Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman delivered a thoughtful opinion about why Kirby Smart was able to enjoy success faster after leaving Alabama than other former Nick Saban assistants.
In speaking to WJOX 94.5 FM on Wednesday, the analyst credited key Georgia staff hires by Smart, in particular offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman, as a big reason why Smart avoided the struggles experienced by other former Saban assistants such as Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain.
Georgia finished with a 13-2 record last season, a run that included an SEC title, a Rose Bowl victory against Oklahoma and an appearance in the National Championship Game against the Crimson Tide. The Bulldogs are 21-7 in two seasons under Smart.
“I think a big key to this, and this is just totally my opinion, is the staff he put together in place to hit the ground running,” Feldman told WJOX 94.5 FM of Smart. “I look at two key hires for Kirby Smart were Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman. Those guys work well together. If you don’t have an O-line coach who gets along with the offensive coordinator, and they’re not on the same page, there will be problems.
“And if you want to see an example of that, go look at what happened in Gainesville when Will Muschamp was there. It’s not a fault of his own. But he had an O-line coach and an offensive coordinator who were not on the same page. He had Charlie Weis in there at one point [as offensive coordinator in 2011]. It was just a lot of hitting the reset button. And after awhile, the more times you have coordinator changes, the more likely you are to eventually get fired.”
Muschamp and McElwain have had uneven experiences as head coaches. Muschamp went 28-21 at Florida from 2011-14, and he’s 15-11 in two seasons at South Carolina. McElwain, who’s now a wide receivers coach at Michigan, parted ways with Florida in October after going 22-12 in leading the Gators from 2015-17. Feldman is right that staff hires are so crucial to a coach’s success at a school.
As long as the chemistry that has developed on Smart’s staff continues, it’s hard to see Georgia’s momentum slowing soon.
Click below to listen to the complete interview featuring Feldman:
— WJOX 94.5 FM (@WJOX945) April 4, 2018