In 2013 Auburn changed coaches and came within 14 seconds of a national championship.
In 2015 Florida changed coaches and won the SEC East.
In 2016 Georgia changed coaches and…
Wait for it…
Lost to Vanderbilt.
With the loss, a program in a state of gradual decline though still pretty good, suddenly morphed into a laughingstock. Vanderbilt is the laughingstock of the SEC; you don’t lose to Vanderbilt without becoming a laughingstock yourself. Vanderbilt was Georgia’s homecoming opponent; all of Georgia’s 2017 and 2018 road opponents are now moving to make Georgia their homecoming game.
Given an off week to lick their wounds, Georgia then went down to Jacksonville where far too many Georgia hopes and dreams have died horrific deaths (that’s 21 losses in 27 years now, for those of you still keeping count), and brought the program to an embarrassing, mortifying low.
Why does it seem as if I have typed that phrase a million times over the past few years?
Rewind to a year ago at this time: With the SEC East title on the line, Mark Richt made the regrettable decision to start Faton Bauta, a freshman quarterback with zero game experience whatsoever, in Georgia’s biggest game of the season. He then compounded this egregious error by having Bauta, a natural option quarterback, attempt to run the exact same drop-back, pro-style offense he had been running all season long. Square peg, meet round hole.
You can imagine how that went: 15 for 33 with four interceptions. Down went Georgia, 27-3. The game was a mortifying low for Georgia under Richt, who has a strong history of developing quarterbacks. In all likelihood it was this game that sealed his fate, though his exit was not confirmed until four weeks later, after the season finale against Georgia Tech.
Don’t forget that the program was in a state of decline. The numbers bear this out: Richt was 14-23 against Top 25 opponents, 5-12 against the Top 10, from 2008 to 2015. Compare this with 24-13 against ranked opponents from 2001 to 2007.
Like many of you, I was wishing and hoping that Richt could get it together and find a way to bring back the Richt of old, the Richt who gave us P-44 Haynes and 70X Takeoff and 2 SEC championships and 3 BCS bowl appearances in his first seven years. But by that point, it had become abundantly clear that the Richt of old was dead and gone and all the wishing and hoping in the world was not going to bring him back.
It was time to pull the Band-Aid off. Greg McGarity was right to make that decision. But with the Band-Aid removed, it is as if the whole program has collapsed into an unrecognizable mass of bent steel, broken wood and crumbled concrete, with no indication whatsoever as to when anything remotely resembling a recognizable shape might rise from the wreckage.
Which brings us to this year’s game. This time there was no bad quarterback decision. Just an embarrassing, mortifying (there’s that word again) display of futility all around but especially on offense.
They were held to 21 yards rushing. 1.1 yards per carry. You can usually fall forward and gain more yardage than that.
They were held to 164 yards total offense. They were held scoreless on their last ten possessions. They went three-and-out or four-and-out nine times.
For a team with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in its backfield, Jacob Eason at quarterback, and Lorenzo Carter and Isaiah McKenzie in its receiving corps, this was an embarrassing, mortifying display of offensive ineptitude.
With the Florida defense overloaded to stop the run and daring Eason to beat them through the air, the question was whether he could make enough throws. He couldn’t. Except for one frantic series early in the second quarter where he made enough throws to score a touchdown, Eason was running for his life all afternoon and got hit a lot. Receivers seldom got open.
Yet the problems run deeper than an offensive line that looks as if it’s trying to move oak trees, a freshman quarterback and undersized receivers who can’t get open. The playcalling of offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has been unimaginative and predictable. Among Chaney’s main selling points were his use of multiple offensive systems over his career and supposed willingness to adapt his scheme to the talent on hand, yet here we are. Chaney has apparently been given some rope, given the talent (or lack thereof) that he has to work with, but with almost every offensive sequence these days beginning run-run-pass, even the sportscasters can predict what play is coming next. How much more the other team.
Florida is not a great team by any stretch of the imagination, as evidenced by the fact that Georgia held them to 24 points and 231 yards total offense. Yet they were good enough to wipe their asses with Georgia for a third consecutive year, and we will probably be seeing them in Atlanta on the first weekend of December for a second consecutive year.
Georgia had a bye week to prepare for this, as noted above, yet came out looking like the exact same listless, clueless, outmanned, overwhelmed bunch that lost to Vanderbilt, almost lost to Nicholls State, and might lose all their remaining games this year.
Georgia now has to win two of their next four games just to get bowl eligible. Can you find two wins on the schedule? Let’s have a look:
Kentucky: They have won three straight and are now 4-2 in SEC play, something Georgia would give their very lives for. The game is at night so fans will be loud. This is a very dangerous game which Georgia could very likely lose.
Auburn: Auburn has been prone to late-season collapses the last couple of years but after a 1-2 start they are much improved. They have won four straight and will probably destroy Georgia.
USL: Georgia will likely be favored against this Sun Belt opponent. But after 1-AA punchline Nicholls State came to Athens and almost beat Georgia, can we assume anything?
Georgia Tech: Georgia should be favored but Georgia Tech has the better record and this is a rivalry game and weird things happen. Again, can we assume anything?
How many wins do you see there? One, maybe. Two at the absolute most. Any more than that and you are positively delusional.
Georgia may not win another game this year.
I hear all you Richt supporters out there saying “We told you so!!!!!” But again I remind you: This program was in decline, though still pretty good. The numbers bear this out, as I have mentioned already: Richt was 14-23 against Top 25 opponents, 5-12 against the Top 10, from 2008 to 2015. Compare this with 24-13 against ranked opponents from 2001 to 2007.
And even as Richt was winning four straight after the Jacksonville train wreck of 2015, there were cracks in the foundation which we now see in retrospect: Three of those wins were unimpressive wins over unassuming opponents: 20-13 and 13-7 over Auburn and Georgia Tech respectively, opponents that would finish sixth out of seven teams in their respective divisions. And let us not forget that we were taken to overtime by Georgia Southern. That backdrop provides at least a little bit of context for what is happening in 2016.
It was time to pull the Band-Aid off.
But Kirby Smart was hired to change all that. I still hold out hope that this will prove to be an aberration and in years to come he will go on to build a program that wins SEC championships and becomes relevant at the national level, just as we envisioned when we hired him away from Alabama. I still hold out hope that he will make idiots out of all of us doubters.
But as the losses mount up and the embarrassment and mortification build with each successive week, I find myself feeling increasingly delusional, just like those who insist to their dying breath that Donald Trump would make a good president.
So what do we do now? Change coaches again?
Nope. Tried that already.