So, I see checking in this morning, that someone in the comments has lobbed an accusation my way that I “salivate every time you can find a negative article” about Kirby Smart. There’s also something about taking glee in 2016’s 8-5 record.
I don’t want to post a rebuttal here, something I could have done in a direct response in the comments, but rather would like to use that as a starting point to a larger discussion about what’s the realistic take on where the program and the head coach stand after Smart’s initial season.
From my selfish standpoint, I don’t think there’s any other way to describe the 2016 season than to call it disappointing. I say that mindful of the obvious shortcomings the program was burdened with going into the year, such as a rookie head coach, a flawed offensive line and a true freshman starting quarterback. For me, the biggest frustration was the lack of progress I saw over the final quarter of the regular season.
Combine that with a certain attitude — call it arrogance, call it cocksureness, call it whatever you like — that seemed to have been imported from Smart’s run at Alabama, but was out of place for a new regime that had yet to prove anything and never was justified by the results on the field last season, and it’s hard to swallow a nothing but blue skies ahead, sunny approach to blogging about the program on mere faith.
That isn’t close to saying Smart’s already proven himself to be an abject failure, though. He’s no dummy and he learned from the best in Nick Saban. He’s an excellent and tireless recruiter, which is something you have to be if you want your program to join the ranks of the college football elite. Also, while he drove me to the depths of despair with the way he managed certain games last year, there’s also the positive way he directed the team to wins against North Carolina and Auburn that I take into account in evaluating his first year.
The talent base is clearly on the rise, as a result of the flushing of the disaster of 2013’s signing class and the solid to excellent classes Smart signed in 2016 and 2017. I’m also a believer in learning curve improvements in a staff’s second season (hell, if it worked for Todd Grantham, it’ll work for Kirby Smart). The 2017 schedule works in Georgia’s favor, too.
All of that adds up to a sense of optimism on my part about Smart’s chances this season to be coaching once again on the sidelines of the SECCG. Honesty compels me to admit, though, that my optimism is a bit shaky, because Smart’s resume is thin and because (let’s face it) we’re Georgia. That’s not to say we’re not due, but given recent history, I’m gonna need a little real world reinforcement before I happily jump off the cliff.
If that’s salivating, can somebody pass me a towel so I can wipe the drool off my chin?