Seth Emerson notes an interesting contrast between the offseasons of Kirby Smart and Nick Saban:
Saban’s staff has experienced a remarkable staff turnover since winning the national championship on Jan. 8. But that’s nothing new, and it’s a lesson going forward for those who follow Kirby Smart and Georgia as the Bulldogs ascend into the same top echelon.
Someone in the industry pointed this out to me this week: Tosh Lupoi is the only assistant coach remaining from the Alabama staff that won the national championship in 2016. Since then Saban has brought in nine new assistants, in part to replace four assistants who left for jobs as head coaches: Smart, Jeremy Pruitt, Lane Kiffin and Mario Cristobal.
Georgia, meanwhile, will have three new coaches this offseason, but only lost two from last year: Kevin Sherrer and Shane Beamer, who each moved on to more prominent roles. Georgia was able to fend off the programs that pursued some of Smart’s other valuable assistants, which is why a number of them got substantial raises.
Seth goes on to wonder how much that will help Georgia’s chances in 2018. Nobody really knows, of course, and it’s obviously a small sample size, but if I have to answer that, I’d say it likely helps Georgia and doesn’t really hurt Alabama, if that makes sense.
The reason I say that is because the two programs are at very different points on their organizational arcs. Georgia is undergoing a meteoric rise, but Smart’s regime is still very much in its infancy. To use a tired metaphor, he’s done a remarkable job in two years changing the battleship’s direction, but it still got some ways to go before it’s fully headed in the optimal course.
At that point on the curve, continuity is vital. The players on Georgia’s 2017 roster enjoyed having the same offensive and defensive coordinators year-over-year for the first time since 2013. Getting everyone in the program on the same page buying in to the staff’s vision was huge. It was also very unlikely to happen if there had been another round of coaching changes as had been the case for three straight seasons.
Alabama is a totally different animal. The Process has been entrenched there for a decade. The football program is a complete reflection of Nick Saban’s vision, secure in the knowledge that it works and works well. The issue in Tuscaloosa isn’t making sure players are buying in; it’s hiring coaches that Nick Saban believes can best implement his blueprint for success. Given his track record, there’s no reason to think his newest staff won’t work out.
I expect every year that goes by in Athens, then, will wind up being a year when staff continuity impacts the program a little bit less. Not that I’m looking forward to seeing good coaches leave, but I expect the transitions to grow ever more smooth.