualified to do so

    Georgia Bulldogs Football logo
    Georgia Bulldogs Football

    Another Roquan? The reel Nakobe Dean breakdown by the two men highly qualified to do so

    DawgNation
    via DawgNation

    One year after opening practice to Texas, Georgia allows Oregon to observe

    Georgia Bulldogs Football logo
    Georgia Bulldogs Football

    One year after opening practice to Texas, Georgia allows Oregon to observe

    DawgNation
    via DawgNation

    All-UGA team based on greatest nicknames in Georgia football

    Georgia Bulldogs Football logo
    Georgia Bulldogs Football

    All-UGA team based on greatest nicknames in Georgia football

    Joe Vitale
    via University of Georgia Wire

    J.R. Reed Explains Decision to Stay at Georgia

    Georgia Bulldogs Football logo
    Georgia Bulldogs Football

    J.R. Reed Explains Decision to Stay at Georgia

    Mike Florio
    via ProFootballTalk