I’m old enough to remember when Brian Schottenheimer was the offensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs. It was two years ago. Two. That’s how long ago it was that Georgia found themselves eighty-fifth in the country in points per game. It was also the year the Bulldogs almost fell at home to a less-than-stellar Georgia Southern program only to barely scrape by with a 31-24 victory. I’ll probably never forget that season because I remember arguing with family members who had a rooting interest in Georgia that the hiring of the son of the legendary NFL head coach was going to go as well as a 21 Savage halftime show at Phillips Arena. By Thanksgiving, when all the family was gathered together, I remember my uncle Derek somberly admitting that maybe Georgia kind of sucked and their record wasn’t truly indicative as to how things were going. (In his defense, having to watch a full season of Greyson Lambert under-center can do crazy things to a person. Speaking of, are we sure Lambert isn’t playing his fourteenth collegiate season at Louisiana Tech this year? I wouldn’t rule it out.) And that team still went 10-3 and still pulled the plug on the Mark Richt Coached Team That Comes So Close experience that had kept UGA fan message boards lit for over a decade.
That unwatchable 2015-16 Georgia team finished the season with ten wins -- the 2017 incarnation could finish this year with just one more win victory. The differences between that last Mark Richt team and Kirby Smart’s team in Year 2 of the We Can Build Alabama 2.0, We Promise experiment is night and day. There were no nail biters against inferior competition, but there were a lot of curb-stomps. Nine of the eleven victories for the Dawgs this year have been by twenty or more points. Again, this team very well may end up winning just one more game than that 2015 team.
Sports are dumb.
But don’t let the fact that Tennessee won just as many SEC games as Georgia Tech this season distract you from what has been an entirely unexpected, successful season if you’re a fan of the Bulldogs. Nobody saw this team opening up at No. 1 in the first CFB Playoff rankings before the season started, but they got there. Nobody saw true freshman Jake Fromm channeling his inner Matt Saracen and keeping the offense going after former five-star QB Jacob Eason got knocked out against Appalachian State. (Tough year for people who bought a lot of Eason stock, but he’ll probably get the last laugh once he transfers to Washington and plays for Chris Peterson, wins one or two Pac-12 titles, and gets drafted in the first round of 2021 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.) After finishing 8-5 a year ago, this kind of jump in play and execution was a surprise. That doesn't usually happen.
While Georgia had one of its best seasons in decades, the rest of the SEC, outside of Alabama and Auburn, have been losing their minds. LSU lost at home to Troy earlier this year; Florida still is yet to score an offensive touchdown this year (if you saw that happen once this season, the joke is on you for watching enough Florida football this year to see something as rare as Professor Snape smiling); Kevin Sumlin got fired for being pretty good at his job; Arkansas hasn’t been relevant since Ryan Mallett was under-center; Vanderbilt lost to Alabama by 1,000 points; Tennessee can’t even conduct a competent search for their next head coach. Point is, Georgia avoided all of that chaos and finished the regular season with their only loss being to the hottest team in the country. Celebrate that.
In a lot of ways, this year’s Georgia team reminds me a lot of last year’s Atlanta Falcons team that went to the Super Bowl. (I turned the game off after the third quarter, so no spoilers, please.) Coming into the 2016-17 season, I distinctly remember podcasting with a Falcons blogger and making the case that Kyle Shanahan Is Actually Good and it not going well. Then the Falcons went out and had the best offense in football, Matt Ryan won MVP, and the Falcons were up on the Patriots 28-3 at one point in the f*cking Super Bowl. Obviously, the ending sucked for Atlanta fans, but does a miserable finish erase a remarkable run that spanned a much longer amount of time than one bad, seizure-inducing quarter of football? Does one bad showing at Jordan-Hare Stadium invalidate an otherwise magical season that left you at the end of most weekends excited about what lies ahead? Recency bias is a real thing that can only be cured with a long walk, hopping off social media, and just taking a second to remind yourself how much fun you had this season. Did I mention that Florida and Tennessee and Georgia Tech aren’t even going bowling this year? What more could you ask for if you’re a petty Georgia fan? The Volunteers hiring Greg Schiano?
Maybe it’s just that it’s that time of year where we all find ourselves reflecting on the year that was and all that we’re thankful for. But with the kind of year Georgia has had in 2017, what more could you have asked for? (Outside of Hermoine Granger finding Smart the right counter curse against the dark arts that Gus Malzahn employs on Nick Saban and friends when his teams are good, of course.) It could always be worse, just look at 2015 in Athens, but it’s rarely as good as 2017. Brian Schottenheimer could still be calling five-yard curls ninety three times a game. Don’t take this moment for granted.