Is it Now or Never for Kirby Smart and Georgia?

How does Kirby Smart's rise compare to two championship winning contemporaries, and what does that mean for Georgia's title hopes?
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Every year as the season ends, fans of every team say, “Next year is the year.” Of course, "next year" can't be the year for every team, but could it be the year for Georgia football?

Georgia fans are getting restless, praying for a national championship, and head coach Kirby Smart has some fans doubting him. All year, Georgia fans read articles comparing Smart to Mark Richt. Even ESPN’s Booger McFarland got in on the debate.

The question is: Can Smart lead Georgia to a national championship? If so, when?

Is Kirby Smart on schedule or behind?

Smart is always compared to Nick Saban, so why not start there?

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Saban was first hired as a head coach by Toledo in 1990, where he spent one season before becoming defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns. Saban’s second head coaching stint began in 1995 at Michigan State and he later moved south to LSU in 2000.

In 2003, Saban won his first national title. If you’re keeping count, it took Saban 10 seasons as a head coach to win his first national championship.

Another name that comes to mind in this discussion is Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson named Swinney head coach in 2009 after he served as interim head coach in 2008. After a couple of modest seasons, Swinney had his first 10-win season in 2011 and the Tigers haven’t won fewer than 10 games since.

Most recently, Swinney has led Clemson to two national championships and four national titles games from 2015-2019.

Some feel that Smart is behind schedule because of the 2017 season, where Georgia lost the national championship on the last play of the game.

The Georgia fans that believe Smart is behind schedule do not realize how far ahead of schedule Georgia was in 2017, during Smart’s second season as head coach.

Why is this year “the year?”

With Smart entering his sixth season as Georgia's head coach, the stage is set.

Smart has been recruiting at an elite level, with five top-four classes and two No. 1 recruiting classes during his time in Athens. The talent has accumulated on the roster.

With Dan Lanning entering his third season as the defensive coordinator on Smart’s staff, Georgia’s defense is set up to have another stellar season. This will pair nicely with Todd Monken entering his second season as the offensive coordinator (his first full offseason), and JT Daniel as the starting quarterback. Georgia looks like it will field an explosive offense for the first time under Smart.

Georgia is loaded with upperclassmen that are hungry for a national championship win and that will be a hard team to beat.