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Tuesday Thoughts 9/27: Fungibility

This isn’t a greek tragedy, let’s not treat it like one.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It may not feel like it after the last few crazy days, but in many ways this is a boring and obvious firing akin to your company firing an underperforming director. I promise you it doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

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The harsh reality right now is that we are in contention for being the worst P5 team in the country and that sucks. Full stop. Georgia Tech is not built to be a national powerhouse, but being this low is an embarrassment to our historic pedigree and a significant deviation from anyone’s expectations.

Here’s the biggest reason to fire Collins: he is 100% replaceable in just about every way. Ask yourself this: had we hired anyone else, is it possible they’d be in a worse position right now? The answer is a resounding no. 10 wins and the rest of the accolades at this point are the absolute floor no matter what the initial transition was like. You can complain about how hard the job is all you want but if you aren’t making more of a difference than anyone else could then there’s no reason for you to be the one with the job.

Many have argued that Collins has drastically improved recruiting. The problem is that’s not really true. Yes, his first class (2020) was 28th in the country but since then we’ve been the 43rd, 44th, and 51st - pretty much on par with what we did throughout the Johnson era (and some big names from that 2020 class have since transferred). Could any other hire have gotten these kinds of classes? Yes.

It’s also argued that Collins was responsible for driving new excitement and engagement around the program with his branding and approach. I think that was true in 2019 and 2020 but I’d also say that excitement has cooled down considerably at this point. And again - could any other hire have helped our branding? Yes, of course.

The last major argument that I’ve seen is that Collins had all the right passion and love for the program and Tech as a school. I’m sure that’s true. But in some ways I think that’s a bit of a low bar - I expect any coach and face of the program to be passionate. You already know what I’m going to say: any other hire could have the same passion.

To belabor the point: we could’ve hired Generic Coach John Smith in 2019 and it would be astronomically unlikely for him to have done worse than Collins has. Not improving over the course of three+ years is a burning red flag that you are not offering anything worth keeping. The things he has been praised for are in my mind bare minimum job requirements, not special things to be lauded. Collins wasn’t fired for winning only three games in 2019, he was fired for not remotely improving and not clearing the bare minimum bar in the years since. The program thus far in 2022 is only marginally better than it was in 2019 and that is a direct indictment of Collins’ prowess as a coach. It’s a simple causation: if you underperform for too long then you’re going to be fired.

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Obviously whoever was hired right after Johnson was going to be in a tough spot, no one is disputing that. It was a daunting challenge to undertake such a transition and I’m not here to take that away from Collins; he absolutely had one of the hardest jobs in the country in 2019. But he took that hard job, made it harder, and didn’t come close to succeeding in it. This program has experienced dysfunction at nearly every level and position for the past three years and the guy to blame for such widespread deficiency is the guy at the top.

Many people are chiming in to say he’s a nice guy and the players like him; I’m sure they’re right and that’s all true. But the reality of this sport and industry is that you don’t get to keep your position by being a nice guy. Like every other job, you have to perform and you have to at least meet expectations. Three wins in Year 3 and being on track for three wins in Year 4 is below expectations no matter where you are or where you started.

I’m not mad about the Waffle House cups and shoe twitter accounts and buzzword shirts when compared to the raw results. The plainest, most unassuming coach would deserve to be fired at this point just as much and there’s no reason to believe that any of these antics “distracted” Collins from coaching. We didn’t fire this man because of his personality and I don’t subscribe to the notion that toning it down would’ve saved his job. Winning games and showing progress would’ve though.

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At some point later I’ll have more reflections on this era to share, but right now this is what I want to say: this was a business decision and a sensical one. Geoff Collins as a coach (this has nothing to do with him as a person) has proven to be nothing special and that’s fine - it doesn’t need to be a big earth-shattering revelation. We don’t need to build up some kind of tragic mythos around it all; we hired someone and they did a bad job, end of story. The program deserves better and hopefully we’ll get it next time.