Rumors begin to circulate today that Kirby Smart was going to be hired as the next head coach at Ole Miss. At this point, there is no reason to assume that these rumors are true. As a result, this journalist is in no way trying to imply that they are factual.
My question is would Smart be a good choice? Several weeks ago I listed five potential hires for the head coaching position if then-head coach Houston Nutt was fired. I listed Smart as the No. 5 option, but only if no better options were available.
The ceiling for Smart as a coach is high. Smart won the Broyles award in 2009 as the nation's best assistant coach. As the defensive coordinator for the Tide, Alabama has had an overall record of 35-4 and his defenses have been among the nation’s best.
Alabama’s defense this year is considered by many as one of the top defenses in the last two decades.
Smart is a relentless worker who has a reputation of getting the best out of his players. The Tide have been one of the top recruiting schools in the nation during Smart’s time there, and he has been one of the reasons why.
Perhaps one of the strongest things going in his favor is how hard Nick Saban has worked to keep him. He has received substantial raises each of the last two seasons as both Georgia and Florida had at least some interest in him.
He has also worked under one of the top football programs and one of the nation’s elite coordinators. The University of Alabama is ran like a well-oiled machine, and Smart has been a part of the day-to-day operations.
With that said, Smart would not be interviewing for a defensive coordinator position. Instead, he would be interviewing to be the head coach.
When you look at a potential hire from a Nick Saban staff, you have to weigh the good and bad. Someone from his staff has seen a great model for success. However, a coach that is directly under Saban has very little experience in dealing with some of the important areas of coaching.
For example, Saban has a “one voice” policy. As a general rule he does not allow freshmen players and assistant coaches to speak publicly. This might sound like a small area, but it is a large part of coaching. How you deal with the press and handle media issues will directly reflect recruiting and the team image.
Then there is going from a defensive coordinator to a head coach. Do we really know how good of a defensive coordinator he is? How often do you hear it referred to as Saban’s defense? This is because nothing happens on the Tide defense that doesn’t go through Saban.
Ask yourself this—How much will the defense drop off with Smart gone? The answer is none.
A great coordinator will usually see some drop-off at his former school when he departs. Look at the difference in the Florida Gators when Dan Mullen left for Mississippi State. They still had Tebow, but they did not have their same explosive offense.
Moreover, I am not sure that this is a league that a coach will succeed straight from being a defensive coordinator. Do you remember the last coach who came directly from a defensive coordinator position and was successful in the SEC?
How was Will Muschamp's first season? A 6-6 record is lower than the Florida Gators should ever sink.
Offensive coordinators are able to come in with proven systems and find some early success, but it has been a long time since a defensive coordinator has.
Many people believe that he is a great recruiter, so he will be able to raise the talent level quickly. To some extent that is true because of his relentless work ethic. However, he has not proven that he can recruit at a school like Ole Miss.
Comparing the Ole Miss facilities to that of the Crimson Tide is like comparing a 2011 Lamborghini to an 85 Dodge Aries.
Smart is not going to be able to go into Georgia and persuade a 5-star recruit to come to Ole Miss. It simply is not going to happen. Yes, he will get some solid players to come, but recruiting is not going to improve that drastically.
Ole Miss needs an offensive-minded coach who can come in and institute a solid offensive scheme. Then the coach can hire a defensive coordinator to come in and build up the defense.
I do not think that Smart is a bad hire, but he is a bad hire for this position. The Rebels need to bring in a coach with experience. This program is not in the kind of condition any coach wet behind the ears should take.
Smart has two options that would be best suited for him. Either stay at Alabama until Saban retires or take over as head coach of a mid-major school similar to the C-USA.
Charlie Strong is in the perfect situation. He can take some bumps and bruises and learn as he goes. However, it is not easy to grow on the job with LSU, Alabama and Auburn in your division.
The reward could be high in a Smart hire, but if he is not prepared, Ole Miss could sink lower than they are now.