Jim Chaney had a demeanor in his press briefing before the Sugar Bowl that was quite out of the norm.
Normally, there’s plenty of anticipation that Chaney will give the media some laughs. We had seen it over the past two seasons with his “I like pie” comment or his reference to fly fishing when brushing off a preseason injury to Jake Fromm.
But I got a different vibe. Chaney was stoic and a smile was even a rarity.
“When you sit in this chair, you’re never happy. We’re looking for that perfect game and perfection at all times,” Chaney said on Dec. 30 from a podium in New Orleans, in reference to his offense averaging slightly under 40 points per game. “Are we content with what we got done? In some ball games. Other games we didn’t play particularly well.”
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Maybe it was a lesson from his boss Kirby Smart on how to handle the media, although the third-year Georgia head coach can crack an occasional joke. Maybe he had an idea what was to come in a 28-21 loss to Texas that was far worse of a beatdown than the score indicated. Or maybe his mind was elsewhere.
On Tuesday night, we learned Chaney is headed to Tennessee, according to a report from GoVols247.com. He coached there from 2009-12 and worked under Derek Dooley and Lane Kiffin, and will now join the staff of first-year head coach and former Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
Chaney made $950,000 this season at Georgia, and is expected to take a significant raise with the Volunteers. It is the latest chapter in an offseason debacle for Georgia only 10 days since Chaney took the podium. At that point, there was still optimism around the Bulldogs.
Let’s recap what’s happened since the regular season ended:
Four draft-eligible juniors declare for the NFL draft: Elijah Holyfield, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta and Riley Ridley.
Mel Tucker, Georgia’s defensive coordinator, took a head-coaching role at Colorado. He took analysts Jay Johnson and Tyson Summers with him for coordinator roles.
Freshman quarterback Justin Fields transferred to Ohio State.
Luke Ford, a freshman tight end, also went to the Big Ten and joined Illinois.
On a positive note: Georgia signed a second-ranked recruiting class that I believe was the Bulldogs’ best yet.
Oh yeah, those two losses to Texas and Alabama that didn’t make fans all-too-happy.
It’s been a mess. A domino-like series of events, but also one that a lot of title-contending teams face, according to Smart who has mentioned that multiple times throughout this season. A lot has occurred for the Bulldogs, sure, but this Chaney move can be harmless.
One thing is for sure: If Georgia wanted to keep Chaney, it could’ve done so by topping Tennessee’s offer and potentially entering a bidding war (Georgia has the funds to do so if it pleased … but so do many other Power 5 schools). Instead, the Bulldogs will likely use those finances to try and retain the talents of James Coley, Dell McGee and Sam Pittman.
Coley is a candidate to have the co-coordinator label removed from his job title, replace Chaney as play-caller and allow Smart to hire from within. But the real key here is Pittman. He has been such an integral part in Georgia’s ascent as offensive line coach.
It’s pretty obvious based on what he inherited when joining Smart in Athens in 2016 and what he has now. Georgia had freshmen at most of its offensive line positions, but those are all five-stars who stand at around 350 pounds. Size and talent, that’s what Pittman has brought to the program as an ace recruiter and developer.
“He is always ready for that next step,” senior center Lamont Gaillard said on Sept. 24 as Georgia prepared for Tennessee. “He doesn’t miss a beat in anything he does.”
Mr. ‘Yessirrrrr’ can’t be allowed to slip away from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, or plenty could come loose offensively for Georgia. Pittman has been linked to Alabama if the AJC report holds true that Brent Key was hired away to Georgia Tech.
Is there a possibility of joining Chaney in Tennessee since he worked with him at Arkansas? That one seems more unlikely due to former Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend holding the same position with the Volunteers.
If there’s any speak of Pittman being lured elsewhere, Georgia needs to match it. He’s the glue that holds this offensive unit together.