I can’t say I’m the biggest Dean Legge fan, but I do think he gets a lot right in his post about the pressure on Kirby Smart to win a natty. I certainly wouldn’t say I have a general impression that the fan base is unreasonably anxious about it, but I’ve seen more than a few comments here and there suggesting there’s a rise in impatience in certain quarters (not that I expect anyone in Butts-Mehre to take it seriously).
Anyway, saying it’s Smart’s fault isn’t fair, but I can’t quibble too much with this:
Winning it all is never an easy thing to do.
Georgia fans and Kirby Smart know that well. They know it in excruciating form, actually. But when does the pressure really start to build on Kirby Smart to win it all?
He’s recruited so well that players like Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason and Justin Fields have all been on campus in his first four years on the job. And yet the title has elided him – in a way more painful than most.
First, if folks are wondering out loud why you haven’t won it all yet that means you are doing something right. No one ever said that about Steve Spurrier in Cootlumbia, and I’ve yet to hear that about Dan Mullen in Gainesville.
What Kirby has done to elevate things at UGA shouldn’t be undersold. This was an institution (UGA) that wasn’t really sold on the power of a winning football program. And by winning I mean winning in a way that get people in Arizona, Nevada and California to notice you.
UGA may disagree with the notion that they didn’t understand the marketing power of football, but their actions over the last two decades say otherwise. For the bulk of that time the powers that be either seemed in the way, or were used as an excuse for the reason football was stumbling behind the Gators, Tide and much of the rest of the SEC. Georgia wasn’t living up to its potential.
Those days are gone.
If you want to say that in certain quarters, Kirby Smart is a victim of his own success, I don’t think that’s an unfair assessment. And I guess it’s fair to ask what happens if that final validation continues to elude his program for a few more years.
Either way, because of what Kirby has accomplished in his short time in Athens, one has to wonder when the pressure will really be on for him to win it all. Jim Donnan, Kirby’s coach while he played at UGA, was fired for losing three times in a row to Tech… that’s not the sort of pressure Kirby is facing. Mark Richt was let go beucase it had become clear the program had regressed.
Kirby has been given the keys to pretty much anything he wants at UGA (not without him having to make that happen). He’s recruited on a level the SEC has rarely seen. In fact, he might be recruiting at a level college football has never seen if he grabs another No. 1 class this coming winter (Nick Saban’s recruiting juggernaut included Kirby… now Saban going against him, and Kirby is winning).
The biggest thing that Kirby has done is change the level of imagination at UGA. Georgia should be doing this sort of winning, and more. And that’s what Kirby will be judged by.
Mark Richt built something in Athens. Kirby Smart, in turn, built upon that and and raised the level of the program as a result. Where do things go from here and how patient are you willing to be?
Me, I look at what Smart’s done in the past three months and I see someone who’s as unwilling to settle for what’s happened in the last three years as the impatient part of the fan base. The attitude we want to see is there. The question is whether his vision is right, but Smart’s earned the time to find out.