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.