ATHENS — It is easy to analyze Georgia’s final regular-season game: Not enough talent to put down an ambitious Georgia Tech team, which has had limited success in the ancient rivalry in the last half century, if you don’t play with aggressive effort for four quarters.
It is an old story, a latent trend which has plagued the Georgia program in recent years. There often has been no killer instinct. Putting teams away has been an issue for some time. The Nichols State game was not exactly an anomaly. The Colonels were simply better than Georgia in many areas with regard to personnel.
Georgia has become a laid-back team. There is no urgency to win. In today’s football world, everybody has some players and most every football coach enjoys a high pay grade, which only heightens the expectations from preseason to the end where disappointing results have fans carping for change.
Losing to Vanderbilt, after the Commodores pasted once high and mighty Tennessee, should now bring Georgia some respect. Kirby Smart said it poignantly on Sunday morning Oct. 16th. “They have a very good defense, but we should not lose to Vandy at home.”
Ole Miss looked like the Lombardi packers when Georgia played the Rebels in Oxford in September. Wonder what the Rebel fans are saying about the play calling with Chad Kelley out of the lineup and Ole Miss staying home from a bowl game getting blown out by Mississippi State at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium, 55-20. Everybody says that Bobby Petrino is a genius when it comes to offense. Ask the Kentucky fans what they think about that with Lamar Jackson becoming suspect for the Heisman trophy?
Naturally, when a team struggles, the critical inventiveness surfaces. Typically the finger finds its way in the direction of assistant coaches. Who should be expended? Play calling is castigated, sometimes vociferously. We should remember that many fans could have called the plays for the Vince Lombardi Packers. If your offensive line can dominate, your play calling usually resonates.
The one most responsible for the Georgia program probably has a couple of stomach ulcers from this season of high expectations. Kirby Smart watched football Saturday night and took note of the upsets and found a common thread. The teams which won “made the plays when they had to, to win.” In case you are interested, he got to work early — nobody beats him to the office — and stayed late Sunday, understanding what so many don’t: There are no quick fixes.
He never throws his team under the bus. He knows, from his background that talented depth comes from consistently good recruiting. Back-to-back-to-back-to-back recruiting years must be an ongoing thing if you expect to win championships. Even so, expectations must be realistic.
When Smart arrived, he quickly became the subject of high expectations. Georgia boy with a Bulldog pedigree and a key contributor to Nick Saban’s success at Alabama, all of that made alumni and fans become dizzy with optimism. Then Jacob Eason signed with nobody reminding themselves that freshmen, even with a knapsack full of talent, often play like freshmen.
And then, 93,000 showed up for the spring game. All that is well and good, but what came next? There were visions of winning the SEC East. If Smart signs the class he has committed, today’s lamentations will likely segue into high expectations for 2017.
There is nothing you can do about results. You can’t replay any plays or games; you can only go to work. Recruit and work is the Kirby mantra and he will follow that game plan. He has no time to small talk anybody who comes into his sphere. The Tech game is over, the season is over. Move on.
His pragmatic view is as old as the hills, but he subscribes to the long standing Whittier verse: “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’”
That is why the Bulldog coach, driven by an indefatigable work ethic, will climb aboard the recruiting train until he can build a talent base with an urgency to win, incorporating a killer instinct that strikes when opportunity presents itself.