Who is this “defensive coordinator” you speak of?

Pretty amazing — an almost 1500-word piece on how Alabama changed its defense for the better after 2012 without a single mention of Kirby Smart.

It’s reassuring to know that the brain trust at Georgia saw through the public perception of “it’s Saban’s defense” to get the man they wanted.

To be fair, I doubt the truth on Smart’s role in fashioning the ‘Bama defense is anywhere near that absolute.  I also doubt that anyone at Butts-Mehre who had a hand in hiring Smart had the first clue about how to gauge that.

Blind faith is what makes religion run.  It’s not the best guiding principle for managing a football program, though.

89 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics

89 responses to “Who is this “defensive coordinator” you speak of?

  1. My observation though on Kirby is his defense in Georgia is much better than his offense, so I can assume he at least learned something under Saban, LOL.

    Like

  2. Not mentioning Kirby is not unusual. The names of pharaohs in Egypt is routinely erased from monuments when a new God takes over, haha.

    Like

  3. They certainly had Deshaun Watson’s number. He only has 478 yards of offense and 4 passing tds against them. Coaching genius right there. Who else could take merely the no. 1 recruiting class every year and hold Deshaun Watson to his third highest passing yardage total in his career in the biggest game of he year?

    Like

    • Mos def. I mean, Watson, he like, sucks right?

      Like

      • He’s a hell of a football player. Alabama struggles against good qbs. They destroy mediocre qbs. Just tell the truth and quit acting like saban is some destroyer of top qbs.

        The story starts with Manziel and then they fix it, right? Guess what? 12 months later it was again 14-0 A&M in the first quarter. If the argument is that well it took time, I give you January 2016.

        Most teams would have said let’s make someone else on Clemson’s team beat us. That’s not how Alabama rolls. Obviously, they’ve been wildly successful, but it isn’t because of some game day coaching genius.

        The main way that Alabama has countered the new approach to offense, is its own new approach to offense. Of course to do that is to not focus all attention on the great satan.

        Like

        • I get it. You don’t like Kirby. That’s fine. But citing Watson and JFF as examples of Alabama struggling against good QBs is absurd. Guess what? EVERYONE struggled against those guys came they were once in a generation players for their programs (how’d you miss Cam on your list, btw?)

          Saban’s D made Tebow cry, pwned Dak, shut out Connor Cook, and knocked Colt McCoy out of a national title game.

          He’s beaten very good to great QBs before. The ones that have beaten him are either all-timers, or just played the games of their life against him (Stephen Garcia, Nick Marshall).

          Like

          • This isn’t about Kirby. Not even close.

            I hate saban. Period. End of story.

            I just wish that the sports media was capable of correctly analyzing why saban has been successful instead of feeding bullshit to the masses.

            He recruits at a high level.
            He isn’t afraid to screw over a kid to get a better kid.
            He’d get Ted Bundy a room at the sorority if he ran a 4.3.
            Because of those factors, he doesn’t have to make major adjustments week to week. He can count on winning enough one in ones matchups to win the game.

            Where does Kirby come in? Who knows? If he can recruit top 3 classes what he learned will transfer quite well. If not? Who knows? Although from the same coaching tree, Pruitt was able to adjust to talent deficiencies. Hopefully, CKS won’t have to.

            Like

            • U P Reluctantly

              Like

              • I’m a hater that’s for sure. He’s a no good SOB. It will bug me to my dying day that CMR didn’t punch it in 4 years ago.

                To have done it treating people right would have been a great message. Instead the lesson taken is that the key is to be a horrific human being. That’s unfortunate in my view.

                Aaron: why didn’t you throw it to TK?!?!?

                Like

          • Macallanlover

            What did that have to do with Kirby? Get yourself together.

            Like

            • 81Dog

              Ah. Another fan of College Sports Radio! I started listening recently when I realized if I had to listen to Lebatard, etc.for another second, I’d pull the radio out of my dashboard. Remember when ESPN used to talk about sports? Yeah, me too.

              Like

              • Macallanlover

                Yes, listen about 6-7 months of the year to that station, all but when the talk is on baseball or basketball. My wife isn’t so crazy about it but anytime I am in the car it is on…sometimes in the house when there is lots going on. Gets a little goofy sometime but keeps you in touch with other programs and their fans/coaches.

                Like

              • 92 grad

                I enjoy that station quite a lot too.

                Like

        • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

          This is pretty darn accurate to describe how to beat Saban and always has been true. Saban’s defenses tee off on teams that can’t push the ball downfield. Period.

          His defenses, historically, have loved man coverage, putting corners on islands. You don’t beat him by running the ball. his defense is built to shut that down. To beat his teams, you have to be able to press the ball downfield against his corners, throwing them open.

          It’s not rocket science, but it isn’t easy either. Also, this isn’t controversial, in my mind. he has better players than you do, generally, so you have to have advantages against his team weaknesses in order to beat him.

          this means, ability to push it downfield, and simply outscore them. Examples: UGA-LSU 2004, UGA-Bama 06, Clemson-Bama 16, A&M games.

          Not all are wins by the opposition, but that’s the blueprint to beat him. it’s why Murray was able to come inches away from beating him in ’12, because he could get the ball to his WRs on those back shoulder fades, which ate them up. we just didn’t have the horses on defense to stick with them all game.

          Like

          • It isn’t rocket science but it works because there are so few teams that have the qb with the requisite mix of talent/balls/lacks of good sense to get it done. I just get really frustrated when OSU and Clemson exploit the shit out of them and nobody ever says: Saban, dude. How about a little cover 2?

            I think part of coaching is optimizing your advantages, covering up your liabilities, limiting the other guy’s strengths and taking advantage of their weaknesses. When you’ve got the best players, the hardest parts are baked in the cake.

            Like

          • Macallanlover

            I think Saban made a change last year to address this problem by basically have two platoons of defensive fronts. He has the luxury of having enough talent/depth but the underlying problem affects every other team that faces multiple styles of offense. SEC may be the conference with the biggest problem dealing with this as they have good teams that employ both traditional and spread offenses littered through out the schedule. Big 12 and PAC12 teams rarely see a power running team or fullbacks, Big Whatever rarely sees a true spread offense in their conference. SEC has good spread offenses (A&M, Auburn, Miss State, Mizzou) and serious power running games (LSU, Bama, UGA past). Almost have to recruit two different types of DL and linebackers, we have struggled with this the past several years and may be caught in between…again.

            Like

            • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

              due to my aforementioned wee ones, I haven’t seen as much football as I would prefer this year and haven’t seen much of Bama’s games. Also, with the arrival of Pruitt, I expect them to use some of the concepts we saw over the last 3 years, which does more to protect the secondary from exploitation that can lead to big plays.

              Bama has more, better players than every team they’ve faced this year, which covers up many coaching style deficiencies, so we haven’t seen how they can be attacked successfully this year, really. that being said, Ole Miss whalloped them early on with exactly what I described up top. Pushing the ball downfield, until ole miss’ defense simply couldn’t keep up.

              They are the gold standard in football right now, which is why every team in the SEC has a new coach over the last few years. Everyone wants a different coach that might be the one that can get them past Bama.

              Like

              • Macallanlover

                Bama is unquestionably the gold standard now, but this too shall pass. Hasn’t been that long ago they were in a mess and having coaching difficulties like TN has been going through. Some signs of instability this year with players leaving the program for the first time, had to happen with all the highly rated recruits sitting on the bench.

                Like

    • Jeff Sanchez

      Hey, we were told here in Athens that Kirby having two jobs at that time was no big deal.

      Like

  4. Bright Idea

    This story says no part of the process is bigger than recruiting the right jimmys and joes.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. sniffer

    Blind faith is what makes religion run. It’s not the best guiding principle for managing a football program, though.

    What is college football, if not religion?

    Like

  6. sUGArdaddy

    Kirby knows plenty and had his hand in plenty. He was making every defensive call, and recruiting nearly every kid. I thought, and still think, Kirby was and is the right man for the job. Saban will be 65 in a little over a week. He has 24 years experience on Kirby, but pretty soon that number will start to catch up with him on the recruiting trail. It caught Bobby. It caught SOS. It catches everyone. There is no stopping Father Time.

    I love the game and Dawgs. I’m miffed by the rise of angst by what I believe is the constancy of an online presence surrounding teams (as I write on my favorite blog!!!) The immediacy of our culture has made us lose patience at an alarming rate.

    I have witnessed, in person, every single loss in person for the last 22 seasons. I adamantly fought against the notion that Richt wasn’t the guy until I sat in the waning moments in Everbank last October. I knew then it was over, and needed to be. Now, Richt is struggling in Miami, too. I think he’ll turn it around there, but a 1st year regime is just hard.

    I honestly don’t care that we didn’t vet Herman and Fuente because I don’t think they are right for us. I believe SEC recruiting would have eaten them up on the trail. I think they drastic change in offensive philosophies would have put us behind for a few years, and I’m not convinced they’re elite coaches. More convinced on Herman.

    There wasn’t a slam dunk hire that promised sure fire instant success. If you know anything about football, you knew exactly what was going to happen in Ann Arbor and Columbus when those two guys took over. What we are seeing is that we’re going to have to live through a coach learning on the job as the head guy a little. What I do believe is that, frankly, he’s smarter than someone like Will Muschamp. I believe Kirby likes to win more, like Spurrier, who was willing to do anything to win. Will just wanted to be stubborn. I don’t think Kirby is that stubborn, and our offense is light years ahead of where Florida’s ever was under Will.

    FWIW, Muschamp’s recruiting classes at Florida ranked 10th, 5th, 3rd, 10th. McElwain is ranked 22nd, 14th, and currently sits at 19th for 2017. That’s going to catch up with the Gators. McElwain inherited juniors and seniors that were the 3rd and 5th ranked classes and won a weak SEC East with them. He’s certainly a better on-field coach than Muschamp, but I’m not sure his early success is a sign of long-term success.

    My rambling point? We just don’t have enough data to know much of anything. We can’t judge after 7 games. It stinks losing to Vandy…ever. Richt did it 2 times. Donnan never did. Goff did a couple times. Vince was prone to a few upsets. I don’t know. Maybe it will be a head scratcher for the season. Maybe it’s a harbinger. But Kirby knows enough to turn it around.

    Like

    • Daniel Simpson Day

      Nice post, brother.

      Like

    • Jared S.

      Agree with DSD. Nice post.

      Like

    • Rick

      I’ve read these exact same sentiments for every Tennessee, Auburn and Miami hire in the last 10 years, almost verbatim. ‘He just needs enough time’ gradually morphs into ‘He’s had enough time’, and then it’s on to the next guy.

      We can delude ourselves into thinking it’s about finding the ‘right guy’ by looking at whether he ticks certain boxes (the most suicidal one being ‘is he an alum’), but hiring a coach is a gamble, and we went the high risk/low reward route with Kirby.

      Like

      • ATL Dawg

        Miami has lost 3 in a row with your idol at the helm. Lost by 21 last night. I guess they screwed up in their hire too.

        Like

        • Rick

          Perhaps. Richt might have become the worst coach in the land the second after he was terminated. No evidence for it the second before, though.

          It’s nice that you can hang your hat on his losses while our program is in the shitter for who knows how long.

          Like

          • ATL Dawg

            And you’re hanging your hat on Kirby’s losses just so you can release personal frustration that has been pent up since your idol got fired.

            We just lost to Vandy for the 3rd time in the last 11 seasons and you’ve been crying all week that the sky is falling. Get a grip.

            So we probably aren’t going to go 9-3 or 8-4 again. Who cares? It’s where we are in the next 2-4 years that matters.

            Like

            • Rick

              That’s where you are confused. I do not want Kirby to fail, and take no joy in his failure. I also don’t know that he won’t turn it around.

              But his failure was always highly probable, as you can see from looking at similar hires over the last 20 years. It’s not your job to know that, so I don’t begrudge you hoping for the best. It was ADGM’s job, and he failed as badly as he possibly he could. He’s not just incompetent, he’s anti-competent, in that his decisions are worse than random.

              Keep on hoping, man, that’s what college football is all about. I’ve spent too much time looking at other programs and the results of hires like this, so I can’t. The personal attacks are pointless.

              Like

            • Wolfman

              I care. I don’t like losing to Vanderbilt. And I don’t think saying it’s inevitable or part of the process eliminates the possibility of me being upset about poor coaching decisions or a team not prepared to play. If you’re simply waiting for the next 2-4 years, then you’re willing to waste Nick Chubb’s career, for example, for the prospect of a 2018 SECEast Championship. Something about that doesn’t sit well with me.

              I like Kirby, and I believe the positive direction he has for the program will come to fruition. I also respect the things Coach Richt did while he was here. Am I not allowed to be a Dawg fan if I think both of these things?

              I also knew when I turned the tv off last Saturday that I was done with football this season. But here we are, about a week away, and I’m already starting sing the “gators, gators” song, and wistfully remembering how good it feels to be a Dawg fan victorious in Jax. That’s why college football is so great. Every game matters. I won’t look to 2018 because next Saturday has the ability to be the one of the greatest days in Georgia football history. This, every weekend, should be true.

              Like

        • NoAxeToGrind

          See Blowtarsky’s reply to the exact same point above.

          Like

      • Normaltown Mike

        “we went the high risk/low reward route with Kirby.”

        Yeah, you’ll never get success out of a long time assistant at Georgia. When we hired Dooley and Richt, we went after the top name in the country, looking for someone with 20+ years of head coaching experience.

        Like

        • Rick

          Yep, Richt is the best assistant coach hire in the conference over the last 25 years by a country mile. And we thought we could hit the lottery twice in a row? And at least we knew Richt was responsible for the success on his side of the ball at FSU, so when he left they fell off a cliff. When Smart left Alabama, they might have actually gotten slightly better.

          Like

      • “Low reward” would have been staying where we were. Maybe you need to see more, but 15 years was a large enough sample size for most people to know what we had. A good coach that wasn’t going to take the program higher than it was and probably was never going to win another conference title, much less a national title (maybe there is a coach that went 10 years between SEC titles, but I don’t know who–once that window closes, it closes).

        Again, it was simply time for a change. To me, as far as that change goes, Kirby is decidedly low risk: GA recruiting connections, pro style O, same D, etc.

        Worst case scenario, Kirby flames out in 4 years and leaves us with the talent Zook/Boom left at Florida.

        Like

        • Rick

          “once that window closes, it closes”

          Nonsense that only makes sense to sports fans. Some of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport went two decades before their first title. Titles flow to coaches that win games. If your coach stops winning games at a high rate, can his ass, otherwise shut up and enjoy the show.

          Like

          • Sure, then who was the last coach to go 10 years between SEC titles?

            Like

            • Rick

              No idea, it would never occur to me to pose a question whose answer could be totally reversed by the outcome of a single play (e.g. 5 yards in 2012). This is why titles are such an unreliable metric, they are super noisy. I believe Bill Connelly has called it the biggest fallacy in evaluating coaches, or something along those lines.

              If a coach averages an SEC title every 5 years or so, a 10 year drought isn’t remotely surprising, that’s how probability works.

              Like

              • That probability only holds if everything else is static. The coaching got better over time.

                My original point is that once your window to win titles closes, it doesn’t reopen. You can’t seem to refute that.

                Like

                • Rick

                  Refute it? I don’t even understand it. It appears to be an assertion that no matter how many games a coach wins, when he gets to the title game he will be compelled to lose it because of a window that closed years before, is that it? When did the window close on, oh, I don’t know, this guy’s title ambitions?

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Osborne

                  Like

                  • You’re acting like what I’m saying is more complicated than it is because you don’t have a good response.

                    Here, I’ll break it down: once a coach at a school wins a title, the other schools respond. Some coaches are good enough and have a strong enough organization that they continue winning even though everyone around them is adapting specifically to stop them (Bryant, Saban, Spurrier at UF).

                    Other times, the other schools raise their level to the point that the coaches can’t keep up winning titles (Fulmer, Richt).

                    In no instance I can think of did a coach have success, then have a 10+ year drought, then win titles again.

                    Your position seems to be that UGA should have stayed where they were and prayed for something that had never happened because the alternative might be that the program takes a step back.

                    To you, the disappointment of a step back seems to outweigh the more likely possibility that fresh blood wins a title.

                    Like

                    • Rick

                      “You’re acting like what I’m saying is more complicated than it is because you don’t have a good response.”

                      It’s either that, or the actual response would have to include about a week’s worth of education on probability and statistics. I tried, but it’s difficult. That’s mostly a compliment, by the way. Your position sounds perfectly reasonable as a sports fan, and would easily pass editorial review at ESPN, so it’s no wonder I cannot convince you of precisely what is wrong with it in a paragraph.

                      Like

                    • Rick

                      I’ll give it one last go: Richt’s record was perfectly consistent with a coach that wins titles, both conference and national, at a rate of once every 5 years and once every 12 years, respectively. His record showed no evidence of regression (even though yes, I agree it feels like it did), and this was true the day he was fired, from an objective, statistical perspective. Everything else is just gibberish, building arbitrary narratives from the random number generator that is sports. I understand why we do this, I do it too. The narratives feel real, but they aren’t.

                      Like

                    • Normaltown Mike

                      gatri:

                      thanks, this is a great summation of where I was with CMR, though I had never distilled it so well.

                      I, like Derek last year, thought GL and CBS were major problems but CMR & UGA was not a dumpster fire and no need to press the panic button…simultaneously, I thought chilidawg was right that we were never going to get any better with CMR and were trending from his best work (2002-2005) towards his most mediocre (2008-2010).

                      I’m ok with the calculated risk and I’m now “all in” for Kirby b/c hie’s my coach and I pull for my team regardless.

                      Like

                  • Will (The Other One)

                    But who was the last long-timer to finally break through and win a national title after not getting one? The most recent long-tenured coach I can think of was Fulmer in 98, and he hadn’t even spent a decade at UT before that one happened.
                    The other tricky part about the comparison is it’s not at all fair to compare 70s/80s football with 90s football, and even the most recent doesn’t compare to now — there is a bit more parity, more scholarship limits (hard to break through vs Bryant when he could sign your state’s best players and keep ’em on the bench just so you didn’t get them) and less offensive/defensive diversity (and to boot, fewer juniors leaving early for the NFL.)
                    I’m not saying it’s impossible for a coach to have a great career, miss out on even playing for a national title, and then put it together, but when people say it’s unlikely, they’ve got pretty firm factual ground to stand on.

                    Like

                    • Rick

                      They don’t, because it’s only a recent phenomenon, and a self-fulfilling one:

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

                      It is now impossible for any coach to last longer than Richt at a premier program without a title, so we’ll never see a coach do it again. It has nothing to do with whether or not those coaches could win titles. Such coaches were super common in days past, and in fact constitute a large portion of any ‘greatest coaches of all time’ list you would care to assemble.

                      Like

                • Gaskilldawg

                  Just off the top of my head I can name a guy who went eight years between SEC championships. His name is Vincent Joseph Dooley. We were champs in 1968 and co-champs in 1976.

                  Like

                  • Gaskilldawg

                    If I recall correctly Frank Thomas went a long time between conference championships at Alabama.

                    Like

                  • Ok. I’m not sure what that has to do with the price of tea in China. My point was that 2016 would have been going into year 11 between conference titles.

                    Like

                    • If a coach won 10 division championships in a row and lost to the eventual national champion every year in the SEC championship game, would you still want to fire him because he hadn’t won the SEC in 10 years?

                      Be objective about it. You likely didn’t want him out entering the 2013 season. You probably didn’t want him out after 2013 given the rash of injuries to our best players including a record-setting quarterback. You wanted him out after the last 2 debacles in Jacksonville. By the way, that’s a reasonable take in my opinion. We should have beaten them senseless in ’14 and shouldn’t have tried the Bauta experiment in ’15.

                      Like

                    • Gaskilldawg

                      It has nothing to do with tea prices. It does show that a coach can win an SEC title after several years. Obviously “the point of no return” is more than 8 years. You picked 10 years as “the point of no return” because it fits your narrative. How do we know the “point of no return” is not 13 years?

                      Like

                    • No, I picked 10 years because that’s how long it had been.

                      If you wanted to stay the course with Richt and believed he was going to win another SEC title, then that’s fine. I know a lot of people did. Just be realistic and realize that it would have been unprecedented.

                      It’s more likely that a new coach comes in and puts his own stamp on the program and wins a title than it is that a coach wins, then goes through a 10+ year drought, the wins another title.

                      Granted Kirby might not be the guy, but that’s a separate discussion.

                      Like

                    • Gaskilldawg

                      I have not taken the time to look through the college football archives as to whether any coach won a championship at a school then did not win another at the same school for over a period of 10 years, but Hooper did remind us that Wally Butts did it.

                      I wonder if we apply the same rules from 1992 to now in evaluating prior years if there will be some coaches that went over 10 years between championships. That is confusing. Here is what I mean. From 1932 through 1991 the SEC allowed for co-championships and each co-champion could correctly call itself “SEC Champion. ” Dooley was actually a co-champion with Alabama in 1966, a co-champion with Kentucky in 1976 and a co-champion with Alabama in 1981. Since 1992 there have not been any co-champions. Using the current landscape on which there can only be 1 SEC championship, Dooley went from 1968 to 1980 without being an undisputed sole champion.

                      I have no clue about any other SEC teams and I am not going to look. I have no idea about any other conferences, either.

                      Like

                  • hooper

                    Wally Butts???

                    Like

              • Roterhals

                Well it was 5 yards in 2012…. although the 350 rushing yards (almost 7 yards per carry) that Bama crammed down the throats of a less-than-full roster mighta had a little something to do with it.

                Like

        • Dawgtwo

          That’s an interesting take. And a reasonable one. Refreshing, after nearly a fortnight of reading missives from the War of the Dawg Fans.

          Like

  7. Sh3rl0ck

    You did everything except mention the Reserve Fund

    Like

  8. Normaltown Mike

    In Re Football and Faith

    Senator, you’re closer to the mark than you realize.

    The arenas from the Greco-Roman empires (all over the Mediterranean) were primarily a place for public celebration of religious rites and festivals and a place for games and gladiators to a lesser extent. The smaller villages in the Mediterranean would have an arena that could seat several thousand while the temples would be quite small, often the size of a house. At the annual Zeus or snake cult festival, the crowds pile into the arena and the relics are paraded about.

    To bring 93K into an arena for cheering and merriment, as well as earnest pleas for mercy to the football God’s is in our DNA, it would seem.

    Like

  9. uga1960

    kirby smart was a bad move,he is going to be a bust!!! bank on it!!!

    Like

  10. buddyblog

    We’ve got a Bible. God doesn’t ask us to have “blind” faith. Our faith is based on knowledge.

    Like

  11. John

    It seems like this year is just the flip side of last year: filled with close and somewhat ugly games decided by small margins and a few plays. We won most of those games last year and won 10 games. This year we are on the other side those games. Given the coaching transition and freshman QB that should not have come as a complete shock.

    That doesn’t mean I like it (or that we shouldn’t expect improvement) but I think, objectively, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

    Like

    • Close, ugly games … that’s not an excuse to lose to Vandy and almost suffer the most embarrassing loss in program history to Nicholls … and I’m looking at it objectively.

      Like

  12. DawgByte

    “Blind faith is what makes religion run.”
    Wow, Blutarsky is an expert on religion too!

    Like

    • AthensHomerDawg

      I hate talking about religion sometimes. Probably because of the different flavors in our household. Jewish, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian. Yikes.
      Honestly, Bluto’s comment there..made me pause and reflect. Out of his whole post that is what I continued to think about. I’m not saying he expected it or intended it. But there you go….go figure huh? Bluto wrote something that you felt annoyed with…supposition on my part. Yet I took something totally different away from that.
      Football blogs…who knew? 😉

      Like