MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A Georgia fan snuck into Jim Chaney’s press conference here on Wednesday afternoon, and jumped in with his own set of questions. At first it was fun, with the fan asking the offensive coordinator if Georgia would win Friday, unlike the last time it played in the Liberty Bowl.
“Well I wasn’t here that day,” Chaney said, laughing.
Then the fan took it up a notch.
“That’s why we put the burden on you,” he said.
“That’s okay, I feel that burden every day I wake up. So I’m comfortable with that,” Chaney said.
The exchange appeared to win over at least this one Georgia fan, who offered up a “Yes sir!” As for the rest, it appeared the goal of Chaney’s session was to convey one simple message: This is on me.
Chaney’s first season as offensive coordinator has been less than stellar, and he didn’t try to deflect blame, sugarcoat or make excuses. He said he’s been “reflecting” a lot on what could have been done better and what should be done better next year.
“The bottom line is it didn’t get done. It ends with me to get done,” Chaney said. “I’ll say this for our players. They were awesome.”
Georgia (7-5) enters the Liberty Bowl with the nation’s 89th-ranked offense, and 105th-ranked scoring offense, despite the presence of star tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
Chaney also said that Chubb and Michel were absolutely right to confront him after the Florida game about their use.
“You’ve got two guys there that are competitive as heck and wanted the football. Obviously, they basically said hey, Jim, quit doing too much and give me the ball and let me try to win the game for us,” Chaney said. “It was a real good productive meeting when those kids came in. …
At the end of the day it needed to be said. They got some things off their chest, it was good and quite honestly they were right.”
Interestingly, Chaney also essentially confirmed that Georgia’s offense didn’t conform to its personnel for much of the season. Specifically, freshman quarterback Jacob Eason’s comfort in the shot-gun and spread, while the play-calling was often more tailored for a more physical, straight-ahead style.
“There was a little contradiction with philosophies in regards to that, as we worked through it,” Chaney said.
Georgia’s offense did pick up a bit over the final four games, three of which were victories. That coincided with Chaney’s move up to the press box, something he also acknowledged helped.
“It was a calming thing for me, personally,” Chaney said. “I think it was good. Jacob and I had good conversations when we’d get on the headset on the sideline. I think we needed a little change; it was getting a little stagnant, a little stale. That’s not a gimmick when those things take place.”
Chaney’s acceptance of blame wasn’t just for public consumption, according to players who were available on Wednesday. Chaney takes the blame behind the scenes as well.
“That’s why we love coach Chaney: He puts a lot of pressure on himself,” junior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “He eats up a lot of things, but at the end of the day it’s us. We’re out there playing. You can call the worst play ever but if the players do it the right way it’s going to score.”
Added Chubb: “We’ve got to also realize that he’s just calling the plays. We’re the ones on the field not executing. It’s a little more half and half. It’s on us too.”
So what now? First there’s Friday’s game, when in TCU the Bulldogs face one of the more lower-ranked defenses they’ve seen this year.
But going forward next year, Chaney also made clear that he will think long and hard about changes, and discuss it with head coach Kirby Smart. What will those be? Chaney didn’t want to say yet, only that he wanted everyone to know that the buck stopped with him.
“The long term approach for being a coordinator is to make damn sure you carry that load. You’re the one, that’s where it stops. That’s where it always has, and it always will,” Chaney said. “My job is to coordinate the offense and score points. There’s no excuses and there’s no finger pointing. It all stops and starts with me, and I’m comfortable with that burden.”