Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Smart Era - a mid-season evaluation

This is one of those where I am, how we got here, and where we’re going posts.

The good news for me is that my frustration lies more in the short term than the long term. The record might be better under our previous coach, but I doubt we’d be so much better that we’d avoid difficult conversations about Richt's future. The fact is that Vince Lombardi himself couldn’t have beaten Florida with that offensive line.

So yes, I still believe in Coach Smart, even as frustrating as it is watching him grow up as a head coach. I like his energy and enthusiasm. I think recruits react well to him, obviously. And I think he has great upside as a head coach in college football.

However, the question about Smart’s future has changed ever so slightly, at least for me. Given the circumstances of Richt’s firing, we’re not going to be faced with any decision to make in a couple years if we haven’t reached the SEC Championship game (at a minimum). The only decision to make will be between UGA and Smart’s representation of what any settlement will be.

Again, that’s the program that we are now. There’s no going back on that.

So I do believe Smart can be a great head coach. Given what I’ve seen eight games in my confidence is shaken a bit as to whether he can become a great one quickly enough. Here’s the two examples of that that I think are the most glaring at this point:
  1. Our overall depth will improve next year and especially into Smart’s third year. But will the last couple years’ glaring deficiencies in wide receiver and offensive line recruiting have had enough time to correct itself to a championship level? We may get an idea in February. But we can’t be absolutely sure for some time. And that’s as difficult for me to come to grips with as it is for you I’m sure.
  2. By the time the depth chart resembles a title contender, will Smart have overcome his lack of sideline balance. The truth is our head coach still has a lot of position coach in him. Which begs the question that goes back to Richt’s firing and Smart’s subsequent introductory press conference when he emphatically stated that he would be hands on in every facet of the game. Did we over correct from a coach that ended his tenure as more of a CEO to a kid that forgets to manage the game clock because he’s trying to control too many other things?

Those are two honest and fair questions to ask at this point. We can get into arguments over assistants and coordinators’ jobs if you’d like, but in the end the two most important concerns are those right there. We can stockpile talent on the sidelines to be a contender, but if the head coach still treats timeouts like stock in a bullish market it’s not going to win us the big game we’ve gone all in on.

Yes, the truth is Smart inherited at least part of the problem in #1. But we’re a program that doesn’t make excuses any longer. So it is Smart’s problem to fix.

And yes, I still believe he can. Even as angry as I am that it’s November 1st and we’re still fighting for bowl eligibility. Even as angry as I am that Chubb will likely leave campus having never beaten Florida.

Even as angry as I am with the realization that while this new era may still be a step in the right direction, it won’t be as quick a fix as I had hoped.