Kirby Smart wasn’t buying that “but we’re Georgia, damn it!” stuff when he was hired.
“When we got here I knew,” Smart said. “I coached against the University of Georgia. I recruited against the University of Georgia. I pretty much knew what was here.”
And then this critical sentence Kirby said that no one else would dare say in front of a podium over the last few years – and very few people would write or say out loud.
“I knew the level of expectation didn’t necessarily meet the quality of players that were here.”
Now there are two things to say in response to that, assuming, of course, that you take it at face value. One, no surprise, roster management did in Mark Richt. There was a dry stretch in recruiting, culminating in the disaster of 2013, that lasted until the 2015 class, from which the program is still recovering. You don’t have to have coached or recruited against Georgia to realize that.
Two, despite that, it’s only fair to note that Mark Richt won 19 games in 2014 and 2015. You can bitch, moan and qualify that all you want based on the level of opposition, the losses to Florida and whatever else tickles your fancy, but purely on a wins and losses basis, Richt did a good job coaching the talent he left himself. (If you don’t believe that, go count the number of football teams that managed that many wins over that two-year period.) Certainly, he got better results than Smart achieved last season.
I mention this not to support or attack either coach, but rather to analyze McGarity’s stated rationale for changing head coaches. If Georgia football had plateaued, I would argue that it was because of the way Richt had gone about accumulating talent. Smart has clearly upgraded the program in that department.
As Legge notes, though, even under Richt, that flaw had begun a correction course.
It must be pointed out that since Mark Richt’s final recruiting class, the 2015 class, things started to pick up. In that class a slew of very gifted players were signed and have been solid players ever since… Terry Godwin, Roquan Smith, Trent Thompson, Natrez Patrick, Jonathon Ledbetter.
Richt would have brought in a good 2016 class, too, had he lasted. That’s water under the bridge at this point, but bringing all the talent in the world to Athens means little in the long run if you can’t coach ’em up. The jury is still out on Smart as to that. In that regard, history says that Georgia coaches tend to improve their teams’ won-loss records significantly in their second seasons. Let’s hope that plays out again this year. Otherwise, all McGarity’s done is trade one plateau for another.