Mark Richt’s best coaching job ever may have been 2015

Mark Richt is still the Georgia head football coach, for now, but to use 2015 as the reason for firing him may be the opposite of what should be seen.

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Try to stay with me on this one Georgia fans. I know many of you are upset and fed up and want to see Mark Richt sent on his merry way, and even those of you who remain Richt supporters are probably gravely disappointed with Georgia’s 9-3 regular season finish.

But the truth is that 2015 may have been the best coaching job that Richt has done since coming to Georgia in 2001.

(Go ahead…finish cursing at me. I’ll wait)

It’s easy to get caught up in the wins and losses, the stats and the woulda-coulda-shouldas of the season, but truth be told, this Georgia team should have probably finished worse than the only time Richt’s Bulldogs posted a losing record – the 6-7 2010 season.

That was QB Aaron Murray‘s freshman season, and Georgia still managed to lose seven games, including a 6-10 Liberty Bowl loss to then middling UCF. If you think the wolves are howling for blood now, it was surreal when that season ended.

Other than Murray, some of the other names on that that hapless UGA squad included Michael Bennett, Brandon Boykin, Marlon Brown, Drew Butler, Orson Charles, Akeem Dent, Kris Durham, A.J. Green, Justin Houston, Ben Jones, Arthur Lynch, Alec Ogletree, Bacarri Rambo and Blair Walsh

And those are just the names of guys who are pretty much considered A-listers coming out of the program.

So 2015 is a failure?

Yes, there were some decisions and issues that led to what transpired this season, but we aren’t talking about how the Bulldogs got to this point when the season began, we’re talking about Richt making something out of what really could have been nothing.

Richt recruits like a champ, and has been blessed with some incredible quarterbacks, running backs and lots of defensive talent. But like that 2010 season, sometimes those young prospects need time to develop, and aren’t ready to live up to their 4 to 5-star rating as soon as they walk on the field.

This year, Richt took a team with considerably less talent than he’s had on any previous team, with a starting quarterback – Greyson Lambert – who was a late year transfer out of UVA (yes, Richt’s fault for not having a better plan), a wide-receiver corps consisting of the oft-injured Malcolm Mitchell and true freshman Terry Godwin. (Reggie Davis decided he forgot how to catch a football and Justin Scott-Wesley hung up the cleats just before the season began).

And then Georgia loses one of the top three running backs in the nation in the first offensive play of the game in Week 6.

Yeah, losing Nick Chubb was a bigger blow to the Bulldogs offense than anyone could have known.

Richt coached a team with a brand new offensive coordinator who had never coached in college before (again, his hire, his fault) and whose offense ended the season 76th in the nation in scoring, putting up only 27.7 points per game (and that average is inflated from the five games where Chubb was present).

Oct 10, 2015; Knoxville, TN, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) on the sideline after being injured during the second half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Tennessee won 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The embattled Georgia head coach faced all this, and yet still manged a 9-win season and has a shot at the tenth 10-win season of his 15-year career at Georgia. No, it wouldn’t be as impressive of a 10-win season as 2011 or 2012, the last two times they went to the SEC championship game, but it can’t be undersold either.

It’s a 9-win season playing in the SEC, and beating teams who can jump up and beat just about anyone at any given time. It’s a 9-win season with a young defense who finished 12th in the nation in scoring defense, holding opponents to just 17.8 points per game…including keeping Georgia Tech to just a single touchdown.

Mark Richt did all of this…with the lack of talent at so many skill positions, with a completely revamped offensive staff for the first time in a decade, with injuries piling up and players prematurely retiring…and he did it with the scolding words of fans and the press calling for his job on a weekly basis, never blinking or showing frustration in the face of endless criticism.

Most will say that Georgia underachieved this season, but if you truly look at the facts, the expectations that were placed upon this team were absolutely unreasonable.

Georgia’s football season is essentially over now. All they can do now is wait for the call from one of the “good job, good effort” mid-tier bowls. Mark Richt may even be gone by the time you read this. Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity isn’t talking.

But it shouldn’t be said that Richt’s dismissal (if it happens) was due to the 2015 season, which may have been the best coaching job of his career. Not many other FBS coaches could have squeezed 9 to 10 wins out of this group led by this quarterback.

UVA fans can attest to that.