Mark Richt’s decision last season to hire Brian Schottenheimer as Mike Bobo’s replacement at offensive coordinator was one of the most controversial choices in Richt’s career. While the former Rams coordinator carried plenty of experience with him on his move to Athens, there were plenty of outspoken critics that greeted him.
And now that Kirby Smart has replaced Richt, and the decision was made to not retain Schottenheimer, UGA legend Fran Tarkenton gave his two cents on the offensive coordinator’s missteps in 2015, and Georgia’s chaotic season.
“I just think the whole year was a little challenged,” Tarkenton said. “I don’t think there was the unity that you’ve got to have in the whole situation over there. I think it was real toxic. If you get anything toxic in the culture and environment of a close-knit NFL team or college team where you’re so dependent on each other and you need that support, and you need that cohesion, I think Schottenheimer came in at a bad time.
“And I think it was toxic and not conducive to being the type of culture that you want. And I think he’s got a good reputation as a great coach. His father was a great coach. And I think he’ll do well wherever he goes. I think he stepped into a very difficult situation.”
Tarkenton doesn’t point the finger at any one individual for the toxic environment he says existed in Athens, but he does believe that the Bulldogs’ struggle on the gridiron started with a disorderly coaching staff.
“I don’t think (Schottenheimer) caused the toxicity,” Tarkenton said. “I think it was already started. And I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell you where, but it certainly was stressful. And if you put stress into an environment that is so results-oriented — and it is, you’re only as good as your last week — and if you don’t have that stable environment, it impacts everybody in the organization. The players, everybody. And they feel it, and they sense it, then you’re not going to get top performance.”
Tarkenton does believe the Bulldogs have a chance to get top performance next season, thanks to the changes Smart is making. The NFL Hall of Famer said he was very excited with Smart’s choice to replace Schottenheimer, Jim Chaney, who spent last season as the offensive coordinator at Pittsburgh.
“I think he’s got a good background, good experience, and Kirby Smart has been in the college game for a long time, he knows all these folks, he knows who they are,” Tarkenton said. “Being a defensive coach, he’s had to go up against his offenses. So he certainly should know the offensive coaches he thought gave him the hardest time.
“I think being a defensive coach, you know more about the offensive coach than you know about anybody else, right? I think he was a good choice, experienced guy. I know everybody’s written about it, but he was Drew Brees’ coach. I’ve talked with him, I think he’s a terrific coach.”
Now that Smart has taken over at UGA and begun to build his own staff from the ground up, Tarkenton believes those type of problems will start to disappear.
While he has no ill will toward Richt, Tarkenton believes Smart’s background and tutelage will lend to a more cohesive coaching staff and, in turn, a more successful football team.
“I think he’s such a good leader that he will not only bring the right assistants around, and the right staff around, but he will use them properly,” Tarkenton said. “He’s seen Saban work as a great leader to enable Kirby Smart to be the defensive coordinator. He knows he cannot coach all the positions. He needs to have great assistants that are empowered, and he’ll do that because he doesn’t have that kind of ego.
“That’s the measure to winning.”