Georgia has its new head coach in Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart. The Georgia alum is headed home to right a ship that folks in Athens thought was tipping at an unsafe pace under longtime coach Mark Richt.
Well, Smart is almost headed home. Before he fully takes over, Smart, who is 39, will coach Alabama's defense through the College Football Playoff. Smart once again will have a shot at winning another national championship at Alabama, but this time he'll be juggling his future job as the Bulldogs' head coach.
The plan is for Smart to spend the next week recruiting and getting things in order -- like trying to put together a coaching staff -- before returning to Tuscaloosa for the start of bowl practice. The recruiting dead period starts on Dec. 14, so Smart wouldn't exactly be doing a lot of recruiting once Alabama gets into practice, anyway. And if Alabama makes it to the national championship, the dead period would end two days after, on Jan. 13.
So on paper, this doesn't seem like a big deal. Smart will take care of all of his Georgia responsibilities while his Alabama players are away from the field and preparing for finals. Recruiting would be put on hold regardless of where he was.
Open and shut case, Johnson!
Not so fast. Let's just think about this situation. Smart is going to try and balance his time and focus on two of the country's best programs over the next month. Smart is going to try and sell recruits -- committed and still on the market -- on Georgia, while showcasing that dominant defense at Alabama, which is already full of monsters and is perfectly able to create even more monsters that recruits -- committed and still on the market -- strive to be. Smart is going to try and focus 100 percent on Georgia, while he's there, and then turn around and focus 100 percent on Bama, while he's there.
Yeah, good luck with all of this. There are going to be bumps along the way that pull his attention away from his in-the-moment job, whether he likes it or not.
Smart needs to devote all of his time to Georgia and how to rebuild a program that deemed it time to part ways with a proven winner. Georgia has a quarterback situation to fix. It has a banged-up running back who is going to need more help in 2016. There are going to be guys who are going to need to really get to know their new coach before the new year.
Fairly or unfairly, Smart has to hit the ground running at Georgia, and he just won't be able to get the right head of steam if half of his loyalty is at Alabama.
When it comes to recruiting, there's an interesting dynamic in play. When former assistants Jim McElwain (Alabama), Tom Herman (Ohio State) and even Dan Mullen (Florida) took head-coaching jobs while still on staff at their respective programs playing for national championships, they were doing it because recruiting at their new schools wasn't going to take a hit. All three could tell recruits to look at their current championship products and say "This could be you!" because those prospects weren't going to be recruited by those bigger schools.
That isn't the case for Smart. Alabama and Georgia are always recruiting the same prospects so telling guys to look at how great Alabama looks is free Tide advertising.
Also, let's not confuse Georgia with Colorado State or Houston. Smart is jumping to a major program, and he can't afford to miss time building, whether it's internally or in recruiting.
There also has been talk of Smart's loyalty to this team and program. Linebacker Reggie Ragland even said after Saturday's SEC title win over Florida that he'd be upset if Smart left. OK, let's be clear that Smart has been more than loyal to this program. Nick Saban even said that Smart has had numerous coaching opportunities that he didn't take. He has been at Alabama for nine years. Loyalty is Smart's middle name.
And, Alabama fans, don't sit here and say that you wouldn't mind your new head coach doing the exact same thing if you were in Georgia's shoes. Please, you'd want your new coach working overtime to get the Tide back on track!
Alabama wouldn't be in the playoff without Smart, and Smart wouldn't be at Georgia without Alabama. But the fact of the matter is Smart has worked for this moment, and now he has to live in it 100 percent. Say your goodbyes, hug your bros and ask them to mail you a ring if the Tide gets to that point. No hard feelings, this is a business.
There's work to be done at Georgia, and that's where Smart's new loyalty should lie.