I’m starting a new series here where I take a “what if” scenario in the history of Georgia football. I think it’ll be a fun little exercise as we make the dawg days of summer go by waiting for college football to come back. I think we have a doozy of a “what if” for the first week…
“What if Kirby Smart had taken the Auburn job in 2012?”
Auburn had just fired Gene Chizik even though he had won the National Title just two years before. They were trying to keep up with Nick Saban and Alabama who were about to win their third national title since he came aboard. What better way to do so, while also hurting them by hiring his right hand man Kirby Smart. Smart seemed ready to take the gig and asked to stay on another month until the season was over for Alabama. The Auburn AD at the time decided that was a bridge too far. Instead, they brought back former offensive coordinator Guz Malzahn to lead the team. Kirby would be hired at UGA three seasons later after Richt and UGA parted ways. He would be allowed to stay on at Alabama to help prepare for the National Title game. I don’t think UGA has felt the adverse impact from that decision. Auburn on the other hand?
If they allowed Kirby Smart to finish the drill (h/t Mark Richt) and the come on, rumor had it he was going to hire away Mike Bobo from Georgia to be his offensive coordinator. Bobo was criminally underpaid and was coordinating strong offenses for Richt for years at that point. The type of offense Bobo was coordinating was still effective at the college level and would’ve done well with Smart at Auburn I believe. It’s also possible Kirby hires Jeremy Pruitt to be his defensive coordinator before he has the chance to go to Florida State that offseason. The three of them together might have made some noise on that side of the SEC. Maybe Kirby is still there having won a title or two.
So what does that mean for Georgia? Quite a lot.
Georgia had just lost a double nut punch game to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game. Just when it seemed like the game was lost, we came all the way down the field to lose it again. If Bobo leaves for greener pastures, Mark Richt has to make a new OC hire. Looking over the coaches, there were no obvious choices for promotion within. He certainly wouldn’t have been able to hire the abomination named Brian Schottenheimer, who was working as OC of the St. Louis Rams and still sucking in the NFL. Safe to say if he makes an uninspired hire similar to that one, Richt is getting put out to pasture a few years sooner.
However, there was a coach not too far away in Greenville, NC working for East Carolina who would have been quite an inspired choice to be the new OC at UGA. That man? Lincoln Riley. What if Mark Richt hired Lincoln Riley?
I’m not sure we would’ve won the National Title in 2013, but we certainly would’ve been in better shape to do so (assuming the injury bug didn’t bite as bad as it did that year). Aaron Murray in a Lincoln Riley system could’ve been fun. Maybe he gets Deshaun Watson to change his mind and come to Georgia instead. If that happens we absolutely win a National Title. Perhaps it would happen in 2015. Maybe if Richt makes that hire, and similar to Bob Stoops, he steps away and cedes the program to Riley. Rumors were swirling Richt was going to retire in 2012 if UGA won the National Title, so there might be some precedence to this theory.
Georgia QB Deshaun Watson leading the Georgia Bulldogs to a national title in 2015 is really fun to think about. Then the best QBs in the nation want to come to Georgia and play for Riley. Maybe it means Trevor Lawrence comes to Georgia also. Maybe it means we have some great WRs come play between the hedges and put on a show. It’s all contingent on Richt nailing that OC hire.
I like where we are with Kirby Smart, but if he took the Auburn job, things could be drastically different in great ways. Or we could suck and be third in the SEC East like we were with Jim Donnan.