Mark Richt and Georgia can't go through this together anymore.

Call the eventuality what you will -- retirement, resignation, a firing, finding a new job. Big football games at Georgia have produced living, breathing sideshows. There’s the game itself and the dread over how its coach is going to lose it.

In whatever form you prefer, this relationship has to end.

That’s clear now. It’s probably obvious to Richt, the dean of SEC coaches. There's only so many ways journalists can resuscitate the can-he-win-the-big-one angle. There's only so many ways Georgia’s coach can keep it alive.

It’s time for a mutual separation, hopefully on a tasteful note. Georgia lost again to Florida and the first word that came to mind was “dysfunctional.” Not necessarily the game or the coach or the players -- just the whole atmosphere surrounding Georgia football.

It’s toxic, confounding, not good. Richt started his third-string quarterback (who threw four interceptions yet was never replaced) and punted with his second-string quarterback. That was only because his starting quarterback -- a transfer by way of Virginia -- hadn’t measured up.

What exactly did anyone expect?

Georgia fans don’t want to hear this but Richt was missing one of the nation’s best running backs (Nick Chubb). They certainly don’t want to hear this: Florida won ... by 24 … with its backup quarterback (Treon Harris).

This latest result has to be rubbing Dawg Nation’s nose in the obvious. Georgia was favored to win the SEC East in the preseason. Florida all but clinched the SEC East before November. First-year Gators coach Jim McElwain solidified his credentials for SEC Coach of the Year, at least. That’s an honor Richt last won a decade ago. It seems longer.

Richt’s tormentors deserve to be called out while we’re at it. Georgia fans aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy. They live to be let down. If column inches were wins, Georgia would have retired the national championship trophy. The program is covered closely because there is so much interest. But on a national level, the angst over the Bulldogs has become tedious.

Perhaps the simple reality is that someone has to finish second. During the last nine years that the SEC has dominated college football, Georgia has been a really talented bit player.

UGA led LSU 10-0 after the first quarter of the 2011 SEC title game; the Tigers scored the next 42 points. Georgia came within five yards of an epic upset of Alabama in the same game in 2012.

That wasn’t good enough but maybe that’s what the program is at the moment -- floating in a nether world with a successful coach who is regularly beaten in big games by coaches who are a tad more successful.

Such is life at the top of the college football food chain. Former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer used to say no matter where you were, they had no use for you after about 10 years. This is Richt’s 15th in Athens. He’s beaten the Gators just five times in that span. If you aren't going to win league titles, you at least have to beat your rival.

Let’s just hope there is some dignity left when the end does come. Richt deserves a classy exit. He is a decent man whose record with misbehaving players is more admirable than most.

The anxiety over change is obvious: There’s no guarantee the new guy wins 74 percent of his games and finishes in the top 10 eight times in a 14-year period.

LSU is undefeated this season. Alabama’s better and has been for a while. Auburn has gone from national championship to last place and back to a BCS title game. Missouri crashed the SEC East winning two titles, the last in 2014 when Georgia basically gave it away. Florida suffered through the Will Muschamp era and has now surpassed UGA again.

It hurts right now, Dawgs, I know. It hurts bad. But make no mistake, it’s over. Richt and Bulldog football cannot keep going through these self-destructive narratives each time a ranked opponent appears on the radar.

For Richt, perhaps that means retirement, but the man is only 55 and has a lot to give. There are going to be plenty of jobs out there. Richt can save face as well as some floundering program.

Miami seems like a good landing spot. Richt is from South Florida. It’s certainly easier to win there. The ACC Coastal is the snotty-nosed younger brother of the SEC East.

Be aware: That’s a good thing. To repeat, the idea of this separation is for Richt to walk away with his head held high. A flat-out firing seems too crass for a guy who has delivered two SEC titles, six division titles and three BCS bowls.

Let's see if the next guy can do that, especially with the class and consistency Richt did.

To the coach’s critics, though, that’s what their program was, not what their program is. At the moment, Mark Richt is an iPhone 4 in a 6S world.

For Georgia fans, they'll soon have to find a new use for those flaming message boards. It starts with the words “coaching” and “search.”

Mark Richt made some questionable coaching decisions in his latest loss to Florida. (USATSI)