Before we begin, let me be clear that this isn't about Evil Richt, Sunday School classes or black jerseys. Those are journalistic headline grabbers. This goes deeper. So chunk your rose colored glasses or your pitchforks, whichever it is that you are currently grasping and let's entertain ourselves with a mutual discourse.
This is Richt's 11th season as a head coach, all at Georgia. He brought early success in his first few seasons, was next to impossible to beat when his team donned the white away uniforms, and he felt the confetti as it poured from the rafters of the GA Dome.
Last season we lost to Colorado...Colorado gave up 50+ points to Kansas. They also lost to Baylor.
The last few years Richt's been a shadow of himself. His most ardent detractors will tell you he's never been a great coach. They'll point to Donnan's players and a transition from the HBC to the Zooker in Gainesville. They say he'll never win the big prize for UGA and that he lacks the toughness to make it in the SEC. "He'd be a heckuva a good ACC coach" is about the nicest thing they can manage.
I don't buy all of that. What's been lacking recently that was at a premium during the 2002-05 seasons is leadership. And that starts at the top. Richt can coach SEC championship football, he's proven that. Now he needs to prove it again. Back in January as we tried to digest a 6-7 season we came to realize that we're not that far away and also not even close. Leadership can put us beyond the former and further from the latter.
So my question is, can a coach evolve? Can Richt overcome a previous version of himself through some genetic drift or mutation? Or will natural selection punish him for his loyalty to staff and favoritism towards certain players and put him on a shelf beside the do do bird?
I know Richt has it in him. Again, I've seen it as recently as a handful of years ago. But can he translate a new winning mindset to his current players, both veterans and Dream Team members alike? No easy task for sure. And then can it permeate down and stick hard enough for the team to pull out 4th quarter victories?
Can we finally keep our silver britches urine free and beat Florida again?
I want to believe the answers are yes, but I've told you I'm not gonna hold my breath like the last couple years. The headlines will be there next month, the ones about how well players are looking and how so and so is ready to fill so and so's shoes. We'll hear and read about the new attitude and how well the upperclassmen are preparing the team.
I'll read and I'll listen, but I'll need my eyes to believe evolution has allowed our coach to become a dominant figure roaming the SEC sidelines again. Having less than 85 scholarship athletes won't be any excuse. Losing a key player won't ease any pain from a loss to a mediocre team. A new defensive system is a headline from the past.
It's football come September 3rd. Words are for losers. Winning comes from dirt, effort and the blood coursing through the veins of a team that knows its coach is bound for glory. Charles Darwin is taking notes. And those are ones I'll definitely be reading.