The inevitability of Kirby Smart

From Gentry Estes, who’s covered both Georgia and Alabama previously:

This was one of the most predictable head coaching hires SEC football has ever seen, rumored and whispered about for years around Alabama’s and Georgia’s programs while Smart – a Bulldogs defensive back in the 1990s – earned national attention as an 11-year Nick Saban staffer on the rise (eight of them as the Tide’s defensive coordinator). Mark Richt’s long run finally played out, ultimately ending with an unsatisfying 9-3 regular season in 2015 and a painful divorce, with 15 years being tossed aside in Richt’s firing.

Many understandably scoffed at Georgia’s decision to cut loose Richt, a successful head coach – amid a season that ended in 10 wins. But it was the way losses played out and the way the program continued to fall short of annual expectations in the SEC East (particularly with back-to-back embarrassing losses to a less-than-stellar Florida) that spawned a growing feeling among those who make such decisions that it was time. Things had gotten stale, and after all, there was an obvious replacement about four hours to the West.

It wasn’t a long search. Smart was the only candidate.

And looking back, the whole chain of events seemed more inevitable as time passed, speaking to the unique dilemma of a proud program like Georgia that had become consistently good but rarely great, being too often compared – like others in the SEC – with envy for what has been happening in Tuscaloosa.

Looking back now, it does indeed seem predictable, but — mea culpa! —  a year or two ago, it didn’t seem so to me.  I obviously underestimated Kirby’s ability to remain in good graces in certain quarters after shunning Richt’s offer to return as defensive coordinator.  I also underestimated the degree to which Saban envy consumed a number of influential parties involved in the firing/hiring process.

The reality is that if you’re going to remake the program into Alabama East, Smart really is the perfect candidate to sell that, by virtue of where he’s spent the last decade and by virtue of where he spent the latter part of the nineties.

It’s a plan.  Let’s hope it works.


Filed under Georgia Football

43 responses to “The inevitability of Kirby Smart

  1. dawgtired

    I sure hope the Bama-wanta-be’s are not disappointed when the smoke settles. So far KS has shown the detailed-oriented focus that it will take to be Saban-esk. And if all things being equal or close on the coaching front…Georgia has the talent-bed to give that extra nudge. UGA is already good, it won’t take too much more to be great. The current recruiting class is a good start to building onto what we have.


    Speak for yourself on the painful part….

  3. Chris

    As a former Richt “apologist” who was weary of discarding a known and sometimes underwhelming commodity for an unknown, yet high potential commodity, I have turned the page and fully support Kirby.

    I suppose it was inevitable, but I think it was the abruptness of how it happened that caught most off guard. I guess we have USCe to thank for that.

    Kirby is certainly GATA on the recruiting trail, but lets hope he learned enough gameday prep and management from his master of 11 years to translate that into Ws. With the talent he’s pulling in, I’m really looking forward to year 2 and 3 for results.

    • dawgtired

      I know they are many that supported CMR and understandably so, but I don’t think anyone could argue that it was time for a change. I think what concerned so many was going after an unproven coach, which incidentally is exactly what we did when hiring CMR 15 years ago. We were lucky he panned out and took us to the next level in UGA football. Let’s hope we are even more lucky this time around. So far all indications look good. Let’s hope game day reveals a great choice in Kirby.

      • Gaskilldawg

        Thank you for your respectful and thoughtful post. I am one of those that supported Richt and did not think it was a time for a change in head coaches (I believe his track record, and the historic ebb and flow of the records of other successful long term coaches such as Osborne and Bowden, and even Bryant in 1969 & 1970, were grounds fro belief he could win championships again. ) I am the “anyone” arguing it was not time for a change. That said, debating whether I am right or wrong is a pointless waste of time. The change happened and we are not going to rewind to November 28, 2015.
        I am a two-time alumnus of the University. I have been a season ticket holder since 1972. My love of my alma mater is much deeper than my respect for Richt, and I fully support Kirby Smart’s efforts to win every game. I hope he does. I go to the games to see us win, not to hope we lose to prove some meaningless point. If Kirby Smart cannot deliver better results then I will have no problem with supporting a change.

        Thank you for the tone and content of your post. I fully agree with your comment that, “Let’s hope we are even more lucky this time around. So far all indications look good. Let’s hope game day reveals a great choice in Kirby.”

    • OBC

      yup, spurrier probably hates that his abrupt retirement last year gifted uga w/Kirby.

    • 92 grad

      I will never be okay with how it went down. The appearance of the whole situation is ugly. Mcgoofy handled it horribly with complete lack of respect to all parties, especially the team. I don’t have a problem with the idea that it was time for a change but I think CMR and the team were treated horribly when you consider the significant commitment and honor CMR brought to us. I really feel strongly attached to the university so I’m a lifelong fan but I do question the integrity of the buttsmear building.

      • @gatriguy

        There is no “classy” way to fire someone that is beloved and who won’t resign. It was awkward because firings are awkward.

  4. Siskey

    Senator, I, too did not foresee Richt being fired barring another 2010 season but what made me feel like it could happen soon was comments that you made last year regarding McGarity giving Richt more of what he wanted ( extra staffers, coaches compensation, etc.). Not to say in anyway that you called for it (or that you calling for it would make it happen) but rather that maybe even a sensible Georgia football blog like this one was a kind of canary in the coal mine barometer for the feelings of many of the fan base. I realize that that may be an overstatement given the reaction to Richt’s firing and the subsequent replacement by Smart but the feelings around here regarding Richt were certainly much different the last few years than they were five years ago.
    I would really love to hear the inside story on Pruitt, McGarity and what happened to make McGarity make the decision to fire Richt after what was a disappointing season but not an absolute disaster like what we have seen Auburn, Tennessee, Tech, Florida, even Bama have since 2001.

    • No One Knows You're a Dawg

      My understanding is that McGarity wanted to fire Richt after the 2014 season but was overruled by Jere Morehead who instructed McGarity to instead increase the support Richt was receiving.

      Several issues to unpack from that, but assuming it’s accurate it raises one big question with me: If as president of the university you don’t trust the your athletic director with regard to the most important decision he can make, why do you continue to have him in that position?

      • @gatriguy

        Morehead was likely looking at the situation from a political angle. 2015 was a far more unsatisfying season than 2014, which raised far more questions about whether Richt’s laid-back nature had lead to him having no control of his own program.

        I realize this is meant to be a criticism of McG, but I could make this opposite argument: he saw a change was needed a year before everyone else.

        Ultimately, I find it impossible to believe that McG didn’t have a preconceived opinion of Richt from his time at UF-aloof, passive, reactive, not detail oriented, etc. Richt probably never convinced McG that he was wrong.

        • dawgman3000


        • Cojones

          The Bd of Regents gave McG his marching orders concerning Richt before McG ever set foot into his office. The opportunity never presented itself well-defined to support Richt’s resultant demise and the issue was forced at not such an opportune time (after beating GT). It stinks from top to bottom and Richt would continue on the same winning path if retained; so says B-M. They worked for an excuse to bring Kirby onboard, none presented itself so they just pulled the trigger as if the horse was injured beyond repair and had to be put down. B-M’s perception that the horse was irreversibly injured is what moved the Bd and McG.

          Always keep your eye on the real perps in a crime committed on a person’s professional life. The “Good Ole Boys” called this one against the fan base and should experience our ire, not their lackey, McG.

          Roy Orbison expresses it well in “It’s Over” and “Crying”, songs I’ve listened to often lately..

  5. Rick

    The desire to mimic Alabama was certainly predictable, what wasn’t so predictable was that we would totally misunderstand how to do it.

    Particularly when you already have a coach of Richt’s caliber, copying Alabama means opening up the checkbook and getting the best proven winner on the market (which is what Bama actually did in 2007). It doesn’t mean hiring the help.

    • Gaskilldawg

      Amen. It also means an institutional and community commitment to football success that the Board of Regents, the Athletic Board and the Athens/Clarke County government has not indicated a willingness to make.

    • what wasn’t so predictable was that we would totally misunderstand how to do it.

      That part not going full Alabama was totally predictable and that’s what everybody means when they say “the Georgia Way”. I may very well be proven wrong, but I just sincerely doubt that the battleship is going to turn around and a the years of a certain culture (going back to the Dooley days) from the Board of Regents on down are all of a sudden just going to change because Richt was fired and a Saban acolyte was hired.

    • Debby Balcer

      Amen and it certainly does not mean handicapping your head coach and then acting like it had nothing to do with the results he achieved. I support Kirby and hope he is very successful.

      • dawgman3000

        With all due respect, Richt handicapped himself with the coordinators he hired and the way he mismanaged the roster. Thank goodness Pruitt came aboard corrected the roster management or things would have really been bad.

  6. Bright Idea

    Right now Kirby is still a pure football coach so everything is BamaEast. The powers that be are OK with it for now. If at any point he has to stray from that to appease the Georgia Way 10 win underachieving seasons will remain the norm. I like the pure coach approach and Kirby is the only hire that could have gotten away with it.

  7. birddawg91

    under the knowledge that is was a matter of when not if CMR got let go Kirby made a very sound decision in staying put in bama for a few more years.

  8. @gatriguy

    I still really wish they had taken a serious look at Tom Herman, but my feeling is that politically after firing Richt, it had to be Kirby.

    I honestly think both Richt, Kirby, and UGA are going to be better for it.

    • Gaskilldawg

      Certainly agree that Smart got one of his dream jobs, but I am not sure if he will find it to be as Alabama -like as he would like. If Smart wins big at UGA it will be amazing for Smart – – the returning football letterman leading UGA to greatness, just as the other end to Don Hutson answered “Mama’s Call” to return to Alabama. Or, he may wind up UGA’s Mike Dubose or Mike Shula. Either way, his player conduct issues show he isn’t in Alabama anymore.

      Richt is certainly better off having an AD who supports him and is not trying to get rid of him.

      UGA better? I damn sure hope so. I do not have many more years worth of attending games in my old body and I sure enjoy seeing us win.

    • That’s where I am. Once the decision to make a change was done, I honestly just felt underwhelmed with the entire “search.” It really irked me that we never made serious overtures to ANYBODY else. At a minimum, making Herman tell us no before setting the sights on Kirby would have been a much more palatable scenario from my end.

      None of this to say that I think Kirby is going to be a bust (for all I know, he could be the next coming of Bear Bryant), but if the program is what a lot of the people that demanded a change believe it is, we could have (and should have) swung a little higher instead of putting all the chips in on a first time coach to be the guy that elevates the program even higher.

      • DawgPhan

        They could have made a run at Chip Kelly. Or basically anyone else at all, but they didnt.

  9. 69Dawg

    I think it was telling that the first comment from the SEC panel when Kirby appeared was how does it feel to get to talk to the media more than twice a year. Kirby did great but Saban had nothing to do with that. He gags his assistants because of his one voice concept. Kirby has done the same thing, much to the chagrin of the always pampered UGA media hacks.

    I liked Kirby as a player, he was an overachiever given his physical talents. I hope he does well. The thing that bothers me is the little voice in the back of my head that thinks Alabama’s players could make most any coach look good. I think most of our fans are putting too much emphasis on Kirby’s coaching ability taking us immediately to the promise land. I’ve watched quite a few Alabama games, Saban is not the greatest on field coach in college football but he is the best at taking a Process and producing a winner. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until proven wrong Coach Pruitt is a better position coach than either Tucker or Kirby. He took a position group that was considered a liability and made them great. Alabama is not going to miss a defensive beat with him as DC. The jury is out on whether Tucker and Kirby can coach up the guys they have in house. We will get better as the seasons come, especially with Kirby’s recruiting, but this instant success thing may not happen. Given my age I hope it comes sooner rather than later.

    • I wish we could have kept Pruitt.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Agree Pruitt is a superior DC. But we have a solid staff with Kirby, Tucker, Sherrer, Rocker (& Schuman – being a work in progress). I don’t see us falling off a cliff with this D staff. The push to land better talent will make a huge difference.

    • BMan

      Pruitt may very well be a better position coach than Kirby, but I wonder if he will ultimately be willing to sublimate himself to The Process. At Bama, it’s process uber alles, and that goes for coaches as well as players. I just have a feeling that there’s a little too much of an ego on Pruitt (in an ego-driven field) to peacefully coexist. Then again, Kiffykens has been kept in line thus far, so maybe they never skip a beat.

      • W Cobb Dawg

        Um, Pruitt was an assistant under saban for 3 years before taking the fsu job. If anything, I’d say Pruitt is very comfortable with ‘the process’. And just like saban, I’m sure Pruitt doesn’t suffer fools like McGarity and Schotty very well.

        I don’t go for the trashing of Pruitt and the ‘ego’ thing is a load of b.s. The guy worked his a$$ off for UGA – harder than any other assistant AND CMR. And he got results – on the field and recruiting. I understand the players loved playing for him. Every Pruitt interview I saw he was humble, grateful and focused on the team goals.

        Let’s not forget Pruitt has 3 championship rings at two different schools – in this decade. If that’s ego, we could do with a helluva lot more of it in Athens.

        • @gatriguy

          I don’t necessarily disagree, but something unsavory went down last year and it appears that Pruitt was at the center of it.

        • BMan

          WCobb, I’ve always believed you to be a reasonable poster here, and still do. I peppered my comments with words like “wonder, feeling, and then again.” In no way was I claiming to know hard facts. I do think being an assistant at a place and being the D-Coordinator are different levels of ego, as the salary will often do that to a man. Pruitt knows his football, though, no question about that. And I don’t think Saban will allow any slimming down of defensive linemen, so they shouldn’t butt heads too badly over that. That was one thing I questioned about his time here, although perhaps Georgia’s d-linemen had the wrong kind of size and needed to slim down.

        • UGA85

          I completely agree. We had a great defensive staff last year (led by Pruitt), and an offensive staff that was really poor. Then, with Pruitt unhappy and dissatisfied, what could CMR possible have done to turn things around? CBS, among others, was a disaster, and I don’t think a complete staff overhaul/re-start was in the cards without a change at the top.

  10. considering the current 247 recruiting rankings [1. OSU 2. UGA 3. Bama] I think Kirby is off to a good start on making use BamaEast.

    Several of our recruits would be Bama commits without the Kirby process.

  11. It’s INEVITABLE that I have a growing man-love on Mr. Kirby, LOL.

  12. OdontoDawg

    Senator, I agree with you. I assumed Kirby had burned bridges with UGA by using our program’s interest in him at DC as an opportunity for a nice raise with Bama. But those bridges appear, in retrospect, to be intact.

  13. fred russo

    For the first time in 8 years i have hope. CMR would never have built a contender he just could not have conveyed how to win to a team!