On December 6, 2015, the Georgia Bulldogs introduced a new era to their football program, moving on from previous head coach Mark Richt, with the hire of head coach Kirby Smart. A defensive minded coach, who was a defensive coordinator at Alabama under Nick Saban since 2008. Being the first Alabama assistant coach to win the Broyles Award, awarded to the best assistant coach in the nation.
As Kirby Smart has accomplished many things in his first 4 years as head coach, but is he a top tier coach yet?
If you ask me, no.
Here is why Kirby Smart is not a clear top tier head coach, like some people believe.
Let’s start with the accomplishments that Kirby Smart has brought to the Bulldogs, in 2017 Georgia were SEC champs where they would then finish as National Champion runner ups. Where after coming off an 8-5 season prior to 2017, Kirby Smart would then be awarded SEC coach of the year. Since that National Championship appearance in 2017, the Bulldogs have finished in the top 10 of the final AP rankings ever since. Kirby Smart has had much success at Georgia, but.
Should he have more success? I say yes.
An argument that people try to cherish in favor of Kirby Smart, is his recruiting ability. Which is something Kirby is incredible at, when it comes to recruiting, but with all the talent he brings in, is it hurting his credential? Since coming into the program in 2016, he has made phenomenal improvements. While having three recruiting classes be ranked top 3 in the nation, as well as his 2016 class being ranked 6th in the nation.
Even with all of this talent on this Bulldogs team, has Smart still underachieved? Is he just another Mark Richt?
If you look at Kirby Smart and Mark Richt’s first three seasons at Georgia, it is almost identical. Kirby Smart in his first four seasons has gone 43-12 with one conference title, while Mark Richt started 42-10 along with one conference title as well. However, Kirby Smart in those first four years, by far has better talent than Mark Richt ever did.
When you strictly look in the perspective as a coach, this is where I believe Kirby Smart is just not in the top tier. Talent wise Georgia should be in the playoff every year, and this is where I get an issue with Smart. His play callings in certain games are questionable.
For example, a very known play in the 2018 SEC Championship against Alabama. One of the worst decisions I have seen, tied 28-28 in the 4th quarter, 3 minutes to go, with the ball at midfield, 4th and 11. Smart decides to call a fake punt, Alabama expected this so much that they left their defensive unit out on the field instead of their special teams unit. Instead of calling a timeout, Smart ran the play, failed to convert, Jalen Hurts drove down the field and won the game for the Crimson Tide.
Including the biggest upset of the 2019 season, Smart made two questionable calls which lead to a season defining loss against unranked South Carolina.
Ever since that loss in the National Championship, Smart has made decisions that have potentially cost his team a playoff spot. Which when you have a team with this talent, is not acceptable. When you consider top ten head coaches in college football, Kirby Smart should not be on that list.
Image: Jeff Sentell / DawgNation