Georgia football lost its defensive coordinator last week, and while it’s a great opportunity, part of us feels like Dan Lanning should have stayed and learned some more from head coach Kirby Smart.
This article is not a Lanning bash piece — it’s not even an article stating Dan Lanning will not have a long and possibly successful career as a college football head coach.
All we’re getting at is as good as Lanning is — he could still get better and learn more. No one is too good not to learn more about their craft.
Dan Lanning should have stayed at least another year as the defensive coordinator at Georgia football.
Lanning came to Georgia after the 2017 season when former linebacker coach Kevin Sherrer took over as defensive coordinator at Tennessee. Before coming to Georgia, Lanning had two full-time coaching jobs — one year as defensive backs coach at Sam Houston State in 2014 and two years as inside linebackers coach at Memphis in 2016 and 2017.
Notice that year missing in between the two jobs? In 2015, Lanning was a graduate assistant at Alabama, working under longtime Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Now Lanning is finishing up year three as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. Seven years as an assistant coach at this level. Put in perceptive, Smart was defensive coordinator at Alabama for eight years and was an assistant coach for twelve years.
Smart had seen just about everything imaginable as an assistant coach.
Lanning also walked into a situation that Smart and his former defensive coordinator Mel Tucker set up for success. Tucker was defensive backs coach at Alabama in 2015 when Lanning was grad assistant, and Smart was the defensive coordinator — small world, right?
When Tucker left Georgia, Lanning took over, and the players kept on learning the same defense. There was no breaking down and relearning by the players. Lanning did not have to learn the players or language. Smart set him up — all he had to sit behind the wheel and drive.
We have not seen Lanning do any rebuilds. When Tucker left, we knew he had been around the game a long time and had done it all. Sam Pittman was an assistant coach for over twenty years — the experience was never a question when he left for Arkansas.
Where is Lanning’s experience? Where are his teams that he took less talent and made something from it? Do we even believe this defense in 2021 was “his”? How much did Smart have to do with it? I’m not questioning his ability to coach; I’m questioning whether we saw his best at Georgia?
With all that said, I understand him leaving now. He led a defense of upperclassmen who understood the assignment and dominated. There are All-American and award winners on that that are all leaving. Strike while the iron is hot.
However, if he stayed, it would truly help him in the long run. Being around Smart, Will Muschamp, and Glenn Schumann would only help him become a better coach.
Some of the best head coaches were long-time assistants. While that seems to be a thing of the past, experience and expertise go hand-in-hand.
Lanning should have taken the job because it’s a great opportunity and something he could find a lot of success with, but we all could wonder what if he stayed and how that would have gone.
We won’t know now, but Lanning will likely always be able to reach out to Smart for advice as he should. Smart took a chance on him, which helped him get to this point in his career. Lanning did his time at Georgia, but it should have been one more season.
He is a green coach, but it seems like he knows to do the right thing, and that’s something Oregon should be excited about getting.
The fact that he isn’t leaving the team high and dry for the bowl game speaks to his character, and it’s something not many coaches do anymore, so kudos to him.
No one blames Lanning for taking the Oregon job, and the Georgia football defense will be fine without him, but Lanning could have gained more knowledge from Smart, and it would have only benefited him in the long run.
Dan Lanning should have really withheld from leaving UGA