BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - I have no idea if Kirby Smart will be a successful head coach at Georgia or not. What I do know is the school clearly wanted the 39-year old Smart, had a clear and concise plan to land the Alabama defensive coordinator and executed it briskly.
LSU and their efforts to replace Les Miles with Jimbo Fisher on the other hand, were a clumsy and wobbly embarrassment for the Tigers and a public relations nightmare for the university. LSU dove head first into the roaring river and dirty waters of a lengthy, negative news cycle that basically did nothing but damage their national brand.
For two weeks LSU practically told the world how bad Miles was, then 15 minutes after the Tigers' effective, yet certainly less than stellar 19-7 win over Texas A&M, basically shook his hand and shrugged "Hey, no hard feelings coach."
The idea to leak Miles' potential ouster to the local press, which then quickly mushroomed nationally, obviously proved to be a major mistake for LSU. Meanwhile Miles, who I'm convinced could fall out of an airplane from 3,000 feet and land squarely on his feet, played his PR cards absolutely perfectly.
He never displayed a hint of anger or lashed out during press conferences (and there were a few) that questioned his job status. Miles consoled a crying "Sadie From Denton, Texas" at what figured to be his final radio show ever last Wednesday at TJ Ribs, hugging and consoling the young girl who feared her favorite coach was soon gone. Miles genuinely emerged as a sympathetic figure, despite the fact he'd walk away with $15 million dollars if fired.
And there's plenty of good reasons to like Miles, besides the fact he wins. "How's your dad?," he asked me during that same evening Sadie was feeling down. The extremely personable Miles then told me that his father, passed away just before Miles ever led his first game as a head coach at Oklahoma State. That kind of stuff resonates.
But back to the main topic here. Georgia, despite finishing the regular season with a winning, not losing streak, fired head coach Mark Richt one day after the Bulldogs' 13-7 win over rival Georgia Tech. Bang, it was done. Two days later, Smart was reportedly in place to replace Richt. Georgia had one bullet, one gun and squarely hit the bullseye. To the contrary, LSU looked like Fredo trying to protect "The Godfather" in the classic movie, bumbling to get a handle on their pistol and then watching it spin and fall to the street below without getting off a shot.
As you probably heard by now, LSU president F. King Alexander and athletic director Joe Alleva were never on the same page, when it came to pushing Miles out. The two didn't communicate properly to create a united front, essentially heading in two completely different directions. Considering the magnitude of this situation and the long term effects of the decision, that's simply mind boggling. Eventually King, along with the emotional outpouring of LSU fans and the support of other powerful people of influence like Shaquille O'Neal, saved Miles for another season.
Meanwhile Jimbo Fisher, who many people feel had plenty of interest in coming to LSU, stays in Tallahassee with Florida State. Had everything stayed quiet behind the scenes, like it did at Georgia, perhaps the Tigers could've told Miles goodbye Sunday and had Fisher locked up by Tuesday, with an introductory press conference in Baton Rouge before the weekend. But the hurricane that LSU created themselves, ripped the plan apart. Destruction from within.
A year from now we will reflect on these days. They could go down as monumental ones in the history of both programs. Perhaps Kirby Smart will be a bust at Georgia and Miles will finally adapt and return LSU to elite status, with an improved Brandon Harris and advanced offensive thought process.
Or maybe Smart will soar in Athens as he did alongside Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa (they won three national championships together), with Miles back on the chopping block following another unfulfilling season and defeat to the Crimson Tide. At that point LSU officials may anguish over their missed opportunity with Fisher. Maybe Fisher was/is no good for LSU anyway. Who knows?
What we do know, is that both Georgia and LSU had a movement in recent weeks to replace their head football coach. Both men had long runs of success (although Miles made two trips to the national championship and won one, zero on both counts for Richt in four more years on the job), but likewise experienced fatigue factors with their respected fan bases. One school moved quietly through the night towards their goal, while the other triggered car alarms and barking dogs.
The Bulldogs got their man. LSU, botched their plan.