Time for some perspective. You want to see a college football program damaged by a coaching search, look at the University of Tennessee and what their successful but misguided pursuit of Lane Kiffin last year has yielded.
But spare me the wailing and hyperbole about the state of the program in Athens. The idea that Mark Richt’s unsuccessful pursuit of three high-profile defensive coordinator candidates has inflicted humiliation and damage on his program might make for lively blogging, but it’s far removed from reality.
The fact that Bud Foster, John Chavis and Kirby Smart all were long-shots with no reason to leave their present jobs needs to be kept in mind. Maybe in a more gentlemanly era they wouldn’t have used Richt’s interest as public leverage to pry some more bucks out of their current bosses, but that’s unfortunately the way it’s done these days. And at least Richt and Damon Evans have put to rest the notion that Georgia is too tight-fisted to go after big names.
Sure, the protracted uncertainty about the DC might prompt some of Georgia’s recruits to look elsewhere. But odds are that was going to happen anyway in the wake of Willie Martinez’s firing. And depending on who the new DC is, the Dogs could attract a player or two who initially wasn’t leaning toward Georgia. One defensive recruiting class isn’t going to make or break the program.
It’s a turbulent era in college coaching, and while luring Smart away from national champion Alabama would have generated some feel-good PR, I’m not sure it would have done much for UGA in the long run. Chances are he would have been gone from Athens in a year or two when he got offered a head coaching job. That’s the problem with going after a hot young name. Call it the Tubby Smith Syndrome.
What matters isn’t the journey but where we end up.
The bottom line on Richt’s search won’t be evident until the new defensive coordinator is in place and we see how much (or if) Georgia’s defense improves. Whether it’s an assistant from the NFL, a relatively unknown DC from a smaller program or some biggie whose name hasn’t yet surfaced, it won’t matter a lick if Georgia’s scoring defense doesn’t get better.
And if the defense does once again become a strength for the Dogs and Georgia returns to contention for the SEC East title, no one is going to care or remember how long the search took or who said no along the way.
Humiliated? Damaged? Hogwash.
A couple of other thoughts on the defensive coordinator search:
Rumors are again circulating that Brian VanGorder might be interested in returning to Athens. I think that would be a mistake on both sides. The odds would be against VanGorder being able to recapture the “magic” of his era at UGA (which was helped considerably by talent he inherited from the previous coaching staff). And his job history in recent years doesn’t indicate he’d be likely to stick around very long anyway. Rehiring him would not be a step forward. …
Remember all those folks with “inside” information or “close ties” to Richt who kept assuring us all through the dalliances with Foster and Chavis that the hiring of Smart was already a “done deal” or that he was “signed and delivered” and just waiting for the BCS game to be over to make the announcement? Keep that in mind the next time someone offers up the “inside” word.