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Smart Stays; Richt In Trouble

Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is the most popular man in the state of Alabama today.

I’m guessing he’s much further down the list back in his home state of Georgia. 

Smart turned down his alma mater’s job offer yesterday, rejecting a salary that would have made him one of the nation’s highest paid assistants.  In fact, the offer (which was reported to be in the neighborhood of $750,000) would have doubled his salary at Bama last year.

Don’t feel too sorry for Smart.  He’ll be getting a substantial pay boost (possibly doubling his salary after all) for his flirtations with the Bulldogs.

“I think it was pretty well known that there was an opportunity to return to my alma mater as defensive coordinator,” Smart said in a press release.  “I wouldn’t even have considered discussing the position with any other school, but when it is a place I’ve spent some of my best years and had some great memories, I thought it was something I should discuss with my family and figure out what was best.

“After thinking about all the factors over the last couple of day, we are going to stay at the University of Alabama.  We love it in Tuscaloosa, have made some great friends here and I think we are building something special here at Alabama with Coach (Nick) Saban.  I have learned so much in the time I’ve spent with Coach Saban, and every year I feel like I become a better coach.”

Reports say that Saban was not going to let Smart go without a fight and that Alabama was prepared — possibly — to match any offer from Georgia.

“He’s done a fabulous job for us,” Saban said.  “He’s one of the finest assistant coaches in the country.  You expect guys like Kirby to get lots of opportunities to do things, and we want to continue to help him continue to develop his career here so that when he leaves here, it’s going to be a head coach and probably in a very good situation.”

This writer wonders if Smart made the right choice to pass on Georgia, where he would have been viewed as the true architect of the defense.

Linebacker Rolando McClain — whose own announcement of his pro intentions was overshadowed yesterday — said that he does not believe “Coach Saban would be as successful here without Coach Smart.”  Big words.  Sounds like McClain views Smart as a true architect in Tuscaloosa.

Not landing Smart was particularly painful for Georgia fans who have already been dissed by Bud Foster and John Chavis.  Vic Koenning also talked with UGA before accepting the defensive coordinator slot at Illinois.

Mark Richt will not make a comment on his open coordinator slot until he fills it, so don’t expect him to say anything about Smart.  It is believed he will now turn his attention to another former Saban assistant — Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham.

As expected, Mark Bradley of The AJC says Richt is “determined to leave men wealthier all across the South.”

He continues: “Some Georgia fans believe Richt is failing them in his protracted — approaching its seventh week! — search for a defensive coordinator.  I say, ‘Look instead at the bigger picture!  Look at the increased tax revenue Richt is generating for the states of Virginia, Louisiana and Alabama!”

Let me make this very clear — Richt is in trouble at Georgia.  In fact, I believe his days are running out.

I said last summer that I believed he and Les Miles would occupy the hottest seats in the SEC after the 2009 season.  I was emailed to death by UGA fans who said they wouldn’t turn on their head coach. 

Well, they’re turning.  And there’s no question that Richt and Miles sit in the SEC’s hottest chairs going forward.

Here’s how things work: First the media goes, then the fans follow.  It’s already clear that many writers across the state of Georgia are anti-Richt at this point.

He was first attacked for not having the guts to whack his buddy Willie Martinez.  But then he did fire him.  So was there praise for Richt?  No, just the message that he’d better hire a top-name replacement and he’d better do it quickly.  Well, he hasn’t.  And now he’s being attacked for that.

But is it Richt’s fault that he couldn’t lure in the three men to whom he offered the position?

Virginia Tech supposedly matched UGA’s offer to Foster.  So why would he leave one job for the other?

LSU reportedly matched Georgia’s offer to Chavis.  So why would he leave one job for the other?

Now Alabama is set to match the Dawgs’ offer to Smart.  Again, what reason would the coach have of making a lateral move?

The money for each man was about the same to stay in their current positions.  And the Georgia position is the exact same as the ones they currently hold.  So what’s the draw?  Nice Georgia weather?  Getting to coach in front of a nervous, jittery fanbase?

Richt’s mistake was going after the best.  He should have gone after someone from a smaller school or someone who is not currently a coordinator.  Had he done that, it would have been near impossible for someone like — let’s say — Manny Diaz of MTSU to turn him down.  Quick hire, done and done.

Of course, had he done that Georgia fans and media would have squawked that Richt hadn’t pursued the best of the best, etc.  Writers such as Mr. Bradley would have asked, “How could he not kick the tires on a Georgia alum like Smart?”  UGA would have been called cheap, too, unwilling to spend big bucks for a top assistant.

But Richt went after top name coordinators at schools that have football programs just as large and as successful as Georgia’s.  Now that he can’t lure those coaches in, he’s viewed as inept.

Richt is the “Dean of SEC Coaches.”  Once you’ve been at a place that long, you begin to wear out your welcome.  Fans stop defending and start attacking.

Seriously, look at the track record of first-year SEC East coach Lane Kiffin compared to that of Richt.  In terms of record and reputation, big advantage: Richt.  Yet Tennessee fans defend Kiffin at every turn.  They see only the good.  His staff, his recruiting, his attitude… win, win, win.  After all, he’s new.

Just down the road, Georgia fans point to the weaknesses of the Richt regime.  Bowl streaks, 10-wins seasons… all ancient history.  Every situation is now a no-win situation.  “He’d better fire that coordinator.  Then he’d better hire a big name guy.  And he’d better hire him fast.”  Richt is no longer new.

There was a time when Richt WAS the new guy.  He was the conference’s golden boy and Bulldog fans looked for only the positives.  Those days are over.

Unless Georgia has a strong season next year — regardless of who their defensive coordinator is — Richt could be forced out next December.  Write it down.  If Richt has another 7-win regular season in 2010, Georgia will be looking for a new head coach in 2011.

Heck, maybe Smart would be interested in the head coaching job at his alma mater.

(Those who scoffed about my hot seat prediction last year… save it.  You were wrong in 2009, so don’t send me angry emails that will prove to be wrong in 2010, as well.  I think it’s ridiculous, but Richt’s seat is growing hotter by the day and another “bad” season would be his undoing.)



  1. [...], usually a clearinghouse of conference links, came this post-Kirby-Smart post from John Pennington, its headline reading: “Smart Stays; Richt In Trouble.” [...]

  2. [...] a great exercise of twisted logic, Bradley cites this post at in support of his argument. From, usually a clearinghouse of conference [...]

  3. [...] the prolonged search for a defensive coordinator. After Kirby Smart decided to stay at Alabama, declared flatly that Richt was “in trouble” and “his days are running [...]

  4. [...] more important than beating the clock.  Again, I was defending Richt against something in The AJC.January 12, 2010 — Finally, we come back to the post that Mr. King wrote of yesterday.  Following [...]

  5. [...] Meme Fail. Jump to Comments Shockingly, Mark Richt’s name is nowhere to be found on Coaches Hot Seat Blog’s final 2009-2010 Coaches Hot Seat Rankings.  I guess Joe didn’t get the memo. [...]

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