Nolan Smith is the response to people pointing fingers at Kirby Smart

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart talks to Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nolan Smith (4) Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart talks to Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nolan Smith (4) Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports /

Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith is getting rave reviews for his performance at the NFL Combine, and those criticizing Kirby Smart should look at him more closely. 

Kirby Smart has come under fire in recent days for the off-field actions of some of his current and former players. Young men who have either been accused of or involved in illegal car racing. Young men who have been arrested for public intoxication.

It’s easy to point the finger at Kirby Smart and say “What’s he doing to prevent this?” but that’s just another version of “Mark Richt has clearly lost control of this program.”

Both statements are hyperbolic and utterly nonsensical, and anyone who thinks Kirby Smart or any other football coach has the ability to control what invincible-feeling young men do after they’ve left his charge is fooling themselves.

Rather than look at some of the perceived failures, it may be better to take a broader look at the work Kirby Smart is doing (beyond winning titles) to put a bit of perspective on things.

The Georgia football team has anywhere from 85-105 players on the roster at any given time. Kirby Smart has been Georgia’s head football coach for seven years. That means he’s been there to influence and guide hundreds of young men during his tenure.

Yes, Jalen Carter most likely did something stupid and doubled down on it by not being honest. Yes, Jamon Dumas-Johnson also wasn’t using very good judgment, nor was Travon Walker, both involved in automobile incidents that may or may not have related to illegal street racing.

To insinuate that Kirby Smart “knew” what Carter or others did or were doing makes no sense. Certainly, if Carter was willing to lie to the police (as he’s been accused of doing) then what makes anyone think he wouldn’t lie to his coach?

And Stetson Bennett? I’m sure Kirby’s best advice to his quarterback following the championship victory wasn’t “go wander the streets of Dallas in a drunken stupor and knock on random doors”.  But that’s exactly what Stetson did.

So were these cases and any other player transgressions simply abject failures by Kirby Smart? Or are they more likely anomalies of bad judgment by a select few who chose as poorly as Walter Donovan chose his chalice in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade?

Because for every dunderhead choice like Jalen Carter’s that can be pointed out, a shining example of success like Nolan Smith can be used as a rebuttal.

Nolan Smith is a better measuring stick of what Kirby Smart does for players

Nolan Smith is what should be used as an example of what Kirby Smart is teaching his players. Because Nolan Smith does it right, both on the field and off.

If you haven’t heard, Smith gave a very emotional interview at this year’s NFL Combine, where he discussed his love and respect for Kirby Smart, his love for the game of football, his annoyance at players who don’t want to stick around and work hard, and — as a bonus — his absolute support as a friend to former teammate Jalen Carter.

Smith is just one great example of an endless list of players who came out of Kirby Smart’s program and shone a positive light on Georgia and its head coach (and by the way, he crushed it in his NFL Combine drills as well).

Smith is in the same category as guys like Nakobe Dean, Rodrigo Blankenship, Jordan Davis, Mecole Hardman, James Cook, and Kenny McIntosh — not to mention the countless players whose names weren’t or never will be called at an NFL Draft who have gone on to become great in their chosen path thanks in no small part to the leadership of their head football coach.

To think that Kirby Smart can just unilaterally say “If you do anything bad you’re off the team and out of our program” is flawed and unreasonable. It negates the idea that these are indeed young men who will probably make mistakes and should be given the opportunity to learn from them.

Yes, Kirby Smart has made some mistakes and probably misjudged the character of some players, and he’ll learn from those mistakes and become a better coach, just like hopefully Carter, Bennett, Dumas-Johnson, and others will learn from their mistakes and become better versions of themselves.

To expect perfection from a coach beyond a season’s win-loss record is placing an absolutely absurd expectation on his shoulders, and Kirby Smart has enough of those as it is.

dark. Next. UGA 2023 Pre-Combine Mock Draft