Familiarity breeds success.

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.


Filed under Georgia Football

20 responses to “Familiarity breeds success.

  1. Bright Idea

    I suspect that staff turnover at Bama may ultimately affect recruiting more than actual coaching. You always hear about building relationships in the recruiting game and a revolving door may have caught up to them, a least a little bit.


  2. Anonymous

    Slight addition, Senator: I’d argue Saban has started looking for coaches who can not just implement, but also improve his system schematically, at least on the offensive side. Yes, he’ll ride them for calls he doesn’t like, but I think he wants a schematic edge for when the constrictor approach doesn’t work anymore. Tua in the NC was a wild bet that worked, and Sabans not the kind to rely on luck. Looking forward to what Fields, a stout OL, and those franchise receivers in the 2019 class can do for us.


  3. gastr1

    Honestly Saban’s ability to manage that kind of turnover in the coaching staff is more impressive than managing turnover with the kids. The young guys don’t have x number of years developing a career based in certain tendencies and styles that got them where they are.

    Football coaches….a bunch of type-A middle-aged men having to stand down and work together at the behest of a quasi-king figure. It’s downright un-American, I tells you! (that’s a joke.)


  4. Hillbilly Dawg

    I can help but believe that after seeing the gentle decline in Bamas recruitment the last two cycles as juxtaposed to UGA’s ascent, there is a direct link to Kirby Smart. Perhaps Kirby became the power behind the throne while under Lord Saban. A king can onybe as strong as his most loyal knight. Perhaps Kirby Smart is the Mordred of Lord Saban.


  5. Jack Klompus

    This is similar to Urbie. Hoping that Kirby can get to this level of coaching and program management. It’s what makes those two the best in the business.


    • Macallanlover

      Urbie is no where near Saban as a coach, or leader, imo. Very solid teams with Tebow, but remove that specific QB and I doubt he wins the SEC those two years. Has had much superior talent in the Big14 but hasn’t come anywhere near what Saban has done, even against weaker competition. I know he gets accolades from many, I’m just not in that camp.


  6. artful codger

    No matter how good a recruiter one might be, I would think it a tough deal to walk into a new situation, be “handed-off” a kid who had been effectively recruited by your predecessor, and told “for God sake, don’t lose him”. Too much of that has happened in Tuscaloosa for it not to be a detriment.


  7. Hogbody Spradlin

    We are but one championship away from losing staff to bigger and better things, but those are problems you should have.


  8. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    I just want to say this: We’re in the doldrums of college football, and compared with past years the posts this year during the doldrums are much more fun than past years whatever your opinion may be. May this last several more seasons!


  9. Argondawg

    Saban’s battleship is just fine but I can’t help the feeling that he has to know that UGA is coming. Saban will be 68 this year and essentially bringing an entirely new stuff up to speed is a nightmare even in any organization. If he has another sub par (Alabama standards) recruiting class next year I thing even the king is going to have a hard time fighting off youngsters like Kirby. I’m in my 50s. I don’t have the energy I had in my 40s. I’m not saying we are the next Bama or if there will be another Saban like Bama run again in my lifetime. Age is an mf’er and it catches up with us all. Then again we haven’t established if Saban is completely human.
    On a side note I rewatched our post season run with my 19 year old football smart daughter and as the team was coming through the tunnel in one of the games Kirby went out of his way to fist bump a dude that was obviously someone important and dressed hip hop style. I said “Who was that?” She just rolled her eyes and said that’s “Quavo. From the Migos. If you were my age you’d know who that is.” Kirby is plugged into the generation he is recruiting.


    • Cojones

      Interesting post with that observation. It makes sense that he is with it with these kids and makes one wonder if the other recruiters are into the kid,s social platforms as well.


  10. Derek

    This next recruiting cycle will tell us a lot. Do UT and UF cut into our class by offering a friendlier depth chart? Does Alabama get shut out of Georgia again? Can Kirby pull a player or 2 out of Alabama (we’re trying)?

    If Kirby put Georgia on lock in 2019 there is going to be some restructuring in the SEC going on. Saban built that beast on talent and depth not x’s and o’s. He’s in a tougher neighborhood in the West too.

    Of course, on the field performance is what will matter most. Personally, I think if we can survive through 10/13, and be healthy, we’re going to be extremely tough to beat in the second half of the season. Once that OL finally shapes up and we know who needs to get the ball, we’re gonna be a terror to play. We may be young on defense, but the depth and speed will be unprecedented for us.


  11. Saw where Saban added Coach Kool. Now that is a damn fine addition. Too bad he did not stay at Miami or at least away from SEC teams.


  12. UGA '97

    The Process is bullet proof. Saban brings in coaches in need of reputation repair after failed HC attempts, new coordinators, old coordinators, promotes from within, etc. It is still his Defense that makes them all look good on gameday. Recruiting can only be considered in decline at Alabama when Saban misses on a couple 5 stars that likely would have to sit on the bench for a season. Keep in mind, this was the first early signing period- if that had any impact then you can bet Saban has already fixed that. Once Kirby fully stocks up the cupboard, we will be there too and as our coaching churn increases year to year we will experience the same. I do think some coaches that have Alabama on their resume get exposed once they get “promoted” at next stops.


    • Otto

      I maybe wrong but the new DC doesn’t need repair, he is young guy stepping out on the big stage. Saban seems to have stepped away from them a little with Junior, and Sark out. I was half expecting Saban to ire McElwain back in some role if not OC.

      Saban just won the national title but the last recruiting class shows kids don’t necessarily follow the recent championships or dominant program. They go to relationships and the hot program.

      Saban is in the biggest staff rebuild since he was hired at Bama. He does know how to build the program but this is a bit of an opening for the challengers. Yes UGA has momentum. I am expecting some more monster games between Saban and Smart in the near future.


  13. 92 grad

    I just hope whoever teaches tackling and blocking sticks around. Best team of Georgia I’ve ever seen. Good solid football. Otherwise I also hope that all this talent shows up on the field and that last season wasn’t smoke and mirrors. I don’t think it was but ya gotta admit, we’ve been humbled pretty often in the past by teams that get ranked top 10 and crumble in November. (Well, include last Saturday in October)