#ItMightMeanTooMuch: Some thoughts on the petition to get Georgia OC James Coley fired
It wouldn’t be October in the SEC without petitions/GoFundMe campaigns to rid of coaches.
They’re not uncommon, especially for a team coming off a humiliating loss like say … Georgia?
Watching the Dawgs lose as a 3-touchdown favorite against South Carolina was humiliating on a variety of fronts. Besides the obvious — the aforementioned 3-touchdown favorite thing — it was the Gamecocks’ first win over a ranked foe since 2016. That year was the last time the Dawgs lost a divisional game. Since the start of 2017, Georgia beat every SEC East foe by at least 14 points.
Until Saturday … when Georgia was held to 17 points in double overtime … at home … against a 3-loss team.
Not surprisingly, that resulted in a mid-week petition not for the firing of Kirby Smart, but rather for the firing of Georgia offensive coordinator James Coley. He took the majority of the blame for the egg Georgia laid.
Here was what the petition on Change.org said about Coley:
UGA Offensive Coordinator James Coley single-handedly made us lose against South Carolina at home. He made our team a national embarrassment and that is unforgivable. He has no right to be an FBS coach, let alone a UGA coach. He must be out of Athens ASAP! Please sign, and tell every UGA and CFB fan to sign as well so that justice can be served! #FireColey
(Real quick. I love how it said “tell every UGA and CFB to sign as well.” Um, why in the world would the rest of college football want Georgia to fire a struggling coordinator? Because college football at large needs Georgia to be relevant? Probably should have just cut off that sentence with UGA fans.)
The petition, as of Thursday morning, had more than 400 signatures. It’s easier to sign an online petition than it is to get people to fork over money on a GoFundMe page for an 8-figure buyout. Coley doesn’t have an 8-figure buyout, but needless to say, he does have a growing number of doubters in Georgia’s first year without Jim Chaney. Against Power 5 teams including Notre Dame, Georgia is averaging just 27 points per contest from the offense (take away that scoop and score against Tennessee).
So far, the offense has been a disappointment. Fans know it. Reporters know it. Smart has to know, too.
Earlier this week, there was an exchange between a reporter and Smart in regards to Coley’s play-calling:
“Kirby, big picture, your assessment of James Coley to this point as an offensive coordinator. And also, in general, how much do you sort of immerse yourself in offense, and how much of his play calling is influenced by basically what you want or something maybe you say to him in headphones?”
Smart replied, “Yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to Kentucky right now. That’s the biggest concern we’ve got, and we’re going to focus on that. I think the most important part of an offense is scoring points, and that’s the most important thing. Now, how do I get to those points? Do I get to them through explosive plays? Do I get them through long, methodical drives, which has so far been our MO. That’s been the identity we have, of long, methodical drives, and we’ve had some really good long, methodical drives.
“At the end of the day we’re all judged by, number one, how do I score points, how do I protect the ball and how explosive can I be, and that’s what we’re focused on.”
I get it. Smart isn’t going to throw his offensive coordinator under the bus. That doesn’t do him any good. You can bet that Smart wasn’t giving Coley a bunch of pats on the back after Saturday’s debacle. Smart, Coley and the entire Georgia staff were out-coached by a South Carolina staff that looked like it was 2 steps ahead of everything Jake Fromm and Co. tried to do.
Georgia fans have every right to be mad by what they saw from Coley on Saturday. In the 3rd consecutive game, the Dawgs showed up looking like the less-prepared team in the first half. The offensive play-calling was predictable, unimaginative and just downright frustrating to watch.
I imagine the Georgia fans who didn’t shatter their TVs after Saturday’s loss flipped on the Florida-LSU game that night and thought that a different sport was being played. LSU’s offense is an absolute juggernaut that doesn’t look like it can be stopped.
And it isn’t because it has vastly more talent than everyone. Nobody was saying Joe Burrow was better than Jake Fromm this offseason. LSU’s leading receiver, Justin Jefferson, is a former 3-star recruit who got a fraction of the offers that guys like George Pickens and Demetris Robertson got. Clyde Edwards-Helaire isn’t talked about like D’Andre Swift at all. And the offensive line LSU has is significantly improved, but isn’t Georgia supposed to have the best offensive line in the country?
Yet you watch LSU move the ball down the field and it’s like a hot knife cutting through butter while Georgia’s offense looks like when you try to spread cold butter on un-toasted bread.
LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady has made all the difference in implementing the Tigers’ RPO-based system. Coley, on the other hand, has reminded Georgia fans of their frustration with Chaney. Ergo, the petition to fire Coley and hopefully find their version of Brady.
It’s not like the people who start and sign a petition like that believe it’ll actually result in Coley’s firing (at least I hope not). Picture Smart stepping up to the podium and being like “well, they got all those signatures so we just had to fire Coley.” That’s not how college football/life works.
I consider it a way of venting some understandable angst over this offense. And the one thing I’ll say in Coley’s defense is that Georgia’s offense is built around its strengths. It’s predicated on that oversized offensive line imposing its will and letting the bevy of backs run wild while Fromm lights up defenses with the play-action, which works the vast majority of the time. It’s simple. Too simple, in fact.
But when a defensive line can stand its ground and it has a secondary capable of sticking with talented but inexperienced receivers who can’t get separation? Well, it all goes to crap. The Athens crowd saw that first hand on Saturday.
Kindly move out of Javon Kinlaw’s way, SIRpic.twitter.com/SHkNipV7d8
— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) October 12, 2019
And perhaps there were more warning signs than many (myself included) cared to admit for the No. 3 team in the country. How bad does only putting up 30 points against Vanderbilt in the opener look now? Shoot, 1-4 UNLV just hung 34 on the Commodores.
It’s little things like that why plenty of Georgia fans already want to cut bait with Coley, regardless of how much praise he was given in the offseason following Chaney’s departure. The Dawgs were going to be less predictable, more explosive and ultimately, make another run at reaching the national championship.
This offense, however, isn’t what Georgia fans signed up for. If it spirals into an 9-3 regular season? Well, that’ll be even more simple than Georgia’s offense.
No petition should be needed to move on from Coley.