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Kirby Smart and Georgia went 11-2 this season.

Georgia football had a very good year in 2018, but it should’ve been a great year

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2018 was very good for Georgia, but it should’ve been better

The 2018 calendar year could not have gotten off to a better start for the Georgia Bulldogs. It’s hard to believe, but 364 days ago Georgia stormed back to beat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. It was one of the greatest wins in program history.

2018 got better when Georgia landed the No. 1 signing class in the country for the 2018 recruiting  in February. In October it beat rival Florida again, and then followed that up with a perfect November.

2018 was very good to Georgia. But frankly, it should’ve been a great year for the Bulldogs.

On Jan. 8, Georgia blew a 13-0 halftime lead to lose in the national championship to Alabama. The Bulldogs bookended 2018 with another painful loss, this time blowing a 28-14 lead in the second half of the SEC championship game to Alabama, falling 35-28 on Dec. 1.

There was also a 36-16 drubbing at the hands of LSU on Oct. 13 as well. And to top it off, because of those two losses, Georgia players and fans had to sit and watch two teams it was better than in Notre Dame and Oklahoma, lose rather handily in the College Football Playoff semifinals. The Bulldogs are now waiting to take on a Texas game in the Sugar Bowl.

2018 saw Jake Fromm take another step forward. It also saw a weekly soap opera with freshman quarterback Justin Fields, who came to Georgia as the No. 2 overall player in the 2018 recruiting cycle. At the close of 2018, Fields now seems on the verge of transferring away from the school.

Related: Ohio State QB appears to warn Justin Fields again about transfer

This calendar year also saw Kirby Smart show that he is clearly one of the best coaches in the country. There may not be a better recruiter  in the country than Smart  at this moment — and yes I’m aware of Alabama’s Nick Saban. But it also saw Smart make an incredibly questionable decision on a fourth and 11 in the SEC Championship. And there’s no way Saban or Clemson’s Dabo Swinney would’ve lost to LSU by 20-points.

Georgia was supposed to take a step back after losing the likes of Roquan Smith, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Yes, it was predicted to win the SEC East, but the Bulldogs weren’t supposed to do it in the runaway fashion that they did. They proved, twice, that they can go toe-to-toe with Alabama. Georgia might be the only team in the country that can say that.

But coming so close and losing twice puts a damper on Georgia’s 2018 season. And it puts more pressure on Georgia to win it all in 2019. But as Smart came to say this year, pressure is a privilege, and the Bulldogs are more than capable of handling that as the calendar turns from 2018 to 2019.

A final word on Mark Richt

On Sunday, former Georgia coach Mark Richt announced that he was retiring from coaching after a three-year stint in Miami.

There are many reactions you could have from the news. A number of Miami fans certainly seem pretty happy, given how the Hurricanes flamed out this year with a 7-6 record and a disastrous 35-3 loss to Wisconsin in the bowl game.

Miami has already moved on and hired Manny Diaz, no not the UGA tennis coach but the Hurricanes’ defensive coordinator for the last three seasons under Richt. Diaz had previously accepted the head coaching job at Temple back on Dec. 13.

But Richt will be more remembered for his time at Georgia. He coached the Bulldogs from 2001-15, amassing 145 wins in that time. That’s the second most in school history, behind only Vince Dooley.

Related: On occasion of Miami retirement, Mark Richt should be appreciated for what he did for Georgia

A lot of people will want to bring up that Richt could never win the big one. He won two SEC titles in 2002 and ’05, but he never brought home a national title for Georgia fans. Dan Marino never won a title for the Miami Dolphins and John Stockton didn’t win a title for the Utah Jazz, but both are beloved by those fan bases. One day, I hope fans view Richt in the same light.

Contrary to popular belief, winning isn’t the only thing that matters. As a number of former Georgia players highlighted on Sunday, Richt was so much more than just a football coach to a number of Georgia players. I encourage you to go read what former Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch had to say about Richt.

Richt left the Georgia program in a better place then when he found it. Very few college coaches at any program can say that. He certainly helped lay the ground work for Georgia’s strong 2017 and ’18 seasons.

If you’re one of the people who wants to dance on Richt’s grave, I can’t stop you. But I’d just like to point out that one of the first people to thank Richt for all that he did for both Georgia and college football, was current Georgia coach Kirby Smart. Richt clearly meant a lot to him.

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