Years ago, Kirby Smart was on a professional development assignment to find new ideas to help his boss, Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Smart figured there was no better place to learn new football information than with the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick. Belichick, who has developed a reputation for being one of the best defensive minds in football, seemed like the ideal person to learn from.
Smart was pumped to take the visit and was ready to write down every piece of information he could gather.
When Smart arrived to the facility, he saw three words on a sign sitting on the main secretary’s desk. It read, "Do your job."
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Smart liked that enough to write it down in his notepad. Smart then went to a team meeting room to meet with New England’s defensive coaches. There it was again – "Do your job," written on the door. Even in the bathroom above the urinals, he said – "Do your job."
Smart admitted to being somewhat puzzled. Here’s an NFL team that has been highly successful under Belichick, yet there were no pictures or trophies in plain sight commemorating their championships and accomplishments. The only thing he kept running into and seeing were signs displaying the same phrase.
"It can’t be that simple," Smart wondered.
Apparently it was.
During the visit, Smart chatted with Bill O’Brien – then an offensive assistant who would later become New England’s offensive coordinator. O’Brien, now the head coach of the Houston Texans after a stint leading Penn State's program, told Smart that when Belichick arrived to New England, he changed the décor after failing to win early.
He wanted one message to permeate through the building.
"(Belichick) came in and he defined everybody’s role in the organization, from scouts to administrative assistants, secretaries, whoever it was," Smart said. "He defined what their job is. He told them what their job was. He sat them down and said this is what I want you to do. This is what you’re supposed to do. He gave them their role and defined the expectations for that. Then he holds everyone accountable to it. The message is simple. Do your job."
The message resonated with Smart. Sure, he ended up learning a thing or two about how the Patriots structure their defensive strategy. But those three words were what he’d take back to Alabama.
Smart said it was kind of funny when he got back to Alabama and met with his fellow coaches. Everyone began sharing what they learned about the places they’d been. When it was Smart’s turn, he didn’t have anything too intricate to say following his visit.
"I came back and everybody’s expecting me to have these grand ideas," Smart said. "You can imagine what it’s like walking into a room with a staff sitting there where everyone’s going over where they went and sharing their ideas. And I basically said, 'Hey, Coach, the message is simple is up there. Do your job.' That was the extent of it. It literally was. I believed in it. Every person believes in it to a T. Every man on the roster can tell you what his defined role is."
What Smart learned wasn’t exactly news to Saban. Saban coached under Belichick with the Cleveland Browns from 1991-94. Saban was likely familiar with the mantra, given the time he spent with learning under Belichick.
Smart said the lesson has long stuck with him and will be something he implements as Georgia’s head coach.
Speaking in front of a crowded room at The Methodist Home’s Rumford Center on Monday, Smart said everyone in his program will be held accountable and to a high standard.
"That expectation is going to be laid upon all you guys," Smart said, referring to his players. "We can all take that motto. I don’t care if you’re the employer or you’re the employee. You can take that motto, take it back with you and be better for it."