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Georgia Should Aim Higher Than Kirby Smart to Replace Mark Richt

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As soon as the University of Georgia announced that they would be moving forward without former head coach Mark Richt, the names of potential candidates began filling up my screen. 

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I knew the moment the job opened up, this would happen. Richt helped turn Georgia into a top-six program in college football. Few programs have what Georgia can offer a new head coach. Amazing facilities, a top-four recruiting state as your back yard and money. All of these things make Georgia a dream job for many. With that being said, I’m assuming athletic director Greg McGarity was turned down by at least 10 head coaches before calling Kirby Smart. It’s really the only logical explanation.

Related: Georgia Would Become an Instant National Title Contender with Tom Herman as Head Coach

If for some reason McGarity called no one else but Smart, I have a big freaking problem with that, and here’s why.

There are only five programs in college football that I see as being better than Georgia today. USC, Alabama, Texas, Florida and Ohio State. Since Georgia hired Richt in 2001, how many of those programs have hired a coach without head coaching experience?

Three. Florida did it twice when they hired Ron Zook in 2002 and Will Muschamp in '11. Alabama hired Mike Shula in 2003. Of those four hires, Richt, Zook, Muschamp and Shula, not one of them played for a national championship. 

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And just take a look at what happened after those guys were fired. Zook was fired in 2004, two years later, the Gators won the national championship with Urban Meyer. Mike Shula was fired in 2006, three seasons later, the Crimson Tide win a national championship. Florida fires Will Muschamp a season ago, and Jim McElwain has the Gators playing in the SEC title game in his first year.

The point I am trying to make here is that going after a guy with head coaching experience seems like a no brainer. Georgia is an incredible landing spot that a lot of coaches would be interested in. So why take a chance on a guy who you have no idea what he can do when it comes to running an offense, how he will develop quarterbacks, how he will handle the media, since Nick Saban doesn’t allow his coaches to speak to the media, or how he will handle the pressure of a huge program and fan base like Georgia’s. There are just too many variables that don’t add up to Smart being successful at Georgia.

I just want Greg McGarity to swallow his pride for one minute and admit to everyone that he called Bill O’Brien and Chip Kelly. That James Franklin and Gary Patterson turned him down. That Mike Gundy and Kliff Kingsbury said no thanks. I need to know this so I can feel better about your first call and best option was a defensive coordinator who has passed up every job in the last five years to stay under Saban at Alabama. Who decided that getting head coaching experience at any level of FBS football was a worse option than staying in Tuscaloosa and “learning” more under Saban. I just have a hard time believing THAT guy is your best option.

Maybe McGarity just doesn’t see this job like I do. Maybe he says he sees it as the best job in the country but he doesn’t really believe it. You’ve all done it. You tell yourself that your wife is the best looking woman in the room when she clearly isn’t.

Maybe McGarity is scared that one of those coaches will turn him down for another job. It can happen. But so what? So what if a coach turns you down. Make them do that. Make them all turn you down before you settle on a guy that “could be” the next best thing. Leave that kind of gamble to other programs that don’t average a top-10 recruiting class and sees quite a few of those players wind up getting drafted by an NFL team.

This is your opportunity to bring in the big one. So act like it and stop flirting with a "what if" and a "can’t miss" when you can get a guy who’s already proved those things to be true.

Kirby Smart might be a great coach one day. But let him prove it on a lesser stage than Georgia.

— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails.

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)