Forget the “next Nick Saban” talk.

What Georgia’s looking for now is the next Gene Stallings.

Head coaches whose team’s record worsens in their debuts don’t tend to go on to win titles. In fact, since the SEC expanded in 1992, only twice has the conference title has been won by a coach who went backwards in his first year at that school. And only once in the past 25 years has a national title been won by a coach who slid in his first year.

Georgia went 10-3 last year. Smart has guided Georgia to a 7-5 season, pending the bowl games…

… Gene Stallings, who was an experienced head coach, took over an Alabama team in 1990 that had gone 10-2 the previous year. The Crimson Tide slid to 7-5 in Stallings’ first year, but went on to win the national title two years later.

Alabama went 1-3 in 1996, and then Stallings retired.

What’s that you say about Alabama, 2007?  Um, well…

It’s often pointed out that Nick Saban, with Smart as an assistant coach, went 7-6 in his first year at Alabama in 2007. But Saban also inherited a team that went 6-7 the year before.

Saban also improved things his first year at every previous stop: Toledo went from six wins to nine in Saban’s first year as a head coach, Michigan State went from five wins to six wins in Saban’s first year, and LSU went from two wins before Saban arrived, to eight wins in 2000.

In other words, to get where we want the program to go, Kirby’s gonna have to break a few molds.

76 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

76 responses to “Forget the “next Nick Saban” talk.

  1. Greg

    You are who you hire…..my only hope is that we make some changes and strengthen our coordinators/assistants. Kirby will be there for at least a couple more years…..nice article.

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  2. bigdoghunts

    Wonder how many coaches started out 7 wins or worse first year, and went on to win a National Championship? Saban went 6-5-1 at Mich St and 7-6 at Bama, Bear Bryant went 1-9 at Texas A & M, 5-4 at Bama. Pete Carooll goes 6-6 at USC.

    Coach Smart went 7-5.

    Boom goes the dynamite!

    Like

  3. Russ

    I’ll save some of the new commenters some time.

    “If you ain’t first, you’re last! Woo!”

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  4. I don’t think even Nick Saban would be the next Nick Saban at Georgia. Bama just plays the game differently. While we’re all trying to copy them they’ve moved on to another way of hopping everyone else. Bama is always 2 steps ahead.

    I still cringe thinking about all the fans that have made the “do you think Saban or Smart would allow ______ to happen?” bs in reference to Richt. Hell would Bama’s AD or president get in the way of the program or sell it’s own players out for some mythical moral championship? Are Bama fans and students causally late to every game? Would Bama refuse any facility request and constantly hamstring their own HC? Not sure how you’d quantify it but I’m certain Georgia doesn’t have anything close to the support Bama has and that’s from the fans to the AD and school president. honestly, I think Kirby is more knowledgeable than anyone in the program on how to build an elite program. The problem that so many apparently missed when they wanted to fire Richt is that it takes a heck of a lot more than the HC to build an elite program. I’m afraid Kirby will just end up another scapegoat.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The governor works for Nick Saban in Alabama. I’m sure there’s some organization chart of Alabama state government that would show it.

      Like

    • sniffer

      Bama just plays the game differently. While we’re all trying to copy them they’ve moved on to another way of hopping everyone else. Bama is always 2 steps ahead.

      Only since RichRod’s wife put him back on the plane and went home. Before then, the Red Elephants made our boosters out to be novices.

      You could look it up.

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  5. Reipar

    Yeah but those were the luckiest 10 wins against the weakest schedule ever and none of the 10 were against the right teams.

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  6. St. Johns Dawg

    Seems the cases break down into 2 levels … Did the new coach in year one inherit a team of talent that needed “coaching up” to his work ethic/philosophy/scheme (which takes at least a year to implement)? OR Did the coach inherit a team with little talent so that the above applies ALONG WITH an immediate need in upgraded recruiting?
    There seems to be a belief among some that we had a team of talent in 2016. Maybe in some areas … But I’m thinking Richt had better talent overall to work with in 2001 than Kirby did this year. Line of scrimmage, for example was decent and then very good in Richt’s first two years. Just my opinion.

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    • 1smartdude

      But….But……But…..You miss the one obvious question, and it’s glaring, did this team have more talent than Vandy and Tech or enough talent to do more than escape against Nicholls? Just using the eye test alone, and a little common sense, there are athletes HERE. What’s just as obvious to me, using the same mental input, is that coaching failed in so many areas that it’s mind numbing. Some of that is explained with a rookie head coach. Others, such as the offensive issues, simply isn’t. The coach responsible for that isn’t in his first year.

      Like

    • Got me to wondering – Big Ben Cleveland rode the pine this year, though I think he had the smarts and the talent to play immediately. Is Kirby holding back at positions, even positions that sorely need help, in order to build depth quicker? Other than OL, are there any other positions where good freshman players were held out when they could have contributed?

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      • Russ

        He held out Cleveland, yet he burned some red-shirts too. Another OL played just a couple of plays for some reason. Holyfield was hurt and shouldn’t have played. Not sure using Mecole Hardeman on kick coverage was the best move. Overall, I’m not sure what Kirby’s roster strategy was.

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  7. Cosmic Dawg

    In Kirby’s defense, most coaches get hired after a bad season, reflected in a bad W-L record. Richt got fired after a down year in which he still (to his credit) managed to pull out 10 wins.

    Ten win years are hard to replicate, period…

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  8. Not exactly a large pool and not too many programs fire a coach that won 10 games.

    How many teams have won SECs or Nattys over that period?

    Auburn – fired a 5-7 coach, 8 wins next year
    Auburn – fired a 3 win coach – 12 wins the next year
    LSU – fired a 2 win coach – 8 wins the next year
    LSU – Saban quit with an 11 win team – 12 wins the next year
    Alabama – fired a 6 win coach – won 7 the next year
    UF – fired a 7 win coach – won 9 the next year
    UT – won 9 with Majors and Fulmer – won 10 the next year
    UGA – fired an 8 win coach – won 8 the next year.

    Only twice did a team improve rapidly in the coaches first year- Malzahn and Saban (losing at home to UAB along the way). Most of these improvements are modest and most of them fired a coach that was doing poorly. None fired a coach that had just won 10 two season in a row.

    These stats, like most, are meaningless.

    How about this stat: What does it mean when a new SEC HC gets crushed in their first cross divisional road game? Multiple nattys. Saban lost 41-9 at Florida in 2000. Meyer lost at Alabama 31-3. CKS lost 45-14 in his debut cross divisional road game. The rest of the coaches listed above who did not get crushed in their debut cross divisional road game won 1 or less nattys. (Chizik – 1, Malzahn – 0, CMR – 0, Fulmer 1, Miles 1.)

    I mean look at the history! We’re gonna win multiple nattys!!!

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  9. bigdoghunts

    Coker & Bowden both won with other coach’s players and then crashed. It’s really not how you start, obviously, but how you progress.

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  10. hassan

    So 3 jobs from now, Kirby might be pretty good.

    (I keed, I keed)

    Like

  11. Rocket Dawg

    The University of Alabama exists so that they can have a football team. In contrast the University of Georgia has a football team in spite of itself. There is your difference.

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  12. 69Dawg

    Saban is two or three steps ahead of everybody. He ran a pro-style offense which helped his players move to the pro’s but he did it almost the opposite of Mark. Saban knew that to really win you had to not just control the LOS but dominate the LOS. If you look at Bama the player priorities are 1. OL or DL 2. LB’s or RB’s 3. WR’s or DB’s and last but least as far as Saban is concerned is the QB. He doesn’t need an all world QB. All he needs is one that won’t mess up. Hell he could have won the NC with Hutson or Lambert because they didn’t mess up. Mark’s biggest fault was he was an offense guy and his priorities were 1. QB 2. RBs 3. WR’s 4. OL and then whatever the DC said.

    The best coaches are the ones that hire the best assistants. Saban hires the best assistants but they don’t necessarily make good HC’s. He’s had a few winners but considering the number of assistants he’s had in his career the percentage that succeed as HC’s is pretty low. What he has had at Bama is the money to create a coaching farm team. When he loses an assistant he goes to the farm team (QA staff) and calls up the next one. He also has the uncanny ability to hire radioactive coaches because he can. Kiffin is the prime example but Pruitt, who was accused of ever sort of internal sin at Georgia was welcomed back and without a national search. Look out for Art Briles to show up as a QA guy if he finds himself too long in the wilderness.

    I always look to Erk for his explanation of why he had chosen to run the Triple Option at GSU. It was that he as a DC could never figure out a way to stop it. He figured he needed to find someone to be his OC that could run it. Many NC’s later he was proven right.

    Saban has seen the light and has let Kiffin transform Alabama from a ground and pound attack to a semi-spread read option with a running QB. He has always used QB’s that have been in his system for a number of years because of his old theory about first do no harm. Now he has a freshman that can run like a scat back and throw long. My dawg, Saban has lost his damn mind. LMAO. As long as he keeps his priorities on his players he will keep winning and Kirby ain’t going to change that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Otto

      2 thoughts Saban did what Patterson at TCU did , he went to what his defense had problem starts and after facing it every day in practice they learn to defend it better.

      I thought Erk actually said he wanted what was hardest to defend, Erk knew how to defend the triple option but getting the players execute it perfectly every time is another thing, especially when the defense isn’t facing it every day in practice.

      We have had this discussion what is old is new and new is old. How long until the pro style run 1st game become the offense defenses are not built to defend?

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    • Jp

      69 you are correct and the guy that did it for Erk just whipped our ass in Sanford I saw that offense invented when I went to school there with TracyHam, Gerald and Ricky Harris . It was unstoppable . Bama , Clemson and Ohio st run a version of it now and Meyer went to Navy when Paul was there to learn how to run that part of his O . Look at all th dual threat qbs that we don’t have a chance at. Newton , Dobbs , Watson and even Our DB Nick Marshall . Propst may not be a saint but the man can coach. He says run the spread and keep the best Dual Qbs and Wr s and you can still have a power run game. Herman is getting ready to put it in at Texas . Long way and many years ago from Paulsen Stadium .

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      • We really got whipped … by all of 1 point not because of his offense but because of our offense. We have the ball at midfield after a turnover on downs, and Smart and Chaney put the offense into a shell. The next drive we throw a pick when we should have been using the clock as our friend.

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        • Jp

          If your aunt had balls she would be your uncle. When you lose to a team with inferior players at all positions call it what you want. When they drove it 94 yards and 40 what ever again in 7 minutes for 2 Td s , that is on the defense. Who has better players Auburn or Tech . See Scheme matters . How does Ga Southern rush for 425 in the swamp with 4 starters missing and beat the gators . Urban Meyer may know more than you . You make my point about the offense . Tech uses scheme with inferior players to beat much better athletes ( on offense )

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          • Scheme matters, but I would suggest players make a whole more difference. Otherwise, Navy, Georgia Southern or tech would compete for the national championship every year. Navy might beat ND once a decade. GSU might beat the worst Florida team since the Charley Pell days. tech might beat Georgia 3 times in 9 years.

            Ohio State and Auburn are completely different. They have players on both sides of the ball. Auburn didn’t win a national championship because of Malzahn’s scheme. They won it because they had a once in a generation type of player at QB. Ohio State wins because they have athletes all over the field on both sides, and Corch is damn good at his craft.

            Bottom line is we lost to tech because our coaching staff made bad decisions at the wrong time on offense especially on the drive with Eason’s interception.

            By the way, about Rush Propst, I think Grayson just scored again. Players matter …

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            • Jp

              You do know Meyer learned his option Scheme from Paul. No I guess you don’t. By the way Gsu beat them as a1aa team. See they rush for 425 and we rush for less than 200 and get less yards with todd Gurley . If it holds what do Bama , Ohio st , and Clemson have in common. They all run a variation of Johnsons scheme. How does Houston beat Lousvillle , Fla St Oklahoma . You think they got better players. How did Ohio st beat bama with the 3rd string qb. How does Gsu rush for 300 on bama . What do Utah , Texas A&M , ole miss , Auburn , Oklahoma and Ohio st all have in common. They all beat bama with the scheme . Saban wanted the no huddle banned because that was the only o he could not stop. So now bama runs 80 % out of the gun and their base play is zone read. Who scored the most on bama this year Ole piss no surprise

              I do agree with you on our O. All the smarties here calling for bobo to be fired as he has the highest scoring o in history. I know it takes players but when you get em with the right scheme it’s hard to stop Think about it Newton , Dobbs , Watson and DB nick Marshall We don’t even recruit em . Been out of the loop on ga high school ball but I think colquitt won a 2 back to back. You think he has better talent and resources. Not a chance. The point he was making is that all of the top teams in ga high school 6’a run the spread. But all or best receivers leave the state.

              Good to jab with you

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  13. Brandon

    So many speak of our 10 win season last year like we accomplished something. Out of those 10 wins, a whopping ONE was against a team with a winning record at the end of the year and THAT was Georgia fucking Southern and we needed OT to win that one! Last year’s UGA team was probably the worst 10 win team in the history of college football (Or SEC at least). The difference in the product on the field from last year to this year is not as much as the records alone would lead you to believe.

    Like

    • Gaskilldawg

      I realize that is you are not first you are last, but the feeling of walking to a car after a win beat walking to the car after a loss, and I had the good feeling 2 less times and the bad feeling 2 more times.

      Like

      • Rocketdawg

        The “product on the field” this year was hot garbage. The offense was even more anemic and the defense and special teams regressed.

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    • 1smartdude

      For the record Brandon, last year we did beat Vandy and Tech….AT THEIR PLACE.

      Like

      • Debby Balcer

        And last year felt so much better as a fan. There were two feel good games this year NC and AU. The crowd has been better this year but overall for the first time ever I am glad the season is over. Watching us meltdown against Tech was numbing. Fortunately my GT daughter and son in law don’t mention the game after it is over. We started that rule in 2002 when she enrolled there and it has benefited her more than us but this year I am so happy we have that rule. I sure hope things are much better next year I would love to get back to mediocrity.

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  14. FisheriesDawg

    It is also never mentioned that Saban’s six losses in 2007 were all by a touchdown or less, and to some pretty solid teams, including one of the two or three best UGA teams since Dooley retired.

    Like

    • You mean Saban didn’t have a conference game in 2007 where they were down by 45? They also beat their FCS opponent 52-6 early in the season as opposed to our historical near-miss against our home opener FCS opponent.

      I want Kirby to be successful, but the Saban 2007 comparisons just do not make any sense to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Saban had already been a college head coach for 11 years (10 at Power 5 programs) and an NFL head coach for two years. He’d won two SEC championships and one national championship. The comparison to Saban is just as stupid as the “what if Richt were coach” game people have been playing this year.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Totally agree, AD. I have no doubt that Kirby learned some of the Process while with Nick. The problem is he has never had a chance to implement it at a program of his own. Also, he’s never had to make the in-game decisions that can turn a game. I didn’t want our program to be OJT for whoever was going to be hired, but now we have it. Hopefully, like a first year auditor, the light comes on, and he figures it out. The problem is we won’t see the results until next busy season.🙂

          Like

  15. Atticus

    How about comparing him to Dabo?

    Like

  16. Will Trane

    Remember Dabo and Clemson got plastered in a bowl. Not only did they survive they went to the next level. They recruited well, more so at QB. And that QB was considered by CMR but that is as far as it went.
    Sorta like against Bama in the SEC Championship game. Do I manage the clock re downs or try to roll on it and burn it all down. Decisions and processes. Well, that little play was the torch being put to CMR.
    Like some of us were discussing this morning, you know, all the negative things about Smart and the Bama comparisons and the myths of record comparisons and how good PJ can take rejects and beat the Dawgs elite recruits.
    We have heard all this before. And we all agreed it will get us into the championship ring and top rankings.
    But frankly we did not discuss any of that because it means nothing.
    What we did look at are the players on the roster, certain stats, and ’17 schedule / opponents.
    And oh by the way we looked at CMR and what his 2nd year would be. After all he is an experienced 2nd year HC. By all measurements and comparisons to Saban, he should take the Canes to the National Title. Hopefully the coach who took the Dawgs to the Dome a few times, but won only one title…well maybe he can get by PJ one more time or that little bunch were he use to coach at and where Jimbo Fisher resides. Being close to FSU, nobody wanted CMR back. They had enough of him re the Sooners.
    But frankly I am more interested in the ’16 / ’17 recruits / prospects and the up coming underclassman.
    In particular the O lineman and the running backs. We are wondering if a couple of those guys are going to be like one at Auburn who sat out the game in Athens

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    • Atticus

      Dabo was 9-5 and 6-7 his 1st 2 years. 3rd year he went 10-4. Load the DL, find elite playmakers and hire the right assistants.

      Like

      • Debby Balcer

        And we will see how he does after Watson is gone except for Baja most natties have been won with a special player. Our trouble is when we had that player he went down to injury or suspension.

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  17. Irwin R. Fletcher

    Richt won 10 games last year but the season really wasn’t that much different. Let’s be honest…the reason Richt got fired was because Smart was flirting with Carolina AND there was a palpable feeling that the program had at best plateaued and at worst was sliding. I didn’t think firing Richt was an easy decision nor necessarily the ‘right’ decision but I understood it for what it was…a preemptive strike against Richt going 7-5 in 2016 and having to fire him then.

    The team lost more games but they were already on that path last year…they were a goal line tackle by a WR against Mizzou and a missed FG by GA Southern’s kicker away from the same record last season. Seriously…I’ve been saying this all year. It’s the same team….a team with good talent in some positions, weaknesses at others that played middle of the road football the whole season. Guess what those teams do? They go 7-6 or 9-4 or maybe 10-3 or 6-7 in the extreme cases.

    BTW…I guess Emerson got the memo that he needed to stir up some noise just like everyone else in the Atlanta media. Tech fans are notorious for hiding in the weeds and only showing up after wins…not sure why the Atlanta media would be different.

    Here’s Seth on Monday:

    As we stand now, no one can say for sure whether the future is bright or not for Georgia football.
    We don’t know how this is going to turn out

    Here’s Seth today after getting the memo from his editors that piling on is getting clicks

    Head coaches whose team’s record worsens in their debuts don’t tend to go on to win titles.

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    • Atticus

      They lost Houston and Theus, Mitchell and Jenkins, Floyd and Bailey and replaced them with nobody. And no kicker. This team had worse talent than last year.

      Like

      • Irwin R. Fletcher

        I shudder at trying to judge the ‘talent’ without breaking it down into groups. Oline, WR, and DBs…that’s where the deficiency showed up to me. I thought the D-Line got really good as the year went on. I think the issue with this team is not whether it has more or less talent overall…it’s whether you have gaping holes in talent that make certain position groups ineffective. For the O-Line, that’s the case…for the WRs and the DBs, it’s pretty close.

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  18. Didn’t replace Sterling Bailey? I think I saw about 3 freshman defensive linemen that played well this year and will be better than Bailey ever was if they stay healthy.

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  19. hooper

    Don’t players normally show the most improvement in their second season? That’s often true from HS to college, from college to pro’s, football, baseball, or whichever sport. The big question is that also true for new head coaches. Does the game slow down for them, or are they a step ahead in game management, rather than reacting on the run?

    Like

  20. Hogbody Spradlin

    Without any stats to support me, I kinda think this season equates nicely with 2010. Only reason I can think of is the heralded freshman quarterback who was relied on the carry the team.

    Like

  21. I sure hope UGA does really well next year or there will be a lot of unhappy fans. This day and age to state, give them three years, is just a lost cause.

    Like

  22. FairWeatherFan

    Kirby will be gone in three years. Let’s hire a proven head coach next time.

    Like

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