Here’s a really good piece from Bruce Feldman exploring how Nick Saban harnesses all that talent, something Kirby Smart’s taken to heart as a head coach.
Every coach aspires to take his team where Nick Saban and Kirby Smart had Alabama and Georgia at the end of last season, and most of them spend the offseason talking about the importance of developing a program-wide culture that will help them reach that championship stage. This year’s two College Football Playoff finalists didn’t get to the top of the SEC and the college football world just by loading up with talented players (although that certainly helped). They also pride themselves on something Saban assistants past and present have said is the key to building his dynasty, a simple concept that contains multitudes: discipline.
The word carries a variety of meanings, but in short, you can either view discipline as a consequence of bad behavior or a driver of good behavior. A coach who recently took over a struggling program thought his players’ definition from the previous regime would be “the stuff that the coaches make us do if we get caught doing something wrong.” Saban has his own definition, and members of the Alabama and Georgia programs have internalized it and integrated it within their routines.
Most of what he writes about is devoted to Saban’s work, which is only fair, but you’ll be interested in the part that’s about Athens.
Smart took over a program that had consistently been good, but not great. To fix that, he installed Saban’s system of values, which forced players and coaches alike to make an adjustment.
“No detail is left un-talked-about,” Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney says. “We dot every I and cross every T. It sometimes might be a little uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s gonna be talked about. Kirby is diligent as heck about all that.”
Awkward as they may be at times, these conversations become the norm. “It’s had every day,” Georgia quarterbacks coach James Coley says. “I always felt like when you walked in staff meetings, you were there to get your players better. Everybody’s trying to get better, but now you’re saying to yourself, ‘How can I get better in this staff meeting?’ Because you really get better as a coach. Coach Smart has done a great job helping us all get better as coaches.
When asked for his definition of discipline, Coley rattles off examples. “This is what it means to me: Not jumping offsides. Being able to stop when the whistle blows. Running your route exactly where it’s supposed to be run.”
His perspective has changed since Georgia hired Smart. “Leaving Miami [in 2015] and coming back to a system like this, there’s a big emphasis on the little details. Not that there wasn’t at Miami, but there’s just such a huge emphasis on the small print. Ten years ago, discipline meant being on time, not missing your appointments. The difference is we do a better job of working on distractions these days.”
You read that, and it’s not hard to understand why the program has taken a step up from the Richt days.