Kirby Smart is often fond of saying that pressure is a privilege. And entering the 2021 season, Georgia seems to have a good amount of pressure on it.
The Bulldogs bring back a number of key contributors on offense, chiefly quarterback JT Daniels. Add in that Georgia continues to bring top-5 recruiting classes, and the talent is there for the Bulldogs to make a run in 2021, especially with Florida and Alabama reloading.
Georgia has become a trendy playoff pick for the 2021 season. But ESPN’s Paul Finebaum did identify one area where he wants to see Smart get better.
“Kirby Smart just needs to quiet down that conversation out there that he’s not a great on the field coach,” Finebaum said in his weekly interview with WJOX 94.5 FM in Birmingham. “Whether he is or isn’t, I think it will continue to be debated. But I think his record is pretty good.”
Through his first five seasons, Smart has compiled a 52-14 record as a head coach. The Bulldogs have won the SEC East three times, along with an appearance in the national title game. Georgia also has won the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Peach Bowl in that time.
But to Finebaum’s point, there have been moments that give you pause with Smart. The quarterback position has long been a national talking point, stemming from his handling of the Jake Fromm-Justin Fields situation to how it played out this season with the Bulldogs starting three different quarterbacks over the course of the season.
In the Peach Bowl win over Cincinnati, Smart made a head-scratching decision to punt the ball back to Cincinnati with 3:07 remaining and Georgia trailing.
After the win, Smart did acknowledge that it probably wasn’t the correct call.
“It’s one of those looking back, we still got the timeouts, still got an opportunity to stop them. Felt good we could get,” Smart said. “I felt comfortable we could stop them with our timeouts. Called one to not spend it on the punt. We called two, gave up a first down.”
“Looking back, maybe we should have gone for it there.”
Finebaum did go on to counter that Smart’s record largely demonstrates that he’s a good coach and that Smart has less pressure on him entering the 2021 season than Ed Orgeron.
“I think it’s bigger for Ed Orgeron because in spite of this chatter out there about Kirby Smart, and I’ve heard it and you’ve heard it,” Finebaum said. “Danny Sheridan was on our show the other day and he picked Georgia to make the final four but he said, ‘If they don’t make it this year, when will they make it?’ I still think the overall record there is exemplary.”
Georgia’s toughest game in the 2021 season might be its first, as the Bulldogs open with a game against Clemson. Both teams figure to be ranked in the top-5 to start the season and both will be College Football Playoff contenders.
Georgia and Clemson open the season on Sept. 4. The game will be a big opportunity for Smart and the Bulldogs to reset the narrative around the team.
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