It’s all downhill from 93,000 at G-Day. (I keed, I keed.)
Seriously, watching the stadium steadily fill up for a G-Day game was one of the more amazing experiences of my life. And it’s largely a tribute to Georgia’s new head coach.
I can’t say I know what I expected for sure coming in with the new hire. Just like most of us, I hoped that a certain amount of Nick Saban had rubbed off on Kirby Smart, but I had to counter that with my misgivings over how shabbily Greg McGarity handled the transition process. At the time of the hire, I was left with the realization that much would come down to whether Smart could give as good as he got.
Four months in, I’d have to say my expectations have at least been met. Really, perhaps even exceeded. It’s clear from the get-go Smart’s been given a cleaner rein than any head coach Georgia’s had since Dooley’s salad days. To date, he’s used it shrewdly to get the fan base on the same page, as well as to marshal the program’s resources in a more Tidely direction. No, it’s much too early to know how that will pay off, but judging from what we’ve seen so far in recruiting and G-Day, it’s reasonable to be optimistic.
Smart was careful in Saturday’s press conference not to promise much, or even speculate about where the program was, but I couldn’t help but pick up on his hope that the players improve their standing as much over the summer as they have during the spring. It’s not hard to infer from that he’s at least satisfied with the direction in which he has things headed.
And really, that’s all I can ask for at this point. I’ll say it again, more than anything, what eventually killed Mark Richt’s career at Georgia was his inability to attend to detail in a consistent and overarching way. Georgia football needs something stronger than that. That Richt answered to people who were unable to provide him with any consistent and overarching direction or support to do a better job with that only exacerbated the problem.
Those folks may still be here, but now they’re dealing with a different type of cat… er, Dawg. And while I’m a big believer in the “if it ain’t broke” school of thought, there’s certainly something to be said for “I know what I’m doing, just get out of my way so I can do my job”. If Kirby is indeed that guy and whether through hope, fear or inertia is able to get the level of support he needs from Butts-Mehre to run the program, we could indeed be in for a good run. Lord knows we certainly deserve one.
Obviously, there’s a giant “if” there. And Smart’s had a stumble or two already. But he’s done enough on the plus side that I’ve got no problem keeping an open mind about the program’s future. Trust, but verify. It’s only fair to judge him the way he’s judging his own players.
Man, it’s gonna be a long summer.