The short trip from a throwaway year to playing the expectations game

Ed Aschoff:

Like it or not, the spotlight is now firmly centered on Kirby Smart and his Georgia Bulldogs. The hype train is returning to Sanford Stadium, placing the Bulldogs back on the national map less than two years after long-time coach Mark Richt was fired.

Smart will be entering only his second year as head coach (at any level), but who cares? Georgia returns 10 defensive starters and a possible superstar quarterback — who is only a sophomore. Georgia is also months removed from signing the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class, which featured 18 ESPN 300 members and four five-star prospects.

The Bulldogs have the luxury of playing in an SEC East division that has spent the better part of the past few years being riddled with instability. Like with Tennessee last season, this is the year we take Georgia football seriously again.

Regardless of how truly inexperienced Smart is at running an entire program, the Bulldogs have become an early media darling and will likely be pegged by most of the scribes at the conclusion of SEC media days to win the East for the first time since 2012. Fair or not, for a team that went 8-5 in Smart’s inaugural season the Bulldogs look — on paper — like a team capable of representing the East in 2017.

Matt Stinchcomb:

Former Georgia offensive tackle and current SEC Network analyst Matt Stinchcomb doesn’t mince words when it comes to high expectations leading into coach Kirby Smart’s second season at Georgia.

“Yeah, absolutely it is,” Stinchcomb said at SEC Media Days when asked if those expectations were fair so soon for Smart. “There have been coaches that have come into this conference to win national championships in year two. Just because it’s your second year at a program, that’s not in rebuilding mode. It’s a program that was notching double-digit wins every season.”

Stinchcomb said Smart is well aware of what was awaiting him in Athens, Ga., when he left Alabama.

“That’s not news to him,” Stinchcomb said. “Kirby was aware of what he was walking into and what the expectations would be. I think a division championship is not only reasonable but, what it looks like for a conference landscape and from a divisional standpoint, should be expected.”

As I posted elsewhere this morning, Smart isn’t stupid.  He also, unlike others who shall remain nameless, isn’t complacent.  The big task facing him in 2017 is translating attitude into results.  That means better coaching and better player development than we’ve seen.  Neither should be impossible tasks for someone who’s had years to observe one of the masters of both firsthand.

There’s another part to the great expectations game, one that’s not about the program, but about the coach directly.  Aschoff again:

Plus, history is on Smart’s side, as Year 2 has been a banner year for recent SEC coaches. Urban Meyer and Gene Chizik won national championships in their second seasons at Florida and Auburn, respectively. Nick Saban won 10 games and the SEC in his second year at LSU, then led an undefeated Alabama team, with Smart manning his defense, to the SEC championship game in his second year in Tuscaloosa in 2008. Les Miles won 11 games in his second season at LSU (2006), as did Will Muschamp at Florida (2012). Jim McElwain won the SEC East in his first two seasons at Florida.

Richt also won the SEC in his second season way back in 2002, which means that the man Smart replaced still casts quite the shadow over Sanford Stadium.

If Kirby really is the special guy that McGarity and the boosters thought they were getting when he was brought in to run the program, based on the conference’s recent history, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the time for him to demonstrate they weren’t wrong.  Certainly the resources are there, the divisional challenges aren’t too daunting and the schedule is manageable.

It’s time.

Advertisements

82 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

82 responses to “The short trip from a throwaway year to playing the expectations game

  1. Bigshot

    Meyer and Chisik won Championships in their 2nd year, but people forget that this is UGA where whatever can go wrong will go wrong and then some.

    Like

  2. Dave

    While there’s truth to pretty much everything Stinkbomb and others have said regarding Georgia and second-year coaches, there’s such little relevance regarding the second-year coach thing. Sure, several coaches have had great success, but there are far more second-year coaches who have done mediocre to downright poorly. It shouldn’t be used as some sort of predictor.

    That being said, as I go up and down Georgia’s roster, comparing it to last year as well as to other teams on our schedule, it does become difficult to not expect a vast improvement from last year.

    It’s been discussed ad nauseum how the Dawgs’ season would seem to hinge on Eason’s development, and what kind of improvement we see on the O-Line, and for good reason.

    Sam Pittman is widely regarded as one of the best in his field, so unless that was just trendy talk (or, he forgot how to coach), we should see some improvement there, given the influx of talent along with more size and greater competition.

    There’s also no reason to think Eason won’t be much improved. If he’s at least 3rd team All-SEC this year, then that, along with improved O-Line play and far more depth across the board should be good enough to eek out those 3 extra games that eluded us last year.

    So, yeah, the expectations are absolutely warranted. The big question is, if they’re not met, does that mean throwing up your hands and saying, “I guess Kirby isn’t a good head coach?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • PharmDawg

      Yes it does. As George Allen once said, “The future is now.” UGA has to develop a next man up scenario if Kirby can’t win the East THIS YEAR.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dave

        I agree in general, but if I’m allowing for virtually any possibility, I can’t dump on Kirby if we go 7-1 in the SEC w/, say, a 1-point loss to Florida, and they go 7-1 or 8-0 to win the East. Not saying that’s what I expect, but in that scenario, I wouldn’t be ready to kick Kirby to the curb.

        Like

        • PharmDawg

          UGA needs to begin WINNING the 1-point games in general, and specifically against UT, FU, Auburn, and Tech. A loss is a loss, whether by 1 point or 40.

          Liked by 1 person

      • PTC DAWG

        Seriously, thanks for the laugh…next man up…give a Coach two years..or else dammit…sure, that’ll work.

        Like

    • Sure, several coaches have had great success, but there are far more second-year coaches who have done mediocre to downright poorly. It shouldn’t be used as some sort of predictor.

      The point isn’t that it’s a predictor.

      It’s an indicator of which coaches are doing a great job of running football programs. In some cases (Chizik and Boom), it’s somewhat fluky, but it’s hard to argue with the overall picture in that regard.

      If you’re looking for a predictor, how many SEC coaches of recent vintage have won titles after mediocre second seasons?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dave

        SEC, probably none lately. I would point to Dabo at Clemson for the patience aspect, going 9-5 and 6-7 in his first two full seasons (ACC, I get it). I’d also point to Chizik winning the MNC in year 2, only to suck and get fired shortly after, and Malzahn having great success in year 1, and being quite mediocre ever since (this year being seemingly a make or break for him).

        But, you are correct in general. Year two should give us a general idea of whether or not Kirby knows what he’s doing.

        Like

        • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

          Other than Dabo, what coach has won a national title that did not have a monster year 2 in the last 20 years? Fulmer in 98?

          Taking aside Saban and Meyer, who have multiple titles, it’s incredible how consistent the year 2 explosion is for coaches that have the goods.

          Stoops, Tressel, Butch Davis, Coker, Richt, Muschamp, Chizik(fluke), Swamp Donkey, Harbaugh(Twice), Miles.

          Even coaches that didn’t win a title often have their best year in year 2.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Otto

            Mack Brown won the Big12 South but went 9-5, Fulmer went 10-2 but did not win the SEC East. I’ll take 10-3 with improved OL depth as rebuilding momentum. 9-4 or a loss to GT and the hot seat talk will be very warm.

            Like

            • Snoop Dawgy Dawg

              wasn’t fulmer 10-1 regular season? that’s a pretty solid year for my year 2 argument.

              Mack brown? Not so much.

              Also, Saban has utterly jacked up all potential trends here as he demoralized an entire conference. His run is simply unprecedented to a level, even in the middle of it, I don’t think I can appreciate appropriately.

              Like

      • PTC DAWG

        Add, since Satan was hired at Bama. ..and answer the question…

        Like

    • paul

      If they’re not met, does that mean throwing up your hands and saying, “I guess Kirby isn’t a good head coach?” Maybe not but I do think it means he only gets one more year to prove himself.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Atlanta or bust … His predecessor did it in year 2 after a first season of head-scratching losses. I don’t expect us to win the SEC this year, but then again, no one expected Georgia to win a national championship in 1980.

    All I can ask for is that the team play hard for 60 minutes and the coaches prepare and make decisions to position the team for success. If that happens, I think we’ll all be happy. If not, the pucker factor on South Lumpkin Street in 2018 will be through the roof.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Go Dawgs!

    It’s that special time of year when everyone forgets Kirby hasn’t fired Jim Chaney and none of us have yet figured out what the hell Jim Chaney was trying to do for vast stretches of last season. Division championship here we come!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. ApalachDawg

    Dawgs are going to be open a six pack of whoop ass on all opponents this year. Note- those six packs will be tall boys.
    This sleeping giant has finally woken up and is about to go all Jules Winfield on their ass – “…say ‘What’ one more time…”

    Liked by 1 person

    • PharmDawg

      I sure hope so. I’m tired of “five points away from an SEC East title,” “five yards away from an SEC title,” etc etc.

      Like

  6. Good for Kirby. Yes, he has more slack in the leash at the moment vis-a-vis Booch, but at least he’s not hiding from the expectations in front of the press. Many coaches hedge as much as possible. Kirby knows he has has to win, the media knows he has to win, and the fans know he has to win. No sense is shrinking from it.

    Now let’s all hope he goes out and wins.

    Like

  7. Snoop Dawgy Dawg

    Dabo Swinney is the first coach since the 90s that has won a national championship that did not have a monster year in year 2.

    I’ve been hammering on this since Kirby got hired, but coaches that win national titles in their careers have monster year 2 seasons. A lot of them actually won the National Title in year 2. You look at a UGA, where the talent was there, he added to it, he added excitement and new motivation, and you looking at a recipe for major success.

    This is not universal, as most coaches do not win titles. That said, coaches that don’t do big things in year 2 generally never win a title. Dabo is the exception.

    If Kirby is the coach we want him to be, we’re playing in Atlanta in December.

    Liked by 1 person

    • PharmDawg

      Dabo is an exception in more ways than one. There are coaches who win on the football field, and there are coaches who win in a recruit’s living room. Dabo is more the latter than the former.

      Like

      • Dawgflan

        We’ll soon see how much of the Clemson magic of recent years was Deshaun vs. Dabo.

        Like

      • JCDAWG83

        Dabo hired great coordinators and let them coach, that’s how Clemson won a NC along with getting a once a generation qb and having an easy schedule and loads of dumb luck last season. Dabo lost four in a row to SC before he got Watson. Almost every season Clemson has a 2 game schedule, FSU and one other decent dark horse ACC team. The rest of the season is a cakewalk for any halfway decent team. Dabo just stays out of the way of the coordinators during the game, he’s not coming up with any game winning strategies.

        If recruiting won championships Sanford stadium would be called Mark Richt Stadium.

        Like

  8. Charlottedawg

    We’re going to win eleven plus games and come within a couple plays of a championship because 1)Kirby is going to get the year 2 bounce and 2) that’s what happens every 5 years at Georgia: 2012, 2007, 2002, 1997, 1992….

    Like

    • Mayor

      I like the symmetry of that every 5 years business but given who is on the coaching staff (particularly who the HC is) I think the odds of the Dawgs going 11-1 in the regular season are a lot lower than the odds of the Dawgs going 6-6 in the regular season. Sorry.

      Liked by 2 people

      • PharmDawg

        Man, I hope you are wrong. If UGA goes 6-6 in 2017, the alumni and fans might just storm the Butts-Mehre Bastille.

        Like

      • Charlottedawg

        1) that pattern goes further back than just the Mark richt era 2)even crappy coaches such as zook, Goff, boom, and chizik had monster second years. In fact you could argue if Kirby has a great second year it doesn’t automatically mean he’s a great coach but that if he doesn’t have a great year then there’s serious cause for concern.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Greg

      Good research….what is interesting to me, was how often Georgia won the SEC (outright, no shares) prior Richt & then look at Richt’s average.

      Liked by 1 person

    • bigtrainlane

      Saban’s guys don’t win championships, hopefully Kirby wins it all in 2019, but he’s on a 4 year plan despite how you guys wish it is all on the line in 2017, it’s not, he won’t get fired if he goes 7-5, see last year for proof.

      Like

      • Greg

        Agree, don’t think so either….but a 7 & 5 season would be tough, recruiting would also take a hit.

        Like

        • justduncandonut

          Recruiting didn’t take a hit after a 7-5 season, I think we finished with the No 3 class. There’s no urgency, Kirby has at least 4 years to get things done, if not, he’s likely out, but this year has no bearing on recruiting or Kirby’s job status, both were solid after going 7-5 last year.

          Like

          • Greg

            Was saying after a 7 & 5 season this year following last year. Thinks other schools are using that against us in recruiting (staff not proven).

            Like

            • justduncandonut

              UF has won the East lately with little talent on offense, winning the East is not about recruiting. Other schools used that liner last time, and it didn’t work. It will come down to coaching, Kirby struggled for years against spread offenses at Bama, then the 7-5 flop last season, so I don’t know about his coaching, he is a great recruiter, not much else so far.

              Liked by 2 people

              • Greg

                “Defense wins championships”….in most cases. Agree, thinks we are saying some of the same things (see below).

                Like

                • justduncandonut

                  Look at Bill B at New England. Get a great Qb who is accurate and doesn’t turn the ball over. Add great schemes, coaching, identify best matchups, Bill B rarely does it with the statistical leaders at their position or overpaid guys. Coaching and Qb play wins championships.

                  Like

          • Macallanlover

            Couldn’t disagree more, following up a disappointing season with another will absolutely kill recruiting momentum. We certainly won’t finish as bad as we have started this recruiting class, and eveyone expects some major moves up the ladder this month, but several top level recruits have already said they are interested in UGA but will watch if we are able to contend this year. They know, like we do, there is no excuse for another egg to be laid, we have the talent on board. Not succeeding this fall will definitely have a major impact on who we end up signing. Don’t think we have to win the SEC, but think we have to win the East to show we are moving forward.

            Liked by 1 person

            • justduncandonut

              The recruiting class rankings are all top 10 the last 4 years whether you won 7 games or 12. Last 4 rounds, UGA always lands a to 10 class lot of local talent, they want to play close to home.

              Like

              • Macallanlover

                Last year’s draft says hello. It isn’t just class ranking if the class doesn’t fill in your needs. Usually loading up on play makers and missing on defense, or vice versa, gives you very mixed results. Sometime state of Georgia HS is light in certain positions, and if that is your time of need at that position you are sunk. Just being in Georgia doesn’t mean you win the key fights. We are surrounded by aggressive schools with much to offer, sometimes closer than to Athens. Don’t buy the UGA wins because of location, I am telling you that several key targets have made it clear, this is a very big year if we are to continue recruiting battles like we did last year. I don’t think KS is under pressure of being fired, I think he is under pressure because he will fail if he has another bad season and that costs him recruits necessary to build this program. Just my opinion, but the drumbeat is out there.

                Like

      • PharmDawg

        The 7-5 record better include wins over UT, FU, Auburn, and NATS. Those are must wins. 7-5 without those wins would be extremely uncomfortable for the B-M court.

        Like

        • justduncandonut

          there aren’t any must wins, it’s Kirby 2nd year. His seat is ice cold. He has an 89% approval rating on his job so far.

          To get to 10 wins is a tall task, Kirby needs to:
          1- win 2 of 5 against Notre Dame, Auburn, Tech, Florida and Tennessee. 2- go undefeated against the rest where he’ll be favored in all 7 (Appal St, Vandy, Ky, SC, Mizzou, etc.).
          3- win the bowl game.

          It’s the 4th toughest schedule in the country.

          Like

    • I like your way of thinking, Charlotte …

      Like

  9. Southernlawyer11

    I think this is the one year more than any where this staff better be willing to take some risks and, generally, coach their a***es off. Not saying they won’t have to in subsequent years, but if we can reel in one more MONSTER recruiting class we should be stacked enough to push everyone in our division around playing low-risk, basic fundamental football. Which is where Kirby clearly wants to take us…….But at this juncture, we are not there yet. So he is going to have to take calculated risks this year of the type that he never saw at Alabama. Except maybe in 2008 (year 2).

    Like

    • Greg

      Agree, we need a good year….recruiting would go to another level. If we can just sign one of those 5 star QB (preferably Fields)…..it takes off imo.

      Like

    • justduncandonut

      I don’t buy into the key to winning a championship is recruiting, CMR had talent so did Muschamp. Vandy & Tech beat us with far less talent. It’s more in the East about schemes, situations, finding matchups, and coaching, which is why UGA might be in trouble.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Greg

        Agree….it takes both coaching & recruiting. But recruiting can suffer if you are not winning. Fortunately, the newness of a HC & a new IPF created some excitement (#3 class)….but we need to win to sustain it. Between the two, I feel that coaching is a tad more important.

        Liked by 1 person

        • justduncandonut

          Kirby lost mostly to less talented teams in UT, UF, Tech, Ole Miss and Vandy. He got outcoached, plain and simple. Kirby is one of the best recruiters in the country, that will never be a problem for him, look at how Muschamp did in recruiting at UF, it was never a problem. If recruiting was all it took, CMR would have 3 or 4 rings at UGA.

          How do you explain the Vandy loss where you had a ridiculous talent discrepancy, or close games at Tech every year or Nichols St where the talent gap was a gulf size and Kirby barely pulled out a win?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Greg

            Again…I am agreeing (read again). But I am hoping Kirby can do both, so far…I do not see it. He needs to prove it (wins), fingers crossed.

            Liked by 1 person

            • justduncandonut

              what really bugged me is how Kirby’s teams got a big lead (UT & Tech for example), and then choked, didn’t have the ability to put teams away when he had them on the ropes, I don’t like that mentality of coasting with a big lead or letting teams stay in with close games. I need to see some blowout wins before I get on the Kirby train.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Greg

                Tough season last year.

                Like

                • justduncandonut

                  tough season last season? don’t see a different team than the 7-5 team, same guys on defense, and at key roles on offense, 3 inexperienced oline starters, little experience or size at receiver. Really think the same team and coaches can beat Tech, Notre Dame, UT, UF, and Auburn? I don’t even know if this team can beat Muschamp with their defense and Qb. Appal St is also scary, they just missed beating UT. Mizzou & Vandy worry me, not on paper, but on last year’s experiences.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Greg

                    Still a lot of unknowns (coaching). For me, it also boils down to QB play…but I guess that is partly coaching also. If we can get good/great QB play, that can make an ordinary OL look good. It can also open the playbook.

                    Like

                    • justduncandonut

                      to win championships, yes qb has to be good, but to win the East, qb is optional, just don’t turn it over, look at UF. About coaching in the east and right now Jim Mc and Butch are the man, we are 0-4 against the 2 here lately, so not even in the conversation until you start beating those 2.

                      Like

          • Southernlawyer11

            I don’t buy that UT and Ole Miss were less talented. That team I saw in the Oxford sauna that day wasn’t out-scheming us…..they were beating our brains in simply throwing the ball up in the air to receivers who absolutely owned our (otherwise pretty good) DBs. UT had upperclassmen that simply did not exist at Georgia by virtue of our 2013 class exodus. (as opposed to more developed, i.e. coached up, players.)
            The problem with Richt was roster management and O-Line depth. Always was…..so yes, I suppose it’s not all about February signing. But if you can manage to keep your previous classes in tact and happy as they age (i.e. not 2013), then you have a substantially more talented cupboard than what Richt was working with. As I said in another post, Kirby isn’t going to be replacing a suspended Bacarri Rambo with Connor Norman.

            Sure, if you look at Richt’s February numbers in a graph it looks like he had all the talent in the world……but when you dive in to his roster management practices (which is more akin to recruiting than talent development) then you can see there is a substantial difference in his modus operandi than the changes going on now.

            Like

            • justduncandonut

              Good post. Deserves a good response.

              UGA’s last 4 recruiting classes rank as 8,6,7,3, pretty hard to beat.

              Only 4 teams in the nation ranked higher in talent over 5 years:
              Bama, Ohio St, LSU, Fl St. The UGA comes in at No 5.
              http://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/roster-talent-rankings-college-football-teams-with-the-best-players-entering-2017/

              USC, LSU, come in high, both in top 6 most talented rosters, yet don’t win much either.

              So it’s not really about talent. CMR and Kirby did less with more than anyone except Notre Dame, UT, and Tex A/M.

              How does Kirby go 7-5 with that kind of talent? Hard to do.

              Liked by 1 person

              • southernlawyer11

                It’s fair to say Richt did less with more in quite a few years.

                The jury still doesn’t even have all the facts to begin deliberations on Kirby yet. But I agree in the sense that if Kirby even performs to Richt’s standards long term, one could argue he would be doing less with EVEN more.

                Like

  10. sectionZalum

    “Just because it’s your second year at a program, that’s not in rebuilding mode. It’s a program that was notching double-digit wins every season.”

    amen to THAT.

    Like

    • justduncandonut

      CMR did win a lot of games, like in 2015, beat the teams with losing records, blowout losses to all ranked teams. Double digit wins like 2015? Who cares.

      Like

  11. PharmDawg

    At UGA, the coach MUST consistently beat UT, FU, Auburn, and NATS. Failure to accomplish this got Goff, Donnan, and Richt fired. It won’t be any different for Kirby.

    Like

    • Southernlawyer11

      I would say consistently beating 3 out of 4 will get you around 15 years. Until that other 1 is always the same one, derailing everything.

      Like

      • justduncandonut

        I think the 2002 & 2005 seasons got CMR the extra years. Losing to the No 1 East team UF and ranked teams consistently, with such a talented roster, did him in. The only teams UGA could face with a roster with more talent would be Bama, Oh St, LSU, or Fl St. SHOULD beat everyone else ON PAPER.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Will Trane

    Manageable schedule? Not sure. Neutral vs home games?
    Jacksonville is not neutral. Never has been. It sits in the state of Florida. It ain’t in Cobb or Gwinnett Counties. Any Dawgs hope for a trip to the Dome has to go thru the Gators. And lately, that has not happen…take that back…for decades the Gators have had our number.
    Road games at South Bend, Auburn, Knoxville, and Nashville are not going to be easy.
    I’m not sure Smart has the offensive line to win all of those games, plus enough quality depth thru out the roster. I like the RBs and QBs and defensive. But the offense has a lot of questions, even for a second year QB who needs to stay injury free as well as those two RBs…a SEC caliber wideouts…plural, not just one.
    Start beating the Gators on a consistent basis, and then you know where you really are…until that happens it is unlikely you get to play Bama or LSU in the Dome.
    I think way too many fans and supporters peg themselves on that “two year myth”. I think the roster is another year out…get deep at QB and the offensive line and defensive line.
    Butch and Mark can point to 10 wins and 9 wins back to back…but they watched other teams in the Dome. At least UT finally got the Gators but it took a very experienced QB to do so…and even then Jones injury riddled team did not get there.
    Do not think Dawgs have the oline and wideouts to push the points and the pace of a game in the SEC for a place in the Dome.
    And perhaps the time has come to push the SEC Championship game out of Atanta to New Orleans…it sits in the West.

    Like