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Talking ourselves into it being time to fire Mark Richt

Why the time is right to let go of one of the most successful coaches in school history.

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Godfrey: I look at Georgia right now and I'm reminded of LSU pre-Nick Saban, except not quite that woefully disorganized. More just the sleeping giant part. Except, you know, Georgia's won the SEC twice under Richt and is a perennial contender and not gone 2-8 like Gerry DiNardo's Tigers.

Bud: I can see it. Go on.

Godfrey: OK, where it actually compares to pre-Saban LSU is in recruiting and attitude. Given the growth of Atlanta even in the last 15 years, UGA probably should be even more talented than it has been.

Bud: I will note that Georgia's recruits, perhaps because of the higher transplant nature of the Atlanta area compared to population centers in neighboring SEC states, do not necessarily have the same perception that it's their divine mission to become Bulldogs. It's not the same as players from Louisiana feeling they must become Tigers or Alabama feeling they must pick Bama or Auburn.

Atlanta is nationally recruited by everyone to a much greater extent than, say, New Orleans or Birmingham. And outside of the metro, recruits from Dalton and north are just as likely to be Tennessee-bound, LaGrange and Columbus are hotbeds for Alabama and Auburn, south of Macon is heavily recruited by the Florida schools and Clemson fights like hell east of I-85.

Georgia literally has to fight tough recruiting battles on all four borders. That's an unfavorable setup in a war and in recruiting.

Godfrey: I don't know of a Southern state school that doesn't battle its neighbors. Saban's Alabama has pulled Louisiana kids away from LSU; so have Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen. Granted, it hasn't been consistent five-star plucking, but it happens.

Bud: Freeze and Mullen are not beating Louisiana for kids LSU wants with any regularity. Elite prospects rarely leave Alabama.

That happens to Georgia, though. For instance, Georgia signed 10 of the 34 blue chips from the Peach State in the 2015 class. Ten of 12 stayed in Alabama. LSU signed eight of the 13 from Louisiana. UGA's state has more talent, but it also attracts so many competing schools.

Godfrey: I've been told by multiple people in the LSU community that before Saban came, the imperative on young athletes was to get the hell out of Louisiana, especially in the black communities around New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Georgia doesn't have near that kind of problem. It needs to refocus branding with more state pride to try and keep kids from going to Tuscaloosa.

Bud: I think UGA is a top-10 job, but I do not agree that it has the same amount of potential improvement that LSU offered. Richt's UGA is a lot better than LSU was in the 15 years before Saban. LSU was 94-75 in that span; Richt is 141-51.

And I do not think a new coach makes massive changes to those fortunes. UGA's recruiting can improve, but not by some extreme margin. I think most of the potential improvement would come from on-field coaching, player development, attitude and program commitment, not via the recruiting trail, where Georgia is already one of only 10 schools to have signed more than 50 four- or five-star recruits over the last four classes.


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Godfrey: I think my LSU pre-Saban correlation is less numerical and more psychological. There's a malaiseespecially after the Alabama and Florida losses.

Bud: Does a new coach fix that? Is Georgia really committed to winning at all costs like the SEC schools that actually win titles? Can the next coach get the weed policy loosened up to match Florida's? Can he get the Athens police to chill with some of the nonsense arrests? Can he get recruiting staff and film analysts out the wazoo like Alabama has? Those are things behind the scenes that people might not see, but that lead to wins.

Godfrey: The short answer is yes, because they have to. Richt's adherence to by-the-book discipline on all things minor (read: marijuana possession) is detrimental to both a program's success and a player's development. Georgia's policy is so far out of step with some competitors it's jarring. I think the right coach can change the perception of Georgia much in the same way Saban did to LSU.

As far as the expectations that Georgia should've been better, I'd challenge you to find a near-miss program like Richt's UGA. Go back to the Terrence Edwards dropped pass in 2002, and there's just one of the national title appearances UGA almost had.

Is there a coach at a top-30 program who has sniffed a title as many time as Richt without getting there?

Bud: That's a question for Bill Connelly. Off the top of my head, no, though there are lots of coaches who have been close. UGA was probably the No. 2 team in 2012. That SEC title game was the de facto natty.

Godfrey: BILL!

Bill Connelly: Technically, Gary Pinkel has sniffed the title game twice. Came about 20 minutes short both times. (And you could make the case that Richt did more frequently than just 2002 or 2012. Finished in the top 10 in 2003, 2004 and 2007, too.)

If either the Edwards drop doesn't happen or that 2002 UGA team plays in 2001 or 2003, the Dawgs probably make the title game. If Chris Conley bats the ball down in 2012 with six seconds left, UGA gets one play to go face Notre Dame. Nobody's been snake-bitten in that way since probably Tom Osborne.

No matter what we think the UGA job should be, Richt has gotten the Bulldogs six top-10 finishes in 13 years, and they'd had six in the 32 years before he arrived.

You should only fire a coach if you know for a fact that the guy in charge can't meet your goals. When you've come this close this recently, and when you're recruiting like Richt is recruiting (and to be sure, the current mess with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt could wreck that), you just can't say it's impossible for him to reach whatever goals Georgia has set. He's completely botched just about everything in 2015, but that doesn't mean he always has or always will.

Godfrey: I guess I should've asked you this at the beginning, Bud. Do we think it's time for a change? If I'm a power broker at UGA, I think I say yes.

Bud: I would give him one more year. Is there an obvious home run candidate this year? The Dawgs are recruiting better than ever.

And look at how 2016 sets up. UGA loses only nine senior "starters," and there are not many impact guys who could conceivably turn pro. Nick Chubb and Lorenzo Carter have to come back because they are true sophomores, and that schedule! Home for Auburn and Tennessee, Atlanta for North Carolina, and road games at Kentucky, South Carolina, Missouri and Ole Miss, which is replacing a ton. UGA might be favored in all 12 games in 2016.

Godfrey: Which, history tells us, will be a great 9-3 or 10-2 season no one in the Peach State will enjoy.

Bud: On second thought, I'd fire him. A new coach can come in and have a shot to win a title in Year 1. What must be done eventually must be done immediately.

Godfrey: If UGA and Pruitt part ways (which Richt denied on Twitter), does that change anything?

Bud: Pruitt's guys have been recruiting their asses off. If Pruitt goes, you have to fire Richt even more urgently.