This strikes me as a somewhat fair assessment of Georgia’s offense in Smart’s first season.
While Smart initially went after Arkansas coordinator Dan Enos before settling on Chaney — Enos’ non-compete clause blocked him from leaving the Hogs — the plan was always to keep the pro-style offense at Georgia.
Hiring a spread guru might have made more sense, though. Tennessee and Mizzou, the only true up-tempo offenses in the SEC East, led the division in scoring and total yards this season. Alabama found even greater success on that side of the ball after hiring Kiffin. Football is overwhelmingly trending in this direction. And, of course, Jacob Eason ran the spread in high school.
But Smart stuck with what his area of comfort and familiarity — the pro-style attack Nick Saban used to win championships with the Crimson Tide.
Here’s the thing: To win with the pro style, . Georgia did not have that this fall; the left tackle position was an eye-sore, and the three interior position starters (Isaiah Wynn, Brandon Kublanow and Lamont Gaillard) all weigh closer to 300 pounds than 330. The problems became obvious as early as the Nicholls State fiasco, and as Smart said himself at one point, offensive line issues rarely get fixed in-season.
The Bulldogs averaged 4.05 yards per rush in SEC play and just 3.44 yards on third down. Vanderbilt and Florida both held them under the 100-yard mark.
Then you have your freshman quarterback. Chaney admitted that “a little contradiction with philosophies” existed in regards to Eason’s comfort running a pro-style offense. Taking the snap extensively under center required adjustments from Eason, who already had plenty on his plate as a first-year starter. The result wasn’t always pretty.
But only somewhat. First, and most obvious, let’s not forget that Mark Richt is just as wedded to a pro-style attack as Smart, and so it’s logical to expect that Eason would have struggled to adapt to changing circumstances regardless.
Second, there are several assumptions being made about the pro-style approach that I don’t buy. His bit about “you need players who can physically dominate opponents up front to establish the run and set up play-action throws” is easily rebutted by Georgia leading the country in yards per play in 2012. That didn’t happen because Georgia’s offensive line dominated opponents, but rather that it had two fantastic freshmen running backs whose running styles were suited for the blocking schemes and personnel in place, which allowed Bobo to establish the run and set up play action for a battle-tested redshirt junior quarterback. (That same formula worked almost as well in 2014.)
This isn’t a fair comparison, either: “Eason didn’t find Year 1 success as quickly as Murray before him, either.” Eason got thrown into the mix as a true freshman; Murray had a redshirt year to get ready before his first start.
There’s also one of my pet peeves at work — the lack of understanding of what makes a spread offense a spread offense. Here’s his solution for fixing Eason’s inconsistency.
But when he operated from the shotgun? Just look at some of these throws against Tennessee:
Umm… you can operate out of the shotgun in a pro-style offense. That’s what Eason did there.
I bring all this up because while it’s easy to identify what went wrong this season, diagnosing the why behind how it happened is apparently up for some argument. For me, the problems boil down to one basic thing, a coaching staff that elected to pursue an approach that wasn’t suited to what Georgia’s players did best.
How much of that is Chaney’s fault is hard to gauge, but given the experience of seeing what the players could do in their first season taking his direction, along with the upgrade in personnel on the offensive line the incoming class brings (usual one month from now caveat in effect, of course), another year of same old, same old won’t sell.
It’s fine to have a vision of how you want to do things. At some point, though, you have to turn vision into reality, because vision doesn’t win games on its lonesome.