Georgia Football: Kirby Smart’s QB Blind Spot

Kirby Smart and JT Daniels, Georgia football. Mandatory Credit: Joshua L. Jones-USA TODAY NETWORK
Kirby Smart and JT Daniels, Georgia football. Mandatory Credit: Joshua L. Jones-USA TODAY NETWORK /

By all accounts, the Kirby Smart-led Georgia Bulldogs have been uber-successful. Continuing QB issues, however, are puzzling and perplexing.

One would have to be daft to complain about the trajectory of the Georgia football program over the last six years. Kirby Smart has compiled a record of 64-15 (.810%) with four SEC East Division titles, one SEC Championship, a Rose Bowl win, a Peach Bowl win, a Sugar Bowl win, and now two playoff appearances in those six years. By all accounts, that is a successful tenure for a first-time head coach.

Yet, there has been a nagging, stultifying, and stupefying blind spot during Coach Kirby Smart’s time in Athens and it just happens to have been at the most important position on a football team: the quarterback. And after Saturday’s dismantling at the hands of Alabama, to the tune of 41-24, Georgia fans are somewhat despondent and disgruntled heading into the 2021 playoffs.

The focus of fan ire this season surrounds former walk-on Stetson Bennett IV, and his getting playtime over former 5-star Cali QB JT Daniels.

To be clear, there is no doubt to anyone who has seen both gentlemen play that Daniels is vastly superior, in terms of athletic ability.

Daniels is bigger and stronger than Bennett, clearly has better field vision, and can push the ball in a manner that Bennett simply cannot. Yet, since week 2 or 3 of the season, Bennett has been “the guy”. Outside of the locker room, and based purely on casual fan game watching, it just doesn’t make sense.

The problem, however, is not with Bennett vs. Daniels. In 2021 it is, no doubt, but there is a larger picture that fans can’t focus on regarding Kirby Smart’s quarterback decisions during his very successful tenure in Athens.

Georgia football fans have been through this before, and it is happening again much to their jaw-clenching chagrin.

Georgia football still hasn’t solved the quarterback position

Much ink, water-cooler chatter, and family conversation was spent talking about Smart’s decision in 2018 to stick with a struggling and regressing Jake Fromm over a promising talented Freshman in Justin Fields. If you are ever in a Hardee’s at 7 AM in Albany, Georgia, or Vidalia, or Tifton, or Waycross, just bring it up and the old necks will get going with grumbling.

I argued then, and still argue, that it was the right decision, but only because Fromm was always supposed to be a four-year player. With Fields being “3-and-done”, Fromm over Fields could make sense. But Fromm left after his Junior year, leaving the Quarterback room at UGA in shambles.

Fast forward to the present, and going into the 2021 season, fans looked to the quarterback room with much promise. The ballyhooed Daniels would lead the way this year, then two former 5-star high school Quarterbacks would battle it out to be the face of the future.

The future was bright and the QB situation was fixed. Nobody and I mean nobody, even considered that Stetson Bennett would lead this team this year.

Still, here we are. And this writer wants to be very clear; This is not intended as a hit job on Mr. Bennett. That South Georgia dude grew up as a Georgia fan and has no doubt, given every fiber of his being to make this team successful. I believe that irrefutable.

That said, and here is the crux, this is the most talented team, with the most quality depth, filled with future NFL talent at every single position, that we have ever seen in a Georgia uniform. Except, at Quarterback, which is the most important position on a football team. On the surface, it just doesn’t make sense.

We will probably never know what happened to make Smart choose Bennett over a now, seemingly, healthy Daniels. One surmises that there is a lingering health issue, or personality conflict in the locker room, or some such that usually dictates these things. We also don’t know that Daniels is actually good enough to beat Alabama if he were to start that game.

That said, what we do know is that Georgia will have to beat Alabama to win anything of importance, and Bennett has led Georgia football twice against that team and could only muster 24 points each time, along with multiple costly turnovers and drive-killing misses. That is a big enough sample size for this scribe.

We also know that this lays solely at the feet of Head Coach Kirby Smart. Jim Chaney and James Coley were the Offensive Coordinators involved in those aforementioned Fromm discussions and decisions. Neither is there now, as Todd Monken has taken over the play-calling. The only constants are the head coach and questionable quarterback choices.

Kirby Smart has absolutely changed the arch and trajectory of the University of Georgia football program in his six years. It is now a perennial top-5 program, with a national brand that is elite. Recruiting has reached Alabama levels each year, and the roster looks to be loaded with early-round NFL talent for the next few years.

But, if they can’t get an NFL-caliber quarterback to lead all of those other NFL-caliber players, Smart will never win a National Championship.

Fans are asking, “why does it have to be this way?” I’m not sure it does, and nobody can or will answer how it got this way.

Only the folks in the coaches’ lounge can answer that question or fix that problem. So, the question persists, while the Georgia Bulldogs are one game away from a second national championship appearance under Smart.

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It’s all very curious.