Kirby Smart hire makes sense for Georgia, even if wow factor lacking

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is set to be named Georgia’s head coach. (AL.com photo)

I understand the angst about firing Mark Richt. He was a 15-year coach who understood the college athletics mission better than anyone, coached and molded young men the right way and gave Georgia nine-plus wins a season, even if too often they weren’t the right wins.

I understand the angst about the expected hiring of Kirby Smart. He never has been a head coach and, while he is recognized as one of the nation’s top young assistants, he is a defensive coordinator for a head coach (Nick Saban) whose specialty is defense — and so the cynical thinking goes, how much credit should he really get for Alabama’s success?

But this makes sense on a number of levels. According to the Journal-Constitution’s Chip Towers, Georgia is set to hire Smart, Alabama’s defensive coordinator, as its head coach as early as Sunday or Monday. So right off the bat, the Bulldogs can save travel expenses: Smart will coach the Crimson Tide’s defense against Florida in the Georgia Dome Saturday and he could be in Athens for an introductory news conference a day or two later.

Is Smart the perfect choice? There’s no way of knowing that. He never has called the shots before. And, yes, like many, I would have liked to see athletic director Greg McGarity shoot for the moon with an established and successful head coach to take over one of the nation’s five best coaching jobs. But the Smart hire could be the right hire. A few reasons:

• Alabama has had the best program in the nation over the last eight years, winning three national championships (2009, 2011, 2012, with another potential one coming this season), three SEC titles (I’m guessing it will be four after Saturday) and six SEC West titles (often the gateway to the national title game). This doesn’t guarantee Saban’s coaching off-spring will be a success, and indeed there have been some flops. But I’ll take my chances that Smart has benefited from osmosis in meeting rooms and practices. He must have some insight how Alabama came to Athens twice in recent years and waxed the Dogs both times — 41-30 in 2008 and 38-10 this season. Want to beat the best? Steal from the best.

• With dysfunction on the coaching staff this season, it is believed the administration is unlikely to bring back defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, a source of that dysfunction. So bringing in Smart at least ensures the defensive side of the ball is taken care of. If Pruitt is retained, all the better. But he may not want to stick around either, knowing the head coach now has a defensive background. Smart and Pruitt worked together in Tuscaloosa but I’m not sure that’s a factor in this case.

• I’m not a believer that a program needs to hire “one of its own.” But it does help that Smart played at Georgia and understands the landscape, both in the state and across the SEC. He’s also an excellent recruiter and the fact the Tide will be playing this week and most likely in the college football playoffs has to be an advantage at a time when some recruits are waffling.

Everybody will want to see who Smart brings in as his offensive coordinator and what style offense the Dogs will run, particularly quarterback Jacob Eason (who took a visit to Florida Tuesday). Everybody will want to see what decisions Smart makes in crucial situations and with games on the line. There are never guarantees with new coaches. But I think this hire makes sense.

More on Smart:

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Reader Comments 0

41 comments
Sacagawea
Sacagawea

We're going to miss Kirby Smart.  I wish him the best of luck at a place where nobody appreciates anything at all.  And if you notice, he is just about the only assistant on the sidelines at whom Nick Saban ISN'T yelling during a game.  Kirby is a great guy, very smart, and good with the players.  I sincerely hope that he has great success at Georgia.

NorwegianBlue
NorwegianBlue

Kudos to Propst for suggesting Chip Lindsey for the OC position. Really wish Schultz, Bradley and Towers would start banging that drum. 

50Concept
50Concept

if kirby hire muschamp, how will he get him to cool it down on the sideline after a bad call? will cost auburn 3 points with that 15 yard penalty against alabama.

FlatTire
FlatTire

Im going to leave this here as well


ok so the following Defensive coordinators that became head coaches really aren't successful coaches; 


Bob Stoops

Pete Carol

Nick Saban

Gary Paterson

Jimmy Johnson

Irk Russel

Bill Belechek Patriots

Mark Dantonio  Mich St coach


Is this correct everyone?

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@FlatTire 

It's correct except you spelled ERK Wrong.Other than that good point,you win with Defense especially up front.

DigitalDaron Podcast
DigitalDaron Podcast

@FlatTire  the problem is most of them started somewhere else and had wild success on their 2nd or 3rd stop.  Stoops and Patterson are the only 2 that had success at first/only stop (that is off top of the head). erk was a different beast since he was creating Georgia southern from scratch. So while I understand your point your premise is flawed

I'm just going to leave this here...


List of defensive coaches whose 1st HC job was in SEC in the last 20 years: 


R. Zook
E. Oregon
M. Dubose
S. Croom
M. Stoops
D. Mason
W. Muschamp


Overall record: 125-162
SEC record: 68-124

he_of_stinky_wind
he_of_stinky_wind

Don't see Kirby Smarts name on the list.  What is your point?

DawginLex
DawginLex

I have criticized McGarity and I still believe he needs to retire but, I give him credit for this hire. Just like Richt 15 years ago, you hire the top coordinator at the school that is winning the most. The advantage Smart has is he can help us lock down the state of Georgia. He has high expectations created by Richt. No SEC title within 3 years and he is probably unemployed

50Concept
50Concept

Why didn't the dogs hire the coach at Houston, who is an offensive genius?? Hiring an unproven D coordinator---risky. Example: will muschamp--who almost ruined florida's program.

DerekGator
DerekGator

@FlatTire @50Concept :  Well, they had exactly the same resume, they played the same place, they both coached for Saban, both about the same age, both fiery personalities, they both have blond wives (Muschamp's is hotter), both had losing playing records to FL.  How is he not Will Muschamp?

FlatTire
FlatTire

@DerekGator  You have no clue how Smart is going to do


Had Muschamp hired the right Offensive Coordinator we wouldn't even be talking about this


Im sure Smart has the better sense to know that if he doesnt hire the right people he will be back to coaching defense somewhere


Evidently Richt didn't this year hiring the person he decided to go with

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@DerekGator @FlatTire @50Concept 

I have never seen Kirby Smart melt down on the sideline like Muschamp (BOOM). Boom's a good DC ,and may get another chance to be a head coach(Big 12) again. But any comparison to Smart is just your superficial comparison of the hottness of their wives.

DerekGator
DerekGator

No casino gambling in downtown Atlanta but their is a huge gamble going on in Athens.  As a Gator, I love it that GA is going all in on a defensive coordinator that has never been an HC before.  Do you people not realize that the SEC is not a place for on the job training, especially after witnessing what a disaster Will Muschamp was at FL.  Also, don't you know that DC's moving to first time HC's have a losing record. Thank you GA, we will be laughing all the way to Jacksonville for the next few years. 

FlatTire
FlatTire

@DerekGator  "we will be laughing all the way to Jacksonville for the next few years. "


Evidently you missed the Richt era vs FL in Jacksonville

FlatTire
FlatTire

Im willing to believe Smart realizes if he can lock the state of Georgia down in recruiting he will take this program to the next level

TideDawg
TideDawg

I don't think Richt will fit the program in Miami. Our elite sportswriters make it sound like he will go down there and reform the entire panhandle of South Florida. I think he may end up at Alabama as OC if Kiffin leaves. Think about it! He could become the coach in waiting to replace Saban in a few years because he won't be in a hurry to get back into the HC frenzy. .......Well, heck, it's just an idea don't go crazy! His only problem would be the discipline factor, that's one of the strong suits of Saban's success. Saban doesn't tolerate mediocrity or complacency. .......I wonder if Saban would consider running the sports section of the AJC? I know two writers that wouldn't survive.

FlatTire
FlatTire

@TideDawg Bama hiring Richt as the head coach after Saban leaves


thats hilarious

Howardgarrett
Howardgarrett

Why not Coach Richt as Offensive Coordinator? He likely knew where McGarity was going with the hiring of K. Smart. Thus his comments of being more hands on in coaching. He is no doubt happy in Athens and may not be motivated to rebuild another program.

DerekGator
DerekGator

@Howardgarrett Come on, dumbest comment on this board. Do you think Richt really wants to coach at the place that just fired him and report to a kid that just took his job?  Do you really think that Kirby Smart wants someone second guessing everything he says or does? 

Peachs
Peachs

College football is a mutation, on film, where you have to be out-thinking the opponent and be a four quarter team, tough and fit, that can implement the thinking till the end of the game. Alabama takes a beating in the press being so one minded, but that is what millions of dollars, especially in a state where a million is a million, buys you.  I always thought Saban was risking his own life making Alabama pay him all that money, but he proved to be worth it, no bricks in his window. In the meanwhile instead of chasing misfits away he recruits them, as players and coaches, he sees value in winning and nothing else.  That is SEC football, a dirty venue that you have to love being in if you are to succeed. 

mgunter
mgunter

Bla Bla Bla, who cares what you think. College Athletics have hit a new low with this firing (see coach Saban's quote) .This old Dawg will be a long time getting over this. I am thinking I probably need to find something else to occupy my time going forward. This stuff makes me sad.

TideDawg
TideDawg

@mgunter Yeah! I've thought about occupying my time with something else. That works good for me during the summer but come late August every year......well, I'm sure you know the routine and that antsy feeling you get. Schultz and Bradley will start pumping up the expectations and saying the Dawgs should win the East, the SEC and the National Championship and Dawg Nation will swallow it because they are hungry. Those two love stirring the pot. After a loss they will start working on firing a coach and how bad a hire K. Smart was for the Dawgs.

RangeRover
RangeRover

When hired, Richt was a coordinator on a perennial national championship contender.  Smart is a coordinator on a perennial national championship contender.   You can't say Smart's accomplishments under Saban are any less noteworthy than you can Richt's under Bowden.  

He is leaving the program on the cusp of greatness; he is not leaving the program on the cusp of disaster which is often the case when a good, tenured coach is replaced.  Smart will be coming in with a solid foundation to build upon.

Keep it simple:  

  • Richt, a wonderful man and one whom I will miss, personally, all but admitted he had grown weary in the job and you could tell in his departure interview he is ready for something else.  That's perfectly fine and I wish him the very best. He is leaving a program on the cusp of greatness; he is not leaving a program in need of major reconstruction.
  • Smart is a championship pedigreed DC who has been tutored by one of the two best college coaches (along with Meyer) of the past decade.  He is a Georgia native, a former Bulldog, a former Captain (he's been showing leadership skills since college) a great Georgia recruiter, and by all understanding a quality person.  Not a single damn one of us on here has a crystal ball so don't pretend you do by predicting his success or failure.  

Every head coach was at one time an assistant somewhere who was given a chance.  If he were you, your friend, your child or your brother you'd want him to have a chance.  So, let's be mature here and give the man a chance, shall we?

DerekGator
DerekGator

@RangeRover When Richt was hired, we lived in a different world, coaches today are CEO's of $100-$200 million dollar enterprises and not having experience as a CEO (HC) will mean several years of on the job training. 

UGA75
UGA75

Jeff, I thought and hoped you would avoid expressing an opinion on the Kirby Smart hire. The fact that both you and Mark Badly (sic) <like his expressed opinions> are in favor of his hiring means he has no chance at all. The two of you are the kiss of death to everyone you praise even a little bit, see your earlier columns about the Falcons when they were winning before you jinxed them. Try this just for the heck of it, write a column tomorrow about how good the Carolina Panthers are, or even how Florida has less chance of winning than a hen with a Fox in her house. I really think your jinx could beat Alabama, then just think how much you could charge to write something positive about teams people hate, you'd be rich.


You aren't a bad guy, your humorous efforts are usually pretty entertaining. Your serious work has you being compared with Badly which is not a good thing. Kirby Smart will be another Ray Goff, this is too big a stage for someone's first head coaching gig. Derek Dooley was a very good coach prior to going to UT, but he was over his head, as will be Kirby.


Try praising Carolina in a blog, I'd love to see them crash. It would be a public service.

RangeRover
RangeRover

@UGA75

What are your qualifications to predict Smart's success or failure?  Use facts, please, not utterly absurd and childish superstition like suggesting a sportswriter's impact on success or failure by simply expressing an opinion.  You give southerners a bad name and perpetuate such with this gibberish.