I figured eventually someone in the national punditry would rank Kirby Smart ahead of Nick Saban. I just didn’t think it would be this soon and that it would come from Matt Hayes.
1. Kirby Smart ($7 million per season; expected extension this month): His team is the defending national champion, and he has proven he can recruit and develop better than any other coach in the game.
Think about this: In the age of quarterback means everything, Smart won a national title — and is a favorite to win it again this season — with a game manager at the most important position in football.
He was a blown coverage in the secondary from winning the 2017 national championship, and Georgia is a recruiting machine — with or without NIL. He’s locked in at No. 1 until he’s knocked off the mountain.
Which brings us to …
2. Nick Saban, Alabama ($9.1 million): He is the mountain. The gold standard for college football coaches, and other than Bill Belichick, all football coaches.
But it’s hard to ignore what his No. 1 student has accomplished at Georgia — and how it has been to the detriment of Saban and Alabama. All of those elite Georgia defenders are the same players Smart was recruiting and developing at Alabama as the Tide’s defensive coordinator.
There’s a reason Alabama’s defense has declined (from its own elite standard) over the past 5 seasons. It’s not the DC or the scheme; it’s the players.
It’s close, but in the SEC, it’s not about what you’ve done. It’s about what you just did. Right now, Smart has the edge.
I guess that means Nick will be back on top of himself if ‘Bama wins the natty this season. Or something like that.