ATHENS — “It is what it is.” Coaches and players love to say that. Kirby Smart uses it a lot. It’s an all-encompassing phrase that glosses over a lot of details folks really don’t care to get into.
It’s a good phrase for what just happened with Jim Chaney. Georgia’s offensive coordinator of the last three years just left town Tuesday to make a lateral move to Tennessee. Terms of Chaney’s arrangement with the Vols haven’t been announced, or even his hire acknowledged just yet. But that should be coming forth today or tomorrow.
But it is what it is, right?
It’s pretty clear what took place here. Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt, seven weeks into an offensive coordinator search, approached Chaney with a sweet offer. Chaney listened and informed Smart of it. It’s unclear whether the Smart immediately declined to match the offer or the Bulldogs matched it and then turned down Chaney after he came back with another one. I heard it both ways from people I talked to Tuesday night about the Chaney’s situation. And I talked to a lot of people.
In the end, though, it doesn’t matter. Georgia chose not to match Tennessee’s final offer and Chaney’s heading back up that way to coach the next few seasons.
Same job, more money. It is what it is.
There are no bad guys in this scenario. I know a lot of Georgia fans were snickering at the news Tuesday night. They’re thinking the Bulldogs just got rid of damaged goods. But there isn’t a position more heavily criticized in football than an offensive coordinator. Likewise, Chaney had drawn more than his share of ire for play-calling and substitutions the last two years.
But Chaney did some good work at Georgia, and that shouldn’t be dismissed. Coordinators should always be judged on bottom-line production, and that’s yards and points and third-down conversions and red-zone scoring percentages and the like. In that regard, Chaney did a very good job at Georgia. The Bulldogs were first in rushing, second in scoring and third in total offense this past season. Their 39 points per game scoring average was the second-highest in school history. And they got a little better each year under his watch.
That’s why Smart gave Chaney a $100,000 raise and contract extension last year after the run to the National Championship Game. But Smart had to make a lot of other moves after the 2017 season, too.
In order to keep ace-South Florida recruiter and then-wide receivers coach James Coley from leaving to become Jimbo Fisher’s offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Smart promoted Coley to co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Bulldogs. To do that, he had Chaney switch to tight ends, a position he’d coached in the NFL.
Smart was always careful to point out that there was no “co-” in Chaney’s coordinator title and he was still scripting and calling the Bulldogs’ plays. But Chaney was sitting beside Coley, who’d done that job at Miami, in the coaches’ box while doing so.
Smart also had to take care of offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who might’ve set some kind of record for securing 5-star offensive linemen the last two years. So Coley and Pittman received raises to $850,000 and $825,000, respectively.
Georgia’s coaches all claim to keep professional egos out of their jobs. But the fact of the matter was, despite all his good work at UGA, Chaney wasn’t among the top-paid coordinators in the SEC, much less the country. Leading that category was Tennessee’s Tyson Helton and Alabama’s Mike Locksley at $1.2 each. Both of those coaches are headed out of the league and into head coaching jobs now. Auburn’s Chip Lindsey, at $1.1 million, also made more than Chaney.
Then, just last month, South Carolina gave Bryan McClendon a hefty raise to make him the 22nd assistant coach in the country to make $1 million a year. According to the annual numbers compiled by USA Today half of those millionaires are or were coordinators in the SEC, mostly on the defensive side. But not Chaney, a veteran coach of 33 years, and almost all of them as an offensive coordinator.
Reports are that Chaney will make $1.5 million with the Vols. That’s a number Georgia wasn’t willing to match.
So, it is what it is.
At least part of the reason the Bulldogs didn’t is they certainly must feel like they have a ready and capable replacement in Coley. Coley was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Miami before he joined Smart’s staff in 2016. He also held coordinator titles at Florida State and Florida International before that. Meanwhile, the Miami native has been a fantastic recruiter for Georgia in South Florida.
Then there is Pittman. Don’t be surprised if the veteran offensive line coach gets a co-coordinator or assistant head coach title out of this transition. Pittman, 57, is the pied piper that has led all these elite offensive linemen to follow him to Athens. He was a semifinalist this past season for the Broyles Award that goes annually to the person deemed to be the top assistant coach in the country.
Now, with the approval Athletic Director Greg McGarity, Smart can more easily compensate these guys who have proven their worth. Meanwhile, he’s in the market for a tight ends coach, and no doubt has been inundated with applicants already. There are a lot of different directions Smart can go with the hire. College football is teeming with tight end coaches with strong recruiting abilities.
Yes, Smart got mad at Chaney at times. We saw that a couple of times this past season. There was once time in the game at Missouri where somebody on the other end of the headset caught the Kirby Wrath. Seeing how it was after a four-yard gain on third-and-10, we’re left to believe that was Chaney.
Kirby Smart is CFB’s George Costanza pic.twitter.com/uAbKhowm9w
— Barstool Sports (@barstooltweetss) September 22, 2018
And it looked like Chaney caught it from Smart again in a game against Kentucky when the Bulldogs failed to punch it in in the deep red zone.
Kirby Smart absolutely losing his sh*t at someone on the headset is hilarious pic.twitter.com/9DLL9Ym7j0
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) November 3, 2018
Chaney infuriated fans at times, too. So will Coley, or whomever Georgia’s next coordinator ends up being.
It is what it is, you know.