No matter your line of work or level of schooling, you know that it is better to underpromise and overdeliver than the converse. The two most important people in the Athletic Department at Georgia Tech apparently missed that life lesson. The temperature of the GT fanbase rose significantly over the past four months largely because of mismanaged expectations: overpromising and underdelivering.
These expectations are communicated in all kinds of ways: the season motto of WIN21, the insistence on seeing progress and being close despite evidence to the contrary, the misleading ways in which all kinds of numbers are deployed. The emperor keeps on telling the kingdom that he is wearing the royal garb while everyone else can see he is naked.
My blood pressure surrounding this program has gone up throughout this season, and looking back over four months of communication helped me better understand why. Let’s walk through some of the myriad of ways in which expectations have been mismanaged. In instances where the reference is to a specific player, I will omit the name; the point here isn’t to denigrate the players but to highlight the way this coach communicates in misleading ways over and over again.
Geoff Collins on August 6th:
“The culture is set…Now I’m able to just talk ball, technique.”
Hm. Then why did he say that exact same thing December 15th? What exactly does it mean that the coach said the same thing about changing his focus from culture and branding to football before the season started and after it came to its desultory ending?
“The development piece, the recruitment piece on the offensive line…is in a really good spot.”
Here are the season-sending PFF Grades for the 9 guys who played significant snaps on the offensive line this season: 63.7, 55.9, 37.6, 56.2, 61.4, 64.3, 46.0, 68.0, and 55.9. Either the recruiting, the development, or both are simply not in a really good spot.
“[Defensive Player X]: he’s an NFL player at whatever position he decides to play.”
This player made 6 tackles all year, none for a loss.
Geoff Collins on August 16th
“[Defensive Player Y and Defensive Player Z] are as good at that position as anybody in college football”
These two players ended the year with 55.3 and 62.3 season-long PFF grades.
“On the back end, they understand our scheme inside and out.”
All season, we heard about how many communication and trust issues there were on the backend. Putting the cherry on top: Georgia Tech ended the season ranked 130th in EPA/pass allowed and Opponent Pass Efficiency Rating.
“We have the best offensive line coach in college football.”
“We’ve played elite defense every single year…and now we have a more cohesive unit playing as one.”
In the first two years of the Collins era, the defense finished 71st and 58th in SP+. In 2021, that sunk all the way to 102nd. They weren’t elite before, and they certainly weren’t better this year.
Geoff Collins on August 24th
“[Specialist X] is going to be one of the top kickers in America.”
He finished the year 0/4 from 40+ yards, topping out with a 37 yard make.
Geoff Collins on August 31st
“[Defensive Player A] is just relentless. There are times at practice when I have to tell Coach Coleman to get him out because he is creating so much disruption”
He had 6 tackles all year, none for a loss.
“I walk by and see Jeff Sims watching tape of our really successful Temple offenses.”
Those “really successful Temple offenses” finished 90th and 76th in Offensive SP+ in 2017 and 2018.
Geoff Collins on September 4th
“It’s not if it’s when...it’s gonna click and it’s gonna take over and when it does it’s gonna be really good.”
Geoff Collins on November 9th
“I think it’s obvious the growth and development in this program. If you can’t see how much we’ve grown, how much we’ve developed, you don’t want to see it.”
Todd Stansbury on November 29th
“Progress was still apparent at many points during the course of the season.”
Apparently, Collins and Stansbury got a hold of a week by week look at GT’s ranking in the Binion Index and thought higher was better. That’s the only way you could convince yourself that progress was happening over the course of the season.
Geoff Collins on November 6th
“It’s a play here and a play there.”
This was his explanation following a game in which Miami had a 21% success rate advantage.
Geoff Collins on November 13th
“The game came down to 3 third down plays.”
Boston College’s early downs success rate was equal to its third down success rate. Phil Jurkovec averaged more than 1.0 EPA/dropback on 23 dropbacks.
Todd Stansbury on November 29th
“Our current recruiting class is ranked in the top 25 nationally.”
Technically, that was true at the time. But citing it as a reason for keeping the coach for another season then requires revisiting if it is no longer true. Where do things sit as of today? GT ranks 41st, and that still includes the current top commit Janiran Bonner, who surprisingly didn’t sign on Wednesday and now almost certainly will sign elsewhere. GT will fall to about 50th without him.
Geoff Collins on December 15th
“[Recruit X] is one of the highest recruited guys in the country.”
He’s a 3 Star and is the 422nd ranked player in the country. That’s a fine player, but it’s not one of the highest recruited guys in the country.
“I’ve been tagged by others as one of the elite defensive coaches in college football.”
Something has gone very wrong then, as these three years at GT have produced defensive SP+ ranks of 72nd, 58th, and 102nd.
“We had unbelievable success at Temple doing it in a certain way.”
Collins took over a team that had been the 28th ranked team in SP+ in 2016. Temple proceeded to finish 71st and 60th in his two years at the helm.
I’m mad. A whole lot of other GT fans - from the most influential boosters to the most invisible sidewalk fans - are mad, too. And the more I think about it, the more the anger has risen proportionally to the level of overpromising that has come from the mouths of the Head Coach and the Athletic Director.
Entering 2022, I have one piece of wisdom for Todd Stansbury and Geoff Collins:
You can’t get to where you want to go without being honest about where you are.