I have to give Dan Wetzel credit. He’s managed to weave the stuff about Randle El and the raft of early departures to the NFL together into a piece and arrive at my Uncle Nate conclusion as a solution.
I think I need a raise.
It seems like an eternity ago, although it was only last August, that I posted something in response to Andy Staples arguing that Georgia is the best football coaching job in America. Give him credit; this sounds prescient five months later:
• As far as taking the next step, there are a lot of factors. But let’s be honest. If some things break differently in the 2012 SEC title game, Georgia has a national title under Mark Richt and we’re probably not having this conversation. But the fact is Georgia has been the best team in the East on paper for most of the years since Tim Tebow left Florida and has two East titles and no SEC titles to show for it. Given its advantages and the current state of the SEC East, Georgia should be in the national title hunt most years.
• Mark Richt is on a very short list of coaches I’d want my kid to play for. He is secure in who he is and how he wants to run the program. He clearly cares about his players, and the program he created to help transition to life after football is a prime example. He hasn’t compromised what he considers his mission for the sake of winning. That’s great from a human standpoint and tough from a professional one, because he gets paid a healthy salary to win titles. I know no school president or athletic director will ever say it out loud, but coaches almost always get fired because of their win-loss record—not because they didn’t mold enough men.
So here we are in January, with Kirby Smart manning the helm. And maybe that explains why Staples is far more bullish on Georgia’s chances in 2016 than any other national pundit appears to be right now.
Here’s a rundown of some projections already:
–Georgia is No. 8 in Sports Illustrated’s “very early top 10.” Andy Staples writes that Smart “walks into a program stocked with talent; after nine years at Bama he should know how to unleash it.”
–FoxSports.com’s Stewart Mandel made his “extremely early stab” at a top 25. He placed the Bulldogs at No. 19. “The Dawgs’ season largely hinges on how quickly incoming freshman QB Jacob Eason is ready to take the reins of coordinator Jim Chaney’s offense.”
–ESPN.com’s “way-too-early top 25” by Mark Schlabach slots Georgia at No. 23. “Georgia’s schedule isn’t especially taxing with only four true road games, including an early trip to Ole Miss.”
–USA Today didn’t put Georgia in Paul Myerburg’s top 25. He does have Richt’s Miami team though at No. 21. “It helps to have a quarterback, Brad Kaaya, who rivals Deshaun Watson for the title of the ACC’s best.”
–Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com has Georgia No. 22 in his “way-too-early” power rankings, saying that “there are worse ways to go into your first season as a coach. Kirby Smart gets tailback Nick Chubb back. That alone could make the Dawgs a contender in the SEC East.”
I don’t know if Staples is right, but at least I’ll acknowledge his intellectual consistency.
Don’t miss Tony Barnhart’s HOT TAKE on Georgia’s 2016 season.
They don’t call him Mr. Conventional Wisdom for nothing, you know.
Bowls making you hungry? Okay.
ESPN’s Greg Ostendorf wants to know something. “Why is nobody talking about Tennessee?”
Several paragraphs later comes this:
Five straight wins to finish the season. The only SEC team who has a better winning streak is the conference champion, Alabama.
Now granted, not one of those five wins came against a team that was bowl eligible.
November’s been a joke of a month on Tennessee’s schedule since the dawn of time, it feels like. So pardon the rest of the world if we’re not ready to jump the Vols into the top ten right now.
(Before some of you start, we’ll talk about next preseason when it gets here.)
If you’re wondering what they’ll be saying about the decision to hire Kirby Smart if things don’t click in Athens for him, have no fear. The good football watching citizens of Montana have already been whispering in Stewart Mandel’s ear.
Georgia: Hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. It’s easy to see why Georgia would covet the former Dawgs safety-turned Nick Saban protege. It’s a bit puzzling, though, why AD Greg McGarity put all his chips on a first-time head coach rather than conduct a search befitting a consensus Top 10 job. Smart has all the necessary training. Whether he has the chops to be an SEC head coach long term is unclear. [Emphasis added.]
I dunno. Will “the Dawg ate the search firm’s homework” make for a satisfactory defense to that criticism?
This is a sad tale of how media access to college players and coaches is slowly being choked off.
Billy Watkins of the Clarion-Ledger vented about his frustrations in a column about covering college football in Mississippi. In an email to me, Watkins wrote:
“I’m doing a big profile of a player at Navy. He is a senior from Mississippi. They have bent over backward getting me anything and everything I need for the story. They lined me up a 45-minute phone interview with him. They also set up an interview with the Navy head coach.
“It took me five months last year to get into the office of Ole Miss’ coach. And we’re the largest paper in the state. I’m sorry, but the subject kind of works me up.”
I know a lot of you have little sympathy for the media these days, but I gotta tell you as someone who blogs about the sport with no contact at all to the program, the beat writers make a valuable contribution to what I can glean about things. I also think the piece makes a good point about players learning the skill of dealing with the media.
Sure, there’s always a risk of something dumb being said. But that’s just as real, if not more so, on social media. Bottom line, a lot of this sounds like typical control issues. Which, as I started here, is kinda sad.