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Cocktail Thursday: Let’s talk about the long game.

old fashioned

If your Georgia Bulldogs are coming off a demoralizing loss to Vanderbilt which threw the entire Kirby Smart experiment into doubt for at least some of you, you could probably use a drink. I can help with that.

Need some reassurance that everything is going to be okay? Well, I don’t know that I can help you. I think it all depends on what your definition of “okay” is. Is Kirby Smart going to habitually lose football games to Vanderbilt? I doubt it. Is Georgia going to break its current 19 year streak of bowl appearances? I don’t think so.

But is it going to be tough to replace a guy who averaged 9.7 wins a season? Of course it is. It’s hard to explain how hard it is to change coaches after 15 years, and harder still to explain all the reasons why that is. We’ve already hashed them all out in this space over the past few weeks. But one thing bears repeating: the fact that Kirby Smart hasn’t gotten it all figured out seven games into his tenure in Athens doesn’t mean he will never get things sorted out. Far from it.

But it is worth remembering that Smart is learning to be a head coach under a microscope that most successful head coaches don’t have to contend with. Nick Saban’s first head coaching job was at Toledo. Urban Meyer’s, Bowling Green. Saban went 9-2 in his first (and only) outing with the Rockets. Meyer was 8-3 in his inaugural campaign with the Falcons.

I’m not saying Kirby Smart is going to have the success in Athens that either of those guys have had. Statistically speaking, the odds of it are very low. Even with the resources available in Athens, the fertile recruiting grounds all around, and a decent store of talent from which to build, the odds are long. But if Smart can survive the close losses to Vandy and Tennessee to finish this campaign 8-4, or even 7-5, I would argue that’s at least as impressive a feat as Meyer and Saban pulled off.

Kirby Smart is not the kind of guy to cut corners or deviate from how he wants things done. That’s both a blessing and a curse, generally speaking. In this instance, I think it is a huge advantage. Coaches get in trouble when they take their eye off the ball. When they second guess themselves. When they allow doubt to creep in about what the expectations and goals are. Smart is just stubborn enough to stick to the plan, which is to make Georgia a bigger, stronger, deeper, and more disciplined football team than the one he inherited.

Georgia remains about 3 plays away from being a 6-1 football team. If those bounces had gone their way, people would be over the moon right now. The Bulldigs are currently the epitome of the old adage that you’re neither as good as your wins nor as bad as your losses. Georgia looks to me like a pretty good 3 loss team, who could win every game from here on out (though at this point losses to Florida and Auburn seem more likely to me). The fact that things started out rocky don’t mean that much to me. The things Kirby Smart is trying to do with Georgia football won’t be accomplished this season. If at all, they’ll be accomplished in 2017 and more likely in 2018. That’s hard to hear. No fan wants to right off a season. But again, Smart is building for the long term and isn’t going to change his plan now.

You’re probably wondering, how is he going to tie this into a drink of some sort? Well, here goes: I’m not. In one of the greatest off week traditions here at Dawg Sports, this week I’m asking what you guys are having. I’ll be enjoying a Creature Comforts Tropicalia, personally, because I still have a couple left that I hoarded this summer.

And I’m not going to stress too much, yet, over what’s going on in Athens besides the making of some really fine craft beer.

Let’s also use this as the open thread for tonight’s Miami/Virginia Tech matchup which may be of more than passing interest to some Bulldog fans, and for the matchup between BYU and #14 Boise State at 10:15.