I’ve been trying to come up with some sort of impassioned response to Miami hiring Mark Richt.
About how he is going to bring the swag back. About how this is the grand slam, savage hire we have been waiting for.
The truth is, I can’t get there. I remember being super excited for Randy Shannon and again for Al Golden after their introductory press conferences, and we all know how that turned out.
So I am a bit more reserved this time around.
But, that doesn’t mean that I’m not positive about it. In fact, this is the most positive I have been in a long time.
This is a great hire. In fact, it is hard to find a more solid collegiate football coach than Richt. I would even call it a home run.
Georgia got sick of winning 10 games a year for 15 years or, frustrated with a seeming inability to win their weakened division for the past 3 seasons…or maybe even just bored with being married to the same guy for so long. They made a move to replace Richt with a young hotshot, and Miami benefited. One man’s trash can be another man’s treasure.
Truth be told, when it was first reported that Richt was a candidate, I was not happy.
First of all, I can’t stand the Bible thumper crap.
Second of all, I saw a man who was burnt out and seeing diminishing returns. The fans at Georgia had a point…how, in the increasingly crappy SEC East, had the guy failed to make the SEC Championship game for 3 straight years?
And here’s a stone cold fact: over the past 7 seasons, Richt’s record against top ranked teams wasn’t just bad, it was borderline Al Golden-esque.
So, being the researcher I am, I did some digging.
I remember the 2007 Dawgs as the best team in the country. They didn’t win the SEC. They didn’t go undefeated. But they were the best team in a wacky season that featured long runs for Boston College, Kansas and USF in the Top 5, and LSU winning the national championship with 2 losses.
After that season, Richt seemed to take a step back. He stopped calling plays, delegating the duties to Mike Bobo. He still had good teams, and he developed Aaron Murray into one of the most productive SEC quarterbacks of all time.
In fact, Murray lead the Dawgs within one tipped pass of the SEC Title in 2012, which would have locked up a date with Notre Dame for the national title, a game every person on this planet knows Georgia would have won in a rout.
Another thing that stood out: almost every single year, Georgia lost a major contributor to injury. Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Keith Marshall…pretty much every year there was someone. The year where everyone stayed healthy? The aforementioned 2012.
So what does all this mean?
Well, the injuries thing means that Richt seemed to get extraordinarily unlucky at Georgia.
Now, I know there are some who would say that a real man makes his own luck, or some corny crap like that from a frat dude’s Facebook profile.
But we all know that is bullshit. Every team in college football has 2 or 3 key players that have a disproportionate effect on the season.
For instance, a QB like Brad Kaaya. Or a running back like Duke Johnson. Or a linebacker like Sean Spence of Denzel Perryman. We have seen firsthand what happens when guys like that get hurt. Now imagine that happening every single year. You get the point.
So, we come back to my initial concern: the motivation.
Why would a guy who took a step back into a CEO role be the guy we are looking for?
This is Miami. I want an angry, testy, chip-on-their shoulder up and comer, godammit. More Jimmy Johnson, less Larry Coker.
Well, here’s where Richt won me over. In his farewell press conference at Georgia, he specifically talked about wanting to be hands on and calling plays again.
This man wants back in the trenches. He wants to get his hands dirty. He has regret. He has fire in his belly…otherwise known as a chip on his shoulder.
People forget some things about Mark Richt.
For instance, he coached 2 players to Heisman Trophies at FSU: Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke. Hard to find two guys more different in their skillset, but he made both of them in to the best player in the country.
Players, not plays. That's what Al Golden promised, and it's what Mark Richt delivers.
Back before he lost whatever power struggle he lost at Georgia and abdicated his play calling role, he used to run a fast paced, smash-mouth , Pro-Style offense.
Mark Richt’s best Georgia teams played attacking, fast, physical defense. They took safeties and made them linebackers (Thomas Davis and Alex Ogletree come to mind…both still play on Sundays).
They took linebackers and made them pass rushers.
Sound familiar? That’s what all the best ‘Canes teams were built on.
If that’s the guy we just hired, and he brings in the type of staff he’s shown himself capable of, and his message continues to resonate with recruits, and he hits the ground running with a Top 5 quarterback and a ton of talent returning off an 8/9 win team, then maybe he is the grand slam we were looking for after all.
Maybe he’s Butch Davis, but better on the X’s and O’s side. I guess we won’t know until we see the product on the field, and that is a long off-season away.
But I do know this. Positive Dan is back, after a 2 year hiatus.
I won’t miss the constant grumbling during games, or being afraid of blowing a 21 point lead in the 4th quarter against Virginia or Pitt.
I won’t miss National Signing Day being a massive disappointment every year.
I won’t miss getting embarrassed 5 times a season.
I CERTAINLY won’t miss watching us get beat the same way week after week after week.
Our new floor is Dabo Swinney’s Clemson or Mack Brown’s Texas…a team loaded with pros that wins between 9-11 games per year and, every few years with the right QB, makes a run at a title.
That’s a hell of a floor, and the ceiling is much higher.
Mark Richt, with something left to prove?
Sign me up.