The AJC's Mark Bradley seems to think so.
I seem to think he's wrong.
There are plenty possibilities for how the 2011 season could end up, but I can think of a few scenarios that wouldn't involve Georgia winning the SEC East, yet Mark Richt still easily staying as head coach. So here's a list of some possible outcomes and my predicted results.
GEORGIA 2011 SEASON
1. Georgia goes 14-0 (8-0 SEC). Obviously, this is what we sort of want here. Mark Richt could buy himself as long as he wants in Athens with a national championship.
2. Georgia loses 1 game (13-1) Of course if UGA wins the SEC, it would buy Richt a lot more time (years). But even if Georgia doesn't win the championship game (but gets there) Richt will no longer be on the "hot seat."
3. Georgia loses 1 game (12-1) This would require Georgia's 1 loss to somehow prevent it from winning the SEC East. Only way this could happen is if Florida, South Carolina, or another East team beats Georgia and goes undefeated, winning the East. This is extremely unlikely, but it could happen, and it's one scenario where Georgia not winning the East will certainly NOT get Richt kicked out of Athens.
4. Georgia loses 2 games (10-2 regular season). Once again, even if Georgia doesn't make it to the SEC Championship but only has 2 losses, Richt should be fine. A 10 win season, no matter how you slice it, can't be bad enough to oust a coach. Any coach.
5. Georgia loses 3 games (9-3 regular season). This is where things start to get tricky. Georgia could win the East with 3 losses, in which case Richt would be fine. But if not, I still think 9-3 should be enough for Richt, but the only way it could be really, really bad is if Georgia has:
A. 3 losses to rivals (Florida, Tech, Tennessee/Auburn) and gets blown out in these games
B. An embarrassing loss to a cupcake (Coastal Carolina, New Mexico State)
If those things happen, his future could be questionable.
6. Georgia loses 4 games (8-4 regular season). This is pretty much the tipping point. With 4 losses, Georgia COULD win the SEC East and go to the championship game, where a win would be a huge success for Richt at UGA (even with 4 losses). However, if Georgia wins the East but loses the SEC with 4 losses, things could still look bad for Richt. 8-4 with no SEC East title probably won't cut it, and it could be the end of the Richt era, UNLESS things go a very specific way:
A. Georgia beats Florida, but loses very close games to good teams in 2011. I think it's possible that this could save Richt for another year, but it's very unlikely.
7. Georgia loses 5+ games (7-5, 6-6, and below). Richt will not be safe with any record with 5+ losses, UNLESS Georgia miraculously wins the SEC with that record (which still is technically possible).
So there you have it. There are plenty of scenarios where UGA could not win the SEC East but still have a good season. I think it would be hard to get rid of Coach Richt if he brings a 3+ win improvement from this year (9 wins or more).