Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Richt uproar: What to make of UGA's coach?

"Take it from me, Mark. Nice guys lose to Auburn." (Brant Sanderlin/AJC photo)

Such has been the post-Florida uproar that a guy (meaning me) who wrote for Sunday that Mark Richt had been outcoached -- by Will Muschamp, believe it or not -- was chastised for daring to suggest in Monday's offering that, if Richt were to leave, Georgia might not do any better . ("What about Auburn and Malzahn?" went one chorus. And because nothing can happen in college football without the Magic Name being invoked, "What about Saban?")

At this point, I don't know that I'm a Richt defender (I concede that he has liabilities) as much as I am a Richt realist. (I also concede that he has strengths.) But this week's debate has become an either/or proposition: Richt should be fired because he can't win it all, or Richt deserves to stay at Georgia as long as he wants because he has won so much and is a nice guy to boot.

(That line of thinking has prompted the usual rebuttal: "He can't win it all because he's TOO nice a guy! Saban's not a nice guy!")

All of which has set me to thinking, and for 14 years I've spent a lot of time thinking about Mark Richt. I covered the first Georgia game he coached, and I was in Jacksonville on Saturday for one of his worst losses. I see both sides of the debate -- though I'll confess that I don't much rate the too-nice-a-guy argument -- and I've heard from folks who feel passionately that Richt needs to stay, same as those in the Richt-must-go camp believe what they're saying.

I've also heard from a fairly dispassionate football man who notes that there are five quarterbacks from Georgia starting for other SEC teams -- Auburn's Nick Marshall signed with and played for Georgia, though not as a quarterback -- and suggests that Richt's chief failure is his insistence on sticking with a dropback passer in the era of running quarterbacks. That's food for real thought, I must say.

All of which is to say: I've spent 14 years thinking about Richt, and I'm still trying to reconcile what I'm hearing with what I've come to believe. There was a time when I'd have considered him one of the nation's 10 best coaches. I'm not sure I do today. At the same time, he'd probably fit into my top 15.

Meaning: Even after a terrible loss, I still think he's a good coach. Which might not make sense to you, but that's OK: In a week like this, I'm not sure it makes sense to me. But there it is.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.