If you haven’t heard what Fran Tarkenton had to say regarding Mark Richt last Friday on 680 The Fan, you probably should. The most famous former Georgia Bulldog (non-Herschel division) eviscerated the Bulldogs’ coach and strongly suggested the program needs a new leader.
Francis T. began boldly — “What has happened over the last week with Georgia has been the most disturbing time I have seen in a long time; you know, people don’t want to look at reality” — and didn’t pause for breath. (A partial transcript is available at SportsRadioInterviews.com.)
Richt’s all-is-well press briefing of Jan. 4 apparently set Tarkenton’s teeth to gnashing. Concerning the announcement that Richt would re-immerse himself in the finer points of football, Tarkenton said this:
“Holy cow! Yesterday, where Mark Richt says, ‘I have been freed from administrative duties to spend more time on football.’ Then I quote him, he said, ‘The moves give [me] more time to study the game of football and be an expert and be on the cutting edge.’ What has he been doing for nine years? I have never heard any college, high school, professional coach [say] that [he] was not able to spend enough time on football.”
Asked by host Christopher Rude if Rich might have been devoting too much time to academics or somesuch, Tarkenton said:
“No, it sounds like a cop-out! It sounds like, ‘I am not taking responsibility. I have other things.’ We hire people to be football coaches. We pay him and others millions of dollars to be football coaches, not to be administrators. He didn’t do a very good job there — we had 12 people arrested this year, including a top-ranked quarterback who was a top kid that is now going to play LSU [Zach Mettenberger], and that has been going on forever.
“[Richt] is a wonderful guy. He is a good Christian guy. He wants to be a missionary. He goes on missions. That is a wonderful thing. But do you know the religion of Nick Saban? Or Gus Malzahn? Or Chip Kelly playing for the national championship? I don’t think we care what their religion [is]. We hire them to be football coaches. If we are hiring religious instructors, let’s go to the Candler School of Theology over here in Decatur and get some of their people to come and coach our football team.”
Let the record note that Tarkenton is himself the son of a preacher. Which isn’t the same as being the son of a diplomat, and is evident throughout this diatribe. More Fran: “You’ve been there nine years [10, actually] and you say [you] haven’t had time to spend on football — if you don’t think that’s a problem, Georgia people, and [athletic director] Greg McGarity, if you don’t think the signs are there, my friend … Bad news does not get better with time.”
Regarding last week’s announcements that two top in-state prospects plan to sign with Alabama and Auburn, Tarkenton said:
” We’re going to lose the elite players this year. We haven’t in the past — we’ve gotten the elite player. We either didn’t choose right or we didn’t coach right, because we didn’t have success.
“Right now our program has had three years of regression, and I don’t see any way this thing is going to get out of the ditch. When I read comments like [Richt's] … we’re putting spin on everything. In the meantime Alabama and Auburn and Tennessee are working and kicking our butts and recruiting people and getting coaches that have spread offenses. I mean, can you imagine? We scored two field goals against Central Florida.”
The son of a preacher then offered a benediction: “I think Greg McGarity has got to look at this awfully hard, I think the signs are that we have a program that is in big trouble.”
And now you’re asking: How noteworthy is this? My answer: Very. It’s one thing for some newspaper guy (like this one) to carp about Richt, quite another for a most distinguished alum to sound the alarm. In the space of nine minutes, Sir Francis essentially said what more and more folks are thinking: That Georgia needs a new coach.
By Mark Bradley