From the outset, I will preface this by saying that this is pure speculation on my part, and that in no way am I claiming any actual knowledge to the current situation with Kirby Smart. As always, we here at RBR analyze and provide insight and commentary, not actual news reporting.
Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, what about the possibility of Kirby Smart as the head coach in waiting at Alabama? That thought came to me a couple of days back when I was reading some news regarding Georgia's latest run at Smart, and the more I pondered the possibility, the more it seemed like a legitimate possibility.
Consider a few things...
First and foremost, Smart is undeniably one of the hottest young coaching commodities in the country. Despite only having just turned 34 years old, Smart's resume nevertheless includes two national championship rings and a Broyles Award, the later given annually to the nation's top assistant coach. Also, as an added bonus, Smart is widely recognized as a fine recruiter in his own right. After getting overtures recently from both Texas Tech and Georgia, it's clear that it is only a matter of time before Smart is a head coach somewhere.
Furthermore, Nick Saban himself has publicly came out in the past as a supporter of succession plans in college football. Specifically, when he was asked at a press conference several months back for his opinion on the Bobby Bowden situation, Saban replied that he was in favor of succession plans, noting the benefits to be derived from continuity, and also citing the widespread usage of such plans in the business world. At the very least, it seems clear that Saban is a proponent of succession planning.
Also, one does have to wonder exactly how much longer Saban plans on coaching. Hopefully he'll do like Bryant and have success into his late 60's (and hopefully longer), but being objective about the matter he is currently 58 years old, and he could possibly be down to his last few years. If nothing else, even as of right now, Saban would retire with two national championships with two different schools (something no coach has ever done before), two SEC championships with two different schools (something only he and Bryant have done), and he would be universally regarded as one of the greatest college football coaches to ever live. At the very least, it would certainly be hard to blame the guy if, with that resume in hand, he decided to call it a career in three or four years.
Moreover, unless Saban just leaves unexpectedly -- and perhaps even if he goes out that way, too -- I think it is also relatively clear that he will have at least some say in who the next head coach will be. Given his success at Alabama, coupled with his cult status with the Alabama family, he will at least be approached by the UA administration and asked for his input. Now, perhaps he turns down the opportunity like Bryant did in late 1982, but at the very least he will almost certainly be given the opportunity to have his voice heard.
Lastly, assuming that we were going to do a succession plan at Alabama and that Saban would have a role in picking his successor -- two massive ifs, obviously -- who would Saban pick? Looking at the broad view of assistants in the Saban coaching tree, I think Smart is the obvious candidate. He is already in place at UA, he has spent years under Saban's tutelage, and he will be a head coach at some point regardless. It seems to me that if we were going down that route, Smart would be the choice.
Now, of course, Georgia is going very hard after him at the moment. They have made a formal offer, and given what Gentry Estes has reported, it seems that they are planning on doubling his current salary, and I'm also sure that they would give him full control over the defensive side of the ball (all the way from playcalling to schemes to recruiting). Clearly that must be a very enticing offer for Smart, a Georgia alum with two previous coaching stints in Athens (who is also married to another Georgia alum, a former women's basketball player).
Alabama, however, will not go quietly into that good night. According to a report by Mark Schlabach, Alabama officials have directly told Smart that they would "do everything necessary to keep him."
So, does "everything necessary to keep him" include the possibility of offering Smart a head coach in waiting position? Perhaps so, perhaps not. One way or the other, though, on the surface it does seem at least like a legitimate possibility, and for that reason alone we should keep our eyes on the developments with Smart in the next few days.