Life is all about expectations. Our judgement or critique on something is based on our expectation of how it should be. Last week when I talked about Sprayberry’s Barbecue, I was disappointed because my expectations where so high.
The Georgia men’s basketball team this season has done something it has never done in its history: finish .500 or better in four consecutive seasons. But going into SEC play, we expected so much more from Coach Fox and his team. It has been a terribly disappointing season.
On the surface, outsiders may wonder why Coach Richt was fired. As I’ve said, it was not being great enough often enough. There were great moments. But there wasn’t the consistent greatness that was expected.
I think the separation of Coach Richt and UGA has turned out to be the best possible outcome for all parties involved, as far as the coaches go. The transition from the previous regime to the current one was as seamless as it could have been.
Mike Ekeler, who seemed negative after the ordeal, wound up as defensive coordinator. McClendon and Thomas Brown, who weren’t to blame for the offense’s struggles, got great opportunities elsewhere. Even John Lilly wound up in the NFL, and being a tireless recruiter, this should prove a better job for his family. Jeremy Pruitt became DC at Alabama. Brian Schottenhiemer even landed on his feet.
Of course, Mark Richt got a great job. He goes to a place where he will be welcomed in with excitement, and the expectations in Miami aren’t as high as they were in Athens. Plus, he gets to trade Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina every year for Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Duke and N.C. State. Not a bad trade. I predict much success for Coach Richt at Miami.
Managing our expectations is something that is difficult for Georgia fans. Every year, we say, “this could be the year.” Then, something happens where it is clear this isn’t the year. Then, something else happens that gives us hope. The hope is then shattered in epic fashion.
Sitting here about a month away from the GDay game, and a week or so before spring practice I ask myself: what are reasonable expectations for Kirby Smart?
Long term expectations are pretty clear: win championships. Do we expect Alabama-level of national championships? That isn’t reasonable. But we all should expect SEC Championships, and should expect being relevant in the national conversation beyond September.
Short term, Year 1 expectations are a little fuzzier. If Nick Chubb is healthy and is able to come back, this team could be a contender for the SEC East in Year 1.
But breaking in a new coach, potentially a new quarterback, and potentially not having a healthy Nick Chubb could lead to down season in Coach Smart’s first year.
Games against North Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Florida could be troublesome. Auburn could get theirs, and the first time a defensive coach sees Georgia Tech’s offense it causes problems.
I long said that if we fired Richt, one reason to be wary of making a change would be the gamble of trading in the consistency for the unknown, and there are many cautionary tales across the college football world that supports that.
But if Miami has a good season and Georgia struggles to something in the 7-5 neighborhood, it is too early to scream “We shouldn’t have parted ways.” You can only fairly say that several years from now, not after one or two seasons. It will be maddening to hear folks that sort of thing after the Coah Smart’s first, or second, season. Especially if Coach Richt is successful in Miami.
My expectations for Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs in 2016 are these: I want to see consistency. I want to see the players play hard. I want to see the coaches make decisions that put the players in the best position to succeed. I don’t want to see us struggle to put away inferior opponents. I don’t want to see the team come out flat. I want to see Georgia play well against good teams, and even in defeat, I want to feel like Georgia did all it could do to win. I don’t want to see the same mistakes made game after game, season after season.
If these things are achieved, 7-5 would be worth it, because it would also show that the program is heading back where it needs to go, win/loss record be damned.
So, what are your expectations for Kirby Smart’s first year?