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Kirby Smart shoots down ‘championship or bust’ mentality for Georgia football
Georgia coach Kirby Smart was visibly annoyed by the question. On Wednesday night, Smart was asked if anything short of a national championship for Georgia would be considered a disappointment.
This has been a common topic of discussion among the Georgia fan base this offseason. The Bulldogs have come about as close as you can to winning a national championship in each of the past two seasons without actually doing it.
Against Alabama in the past two seasons, the Bulldogs have led or been tied with Alabama for 280 of the 289 snaps. For various reasons, Georgia lost both of those games.
Those results are likely where some of Smart’s frustrations come from. Georgia has been incredibly successful in each of the last two seasons. But the end result has clouded how some on the outside might feel about the direction of the Georgia football program.
So no, Smart doesn’t view this as a championship or bust season. Instead, the Georgia coach wants success to be measured in a different capacity.
“Here’s what we’re focused on—how good can we be tomorrow? Can we be the best we can,” Smart said. “Do they have expectations at Georgia? Absolutely they’ve got expectations and we’ve got them for ourselves, but I’m not going to measure success and failure on one thing.”
In the last two seasons, Georgia has gone 24-5. It won back-to-back SEC East titles, an SEC Championship and a College Football Playoff game. Despite all of that, it isn’t enough for some. Given Alabama and Clemson’s accolades, Georgia is still racing to catch-up, even if the Bulldogs are just a step or two behind them.
No one personifies the “this is what you haven’t done” perception more than Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. In the past two seasons he’s thrown for 54 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions. He’s won 23 games as a starter and beaten the likes of Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Auburn.
Related: ESPN’s ranking of Jake Fromm shows national opinion still split on Georgia quarterback
And yet because he doesn’t have a cannon arm or Cam Newton-esque athleticism, detractors like to point out what he hasn’t done. Which is really only limited to winning a road game against an SEC West team and beating Alabama.
In a recent interview with ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt, Fromm was asked about Alabama and how its looming shadow might affect the program.
The answer he gave was about the Georgia program, but it also applies to himself in regards to how he’s judged by others.
“A lot of what we do in the offseason, we try and compete with ourselves,” Fromm said. “We’re not trying to compare ourselves to anyone.”
A popular mantra for the Georgia program under Smart is ‘Do more.’ Even with all the success in Smart’s first three seasons, he knows there’s still a lot of room for growth.
“If we were 29-0 I would say we need to win the other ones by more. It’s never enough,” Smart said. “You show me a person who’s satisfied with what they’ve done, they’re done. It’s called retired. That’s just not the way I look at things and that’s not the way this program is going to be run. You’re in constant pursuit of excellence, not perfection.
That last line about perfection is telling. Because Georgia won’t be perfect this year. It’s incredibly hard to do that in the SEC, given the last team SEC team to finish the season unbeaten was the 2010 Auburn Tigers. Nick Saban’s Alabama teams have only done it once. Urban Meyer never did it at Florida.
Georgia won’t win a national title in one week. It can’t topple Alabama yet, given the two teams aren’t even scheduled to meet this season. As lame as it sounds, going 1-0 and beating Vanderbilt would be a successful start to the season.
So why Georgia might have the talent to consider the 2019 championship or bust gambit, the team knows it has to take things day-by-day.
“I think we can control our destiny,” Fromm said. “I want to take it one game at a time. I think we have the talent and will to be whatever we want to be.”
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart meets with media