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Why Hiring Mike Bobo Could Be a Bad Thing

Jason Brassell

Todd Monken was the right hire for Kirby Smart and the Georgia football program at the right time. We needed an innovative offensive mind to come in and catch the Dawgs' offense up with the rest of the college football world. That high powered offense combined with a couple of nasty defenses led UGA to back to back national championships and has The University of Georgia on top of the college football world.

Gone is Monken and his highly prolific offense to the Baltimore Ravens. Back is former player and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. With Will Muschamp on staff as the co-defensive coordinator, Kirby Smart officially has the band back together for a reunion tour. As awesome as it is to see three former players from the same team now coaching together at their prestigious university, one has to ask "Was Mike Bobo the right offensive coordinator hire"?

Before you think I'm just trying to drag Bobo through the mud, read yesterday's Disney Dawg article on why he's the right hire. Also, get your vote in on whether you think he is the right hire or not.

The first aspect of Bobo's previous time as offensive coordinator in Athens that we have to look at is quarterback evaluation. There were obviously good evaluations in guys like DJ Shockley and Aaron Murray, but it's after Murray where questions arise. Again, our purpose is not to drag any former players through the mud. We always appreciate everything these guys have done for the football program and school. These guys had and have more football talent in their pinky finger than most of the people writing about them.

Saying that, how in the world do you end up with a quarterback room of Hutson Mason, Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta at The University of Georgia? Many fans, including this one, will never let go of the fact that Bobo let Deshaun Watson get away and win a national championship at Clemson. I see it as the single biggest mistake of his career. There is absolutely no excuse to let the all time passing yards leader for the state of Georgia escape. Instead, we ended up with a wing-t quarterback who became our punter.

After his previous stint as offensive coordinator at UGA, Bobo took his first head coaching gig at Colorado State. His offenses actually regressed there. In his first season leading the Rams the team scored 29.6 ppg, ranking a tawdry 62nd out of 128 teams. Let's be nice and chalk that up to the team adjusting to a new head coach and a new offensive system. They were almost a touchdown per game better in 2016 at 35.3 ppg, good enough for a ranking of 28th in the nation. Bobo's third season in Fort Collins saw a slight drop, finishing at 33.4 ppg, but still in the top 25% of college football. All three of those seasons resulted in a 7-6 record before the bottom fell out. The Rams scored almost 11 points per game less in 2018, finishing 108th out of 130 teams and a 3-9 record. Although the offense improved somewhat in 2019, it still wasn't anything close to Bobo's second and third years leading the Rams. Their points per game ranked 71st in the nation, their record only improved to 4-9, and Bobo was fired as head coach.

After his time with Colorado State, Will Muschamp hired Bobo to lead the offense at South Carolina in a last ditch effort to save his job. Obviously Bobo wasn't able to do that and actually had to take over as interim head coach  the last three games of the season after Muschamp was fired. The Gamecocks ended up with a 2-8 record after scoring 23.5 ppg with former Colorado State quarterback Collin Hill under center for the majority of the season. Shane Beamer was hired and was actually set to keep Bobo on staff before he decided to take the offensive coordinator job under new head coach Bryan Harsin at Auburn. Most saw this as a disaster waiting to happen, which is exactly what it turned out to be. Bobo actually improved the scoring from 90th to 68th in college football with Bo Nix and TJ Finley under center.

I wanted to show those stats to make the point that after his last season as OC at UGA, Bobo has never been able to do more with less. It's even debatable that he had to do more with less in 2014 with a running back room of Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel. There were 127 other offensive coordinators that year who would've given anything to walk in and see those four ready to carry the ball. In the "Why Bobo is a Good Hire" article, I mentioned that he never has the offensive linemen that we have on the roster now. While this is true, it was at least partly his responsibility as an offensive coordinator to recruit those guys.

The excuses are going to be the state of the programs that he took over. As much as myself and most everyone loved Mark Richt, the Georgia football program was not in a great place at that time. The reasons can and have been debated for a decade and we won't go into that here, but it just wasn't. Colorado State was never going to be a powerhouse, but they were actually pretty successful under Jim McElwain, going 8-6 and 10-3 his second and last seasons. There was a reason South Carolina and Auburn were looking for new coaches, as they both were in a terrible state. But shouldn't a dynamic offensive coordinator be able to come in and at least show somewhat significant improvement from the previous year, even in year one?

Our own Graham Coffey has reported and I have been told that Bobo is going to run Monken's offense with pretty much the same terminology and that there won't be many changes at all. That's all fine and dandy and easy to say in February, but does the same hold true when spring practice starts? It's easy to say. Brian Schottenheimer said the same thing when he was hired. He then proceeded to change everything. Coaches can be stubborn and set in their ways. Kirby Smart is my favorite coach we've ever had, but there was a time I thought he'd never adjust to having a more dynamic offense like the ones we've had the past couple of years. Is Bobo willing to take what he's learned from previous stops that weren't so successful and adjust accordingly? Is Bobo willing to take the Porsche he's been given and keep the pedal to the metal or will he have to get under the hood and try to fix something that isn't broken? Of course exotic cars need tune ups every once in a while just like any other. A tune up is a far cry from an engine rebuild, especially if that engine just led that car to two straight championships.

It's okay to ask questions. While Kirby Smart has earned the benefit of the doubt, he's not untouchable. He did promote James Coley to offensive coordinator before bringing in Monken! It's okay to have doubts or concerns, many of us do. Should we have done a national search? Is Kirby just hiring his buddy? Would Bobo be on the radar if he wasn't here before?

We won't know the answers to those questions for a while. What we do know is that multiple coaches tried to hire Bobo as their OC. We know Kirby Smart got who he wanted and did it quick. He also got the man that Todd Monken wanted to take over for him. This is in the same cycle as Alabama hiring an inexperienced offensive coordinator who didn't do a great job at Notre Dame, after being told no by at least two others. Then the Fighting Irish replaced said offensive coordinator by promoting an assistant coach to call the plays for the first time ever.

Whether Bobo is the right hire or not is yet to be determined. What is certain is that it will be a good year being on top of the college football world again as national champions.

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As passionate UGA fans, our memories of 2010-2014 QB recruiting are not good, and it is natural to believe there should be accountability.  That recruiting debacle lead to wasting the 2014 collection of RBs & WRs and reasonably functional OL by Mark Richt standards on a QB who was signed for the stated purpose of being Aaron Murray's backup in 2010.  Mason was never supposed to take over for Murray.  That role was to fall to LeMay, a successful project in Bauta, or Ramsey as redshirt frosh.  In touting the 2014 numbers, UGA fans forget we beat Clemson IN SPITE of Mason not because of him, which became the on again/off again theme.  So who was to blame?  Mike Bobo of course.  

The problem with that logic is it flies in the face of QB recruiting from 2010-2014.  The reality is that looking back at 247 ratings, elite 11 results, Bama's QB recruiting over that same time period, and subsequent NFL drafts (2014-2017) paints a picture of the equivalent of a economic slump in QB recruiting/development.  


Compare 2006-2008 to 2009-2013.  There are a LOT of bad QBs in that time period.  The only obvious "miss" was Bridgewater who practically begged for a UGA before ending up at Louisville.  

Still not convinced?

In the 2014 draft, after Murray’s 5 year, there were two 3 first round picks. (Blake bortles, manziel, and bridgewater). In 2015, there 2 (Jamies and Marriotta). In 2016, it was Goff, wentz and Paxton lunch. 2017 was trubisky, Mahomes, and Watson.   Besides Watson and Bridgewater, who should Bobo have recruited?  Jameis who was from Alabama and didn't go to Bama?  

Wait, there is more.....

these are Bama's QB recruits from 2010-2015
2010 - phillip sims, blake sims (who was listed as ath)
2011 - Phillip Ely
2012 - Alec Morris
2013 - Cooper Bateman, Philip Mcleod
2014 - David Cornwell
2015- Blake Barnett
and then they got Tua, Hurts, and eventually Young.  But lets go back to 2010-2015, B. Sims was listed as an athlete.  He was NEVER supposed to be a QB at Bama.  In fact, in 2014, when he was the ONLY experienced QB on hand, Saban had so much confidence in him that he went and got Jake Coker, who couldn't win the job in not one but TWO fall camps.  He would eventually take over for Bateman/Barnett during the Ole Miss loss. 

So that brings us to post-UGA Bobo, and on that front, other than the fact that none of those situations are remotely similar to what his task is in 2023 at UGA, I don't really have much of a retort.  His offenses were good for a time at CSU, but his defenses were a disaster.  That said, I don't really know enough about how, why, or the competition, and I am not even sure what the best of film study by @Graham Coffeywould tell us that is applicable to UGA. 

What we do know about his 2022 was that he was a cog in the machine that Kirby built, and he clearly made enough of a positive impression on Todd Monken to earn a positive menton at the Broyles ceremony and during his post season interviews. 

Ultimately, two of my concerns about Bobo are more about his understanding of risk/reward and ability to manage a staff than Xs and Os.  The other is akin to a chef understanding how to mix flavors to make a gourmet meal and knowing which specials to serve when the most important food critics are present and which ones to serve on a random weekday.

From a risk/reward standpoint, I would love to have data on the number of times we threw away possession on third and bomb plays, which reflected a poor understanding of the value of possession of the football. Bobo's teams from 2011-2014 tended to underperform the YPP on third down conversions.  

Second is the thought of being a conductor or band manager instead of the controller of the offense.  Monken figured out that Kirby gave him resources and leveraged them well. I don’t know if that is Mike’s m.o.  To be clear, it might, but during his tenure at CSU, like most HC's who are former offensive coordinators, I imagine he called his own plays.  Again, the resources and quality of assistants and analysts are very different from Athens to Ft. Collins, but I will be very interested to see how he assembles a staff.

Third, there was a precision to what we did under Monken that was unlike anything I have seen prior at UGA on offense. Route running, timing, and perimeter blocking that suggests the conductor understands their importance more than others and has the ability to coach it in his team.

I actually am reasonably comfortable that Bobo understands philosophically that being physical is huge part of our identity. That said, I do worry about his ability to understand the importance of melding it with our quick game/efficiency stuff in ways that keep us on the field.

Finally, will he have us play our best and design our best strategies/plays for the game that matter most like Monken.  Insert reference to The Long Con, by Todd Monken.  That wasn’t Bobo's history in his prior stint in Athens.

Net net, I think there is a high probability that Mike Bobo leads very productive offenses at UGA, and it is possible that with our projected talent on Defense that he is afforded a 2021-like margin of error.  If that is case, he doesn't have to be peak-Monken.  On the other hand, I don't think Kirby is hiring Bobo with the thought of us taking a single step back.  He demands that we move forward, and Bobo will be held accountable for such.




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Craig Lawson

Posted (edited)

I question how imperative the continuity of offensive scheme is at a place like Georgia given the exceptional roster talent they have. I don't doubt it has value, but we just saw TCU, with a mid grade Big 12 roster, navigate their way to the national championship game with an entirely new coaching staff and a backup (albeit experienced) quarterback. Perhaps they're the ultimate exception and a statistical outlier, but Seth Emerson suggested that given the difficulty Saban had replacing both coordinators, it's possible there simply weren't many available options. That would make a lot more sense. Of course there are better candidates out there, but if you can't get them for whatever reason (they don't like money and coaching the best talent???) then you have to settle for what you can get.

I also wonder how normal it is for an established, veteran coach like Bobo to join a staff, learn another coach's system in one season and then carry on using that exact same system. Is this common practice? Has it been done successfully? 

For some reason, people scoff at the idea of Bobo's personal relationship with Smart playing a factor. Of course it played a factor. It's human nature to want to hire somebody you already have a good personal relationship with. If not for Bobo's connection to Georgia he likely never ends up on Kirby's staff to begin with. 

As for Mike Bobo's stints at CSU, SCar and Auburn. Andy Staples brought up the medical issues he experienced during his time in Colorado which is fair, I'm assuming he got that under control. I had forgotten Beamer tried to extend him at SCar before he left for Auburn, but as Jason mentioned above, none of the stops since leaving Georgia have been good resume builders. We can make the excuse that those were bad situations before he got their, but my response is why were those his only options? Who is his agent? 

Whenever I criticized Bobo in years past, and people would tell me what a great job he was doing I always used to ask why Georgia was able to keep him for so cheap. I'm not professionally qualified to criticize play calling, but why weren't other high level programs at least coming in and driving up his market price if not poaching him entirely? I'd pose that same question here, Jason mentioned other programs trying to hire Bobo. Who were they? I either missed it or glossed over it because I expected Monken back.

Ultimately I trust Kirby, and I believe that if things don't work out he'll make the tough decisions necessary to right the ship. But, shit fucking damn hell, I am disappointed Monken left. I really wanted to see what he could do once Georgia inevitably signed elite, NFL level talent at QB, WR and RB. Imagine what he could have done pairing this O Line and TE room with Stafford/Murray (Raiola?), Gurley/Chubb/Moreno, Green/Massaquoi levels of talent. Sonofabitch bastard!

Edited by Craig Lawson
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