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Is Kirby Smart a Top 10 SEC Coach of All Time Right Now?

Is Kirby Smart Top 10

Is Kirby Smart Top 10

As we get to the close of the dog days of summer, we happen from time to time encounter lists from college football sources we read and make us scratch our heads. AL.com recently put out an article titled, "Who are the top 10 football coaches in SEC history?" The usual suspects are present - Saban, Bear, Spurrier, Neyland, Dodd and so on. I won't spoil the entire list.

Then you get to the end of the article and you notice the "Others of Note," Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee (1993-2008); Johnny Majors, Tennessee (1977-92); Les Miles, LSU (2005-16); Mark Richt, Georgia (2001-15); Frank Thomas, Alabama (1931-46); Wallace Wade, Alabama (1923-30).

When I got done reading the article, I was left wondering; why isn't Kirby Smart listed here?

Why is Urban Meyer listed at #5?

Why is Mark Richt listed as "Others of Note" and Kirby Smart not here?

The Case For Kirby Smart

The New Year's Six games consist of six bowls: Rose, Sugar, Cotton, Orange, Fiesta, and Peach. Smart's teams have participated in five of these games, winning four at four different venues.

Some of the coaches who have won at 4 of the 6 game sites include: Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, Tom Osborne, Lou Holtz, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Mack Brown, and Kirby Smart with Smart winning the Rose, Peach, Sugar, and Orange Bowls. Being involved with some of college football royalty there absolutely helps.

During Smart's first six seasons, the Bulldogs have amazed a record of 66-15, won 4 SEC East Championships and winning the 2017 SEC Championship, played in 2 National Championship games, winning 1.

Smart's run at Georgia may not have the long sustained runs like Bear Bryant and Nick Saban had at Alabama, but are on par to those runs by SEC coaching legends Johnny Vaught (1954-1962), Vince Dooley (1978-1983), Steve Spurrier (1991-1998), and Urban Meyer (2005-2009).

Kirby versus Other Coaches Who Made the List

Urban Meyer

One of the coaches who made the list was Urban Meyer. Meyer was ranked 5th on AL.com's list, here is what was said about Meyer:

The mercurial Meyer lasted just six years at Florida, but he packed quite a bit of winning into that short time. His Gators went 65-15 overall, winning 13 games three different times, going 5-1 in bowl games and claiming BCS national championships in 2006 and 2008. His 2009 team looked ticketed for a second straight title before being derailed by Alabama’s rising juggernaut. Meyer’s exit from Florida was controversial, as he claimed to be suffering from exhaustion and other health problems, only to surface less than two years later at Ohio State, where he enjoyed even greater success (including a national title in 2014). With Nick Saban, he is one of two modern-era coaches to win national championships at two different schools.

AL.com on Urban Meyer

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Smart has coached 1 more game than Meyer, and if we take away Kirby's first game against North Carolina (a 33-24 win), Smart has the exact same record as Meyer over the first 80 SEC games coached.

To me, Meyer's feats out of the SEC should have no bearing on SEC ranking. While I am impressed with Meyer ability to take a Mountain West team in 2005 to an undefeated season, and guide Ohio State to a 2012 undefeated season and a 2014 National Championship in the Big Ten, it should have no bearing on SEC merit.

Smart may fall short on fewer National Championships (2 to 1) and SEC Championships (2 to 1), he closes the gap on more SEC East Championships (4 to 3) , post season wins (6 to 5), and matches Meyer's National Championship Game appearance total at 2. While Meyer might still have a small gap ahead of Smart, Meyer's inclusion opens the door for Smart with him being so close in achievement as Urban.

Bobby Dodd

Bobby Dodd is a coaching immortal in the sport of college football. He has coaching awards named after him, the Yellow Jackets themselves play in Bobby Dodd Stadium, and was a compass for college football in the middle of the 20th Century.

A knock on Kirby Smart is he doesn't have longevity and a case against the longevity is using Dodd.

Dodd has 143 SEC coaching wins to his name and he gets most of his SEC acclaim with a 6 year run in the 1950's (1951-1956) where the Yellow Jackets went 59-7-3 with 2 SEC Championships, 1951 National Championships, and a 6 bowl wins including 5 in present day New Year's Six Games (3 Sugar, Cotton, Orange).

Take out that 6 year run, Dodd falls to 84-49-4 record, 3-4 bowl game record, no SEC Championships and only had 1 season out of 13 seasons where the Yellow Jackets finished higher than 4th in the SEC (2nd place in 1947).

The point is, Dodd makes the list based on a six year high and not a 13 year run of mediocre or less football. To punish Smart for not having filler seasons doesn't take away from the highs he has accomplished.

Mark Richt

I have the utmost respect for Coach Richt, he is a great man and a great coach. During his time at Georgia, Richt went 145-51 with 2 SEC Championships and 5 SEC East Division Championships. He averaged 9.7 wins a season at Georgia.

The biggest knock on him as a coach - and the reason he was ultimately relieved of his duties - was that he didn't win enough of the big games.

Richt did not participate in a New Year's Six bowl in his final 8 seasons at Georgia and during his time went 3-1 in those games.

On the flip side, Kirby has more New Year's Six Bowl wins in his time, and won the elusive national championship Georgia had been chasing since 1980, it is beyond me how Richt is included as an honorable mention and Kirby is not.

Final Call

There is a reason Georgia rewarded Kirby Smart with a 10-year $112.5 million contract, it is the fact that he wins, wins often, and has won big for the Bulldogs. The names of legendary coaches Smart associates himself with in bowl triumphs speaks volumes as to where Kirby Smart is all-time in the sport and even the SEC Conference.

You will be very hard pressed to find coaches all time who have gone on 6-year runs that significantly better than Smart's current run at Georgia.

We are witnessing an all timer, and Georgia knows it.

We don't judge the greatest on their pre or post-peak, we judge them when they were at their best and right now, you would be very hard pressed to find 10 greater SEC coaches all time than Kirby Smart.