ATHENS — There’s nothing controversial about Stetson Bennett’s decision to return to Georgia.
In fact, there’s nothing the least bit surprising for anyone paying attention to the storybook career of the Bulldogs’ quarterback.
You might say the odds were against it. You might say he’s not guaranteed a starting spot.
The Mailman, right? Through rain, sleet or snow, against Florida, Michigan and Alabama, Bennett delivers.
Some point out there was a championship defense complementing the offense this season, and that there were other quarterbacks capable of winning at Georgia this season.
Kirby Smart, himself, said multiple times he had confidence in all of his quarterbacks.
Stetson Bennett: The SEC’s version of Rudy, on steroids.
It’s an ESPN 30-for-30 waiting to happen, a Disney Channel movie, or at the very least a Netflix documentary.
But quitting and cashing in is not who or what the 24-year-old Bennett is about at this stage of his life.
Bennett recognizes his window of opportunity to play football is now, and so his story is not finished. Bennett shared that by his estimation, there will be 60 years for him to find something else to do with his life.
RELATED: Bennett says returning to Georgia before 2021 ‘one of the hardest decisions’ he made
Of course, he’s coming back to play more football in 2022, and if Georgia gives him a chance, of course he’ll take it.
That sort of resiliency and determination is what makes Bennett who and what he is, and it likely reminds Smart of who and what he was back in his playing days.
There’s nothing audacious or insulting about making the comparison between two former south Georgia high school football players who did it the hard way with all odds against them.
It’s the truth.
What if Smart had resigned himself to a lesser, more practical football offer to Troy State before Ray Goff called on signing day with a scholarship that had originally been destined for future Tennessee Vol Steve Johnson?
And, what if Smart, in his true freshman season at UGA, had determined he would be better off going to a smaller school where he could start right away rather than redshirt and take his chances competing for a job with the Bulldogs the next season?
Of course, Smart’s decision to see it through wasn’t even noticed or debated at the time, but look where it has led him, on the brink of a contract believed to be in the neighborhood of 10 years and $100 million.
Bennett figures to make a great deal of money via NIL deals himself, regardless of what happens next season.
The story of a former walk-on, junior college player and fourth-stringer who “bet on himself” against all odds is irresistible to everyone.
Everyone, that is, except Bennett, who has indicated that every player on that Georgia football team has worked hard and bet on themselves at some point.
The difference is, those other players were deemed to have more ability, and so their success is not so surprising.
Is it any wonder Bennett is so feisty?
Of course Bennett sees himself as an equal, as someone who is capable and not needing any special favors or treatment.
There’s a ferocious competitor packed inside that small frame, and so Bennett has no interest in feeding into an underdog, feel-good saga.
RELATED: Georgia fans all give thanks, even if Stetson Bennett isn’t their favorite
Bennett likely abides by the theory that there are no such things as overachievers -- if you did it, you were capable of it.
There are only underachievers — those who do not fulfill their potential.
So Bennett is coming back to play quarterback at Georgia, and while he wasn’t an All-SEC pick, or even one of the 18 team captains as voted by his teammates, he was and is the Orange Bowl MVP and the choice for CFP Championship Game MVP.
Remember when offensive coordinator Todd Monken doubled down on Bennett and told the world that he was capable of winning the national championship? Monken was right.
RELATED: Todd Monken says ‘no doubt’ Bennett can win it all
But Monken also said he doesn’t know what’s behind the next decision.
It’s that uncertainty at the Georgia quarterback position ahead that makes some uneasy. No one can say for sure who the 2022 starting quarterback will be. You can bet on Bennett, or you can bet against him, and it won’t make a difference.
RELATED: Georgia pursuing ‘free-agent’ transfer, no guarantees for returning players
Georgia might or might not bring in a transfer quarterback, but the pool is shrinking, and time is running out.
There’s a chance that Carson Beck, entering his third spring drills session, will get more spring practice reps and pass Bennett on the depth chart, like he did last spring.
Likewise for Brock Vandagriff, a 5-star prospect from nearby Bogart that Georgia flipped from Oklahoma in the 2021 class, likely with the intent of him playing sooner rather than later
Incoming freshman Gunner Stockton will hope to compete, too, and get as much momentum as possible before the Bulldogs bring in a 2023 quarterback, perhaps even Arch Manning.
Bennett knows the lay of the land. He stood back before and watched others get more reps. He’s not flinching.
Smart and Georgia know what they have in Bennett, a quarterback who has proven that he can come up big when it matters most no matter how many times he has been knocked down.
Indeed, even after JT Daniels debuted with a 401-yard passing performance against Mississippi State, Smart remarked that he had seen Bennett make those sort of throws in practice all the time.
Of course, Smart has been just as quick to publicly criticize Bennett, saying he made “bonehead” plays in the 41-24 SEC Championship Game loss, and then yelling at him before halftime of the Orange Bowl after Bennett had played arguably his best 30 minutes of the season.
Bennett can handle it when Coach gets fired up. Can the next guy?
So the critics can and will continue to point out Bennett’s shortcomings, and the skeptics can and will continue to doubt him.
But Bennett isn’t going to quit competing, and the only way he’s not the starting QB at the start of the 2022 season, is if the head coach has a different vision of what is needed for the Bulldogs to be at their best.
That may have been what Bennett meant when he commented on the judgement of the coaching staff during his now infamous Good Morning America interview.
It’s week-to-week situation at quarterback, says Smart, who seems determined to manage the quarterback position like any other spot on the team, or at least present that illusion.
But the dust has settled on the 2021 campaign, and it was Bennett holding the big trophy, and securing a place in Georgia football folklore.
If Bennett didn’t want to come back to Georgia in 2022, he would have never been the player holding that trophy in 2021.
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