They make for an interesting compare-and-contrast.
“For me it’s important that you understand as the head coach of the University of Georgia, I’m proud to be there, but we embrace those (expectations), the coaching staff, we embrace those as our players,” Smart said. “When you come to the University of Georgia, the expectation is to win championships. That’s what we expect to do at the University of Georgia, and that’s the standard we’ll be held to.”
“We don’t want players who don’t expect to win,” he added. “When you come to the University of Georgia … you’re going to be one of the best players in the country, coming from one of the best states in the country, one of the best high school football states in the country. We expect them to come in with that attitude and demeanor. You create that, and it permeates your program by how you carry yourself and perform on the field. And we have not performed on the field from the level we should. That’s something we have to continue to improve on.”
That’s a strikingly different tone than what we heard from Tennessee’s Butch Jones on Monday. The Vols were picked to win the East last year but finished two games behind division champion Florida. The difference in Tennessee’s nine wins and Georgia’s eight? A Joshua Dobbs Hail Mary touchdown pass to beat Georgia 34-31 in the final seconds on Oct. 1. Otherwise, their seasons were essentially the same.
Tennessee beat nationally ranked Florida, and Nebraska in the Music City Bowl; lost to nationally ranked Alabama and Texas A&M; and lost to unranked Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
Georgia beat nationally ranked North Carolina and Auburn, and TCU in the Liberty Bowl; lost to nationally ranked Ole Miss and Florida; and lost to unranked Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech.
But anyone within earshot of The Wynfrey Hotel on Monday knows Tennessee is coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons because Jones pointed out several times that Tennessee is coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons. With six NFL draft picks, the Vols reached the top 10 last fall but finished the season No. 22.
“On the field, we’re very proud of the fact that it’s very, very difficult to win in the Southeastern Conference, and we’re one of only three programs that have won nine games two years in a row,” Jones said.
“This is a results-oriented business and we fell short of our goals,” he added. “But I don’t like to use the term ‘disappointment,’ because when you still look at it, it’s hard to win in this conference. And only three teams have won nine games, and the University of Tennessee is one of those.”
Granted, some of the difference can be attributed to Jones sitting on a warmer seat than Smart, and maybe Jones deserves a little slack because he had to dig out of a deeper hole than the one Smart started with (remember, Richt got fired in the midst of back-to-back ten win seasons). As Matter notes, though, but for one play, the 2016 Georgia and Tennessee seasons were quite similar, so it’s enlightening to see the very different filters through which the two coaches view their last year.