How Kirby Compares to Richt

Han Vance exclusive for BIG HAIRY BLAWG:

ATLANTA – At the end of the third season of Mark Richt’s career as a head football coach, he had failed to find the ultimate successes he had at FSU as an assistant, where he had won the national championship and coached in several national championship games. Everybody was still saying he was the future of the sport, one of the best youngish head coaches in all of football.

He inherited a program led by future Ponzi schemer Jim Donnan, who routinely lost four games a season and, as a main mistake, had the audacity to say his final team, at any school, would be good. That team suffered an unusual amount of injuries and had serious on-and-off-field discipline problems and faded down the stretch, after starting strong and beating Tennessee to end an 11-year, nine-game skid in a series that had emerged as important after the league split into divisions.

I heard from first- and second-hand accounts key players got paid and some of them had hard drug issues. Quincy Carter, who later washed out from the Dallas Cowboys with repeat cocaine problems, was central to some but not all of these conversations.

Kirby was coached by Jim Donnan and acts, in my opinion, a whole lot like him. I don’t see strong manipulator Nick Saban mimicked so well when I listen to Kirby talk.

Anyway, it was hardly a bed of roses that Richt walked his God-fearing self into in Athens. It was a cleanup job, of a big mess. Four years after Ray Goff, Georgia was only marginally better on the field and had in no way gotten over any humps for lasting success.

In his first year, Richt regularly mismanaged games. Losing to Auburn and in the Music City to Boston College displayed the most glaring examples. He was too offense-minded and not all the way ready to head coach. Head coaches manage games, and coordinators don’t. They call plays. He was doing both and had a serious learning curve. It showed. Grandaddy of college football, Bobby Bowden, routinely blew a game. He had learned from Bobby, after playing at Miami, where he was simply not good enough to start. Bar backed and was a male model in between football lives.

Richt’s first team went 8-4, beating rivals Tennessee and Tech on the road.

His second team went 13-1, won the SEC. While Georgia fans – I have done it, myself – blame the annual choke in Jacksonville by the players (and refs) for no national championship try, Miami and Ohio State were both ahead of Georgia. Why did Georgia get no chance? No playoff.

His third team finished 11-3, losing to only two teams, one twice. That team was LSU, who won a split national championship, with mighty USC. Annual Florida choke came between LSU beating Georgia in a close low-scoring game on the bayou, an O-line protection breakdown in the SEC championship game rematch in Atlanta, to a national champion from the SEC West, coached by Nick Saban.

Think I must have blocked out the Florida game, because my initial memory was of a two-loss team. I do almost all Georgia writing off memory, folks, and then look up to correct mistakes. We all make mistakes. Some mistakes (say 4th and 11 fake punts at midfield when you should have wanted to go win in a pending overtime to correct past failure), to quote lifelong Georgia fan Rob Lawhon, “Stay with you to the grave.”

Another alum, my dear friend Justin Boria, cogently, this year and last, “Same old Georgia.”

Winning masks wounds that never heal all the way, leave scars.

It was only 30 yards of field position, Kirby explained. The real low point of his tenure in my opinion not stating those 30 yards were the (non-championship) season.

My top-heavy drunken alum little brother, who I still have to feel sorry for after all these years of adulthood, attributed the loss to of all things luck. My friend, an apologist, Richard Hilley said “Kirby is young,” after saying of Mecole Hardman “he’s not a wide receiver” (Mecole is a starting wideout who played QB in high school, and to (mis)quote the madman with the lovely mullet at Oklahoma State, [Kirby] is a man. He’s over 40). Cowboy up!

He looked so ugly to me, all over TV pandering, placing blame and praise on his kids, begging mastermind Saban for help. Saban wanted Georgia in the College Football Playoff, the victorious Alabama coach said.

Mark Twain liked to say that history doesn’t repeat itself so much as rhymes. The New York Times’s Marc Tracy stating that “Georgia nearly toppled Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game [in Atlanta] here” was a misrepresentation. Because, Alabama was already in the College Football Playoff, definitely, and they’ve twice performed best after losing one game and getting in the postseason’s final “let’s-call-it-a” tournament, be it a one- or three-gamer. With nothing to lose for Bama Saturday and everything, including an intangible extra motivation of revenge and redemption, playing in-state, history very plainly rhymed for UGA. No repeat.

Georgia Governor-elect Brian Kemp implored his opponent to realize she simply lost a close race and quit looking to the officials, after an election he actually oversaw had questionable factors, while House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was quoted “No one gives you power. You have to take it from them.” Referees subliminally favor favorites in contests, as humans. To be the best you have to beat the best. Best admit the mistakes you make, in your life.

Shakespearean tragedy in three acts, when you consider the Richt/Gurley/Murray choke.

By the way, as far as that question of pay. YES, major college football players should earn money, but only via rule change. Georgia’s best two talents under Richt, Gurley and AJ Green, were caught selling their shirts. That would never happen at an Auburn, would it?

When the job opened up after Richt, Vince Dooley, who had replaced Donnan with Richt, was asked what Georgia should look for in a replacement. “Mark Richt” was his answer, and he did not elaborate.

It rhymed, almost, was a slant-rhyme with the word right. I hope Georgia, as a university more so than just a sporting interest, is always doing the right things and let me emphasize this, NOT winning at all costs. The feds not the NCAA took down some of the biggest basketball coaches, enjoyed it. This could be simply the start of THE dominant era for Georgia or it could go the other way. I hope for success. Pollyanna false optimists look for people to blame for the past and always talk so glowing about next season, when high school kids (see: probable busts) will save us.

Glory, glory to Ol’ Georgia (1785). But make it His Glory the right way!

Kirby’s first team went 8-5, beating rival Auburn at home. (Richt was 8-4.)

His second team went 13-2, won SEC (Richt 13-1). While Georgia fans blame the annual choke by the players (and refs) for no national championship, the “best” team does lose close games when they fail to execute. Winning back-to-back overtime games is a long shot. It Rodrigo’d.

His third team will have finished 12-2 (or 11-3 like Richt), lost the SEC championship game in Atlanta to a (maybe) national champion from the SEC West, coached by Nick Saban.

Total tally for early Richt:
8+13+11=32 and 4+1+3=8
32-8, Two SEC East, One SEC.

Total tally for early Kirby:
8+13+11 or 12=32 (may get to 33) and 5+2+2=9 (may fall to 10)
32-9, Two SEC East, One SEC.

Sounds like we got the right guy, Coach.

Han Vance is an alumnus of GEORGIA (’98), UGA Presidential Scholar and National Deans’ List and Communication Honor Society inductee. He was a student manager of the Set-Up Crew of the Tate Student Center. Vance has been published by media such as Sports Illustrated, FanSided, Writer’s Digest and Bulldawg Illustrated and won the Harriette Austin Award. He’s the author of “Golden State Misadventures” (nonfiction novel), plus three other titles on Silver Stone Press. Vance picked Ol’ Georgia to win national championships in 2017, 2019 and 2020 and has publicly correctly forecasted every single Georgia win/loss and opponent through the SEC championship games of the last two football seasons, in each offseason.