I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” and how large events can be ignited by one small decision or action. I have been a UGA fan since I was 8 years old back in 1979 and grew to be a college football fan in high school. I have seen numerous championships won, jobs lost, awards earned and legends made on the heels of one small, originally-insignificant, development. Today was the end of an era with the firing of Mark Richt, but his fate was sealed the moment the game plan for Florida this year was put in the books.
The “Tipping Point” for Richt came with the decision to start Faton Bauta (a 3rd-string QB with no previous snaps under his belt) without an offensive game plan to take advantage of his skill set. Whether Coach Schottenheimer had the idea or whether Richt introduced it is of no matter. The buck stops with Richt and he gave the green light on that madness.
Maybe the plan was to run the read option all day long and take advantage of the fact Bauta can run the ball. Maybe they had numerous new plays in the playbook to try to duplicate what Tennessee did to the Gator D. But once the ball was kicked off, we saw the same plays and the same scheme – only with a QB who was never capable of throwing the ball 30+ times against a FCS team, much less the vaunted Gator defense.
The move stunk of desperation and clearly that’s what it was. Richt must’ve known he was fighting for his job and figured there was no way they could beat the Gators with the 2 QB’s they had throwing the ball. But why run Bauta out there if you were just going to throw it anyway. I can see why Jeremy Pruitt was unhappy after that game. His defense does it’s job and the offensive coaches come up with a circus act.
I was intrigued when I heard the news Bauta was starting on Tuesday of Georgia-Florida week. I thought the “old guard” was coming up with something new; something to try and spark the lackluster offense. I was sure the game plan would be appropriate for Bauta and his skill set. I was wrong and 4 interceptions later, the game was over and done. The season was too.
Mark Richt is a good coach. He brought UGA to heights not seen since Vince Dooley walked away after 25 great seasons. He brought 2 SEC Championships back to Athens – the first since 1982. But the final 10 of Richt’s 15 seasons at Georgia will be remembered for special teams blunders, losses to sub-par teams, missed opportunities at championships in a weak East division and the inability to win the games that really mattered.
Any of these things could have been the reason he was fired by Greg McGarity this afternoon. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when he and Coach Shotty decided to defy all logic and go with Bauta in the pivotal game of the season. It was the final nail in the coffin and started McGarrity on a mission to bring new leadership to the UGA football program.
Yes – the decision was made back at the end of October. Then again, nothing that happened in November helped either. Who knows if Greyson Lambert had started versus Florida if the result would have been any different. But you can be sure the powers that be in Athens wouldn’t have questioned the decision like they did the one to start Bauta. That one, seemingly small decision was the spark that set the fire ablaze. It is also the one that could’ve saved his job had the call gone another way.