Ecstatic in Athens: UGA Gets Smart

Erk Russel
Erk Russell Coaching at UGA

Well by now everyone has heard the news and it is finally official. Kirby Smart is the new head coach at the University of Georgia.  The rumor circulated for far too long and then the hiring was reported days before the announcement.  I have to admit I was a little nervous that it might blow up somehow.  Being a Georgia fan my whole life, I can recall some other coaching hires that did not go so smoothly.  After Dooley retired, things got a little crazy.  Dick Sheridan, the coach at NC State, had apparently taken the job.  But news got out early, and the next thing you knew he was staying at NC State.  The obvious choice for many was Erk Russell, but he decided to stay in Statesboro for reasons not really known.  Or possibly for rumors that I will not share here today.  Finally, the job went to Coach Goff.  Who is often the subject of criticism, but personally I always liked Coach Goff.  UGA always had skill players in his day, but they remained weak on the line of scrimmage which ultimately cost Georgia too many games.

In the 90s, Coach Goff was fired, and Glen Mason was announced as the new head coach.  Mason later flipped on his decision and went back to Kansas for family reasons.  Nevertheless, UGA bounced back, and made a good hire in Jim

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2000 file photo, Georgia football coach Jim Donnan speaks during the team's preseason media day in Athens, Ga. A prosecutor said former University of Georgia football coach Donnan lured his friends into a fraudulent investment scheme because he was blinded by the enormous amount of money he could make. Prosecutor Pete Peterman made that assertion Wednesday in his closing argument in Donnan's trial on charges including wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering. (AP Photo/Athens Daily News, Dot Paul, File) MANDATORY CREDIT, MAGS OUT
Former UGA Head Coach Jim Donnan

Donnan.  Coach Donnan did a good job of elevating the overall talent and level of players here at UGA.  In the end, he was fired as well which led us to Coach Richt.  As you know, Coach Richt was fired on Sunday after the Tech game.  Have you noticed a trend yet?  I hope so.  My point is that most coaches ultimately get fired.  Only a select few get to walk away on their own terms.  And in many cases those departures are still forced.

The firing of Coach Rich has been somewhat controversial in Athens.  Truthfully, to say “somewhat” is an understatement.  I can appreciate people’s feelings about Coach Richt and his departure.  The man always led UGA with class while tirelessly working to help the young men he brought to Athens.  He is a great man and a great coach, but I still feel his time needed to end here at UGA. I am sorry to those that disagree.  In most cases, I have found that many of the people so ardent that Richt should have stayed don’t really know football.  But they know Mark Richt the man.  Mark Richt is a man to admire in many ways, and I really don’t think any can argue that point.  The fact is that Mark Richt lost his job due to 7 years of under achievement.  Call him a victim of his own success, but since 2007 his teams have consistently underachieved.  2012 seems like an aberration and don’t forget that season included a stereotypical ASS kicking from South Carolina.  10 Wins is not what it used to be plain and simple. And if UGA cannot win the SEC East in its current state then change is needed. Ultimately, I think too many dawg fans grew tired of watching their team getricht01wmm embarrassed in big moments on national television.  Regardless, I am not interested in criticizing Richt any further.  But here is the deal folks.  He is not the coach at UGA anymore.  He is the coach at Miami, and it’s time to get over it.  Wish him well, but the past is past, and all Georgia fans need to get excited about the future.

Ok, no more Richt talk.  Only smart things to say from now on.  Did you see what I did there?  Smart’s last name will surely be used in “word play” by many dawg fans in the coming years.  There is really no way to know if this is a good hire, a great hire, or the dreaded bad hire.  Only time will tell, but I am so excited I just about can’t stand it.  I had no idea how ready I was to see something change, but I was apparently desperate for it.  I think it is great that Kirby went to Georgia and is part of our Bulldog family.  But that is not why he was hired.  He was hired because of his resume. First of all, he is a great coach and recruiter.  He’s coached on both sides of the ball, in the NFL, and at the top program in college football since 2008. The ties to Georgia are just a happy coincidence.  Winning is a habit for some people.  And when you work hard, and do the little things well you tend to have success.  Alabama does the little things well.  They don’t shoot themselves in the foot too often, and they are tough on the line of scrimmage.  This is what Coach Smart has been a part of for years, and he is in the habit of winning.  Furthermore, I have no doubt that Coach Smart will bring a new energy to the program, and a much needed toughness.  But we all need to be realistic as well.  Coach Smart has his work cut out for him.  There is still plenty of talent here at UGA, but not as much as in the past.  Coach Donnan made a good point on 960 the Ref this week.  He asked the question, “who had better players in the program when they took over the job”. Did Coach Donnan have more than Smart?  Did Coach Richt have more than Smart?  The answer to both is yes.  Both Donnan and Richt had more talent on the team than Smart.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  There is talent on the team just not as much as other times in the past.  For example, UGA has a QB problem, a lack of depth on the O-line and at receiver. Inconsistent kicking along with an injured running back.  So if you think Jacob Eason and Coach Smart can turn it around in 1 year you might be dreaming.  I think Georgia will win next year, but it may be very similar to this year.  An unimpressive 9 and 3, but I think 2017 could be a truly great year.  This all depends on recruiting of course.  But if you look back to Richt and Donnan, they didn’t really have big success until year 2.  I think that will be the same for Smart.   Generally, I just want Georgia fans to get on the same page and have realistic expectations for next fall.  Kirby will get Georgia heading in the right direction, but he is probably not going to win every game next year. Nevertheless, I think he will win them all one year.  So get excited and get behind your team.  Go Dawgs!

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