Greg McGarity and I passed each other, like two ships with contrasting missions passing in the night.
Me: (Approaching, trying to form first question, which never got out.)
McGarity: “Hey, Jeff. See you later.”
Me: “Can you say …”
Me: “At some point, are you going to …”
McGarity: “I’m going home.”
- So I guess he didn’t want to hang.
This was on the field Saturday, moments after Georgia closed the regular season with its fourth straight victory, an ugly 13-7 decision over Georgia Tech, moments after coach Mark Richt finished 9-3 and dumped his crosstown rival l for the 13th time in 15 years, leaving his team’s fan base, and perhaps more importantly his boss, feeling . . . well, what, exactly?
It’s difficult for some to imagine a place like Georgia firing its football coach after a 9-3 season. But Jim Donnan went 8-4 in 2000 and got whacked. And if Richt has job security, why wouldn’t anybody in the Georgia administration, particularly the athletic director, just come out and say it Saturday?
Maybe because there is doubt. And there should be doubt. Once more, with feeling: There should be a change at the top because Georgia’s season was defined weeks ago. Everything since a loss to Florida is mere window dressing.
I believe the saying is: Lipstick on a pig.
Richt and his players deserve credit for holding things together after another miserable performance in Jacksonville, which lowered the ceiling for the Bulldogs’ postseason to an afterthought of a bowl (Outback? Music City? Really, does it matter?). But the three losses in a span of four weeks to Alabama, Tennessee and Florida are all that should matter, other than perhaps the backdrop of recent seasons. Those three losses ended hopes of winning the SEC East, a division they were overwhelming picked to win. Again. Only to fail. Again
Georgia won five SEC games over teams with a combined conference record of 8-29 before Saturday. Are you going to stick a “G” flag in the end zone over that?
So McGarity said nothing. He briefly shook Richt’s hand on the field after the game, then darted for the exit. Georgia’s coach of 15 years was left to twist in the wind.
Richt said later he hasn’t been given any indication of his future. He said there is no meeting set up with McGarity.
“The Lord’s in charge of everything and I’m fine with whatever He has in store for me,” he said.
Would he prefer some clarity before he goes recruiting this week?
“I don’t need any clarity right now. I’m ready to recruit.”
He then transitioned from spirituality to historical perspective, quoting Theodore Roosevelt, from his 1910 speech in Paris, “Citizenship in a Republic.”
“It’s not the critic who counts. It’s not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or whether the doer of deeds could’ve done them better,” Richt said, quoting Roosevelt. “The credit belongs to the man who’s actually in the arena, who’s been devoured. Win or lose, at least he wasn’t one of those timid souls that know neither victory nor defeat.”
If this was Richt’s final game at Georgia, he chose to go out rather poetically.
“I’m not saying (critics) shouldn’t take shots,” he added later, and these were Richt’s words, not Roosevelt’s.
“I’m not saying people shouldn’t say what they think. People have a right to say what they think. Everybody in the media has a right to say what they think. I don’t get mad at anybody, if y’all wondered.”
Criticism is justified. Georgia played two ranked teams this season, Alabama and Florida. The two losses were by a combined score of 65-13.
Richt’s teams are 6-7 against ranked teams in the last three seasons and 14-23 since 2008. The Dogs haven’t won an SEC title in 10 years. They failed to even get there in the last three, despite being heavy favorites in the weak East.
A 9-3 record looks great on paper. But it’s tissue paper. A debate about Georgia’s season comes down to this: What was its most impressive victory: a win over 1-7/3-9 South Carolina or a win over 2-5/6-5 Auburn?
The most impressive aspect of the win over Georgia Tech was the defense, which has been the case down the stretch. Jeremy Pruitt’s unit nearly shut out the Jackets and coach Paul Johnson (who hasn’t been blanked since his first season at Navy in 2002). That didn’t happen only because on a third-and-long incompletion, an official called Georgia’s Jake Ganus for unsportsmanlike conduct, which the linebacker dared to signaled incomplete.
“I guess no comment is the best comment,” Richt said.
The resulting first down at the Dogs’ 32 set up an eventual touchdown pass that closed the score to 13-7. Otherwise, this game was relatively locked up after one series, when running back turned a fourth-and-1 into a 34-yard run for a 7-0 lead. Two second-half field goals gave the Dogs a little space.
As for Richt, we’re not sure what it all meant. But it certainly didn’t feel like a celebration.