While Kirby got a number of things right in what he was doing - discussing realistic possibilities for then-freshman quarterback Jacob Eason; recruiting like a mad man; fighting for institutional buy in - there was a specific thing he got wrong that set the wrong tone.
Last spring Kirby said of UGA: “Why not us?”
Perhaps it was an innocent question. I wrote, at the time, about why that’s the wrong frame of mind for a program like UGA to have. Recruiting base, tradition, resources… UGA has so much going that most places would dream of having. UGA should always be on the front foot.
Asking “Why not us?” is for underdogs… and this program, with all of its advantages, hasn't been an underdog very often the last two decades. It's one of the few programs in the country that has a fighting chance to win every single game it plays. UGA as a program has probably never been the underdog. In certain games? Sure, but not as a program. And because that’s the case, it shouldn’t think or talk like an underdog.
Wondering “why not us?” out loud in front of hot microphones might lead to some answers that people don’t want to hear. Why not UGA? There are reasons, often unpleasant realities, it hasn’t been UGA - not all of them related to who the head coach of football is at that given moment.
Thankfully Kirby has become more aggressive with what he’s saying this offseason about his program’s present and future (for the record, UGA’s athletic department should be more aggressive with goals as well). Not only should he be more aggressive because that’s in his nature; he should also be that way because, again, that more accurately reflects UGA’s situation in the SEC and college football globally.
“At the University of Georgia we should be a team that is favored to win the East each year,” Kirby Smart told Paul Finebaum last week during a golfing event in Alabama.
Bingo for a lot of reasons.
Again, a lot of places don’t have what the likes of UGA, Florida, Alabama and LSU have - they don’t have the resources handy to be the bully, but those four do. Some Georgia fans may like to think their team or program is the underdog. But folks, get Larry Munson’s classic pessimism out of your heads. The underdog role is not what this place is or has been, and its not what this place ever should be.
Kirby and company have to embrace being the bully. For the record - the bully gets his ass kicked every now and then, but they are still the bully; and they are always feared.
Some programs - Auburn (specifically against the Tide), Clemson, Georgia Tech and South Carolina - have embraced underdog status over time. Louisville and Michigan State has also been successful at being little brother. Clemson, the program, managed to be so used to being an underdog two years ago that they were both the No. 1 team in the country and players and coaches routinely said they felt “disrespected” at the same time.
Georgia can’t be that - never could be, and Clemson is going to have a harder time pulling that off this season, but Dabo will probably give it a shot nonetheless. Louisville can still perpetrate that, but that - again - is for the birds…not the dogs.
That’s not what Georgia is, and folks should grow more comfortable with being the aggressor. As UGA’s coach correctly put it last week: “We should be a team that is favored to win the East each year.”
Exactly. Embrace being the bully.