There's a good chance firing Mark Richt is going to work out just fine for Georgia, just as keeping him likely would have.
That's because Georgia had been recruiting very well of late, being one of just 12 teams to sign more four- and five-star prospects over the last four years. Georgia is also in the running to sign the No. 1-overall class in 2016, though coaching change makes that a bit more unlikely.
Even better news for the new Georgia head coach is the majority of the talent currently on a potential 10-win team returns, more is on the way, and the schedule gets much easier.
Let's start with the returning talent.
Star running back Nick Chubb suffered his knee injury early enough in 2015 that he could return in time to play most, if not all, of 2016 with Sony Michel. Offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn and and Brandon Kublanow are great building blocks for the offensive line, as is tight end Jeb Blazevich. Four of UGA's top five wide receivers return.
The defense loses a bit more, but lineman Trent Thompson is as talented as anyone in the country, and linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Tim Kimbrough can be impact players in the SEC. Oh, and Georgia's entire secondary is expected to return. The only player who is expected to turn pro early is linebacker Leonard Floyd.
Georgia's defense should continue to be nasty regardless of whatever coach comes in, and it's a good assumption that the offense will improve simply because it will no longer be coordinated by Brian Schottenheimer.
Georgia has recruited way too much talent to be 76th in yards per game.
Whether it's Year 2 of Greyson Lambert or five-star true freshman Jacob Eason (assuming he sticks with his commitment to UGA; he's visiting Florida), Georgia's quarterback play cannot get worse than it was under Schottenheimer. Richt, even on his way out, told Eason to still consider Georgia despite the coaching change.
Richt told Jacob Eason to "not jump the gun" and see who UGA hires. "He might be excited and the other guys might be really excited."— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) November 30, 2015
Georgia could have an offensive resurgence in the first year of its new coach.
Then there's the 2016 schedule, which is about as friendly as an SEC slate can possibly be.
Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Georgia Tech come to Athens. There's the annual game with Florida in Jacksonville, a "neutral-site" contest against UNC in Atlanta, and two cupcakes. Then there's the most important part: about the easiest SEC road slate possible, with trips to Kentucky, a Missouri that's replacing its longtime head coach, a South Carolina that's doing the same and an Ole Miss that projects to lose the vast majority of its best players.
"Georgia could sleepwalk to 10-2," Jeremy Attaway of SB Nation's Dawg Sports said, noting few programs in the SEC East seem to have their acts together. Georgia could realistically be favored in all 12 of its games.
Georgia could well again be the favorite to win the East. If the new coach can simply be as good as Richt was and get some better timing or luck, he could bring home hardware immediately.
This is a great recruiting setup.
From a recruiting perspective, the Georgia job has few peers. The state of Georgia has more talent than all but three states (Florida, California and Texas), and while Georgia does have to defend its turf against elite programs on every border, it's still easily going to get its share. There is every reason to believe Georgia can continue to recruit as well or better than it did under Richt.
Following Richt really isn't that hard.
It might sound crazy to say after Georgia fired one of the most successful coaches in its history, but following Richt is not as pressure-packed as it might seem.
He racked up wins but rarely took home trophies. Richt did not win an SEC title in the last decade. He won just two SEC East titles in that time, the same number as Missouri. Georgia has averaged four losses over the last seven seasons.
The entirety of Richt's career is tough to follow, but the latter two thirds of it in Athens were decidedly less impressive than the first five.