Kirby Smart Hired As Georgia’s New Head Coach

    Kirby Smart has been hired as Georgia's new head coach. Here's instant analysis on the choice by the Bulldogs.

    December 2, 2015


    After serving as the Alabama defensive coordinator for the last eight years, Kirby Smart will be the new head coach at the University of Georgia, taking over for Mark Richt.


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    He’s earned his stripes – and then some

    I’ve overused the analogy of Nick Saban’s defensive coordinator being like Dave Grohl’s drummer, so maybe Obama’s speechwriter? Trump’s ghost-tweeter? Kardashian’s butt-double?

    Sorry. I’m back now.

    You get the point. It takes someone at a certain level to be good enough, sharp enough, talented enough, and most importantly, tough enough to be in charge of a Saban defense, and Smart has been able to handle the work since 2008. And now Georgia will try to tap into the Alabama world as it brings home one of its own.

    There was always a thought that Smart would be a coach-in-waiting after Saban left – if he ever leaves – but everyone also believed that Georgia would be a natural landing spot if Mark Richt wasn’t able to get it done.

    The former Bulldog defensive back is young – turning 40 in a few weeks, experienced, and more than ready to lead his own team.

    But Richt was a bit of a coach against the norm in the SEC, coming in as a hot coordinator. Out of all the SEC head coaches, taking Missouri out for a moment, the only three programs with head men who weren’t previous head coaches are Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Mississippi State.

    The top SEC teams – Alabama, LSU, Florida, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Auburn – not only hired former successful head coaches, but they hired coaches who – with the exception of Miles – got their teams to a championship level.

    Smart is proven as a coordinator, just like Richt was, and he’s more than ready, however …

    There’s no grace period

    Nope. None. There’s no time to go through a recruiting cycle, and there’s no time to kick back and put the pieces together. This is a Georgia team that’ll come up with a ten-win season if it pulls off a bowl victory, and there’s more than enough talent coming back and coming in to expect nothing less than an SEC East title right away.

    The entire point of firing – oops, “mutually deciding” – Richt was because it’s been forever since he won a conference title, didn’t win the East over the last three winnable years, and still hasn’t won a national championship. It’s not because he wasn’t a great guy, it’s not because Georgia wanted to dump him, it’s because he didn’t get the program to that one extra level it needed to be at.

    Next year, Georgia starts out against a suddenly-good North Carolina program, but everything else sets up well. There’s a trip to Ole Miss, but there’s no LSU, there’s no Arkansas, the Tennessee and Auburn games are at home …

    And there’s no Alabama.

    The defensive front seven gets gutted, but that’s nothing new for a Georgia D that reloads with talent. But more than that, it’s supposed to be up to Smart to make that defense Alabama-good. Welcome back Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the backfield, and with an offense that should be far better with a little bit of tweaking, and it’s SEC East title or bust.

    However …

    It’s asking way too much to expect Alabama

    The Mike Krzyzewski coaching tree, for example, has been okay, but his protégées have been, at best, very good. Georgia can’t be very good under Kirby Smart.

    Mark Richt was very good. He was exceedingly good, but he wasn’t Nick Saban, and Georgia wasn’t Alabama.

    Again, Smart is coaching Georgia because Richt couldn’t get it done, and while winning an SEC title and getting to the College Football Playoff would be good enough – all you can reasonably ask is for regular trips to the CFP – but he’s supposed to be a national title head coach. That’s going to be just about impossible to do at an Alabama level, because no program can do that right now – probably not even Alabama in the near future.

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