ATHENS — Plenty of people would have forgiven Rob Sale for walking away now. Why coach Georgia’s offensive line for one more game, a meaningless one in the eyes of many? Why keep coaching when your replacement has already been hired, and you should spend every waking hour trying to find another job.
But there is Sale, at Georgia’s practices this week, leading his unit as fervently as before, despite his lame-duck status.
“It definitely says a lot about his character,” junior center Brandon Kublanow said. “He’s always been a guy that’s gonna finish what he started. I’ve known that from the start. It’s really awesome for him to stick around with us, because he could easily leave.”
Sale, 36, isn’t the only Georgia assistant who is going through bowl practice without any secure knowledge of his future. But he’s the only one whose replacement is almost literally looking over his shoulder: Sam Pittman, hired last Saturday from Arkansas, was in attendance at the first two bowl practices, watching from the side and evaluating the linemen he will coach next year.
“It’s part of the business. When a new coach comes in they like to bring their own guys, which they have the right to do so. All the coaches know that, and that’s just part of it,” senior tackle John Theus said. “Hopefully coach Sale can find a good coaching job somewhere else. It’s part of the business. I’m just looking forward to these last practices to be with him.”
The offensive line didn’t have a great season. Despite returning four starters, the run blocking was especially inconsistent, to the point that the lineup was juggled late in the season, and one starter (Greg Pyke, a preseason second-team All-SEC pick) was briefly benched.
Putting all of that at Sale’s feet would be unfair. While only one starter was gone, that guy (center David Andrews) ended up starting for the New England Patriots as a rookie. And while the running game dipped this year, it didn’t help that star tailback Nick Chubb went down with a season-ending knee injury in the sixth game.
Sale was hired last January from McNeese State. He will end up being Georgia’s offensive line coach for just this season. But he will finish it.
“All these coaches that don’t have a secure future that came back, they came back for us,” senior tackle Kolton Houston said. “That means a lot. Like I said, everyone out there wants to be out there. They didn’t have to coach the bowl game. They didn’t have to do that. So it’s nice when those coaches – because that shows you they really care about their players.”
“I think it shows that he loves us, he cares for us, when he committed to coach here he committed to coach here the full season,” Theus said. “It definitely shows a lot to us. I respect him for it. I’m happy for it. I hope he finds a great job.”