After a bitterly disappointing loss in Tuscaloosa Saturday night, it is obvious that the Georgia Bulldogs are in need of some “fixing.” Certainly not a major overhaul. While you don’t snap your fingers and solve a personnel problem, it would be safe to say that if anybody is up to the task, it would be Kirby Smart, a fair-minded man.
As the fourth quarter played out, certainly not to Georgia’s liking, it was a blatant reminder that Alabama still is the best in the SEC at recruiting the best overall football talent. Nick Saban's team is deep at all positions and if the talent is not outstanding at a particular position, it is more than adequate. For example, Mac Jones may not be the most talented quarterback in the business, but he has the best talent surrounding him of any QB in college football.
Kirby has made it a mission to recruit on the level of Alabama and has reached that point for the most part. He is an elite quarterback away from fielding an elite team, especially if you throw in a receiver or two.
It takes time to get the complete package. Saban didn’t get it right at Michigan State, which is why he went to LSU. With frustrations with the Dolphins, he realized you can build a program quicker on the college level and sustain it easier on the campus than in the NFL. That is why he left his lucrative position in Miami and lit out for Tuscaloosa.
Kirby has the resoluteness to make changes. He can be cold-blooded if necessary when it comes to staff. After all, the critics are cold-blooded. What is that you hear coming out of Big Orange Country? Nothing is more lethal than alumni discontent.
It took Dabo Swinney a half-dozen years to get it right. Before a new athletic director arrived with one of the most ambitious building programs in history of college athletics, this was prominent on the Swinney stat sheet: five straight losses to South Carolina. Memories of the 2012 Orange Bowl had the fan base believing that Dabo was certainly a nice guy, BUT…! After West Virginia beat Clemson 70-33 in Miami, the young and enthusiastic coach certainly was not coach-of-the-year in the hearts of Tiger alumni.
While Kirby has not won a national championship, Georgia has had a remarkable uptick on his watch. In only two seasons, he had the Bulldogs playing for the national championship — a game he could have won, but every single break — at least a half dozen — went against him. He has taken his team to the SEC championship three times in his four years.
Georgia’s building program and facility expansion is but a couple of developments away to making the overall football complex as elite as any school in the country. We don’t know what our world will be like post pandemic, but a normal environment should enable the Bulldog program to regenerate to accommodate his ultimate objectives.
Anybody who knows anything about football, especially coaches in the 1960’s and '70’s would tell you there was not a better and more devoutly competitive coach than Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. His Wolverine teams won or shared 13 Big Ten titles and played in the Rose Bowl 10 times. His winning percentage at Michigan was 79.6. In his career (Michigan and Miami of Ohio) he won 234 games.
He was elected to the College Football Hall of fame but never won a national championship. Many suggest that Nick Saban is the greatest college coach of all time. He certainly should get votes as the most accomplished coach although some historians might suggest that he is not the most successful coach to reside in Tuscaloosa. You remember Bear Bryant?
The most graphic example of the fickleness of college football is that of Tom Osborne of Nebraska. He was all set to take over in Lincoln in 1972 following the Cornhuskers' back-to-back national championships in 1970-71. Bob Devaney decided to stay one more year, with the goal of winning three national titles in a row. Osborne had to wait a year to become head coach, which came about in 1973.
With all the success Nebraska had experienced and with Osborne’s consistency of winning, it took him 21 one years to win a national title. He then won three: 1994, 1995 and 1997.
The New York Yankees, the New England Patriots, the Lombardi Packers and Alabama, notwithstanding, it is still difficult to win a championship. Bobby Bowden finally won a national championship in his 31st year.
Funny how things go. Steve Spurrier, who experienced a 5-8-1 record versus FSU, lost to the Seminoles in the regular season in 1996 but got a rematch in the Sugar Bowl. He moved Danny Wuerffel to the shotgun and the Gators dominated the game. However, getting the rematch was unlikely. No. 3 Nebraska playing in the first Big Twelve championship game, lost to unranked Texas 37-27. Had the favored Cornhuskers won that game, they would have met top-ranked Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. Without the rematch with FSU, would Spurrier have experienced the same fate as Bo Schembechler?
I have watched Kirby Smart work and enjoy even the briefest of conversations with him. He has a remarkable way about him. Youth is on his side and he will someday bring memorable results. His consistency of winning and indefatigable recruiting mantra will bring that about. I wouldn’t swap him for any coach in the country.