(Updated: 6:30 p.m.)
Well — hello, yesterday.
Kirby Smart is trying to bring Georgia’s defense back to some level of prominence, similar to when Brian VanGorder was the Bulldogs’ coordinator. So how fortuitous it was when VanGorder suddenly became available two months ago after he was fired by Notre Dame. Smart brought in VanGorder as an aid to the coaching staff, breaking down film and providing input for game plans.
Smart confirmed the hiring, first reported by DawgNation’s Chip Towers. who reported VanGorder was brought in the week of the Auburn game. Smart disputed that Tuesday, saying VanGorder didn’t come aboard until “late last week” to help in preparation for the Georgia Tech game.
This obviously is a short-term situation. VanGorder, who has moved between NFL and college jobs since he left Georgia after the 2004 season, was fired in late September by Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and will be looking for full-time employment again after the regular season. It seems doubtful VanGorder would even stick around for the Dogs’ bowl game. The only thing that could change the equation is if defensive coordinator Mel Tucker left for a job in the NFL (where he has worked before), but there are no reports of that possibility yet.
The temp hiring makes a lot of sense for Georgia. It doesn’t matter that Smart was a defensive coordinator and he already has a DC in Tucker. VanGorder is one of the better defensive coaches in the country, regardless of the mess in South Bend. If he indeed had input Auburn week, it was a nice debut: The Dogs upset the No. 9-ranked Tigers 13-7, holding them to 164 yards and 10 first downs.
This move by Smart is similar to the one a year ago by Alabama’s Nick Saban. When Georgia fired Mark Richt after the Georgia Tech game, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt immediately returned to Alabama to help the Crimson’s Tide’s staff in the playoff. Pruitt became the new DC when Smart was hired by Georgia.
VanGorder’s return to Athens also makes sense for this reason: If he wanted to keep his hand in coaching this year, it was one of the few places he could come back to be welcomed as a hero. The Dogs finished fourth (2003) and eighth (2004) in the nation in total defense in his last two seasons. Among the top NFL draft picks he coached in Athens: Thomas Davis, David Pollack, Johnathan Sullivan, Sean Jones, Boss Bailey and Odell Thurman.
Then he became a coach on wheels.
He spent one season as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ linebackers’ coach (2005). He moved on to a disastrous one-year tenure as Georgia Southern’s head coach (2006). Then came five years with the Falcons (four as coordinator under Mike Smith), one with Auburn (2012) one with the New York Jets (2013) and two-plus at Notre Dame.
The man has collected a lot of sweatshirts.
How much is VanGorder getting paid for at least two weeks of work? Probably less than Ludacris did for 15 minutes at Georgia’s spring game ($65,000). A smart and economic move by Smart.
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