Dawg Sports has obtained messages showing that James Coley contacted a fan on Twitter and requested statistical information about the Georgia offense shortly after the Sugar Bowl. The source’s Twitter account shared statistical information about SEC programs throughout the football season.
The information sent to Coley was a spreadsheet of play-by-play data with basic analytics designed to catalog each UGA offensive play so it could be referenced with and against larger sets of statistical data from across college football. The exchange occurred four days after Georgia’s 26-14 victory over Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
At the time of this exchange, all outward signs pointed to Coley returning to Georgia as the offensive coordinator in 2020. Whether to retain or replace Coley as offensive coordinator was a hot topic among fans and the media after the Bulldogs’ offense sputtered for most of the 2019 season.
Whatever Coley’s intentions, it seems a little bizarre that a sitting SEC coordinator reached out to a fan on Twitter for statistical information on his offense. The real question here is why Coley would do so.
The Georgia football program employs at least 29 staffers in off-field positions. Among those employees are many analysts. Did Coley not have an assistant charting this type of information all season long?
Did he want to compare the statistics to his own in-house information? Was he simply trying to build goodwill with someone on Twitter?
Is it really possible that Coley is unfamiliar with concepts like success rate, play share and yards share? Was Coley just trying to consider different perspectives on his team’s performance?
Perhaps Coley was short on ideas and looking for ways to improve his offense in 2020, including a deeper dive into advanced stats.
Kirby Smart was making postseason evaluations of his program and coaches during this period, so it is likely that he and Coley would have met to discuss his job status around this time. It is wild to imagine a conversation between Coley and Smart where stats he got off of Twitter may have played a part in how he pitched himself as the best man to lead the Georgia offense in 2020.
We may never know the full story behind James Coley reaching out to a fan on Twitter for stats. What we do know is that nine days after the exchange Kirby Smart hired Todd Monken to replace him.
The struggles with Coley’s offense in 2019 were plentiful. Jake Fromm regressed from having a 67.4% completion percentage in 2018 to 60.2% in 2019. The stretch run of the season was particularly brutal as Fromm connected on just 50.2% of his attempts over the last six games of the season.
Against Auburn, Georgia built a 21-0 third quarter lead before the offense had nine consecutive three-and-outs that nearly lead to an Auburn comeback at the end of the game.
Coley’s offense was also criticized for its lack of ability to stretch the field, as Fromm’s yards per attempt dropped from 9.0 his first two seasons to 7.4 in 2019. At one point in the Kentucky game Fromm was 6-for-7 for just five yards passing. In a season where he had nearly 100 more attempts than the year before, Fromm passed for just 245 more yards.
The struggles in the passing game meant Georgia was often unable to keep other teams from loading up to stop the run. Despite obvious numbers disadvantages, Coley often continued to run the ball into stacked boxes. Never was that tendency more on display than against South Carolina. Coley called 33 inside runs into a front with future first-round pick Javon Kinlaw playing shade zero technique. Those 33 runs went for just 3.9 yards per play as the undefeated Bulldogs lost to the thrice beaten Gamecocks.
The Bulldogs managed just 24.5 points a game against Power 5 opponents under Coley, and would have likely lost the SEC East crown without one of the most dominant defenses in school history backing them up.
Following Monken’s hiring, Coley was reassigned as Georgia’s assistant head coach and wide-receivers coach. Reportedly unhappy with his demotion, Coley left the Georgia program on January 25th to coach tight ends at Texas A&M.
I reached out to Texas A&M athletic officials for comment and received nonE from the Athletic Department or Coach Coley.