Let’s play a little game here. It’s called “build a dynasty.”

Pretend that you’re 6 years old and you’re playing with LEGOs again, but for the sake of this argument, let’s use college football dynasties as our end goal.

If you’re building a dynasty, you need a few tools.

You obviously need talent. Sorry, but no team of 3-star recruits is dominating college football. Stars matter to win on that stage.

You also need coaches with a proven track record of developing said talent. It doesn’t do any good to dominate recruiting rankings if you can’t send players to the NFL after 3-5 years in your system.

You’ll probably need a coach who is in it for the long haul. It’s pretty difficult to sustain success over the course of a decade if your coach has 1 foot out the door.

And of course, you need a team that has already won it all. We don’t mention the “D-word” unless you’re already a champion.

So tell me, reader of this column, which one of those boxes goes unchecked with Georgia?

The recruiting talent is there, the NFL prospects are seemingly everywhere, Kirby Smart is 46 years old and oh, in case you missed it on Monday night, Georgia just won its first national title in 41 years.

There’s nothing holding Georgia back from being the team of the decade.

I know, I know. Alabama isn’t going anywhere. The Tide deserve to start No. 1 in all of the way-too-early Top 25 rankings. As long as Nick Saban is on that sideline, perhaps it’s foolish to suggest that there’s the possibility of a non-Alabama SEC dynasty forming. Assuming that Saban does indeed coach until the robots get here, we shouldn’t assume that UGA will suddenly dominate a team that it just beat for the first time in 14 years.

But being “the team of the decade” doesn’t necessarily mean dominating the sport like Alabama did in the 2010s (and the tail end of the 2000s as well as the first year of the 2020s). Owning that title doesn’t just mean winning 4 national titles and appearing in the majority of those 10 championship matchups. It’s perhaps unfair to hold any program to the 2010s Alabama standard.

So what could that look like for Georgia? It’s winning 2-3 titles and maybe having 1-2 years in which it misses the Playoff.

(Stay tuned on what “missing the Playoff” actually means. It doesn’t sound like expansion is quite so imminent.)

That seems entirely possible. I mean, we just saw Smart win a title with Stetson Bennett IV as his quarterback. As long as Bennett doesn’t plan on also sticking around until the robots get here, eventually, one would think that Smart will have his version of Bryce Young or Tua Tagovailoa. Or perhaps Smart is now convinced that former walk-ons are the ideal quarterbacks. Who knows.

Smart’s first title felt different from Dabo Swinney’s. Clemson shared the “team of the latter half of the 2010s” title with Alabama. With Swinney, we questioned if he just won a national title because he had Deshaun Watson. To Swinney’s credit, he elevated Clemson’s recruiting and set forth a new standard in the post-Watson era to put that question to bed. We might not call Clemson’s run a “dynasty” because of that back-and-forth run with Alabama.

Would Georgia fans take a 6-year run like Clemson’s from 2015-20?

  • 2 national titles
  • 4 national title game appearances
  • 5 Playoff appearances
  • 6 conference titles
  • 6 top-4 finishes

And for what it’s worth, we’re only cutting it off at 2020 because Clemson had a down year in 2021 … which still included double-digit wins.

Why can’t Georgia do that? Top-3 recruiting classes aren’t going away. Smart has clearly embraced NIL — the new NIL era also limits the possibility of any potential NCAA investigation that could sink a program a la the 2000s USC — and he’s been extremely active at addressing positional needs with coveted players in the transfer portal. Say what you want about Smart’s desire to stick with a “game manager” at quarterback, but everything else suggests he’s evolving as a head coach.

Sure, he lost Dan Lanning. If you want to build anything resembling a dynasty, you’re going to have to roll with some staff shakeups, of which, Smart has already had in his 6 years in Athens. That’s the byproduct of winning. Ask Saban about that. He’s had 8 different offensive coordinators in Tuscaloosa. Also of note, Alabama just had its second consecutive offensive skill-player win the Heisman Trophy.

The question for Smart is how he handles success. Does he follow the Ed Orgeron path to obscurity? Or does he play the “build a dynasty” game? There’s a middle ground there, too. There’s no guarantee these things follow a linear path.

Remember Urban Meyer at Ohio State? Meyer’s 2014 team won it all a year earlier than expected. Even with the first unanimous preseason No. 1 team in AP Poll history in 2015, Meyer couldn’t win the division. In fact, he never scored another Playoff point. Think about that. Nobody in their right might would’ve made that prediction in the days after the 2014 title, much like nobody would say that about Smart.

Meyer was 50 when he won it all with Ohio State. There was a path for him, fresh off a victory against Alabama, to rule the college football world and finish what he started at Florida. Instead, Meyer made a couple of miscalculated staff hires, he had some tough moments in big-time games, his team occasionally crapped the bed against a random Big Ten West team and his team never dialed into that peak-2014 mode.

In some ways, Meyer is a more appropriate cautionary tale for how to handle success than Orgeron. Yes, Meyer won 3 titles and is easily the No. 2 coach in the sport in the 21st century. He also spiraled in his opportunities to truly dominate the sport and be considered “the team of the decade.”

Maybe Meyer got burnt out in part because he had a different path to success than Smart. He didn’t get the apprenticeship of spending 11 years working closely with the best coach in the sport’s history, which allowed Smart to play a pivotal role in building the Alabama dynasty. That’s perhaps the thing that could put Smart into a different stratosphere. There’s no denying he’s wired like Saban.

Tim Tebow said on Tuesday that “a sleeping giant was awakened” and that Georgia is going to be a contender for the next 10 years. That notion might not unanimous, but it at least seems like the consensus. Even in a sport that can flip on its head in a year — see “Orgeron, Edward” — it’d hard to envision a scenario in which Smart won’t retain national contender status for the next decade.

This wasn’t an outlier season. UGA wasn’t built on the emergence of 1 player. Smart doesn’t appear to show any signs of a coach running out of steam. Now, he now knows what championship DNA really is. And it’s his own championship DNA.

Time will tell if Smart will put all the pieces together to build his own dynasty. Monday night established at least 1 thing.

The dynasty foundation is there, and it’s sturdier than ever.