Mark Richt earned his reputation as an offensive guru at a place that was tough to succeed in the 90s, Florida State. In perhaps the promotion of the century, he made an almost Franchione-level good career move when he jumped ship after 2000. Chris Weinke had just won the Heisman, FSU was about to play in the championship and FSU had long been thought of as the pinnacle of college football.
I was on 18 at this point, but I knew something every talking head didn't. Mark Richt sucked. Of course I didn't have the guts to say it out loud. Hell no. At the time it would've been like telling Jesus Christ himself that his hair was too long. So silent I remained.
But I had evidence. I watched a fair amount of FSU football in 2000, and I saw cracks in the armor even then. Chris Weinke just dropped back and chucked the ball downfield, and one of many NFL receivers would make a play for him (Anquan Boldin was the #3 or #4 receiver that year). The run game was boring, and most importantly, the OL was dominant. Weinke had all day to throw. I'm talking Jason White level protection here. Weinke would drop back, sit around, wait, wait some more, then throw some awful duck 40 yards downfield while Snoop Minnis made some great play.
It was no surprise to me that FSU mustered no offensive points in the MNC game. It was no surprise to me that Chris Weinke started his NFL career 0-46. And it was no surprise to me that once all those WRs and OL graduated, the FSU program started to decline. Chris Rix and Drew Weatherford are terrible, the OL can't do dick and the scheme they were running was Greg Davis-level tomfoolery. Jeff Bowden correctly faced a lot of blame, but here is the thing: Mark Richt runs the exact same offense.
If you're running a pass heavy offense out of the shotgun, one of two things needs to be true: most of your passes are of the short, three step drop variety, or your OL can give you mad pass protection. Othewise your QB gets killed and negative plays end your drives over and over again. There is a reason the Run & Shoot currently occupies a gravesite next to the 46 defense in the football graveyard.
Well, Richt is one of the stupid ones. Chuck Long made the mistake, too, which is why any team with a pass rush shredded OU and they never sniffed another title despite having a large assortment of roided up talent from which to choose. Not only does Richt's offense feature like, maybe 3 plays, but there is way too much downfield passing to be effective in his shotgun based attack.
So why has he been successful? Easy. Defense. In 2000 I was at a small, 1-aa (sorry, Championship Subdivision) school in Illinois whose defensive coordinator was a fellow named Brian VanGorder. Simply put, he was a badass who put one of the best defenses 1-aa had ever seen on the field until it was ravaged by injury. Every day I watched him berate, yell, emasculate, and succeed. In 2001 he made the jump to Georgia, and is the main reason anyone takes them seriously:
YEAR - D Rank - PPG - (points scored in losses) - Overall Record
2001 - #17 19 (9, 10, 17, 16) 8-4
2002 - #4 15 (13) 12-1
2003 - #3 14.5 (10, 13, 13) 11-3
2004 - #9 16.5 (14, 6) 9-2
2005 - #9 16.3 (10, 30, 35) 10-3
2006 - #20 17.6 (33, 22, 14, 20) 8-4
16.5 ppg (16.7 ppg in losses)
So despite 4 top ten defenses, he only managed to lose less than two games once, and didn't even manage to score 17 ppg in games Georgia lost. They would beat up on Georgia Southern and then do shit against Florida. Van Gorder left after 2004, so anything after is a reult of his work, but not directly. Richt had a 34-14 conference record going into the year. The SEC is tough, I know, but imagine if Mack had 14 conference losses in 6 years. He wouldn't be here.
But here is the thing that shocked even me. I looked up offensive ppg and rank:
2001 - #49 27.6
2002 - #22 32.1
2003 - #64 26.5
2004 - #45 27.9
2005 - #42 29.5
2006 - #52 25.2
2007 - #50 29.5
Georgia's best team was in 2002, at 12-1, so it makes sense that it's the best offense, too. But the rest average an amazing #50 rank in scoring offense (finishing behind teams like Rice and Tulsa), only averaging more than 30 ppg once. I thought for sure the patsies would prop up the numbers, but no
The point of my idiot rambling? Mark Richt sucks. Georgia sits now at 3-2, having mustered up a total of 26 points in losses to Tennessee and South Carolina. But boy that 35 points against Oklahoma St sure looks impressive.