Summertime, and the existential posting is easy

It’s something I mentioned to my friends last night, but as the 2017 season approaches, I find myself in an unprecedented place:  for the first time since I started this blog, my head is more optimistic about Georgia’s chances than is my heart.

It’s not hard to make a logical case for a great season.  The schedule is favorable.  The talent base is noticeably deeper than it was two seasons ago, particularly in comparison to every other team in the division.  There is more experience at almost every position group, especially on defense.  The quarterback has a year of the SEC wars under his belt.

Perhaps most significantly, Kirby Smart is no longer a virginal head coach.  It’s reasonable to expect a year’s experience to make someone with Smart’s intelligence and work ethic better at his job.

My head looks at all that and sees ten wins, a division title and the trip to the conference championship game as an almost inevitable conclusion.  So why isn’t my heart gushing with even bigger results?

For that, I take you to something Pete Fiutak wrote in his national preseason rankings post the other day.  He’s quite bullish about Georgia, which he ranks ninth.

Everything is in place to win the SEC East and have a puncher’s chance at the title if the offensive line can rock right away. Everything was there last year, too, but now there’s really no excuse to not take down the division.  [Emphasis added.]

Ah, and therein, as we say, lies the rub.  Some of you are likely to disagree, but I saw a group returning with which Mark Richt and his staff managed to grind out ten wins, facing a weak division and a soft schedule, having sufficient talent to compete and believed that nine or ten wins and a trip to Atlanta were more than reasonable expectations.  Needless to say, it didn’t work out that way.

As to that, we all have our reasons.  Mine go back to something I fretted about when Smart was hired, namely, inexperience.  No matter how much he may have learned at the feet of Nick Saban, the 2016 season was going to be on the job training for Kirby Smart, who had never been a head coach before.  That showed from the beginning, as Smart allowed himself to get sidetracked with matters totally unrelated to his new gig, like staying on in Tuscaloosa through the national title game (understandable from an honor standpoint) and allowing himself to become enmeshed in Greg McGarity’s play to have the state legislature enact a law to keep athletic department information from the public (totally not understandable).

There was also a touch of arrogance on his part, carried over from all those years at Alabama and enabled by an administration and big boosters, that wasn’t justified for a rookie head coach, even if the enabling was not unexpected from a group that was both excited at the prospect of hiring a Georgia man and a little awed by Saban’s aura while not really knowing any better.  However, Athens ain’t Tuscaloosa, a lesson that was taught and re-taught throughout the season.

That’s what bugs my heart.  What if Kirby, out of a misguided sense of pride, isn’t willing to learn that lesson and adapt?  I don’t know him well enough — hell, I don’t know him at all — to answer a question like that, but I do know that I can’t dismiss it.  Nor do I consider it likely that the folks Smart answers to have any more of a clue than they did a year ago.

We can all play the “what if” game about the 2016 season.  My example of that is wondering if Smart would have done better with an experienced former college head coach working as an assistant on his staff, someone he could have turned to on the sidelines and in his office with the kinds of questions he didn’t have to face working as an assistant for Saban.  (No, I don’t count Foley’s Coley’s brief stint in Miami as qualifying.)

That’s water under the bridge now, except for one thing:  he still doesn’t have that guy on his staff.  So it’s up to Smart to grow on his own, which means for now, my heart will just have to wait.

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60 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

60 responses to “Summertime, and the existential posting is easy

  1. Bigshot

    I would like to think that UGA could produce a lot of wins this year, but we all know that something will happen. An injury here, a suspension there, etc etc etc…………. such has just been way too common.

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    • Captain Obvious

      yup, they “should” win every year, but it’s deja vu all over again. 7-5 or 8-4 at best. FU wins the easy, I mean east

      Like

  2. Go Dawgs!

    I think that’s a good way to put it. My head’s a lot more excited than my heart, too.

    But even my head is a little puzzled about the gushing optimism regarding the offensive line and Jim Chaney all of a sudden being able to call a better offensive game. If your supporting evidence for believing the line will be better is “boy, the coach is really good and they can’t really be that bad again” then I’m not sure your argument is sound. You can’t tell anything on G-Day… but they didn’t look that much better to me on G-Day. And everything starts and stops with the offensive line… and with Chaney having a good plan. We’ve got a ton of talent on this team. I guess we’ll see.

    I’ve got nearly 11 hours to get drunk at the tailgate before the App State kickoff. I’m sure I’ll be full of optimism by the time we let the kid from Wofford toe up the football.

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    • MGW

      That 11 hours is a big, big advantage for the home team!

      That crowd’s going to rock like we’re playing for a damn title.

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    • MGW

      Also your point about evidence cuts both ways.

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    • Uglydawg

      Eleven hours..you can get drunk, sober up, take a snooze, take two tylenol and drink some coffee, sit around, eat, chum around for a while and still have time to be all aglow again by kickoff.
      Just don’t drive yourself home.

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      • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

        Not to be a buzz kill, but tylenol after drinking is a REALLY, REALLY bad idea. Horrible combination for your liver.

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  3. Much of what was frustrating last year was by design. The primary mission was to change our identity. Wins and losses were secondary.

    I think we’ll see the investment pay off starting in South Bend.

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    • The other Doug

      I think you are right that Smart’s primary mission going into the season was to change the identity, but after the 3 game stretch of Nichols, Mizzou, and Ole Miss he realized there wasn’t going to be any exerting of wills.

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      • Otto

        The interviews after the Tenn. game were reflective of a HC looking to change the mentality of a team. Had to say if he was successful

        Pruit likes a lighter and faster front 7 than Smart not that it an excuse for red zone D but it was a D that was going to need to transform.

        Yes 2 should give better result but I think much of the fan base and media are expecting more than is reasonable.

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    • DawgPhan

      hard to make winning your identity when you accept losing as part of the process.

      that’;s some beta male non-sense

      Liked by 1 person

      • If you think that the key to winning at a greater clip than we were was to keep doing the same things we’d been doing then whose being nonsensical?

        We haven’t been tough enough at the LOS to win championships, period. If you’re interested in changing that then you have to take some lumps along the way.

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        • Cojones

          Have to agree with DawgPhan here.

          Senator has outdone himself by writing this perspective, meaning that he caught and expressed the rubs we have about our team coaches perzactly. Placing last year’s thoughts about our hopes alongside this year’s ambivalence of heart vs head fits my complaints/doubts and my hopes.

          We are gravitating toward blaming the assistant coaches for it all, but all of this inexperience can be laid at B-M’s feet for their inexperience at proper coach experience vetting as well. Since they thought that they were so bright for firing an experienced HC and replacing with an inexperienced HC, I expected more than a rubber stamp on the other coaches that Kirby wanted. We want to leave Kirby out of it and give him a full chance, but last year’s experience with what we had has soured a few tastes for Kool-Aid this year. My greatest fear is that last year’s debacle may have a holdover affect on this year’s team’s spirit of performance. After all, those guys warrant our wholehearted support and players don’t deserve any fan criticism for B-M’s and coaches mistakes.

          Liked by 1 person

          • That’s a lot of words none of which signify anything.

            If you think we’re going 8-5 or worse because we made a bad hire it doesn’t take that long to say it.

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            • Cojones

              I stopped predicting after last year since none of us have a good idea of how this season will go. Guess the rest of my musings should have been posted for the Senator’s perusal.

              Sorry that I stepped on your dick.

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            • Greg

              LOL!!…. I don’t care who you are, that was funny.

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      • Dawgphan: you calling someone else as “beta male” is some funny shit. Priceless.

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  4. LC

    I’m a little perplexed that more attention isn’t being given to Richt’s OL employed zone blocking and Smart’s OL was man-to-man blocking.
    That’s a HUGE (YUGE!) difference and why we’re going back to recruiting these massive road graders. I don’t expect all the national pundits to know that, but a little research on their part wouldn’t hurt.
    As for what I expect, I expect what your head expects. Year 2 is very telling and critical for a head coach’s program. Maybe, just maaaaybe the OL can improve under Pittman and will be capable enough to get us through. That’s the biggest question mark for me.

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  5. Athens Dog

    We had as much or more talent than anyone on the schedule last year. And that will be improved this year. Yet inexplicably lost games we should have won (never, never lose to tech)

    I remember CMR’s first year and I was very optimistic for year 2. I share your reservations this time as my heart just isn’t that sure. I’m still just not sure about Kirby.

    It’s a strange place to be. I was ready for CMR to go. I was tired of the Georgia Way. Here’s hoping that Kirby has the growth spurt in year two. And like the others, 11 hours of tailgate for APP State should have me in a better frame of mind.

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  6. DawgPhan

    Is Foley a typo and you meant Coley?

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  7. Charlottedawg

    2017 Is going to be a “What if” team. As in special and would have played for a national championship had it not been for one or two faceplants or bad breaks. Why? because we put together one of those teams every 5 years, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007,2012, see a pattern here? Also because coaches usually see a jump in their second year, hell even muschamp beat a lot of really good teams on his way to compiling an 11 win regular season. Therefore next January I totally expect a lot of “we totally shoulda coulda woulda beaten Bama/ Florida and won/ made the playoffs if……we had Nick and Sony healthy, Eason hadn’t thrown the pick six, Lorenzo Carter hadn’t walked off the field on fourth and ten assuming the other team was going to punt, bad red call, we set the ball down literally three inches from the goal line cuz we’re Georgia, etc. Etc.

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  8. DawgPhan

    Someone tweeted you about not getting Cristobal. I agree that having some head coaches on this staff would have helped Smart. I love the type of staff that Oregon put together. So much experience there, you might get too many cooks at some point and have the cull some of that experience, but with a guy like Smart learning on the job it would have been great to have an experienced HC on the staff to help him along.

    We still dont have that guy and we dont really even have anyone close in the building to help him. Who is he talking to about the issues he faces? You got to have those people that you can talk to about stuff if you are going to get better and it helps when they have the experience in the area you are dealing with.

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  9. AusDawg85

    I’m not sold on Chaney. We can always go hire a better OC but my measure of improvement for Kirby and the Dawgs this season will really be more focused on having a tenacious, junkyard Dawg D. If we don’t see huge improvement in that phase of the team, I think it will say a lot about how much we can expect from Kirby in the long run.

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  10. PTC DAWG

    Anyone sold on any of our Coaches after one year, I question their judgment. Time will tell.

    In the last 10 years we played in exactly 1 BCS type bowl…give the current staff a little time.

    I still think our OL is a year away myself…but our QB and RB’s may be good enough to save us on O. Hopefully we have a stud WR or two step up and help out.

    Agree on the D, should be improved..if not, Katie bar the door.

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    • Agree 100% on the OL. I think 2018-2019 will be banner years for OL play (from a UGA perspective, anyway). Eason as a junior, Herrian, Swift, White??, plus super experienced WRs and TEs and a solid line is something that excites me.

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      • Cojones

        Not so sure about that “solid line” with newbies all over the place. Time will tell and I’m sure that there will be a laser focus there by everyone when the time comes to see how game performance matches up with their up side. Hope it all gels , but I’ve been disappointed several times already and my Kool-Aid tastes like BM.

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  11. With Richt we knew he was stubborn at times, but able to eventually come around and adapt. For Kirby, the question is if he is buried in a insular ‘process’ that deflects any sort of criticism that leads to self examination and adaptation? Did he import the very worst things from Tuscaloosa that wont translate here?

    The key, I think ,is a middle way between sticking to your guns to change the culture of a program and yet being able to self asses and adapt to the situation at hand where it makes sense. HARD to to for a first time coach, so yea, having that former head coach on the sidelines makes sense.

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    • Cojones

      It’s a bitch when we drop a single letter while typing and can’t go back after posting and/or catching it. Also, you missed “twain” after “to to”.

      Just trying to be funny, so “Grammar Nazi” isn’t needed and a simple “Fuck off” will do.

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  12. Bright Idea

    I want to see if Kirby will trust his players and coaches this season. That’s something a head coach has no choice but to do. Last year through both his words and sideline demeanor it was clear that he did not. My heart remains more excited than my head until I can see the results.

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  13. The Senator put it very well. The head vs heart dilemma has been flipped this year. Logically it makes perfect sense to think UGA would do well, but there’s something in my gut that has me super cautious.

    OL play is a major concern and it’s only slightly ahead of Eason’s progression. Those are two massive areas of concern for me and I’m not sure the defense is going to be an elite unit that can withstand poor OL/QB play and still win 9+ games.

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  14. Keese

    Maybe it’s your subconscious?….How about the lack of a shred of evidence Kirby is, was or will be a good head coach? Has anyone ever labeled Kirby and a defensive mastermind? The only accolades I’ve heard is that he’s a good recruiter. Kirby will lose two games this year through a sheer missteps in game management.

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    • Kirby ran the defense for the last several years. I think the “he’s just Saban’s secretary” stuff is overblown. But being a head coach is nothing like being an assistant coach. The time demands that have nothing to do with football are real and intense. Then you have all the admin work that’s tangentially related to football on top of that. I totally buy the argument that Kirby will be an improved coach in 2017 compared to 2016.

      That doesn’t mean you’re wrong. UGA could easily drop some games it shouldn’t due to Kirby’s missteps. I can’t say for sure that will happen, though, whereas last year I would have guaranteed it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mp

        My frustration is that UGA as a program should not be the proving grounds for a first-time head coach. All that crap from Andy Staples and the like that this is a top-5 job, and we have to go through the growing pains with Kirby. I have no idea if Tom Herman would have worked out here, or if another HC from a smaller school would have been an option, but at least those guys have have in game coaching experience and run a program. I now look at this seaon to see if Kirby and staff have what it takes to be competent, let alone whether or not he can be the right coach to bring more even success to UGA than Richt did.

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  15. Greg

    Very well put, I feel the same for the most part……& I think that teams are using it against him in recruiting this year. He needs to prove them wrong this year….

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  16. Well, he did bring in Van Gorder as a special advisor/helper/staff/not-a-coach thing.

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  17. Jeez, I’d just like to beat Tech.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Got Cowdog

    There was a lot of discussion about this in the comments yesterday, myself included. I was and still am in the camp that it was time for a change. I think a lot of the angst that we suffer is from being let down so often in games that mattered to us as fans. I get the fact that CMR was good for 9-10 wins a season, and there were some awesome moments in his career. But over the last few years we never seemed to be at the same level of competition as a couple of our rivals. I feel like we are the “Auburn” of the east. Florida, UT, and now GT can expect a win against us. The poster yesterday did not lie about our recent history. This is why the heart says no.

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  19. No Axe To Grind

    Smart will grow as the offensive line grows. In other words, Pittman is the key. The other factor that will be a hurdle will be the OC, whom I was not impressed with last year. I cannot remember the bastard’s name after two stiff martinis. My apologies.

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  20. Scorpio Jones, III

    If and when folks stop talking about Kirby without the parenthetical Saban, it will be time to revel.

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  21. piper

    he’s not on the sidelines, of course, but he does have mike cavan on staff to bounce things off for off-the-field stuff.

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  22. Macallanlover

    I think that is a fair assessment of where many of us are, Senator. Logic, and thorough analysis, indicates great things for this team in 2017, few dispute that whether emotional UGA fans, or national “experts”. But when your heart has been broken so often in the past, it is difficult to expose it again to more pain. I see no reason why we won’t have a very solid season and win the East, at a minimum, but I will have to remain cautiously optimistic at this point. In fact, I will have to remain in that condition until sometime in early January…nah, if we come out of the gate smoking I will throw caution to the win because that is what fans do.

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    • Dog in Fla

      What becomes of the broken hearted

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      • Macallanlover

        Ah, the 60’s. Never been a decade of music, although the unlimited access of today’s music services is the most impressive thing I have seen. For $15 a month I have, and can give to 5 friends/family, unlimited access to a 32 million song jukebox at our total control with Spotify which can be accessed wherever I am. Damn, if they had this when I was in college/HS, it would have been a never ending party!

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  23. Paul

    I know we have a new coach and all. But, beginning about 2002, we’ve gone in to so many seasons with high expectations only to have them shattered. Sometimes spectacularly. Other times pitifully. A person can only take so much. Who cares about logic? Talent? We possess it often and squander it equally as often. Experience? Been there. Didn’t get the t-shirt. Easy schedule? That’s been true so often it’s ridiculous. We don’t take advantage. Instead, we find a ways to lose games we should not. After a while you just can’t allow yourself to invest your expectations in this program. Let’s see where we are in November. Until then I refuse to believe we’re anything other than a team led by a talented but mercurial quarterback being tutored by an inscrutable coordinator who works for a second year head coach that performed well below expectations in his first season. Not the most optimistic sentence I ever typed.

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  24. reality check here

    I call it gut feel, not heart. But there is also something I saw that bothers me a lot.

    The thing that bothers me most about what I saw last year is lack of adjustment when things didn’t work. That happened during games and it happened as the season went on. We didn’t get better as a team and that is something that happens under a good coach.

    I hope we can all look back next year and think we were silly to question success, but right now I am wait and see.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. redraider23

    My concern for 2017 can be summarized in two words: “Nicholls State”
    Forget about rookie head coach, top 10 recruiting classes, depth of talent, etc. There is really no excuse for an SEC team having a close call at home against a team like Nicholls State. I’m a Double Dawg dating back to 1964, so I have seen some great games and some great Dawg teams. But sadly, I remain skeptical

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  26. Russ

    I’m not sure it’s an accident that there aren’t any ex-head coaches on the staff. Kirby doesn’t strike me as someone who takes advice very easily, or at all. I just hope he’s as smart as he seems to think he is.

    Regardless, I do think we’ll have a good season and should wind up in the Dome.

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  27. Rebar

    Bottom line is that you should not earn while you learn at the University of Georgia; I wish Kirby well, but we should have hired a coach with head coaching experience.

    Like