A body in motion stays in motion. That’s Newton’s first law. It has become Kirby Smart’s true north. His program no longer wastes time and effort on personnel searches. The Georgia Bulldogs fill gaps before gaps exist.
En route to its first national championship under Smart, defensive coordinator Dan Lanning was tapped by Oregon as its head coach. That was a surprise to most; indeed, when esteemed AJC colleague Chip Towers broke the news, others in the media claimed it wasn’t so. It was so.
The Bulldogs were 20 days from a playoff semifinal against Michigan. They needed no distractions. Losing a defensive coordinator can be a major distraction. Georgia conducted no nationwide search. It looked down the hall. Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann, both on staff, would become co-DCs.
On Tuesday morning, the Baltimore Ravens announced they’d hired Todd Monken as offensive coordinator. He’d been Georgia’s OC for three seasons, over which the Bulldogs were 37-3 and the winners of consecutive national titles. Their press release was emailed at 11:39 a.m.: “Mike Bobo taking over offensive coordinator duties.” Then Smart and Co. decided what to have for lunch.
Not every school can do this. Even Alabama can’t do this. Nick Saban just hired two coordinators who’d been working elsewhere – OC Tommy Rees at Notre Dame, the wayfaring Kevin Steele most recently at Miami. To fill its second- and third-biggest positions, Georgia didn’t need to issue new swipe cards for the Butts-Mehre parking lot. A body in motion … well, we said that already.
Smart hired Muschamp after he’d been fired by South Carolina as head coach. Smart hired Bobo after he was fired as Auburn’s OC. He’d previously been fired as Colorado State’s head coach. He’d also served as South Carolina’s interim coach after Muschamp was canned. Small world, college football.
Technically, neither Muschamp nor Bobo returned to their alma mater as assistant coaches. They were defensive and offensive analysts, respectively. Georgia and Bama lead the world in analysts. It’s a way to stash former coaches for the moment you need them to become coaches again. If Smart learned anything in Tuscaloosa, it was that a top-shelf program will always have vacancies.
Smart arrived in Athens in January 2016. His first OC and DC – Jim Chaney and Mel Tucker – were hired away by Tennessee and Colorado after three seasons. Lanning was bumped up to DC, James Coley to OC. Lanning did well, Coley less well. A year later, he was coaching tight ends at Texas A&M.
Smart, Muschamp and Bobo graced Georgia’s roster at the same time. Muschamp and Bobo know what Smart wants. Muschamp’s son has been UGA’s scout team quarterback. Bobo’s wife is Barbara Dooley’s niece. It might be a while before another school is moved to hire Muschamp and/or Bobo as head coach, which would be fine by Georgia. Both seem happy in Athens. Georgia pays well.
Some Bulldog backers weren’t sold on Bobo as Mark Richt’s offensive coordinator. Over Bobo’s final three seasons as OC, Georgia ranked 22nd, 17th and 28th in total offense; it was 19th, 21st and eighth in points scored. In the Bulldogs’ three losses in 2014, its opponents scored 38, 38 and 30 points. That wasn’t Bobo’s doing.
Smart is 47, Bobo 48, Muschamp 51. These are no longer hot young coordinators/recruiters. They’ve been around. Muschamp sat in on Smart’s first job interview – with Chris Hatcher, then coaching Valdosta State; Muschamp was the DC – in which, as ESPN’s Dave Wilson reports, Smart drew a defense on a whiteboard. Said Hatcher: “If you play with 11 men, you’ve got a better chance of stopping them.”
One reason Alabama hasn’t quite been Alabama is that Saban is forever replacing coordinators. Rees will be Bama’s eighth OC since 2011, Steele its fourth DC since Smart exited after the 2015 season. There’s no way for a championship program to inoculate itself against coordinator-raiding, but Smart’s way – hiring and stashing guys you’ve known for decades – is a deft workaround.
It’s possible Georgia won’t win a third national title in succession. (Nobody has.) It’s not possible that the Bulldogs will plunge from eminence anytime soon. They’ve got it going. Smart will keep it going. Monken did fine work. Bobo will, too.
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