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Tuesday Thoughts 11/22: I Love Brent Key but He Should Not Be the Next Head Coach

In which we talk defense, warm weather, and not thinking emotionally

Georgia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

WHEW I cannot believe that we’ve beaten ranked UNC two years in a row. I’ll take it, but man is this just the weirdest development.

Game Recap in Three Sentences

A game of streaks, UNC scored the first 17 points and Tech scored the final 21.

Tech alternated QBs for much of the night but Zach Gibson ended up with a solid line of 174 yards while completing 72% of his passes.

The defense stepped up big, holding Carolina to by far their fewest points this season (they had previously been averaging just over 40 points per game).

#404 Swag Champion of the Game

Keion White earned 3 sacks and 4 total TFLs - he was a huge reason the defense was able to stymie the Tar Heels.

ATLeast We Ain’t Them of the Week

Miami, in a 40-10 drubbing from Clemson, gained just 98 yards on Saturday. They held the ball for just under 22 minutes on offense and ran just 42 plays from scrimmage. Their lone touchdown came off of a 10-yard drive after a Clemson fumble.

Above The Line of the Week

  • LaMiles Brooks who snagged what was probably a game-saving interception.
  • Josh Downs for later dropping what would’ve probably been a game-winning touchdown.
  • Traveling to somewhere that isn’t freezing cold for Thanksgiving.

Stat of the Week

53%, our third down conversion rate against UNC. That’s our highest mark of the season and our first game above 50%.

5 Star (7 Star, 5 Star) Developmental Program Haiku of the Week

Two years in a row
Just end the season there please
Five wins is quite cool

I Love Brent Key but He Should Not Be the Next Head Coach

Yes, he’s gotten four wins in seven games and that’s well beyond anything Collins ever did. I still

don’t think that’s reason enough to hire him as our next HC. I’ve got several reasons to enumerate but it all boils down to one theme: a guy can be both awesome and not right for the job.

Interim games are not the same as regular games - The environment in which an interim coach operates is not the same as the one a full time coach operates in. Expectations are out the window and emotion powers everything. Qualities that make a good interim coach do not necessarily help you as a full time coach (just like qualities that make you a good full time coach do not necessarily help you as an interim coach). Key has done about as good of a job as we could ever ask for as interim but his success in that does not equate 1:1 to success as a full time HC.

We have not looked good for a single one of those four wins - All four wins have been their own brand of ugly. A win is a win, but in eye-test terms we do not look much better than we did early in the season. Nothing has fundamentally changed, and it’s taken some luck to even get these four. I think people are getting emotionally caught up in the great storyline and not seeing the details.

Did everyone forget about those three losses - UVA was an absolutely awful team and we scored 9 points. Florida State outright embarrassed us. Miami was in a complete tailspin as a program but still found it pretty easy to blow us away by the fourth quarter. We probably weren’t ever going to beat FSU or Miami, but not beating UVA was a crime. Again, nothing has fundamentally changed - we are still not a good football team. That’s not an indictment against Key himself, but it is a rebuttal against the idea that he’s “turned us around”.

He has zero head coaching experience - Yes he’s been Assistant Head Coach at UCF and Tech, but he has never been a full Head Coach on his own. I very strongly think what Tech needs right now is someone with proven head coaching experience (preferably with a program-building emphasis). Collins was a gamble at the time because he had very little HC experience, and now we’re gonna take a shot on a guy with even less?

His position group is the weak spot on this team - Our offensive line has been awful for four years and that is directly his responsibility. Sure you could point to the rumors that Collins interfered with a lot of things, but the fact remains that the OL is by far the weakest position group in this program.

I’ve seen a few different reasons to hire him floated around but I don’t think any of them hold much water:

  • “He’s a Tech Man”. I’ll be frank, I think this is flat out dumb and something I couldn’t care less about. Collins was a “Tech Man” and look where that got us. Scott Frost was the prodigal son of Nebraska and look where that got them. You can hire a guy who will care about the program without so drastically limiting your search, and I think Collins has shown that a love for the program doesn’t help overcome concrete deficiencies.
  • “He learned under Saban”. So have a hundred other good and bad coaches. Judge a guy on his own merits, not the merits of a guy he worked under for three years in a totally different environment.
  • “Just look at what he’s been able to do in such a short time”. See above. We’ve still looked awful in the wins and worse than awful in the losses. Without a miracle we’re going to finish the season with five wins - just one above what most people predicted (plenty of people predicted five as well). We haven’t exactly made a huge turnaround or drastic improvement but there’s this perception that we’re suddenly different.
  • “He’ll come cheap”. This is the only one I’ll somewhat cede. We can probably get him for below the market rate, but the success of doing so then hinges on our ability to use the saved money to hire the right coordinators. Plus, a certain coach in teal could likely be gotten cheap as well…
  • “Players love him”. That’s great, but in terms of what you have to consider when hiring a new HC I think that’s <2% of it. Plenty of players loved Collins and he’s officially the worst coach we’ve ever had in our history. I think players hating a coach is a worthy red flag, but I’m not inclined to read very far into players liking a coach. It’s a nice bonus to have a candidate your players already trust, but thats all it is: a bonus.

All the arguments in favor of Key that I’ve seen make great icing on the cake for an already-great candidate, but they don’t make the cake itself. They’re all either entirely subjective, unmeasurable, or pure conjecture. These are not the things we should be basing this search on.

None of this is to say that Key is a bad coach or even a bad candidate. I would absolutely love to retain Key on this staff; I think he’s earned it and I think he’s a positive influence on this program. But that does not mean he’s the right guy for this particular job. When you compare his resume to those of the other reported candidates (and specifically at this point it seems like Chadwell is the external leader) the difference is quite apparent. People are looking at this hire emotionally and that’s exactly what bit us with Collins. Key may not be the snake oil salesman that Collins was, but the things I’ve seen around are suspiciously similar to what people were saying about Collins in 2019 - I am very hesitant to go for the whole “Tech Man who can recruit and makes up for a lack of experience with a love for the program” thing again. J Batt should be making this decision based on data, resumes, and proven results - not a great story at an emotionally charged time.

Look Ahead

Up next is UGA. Okay, bye now!