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We’re In the Endgame Now

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It’s pretty clear where this is headed, at this point.

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at Georgia Tech Jenn Finch-USA TODAY Sports

Hi. It’s me. I’m back.

For those I haven’t met yet, my name is Joey Weaver. I’m a Georgia Tech alumnus (BSIE ‘13), I’m one half of Basketball Conference: The ACC Football Podcast (iTunes, Spotify), and I’m the former site manager here at FTRS. I’m going to be (attempting to) write a weekly column here during the football season, to get some thoughts out and hopefully have some fun along the way.

When Ben and Robert approached me about starting up a weekly column for this season, I swear, this was not what I had in mind for the first one. Yet, here we are.

I believe that what we’re watching is, at this point, the beginning of the end of the Geoff Collins era at Georgia Tech.

When this staff (this exact staff - there haven’t been any changes) took over following Paul Johnson’s retirement after the 2018 season, we were told that transitioning from Johnson’s offensive scheme and personnel into a more contemporary scheme and personnel grouping would be the “largest transformation in college football history”, or something to that effect. And they weren’t wrong — it’s required major overhauls of both recruiting and body types on the offensive and defensive lines, they’ve changed up how quarterbacks and skill talent are being recruited, and it’s involved playing a LOT of freshmen along the way.

It was always going to be painful, and it has been — embarrassing losses to The Citadel and Temple before a shutout loss to Virginia Tech in 2019 were tough to swallow, but happened between bright spots like wins over Miami and NC State. 2020’s loss to Syracuse was a nightmare and an embarrassment of its own (the Orange lost every other game they played last year, most of them by double digits), but was only two weeks after a season-opening win over FSU and right before a fun Friday night win over Louisville. There was pain, but there was also some reason for optimism, and there were some excuses to be made about transformations, and youth, and of course a #WeirdCOVIDYear.

Coming into 2021, nobody is talking about transformations any more. We’re in Year 3, wherein a large majority of the roster are now players that Geoff Collins and his staff have brought into the program willingly, either by recruiting them out of high school or taking them from the transfer portal. Georgia Tech is rated 5th in the ACC and 33rd nationally in overall team talent by the 247Sports Team Talent Composite. They’ve had another year in the strength and conditioning program, and by all means look the part of a team that’s ready to take a step forward. They’ve had a full, normal offseason for quarterback development and scheme refinement. Hell, the coaching staff has even spent the entire offseason running around practices and media availabilities wearing shirts that say “W.I.N.21” on them, proclaiming that winning is “What’s Important Now”.

They’re not making excuses, and nobody else should be making excuses for them either.

So, after all of that, and with some expectations that this team should at least be approaching a bowl game appearance this season, we watched them face off on Saturday night against a Northern Illinois team that went 5-13 over the last two years, including 4-10 against MAC competition, and finished last season ranked 117th in Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings. (They’re also 114th nationally in the team talent rankings referenced above.) The Georgia Tech team that has upgraded its talent across the board, has spent years in a well-regarded strength and conditioning program, and had all offseason to get prepared to look like a functional Power 5-level program, went out there and got manhandled physically on both sides of the ball, looked slower almost across the board, spent a lot of the night looking confused as to what to be doing, and ultimately had to pray for a replay review to overturn a catch on a 2-point play late in the game to save the win.

That call wasn’t overturned, and they lost.

Georgia Tech was a far more talented team, and a heavy favorite, and lost. They were outcoached and outplayed, and did all of it in front of several key recruits that were in attendance.

I’ve noticed a LOT fewer people coming to the defense of the coaching staff than after other embarrassments in the previous two years. That’s probably because we can all agree on how inexcusable this has become.

From here, here’s what I expect will happen: the team will play out this season, and will probably win 3-4 games, similar to recent years. After 3 years, Geoff Collins will fire at least one (if not both) of his coordinators, finally making changes to the staff that remains intact from when they were originally hired almost 3 full years ago, and some will say we need to give his program a second chance with the new coaching staff. Next year, there will be some sort of offseason slogan on shirts and hats like “W.I.N.B.A.T.T.” (which, of course, stands for “W.I.N., But Actually This Time”), we’ll hear about how great the new schemes are looking and how everyone’s getting better every single day, and we’ll talk about expectations that the team will be able to win 7-8 games. They won’t, and instead will go about 5-7 with at least one downright head-scratching loss. Geoff Collins will be relieved of his duties as Georgia Tech’s head coach, and we’ll start the process all over again, hopefully with some improved on-field results.

Based on what I saw on Saturday night, this isn’t working, and it isn’t going to work if this is what 30 months of building has resulted in. I wasn’t expecting the team to be in a place to beat playoff-caliber Clemson or georgia teams, or even to win the division against clearly talented-but-flawed UNC and Miami teams. I was expecting this program to be in a place where they could score an easy win over a completely outmatched opponent and show some progress that would indicate that the players are actually being coached.

Well, they’re not. And if that’s the case, then I can pretty well see how the next 1-2 seasons are going to go.

It’s over. It’s just a matter of time at this point — we’re in the endgame now.

Our recap of the game starts around the 51:00 mark below: