Updated: Al Groh fired at Tech

Al Groh will receive an unwanted respite from his 100-hour work weeks and his intricate game plans. After a 32-game term, the Georgia Tech defensive coordinator was relieved of his duties Monday.

In coach Paul Johnson’s analysis, Groh did not fall short in his effort or smarts.

“What’s inside his head, he’s very knowledgeable,” Johnson said. “There’s no questioning that. The problem was becoming, what’s in there, we weren’t seeing on the field.”

Groh’s tenure concluded in a blizzard of points, yards and missed tackles. In Tech’s past three games, losses to Miami, Middle Tennessee State and Clemson, the Yellow Jackets gave up an average of 46 points and 573.3 yards. Opponents converted 31 of 46 third downs into first downs. Improbably, Tech fared slightly worse when opponents faced 3rd-and-7 or longer than 3rd-and-6 or less.

Tech gave up more than 40 points in the three consecutive games, the first time that has happened in school history.

“I think it’s a call to everybody, the coaches, the players, myself, everybody, that we need to do better, that we’re not giving up on the season and the way we’ve played is not acceptable,” Johnson said.

Hired following the 2009 season as a replacement for Dave Wommack because of his ability to teach his scheme and adjust, Groh came to Tech after nine seasons as head coach at Virginia and boasting an NFL pedigree. A longtime friend and colleague of NFL coaching legends Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, Groh brought a 3-4 scheme and a confident, professorial manner.

“We’re impatient to make it look good,” he said shortly after his hire. “How fast we can do it, we’ll have to see.”

Instead, the Jackets were bogged by problems with communication and alignment and had trouble tackling. Poor finishes also began to plague the team. After Tech’s 6-0 start last season, the Jackets were outscored 48-14 in the fourth quarter of the final seven games of the season and finished 8-5. Particularly devastating was a 30-27 overtime loss to Utah in the Sun Bowl, a game that Tech led 27-13 with less than seven minutes to go.

This season, Tech has been outscored 71-48 in the fourth quarter, its worst quarter on offense and defense and the only period (besides overtime) in which it has been outscored. In losses to Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson, Tech has held fourth-quarter leads in each only to lose.

Wommack was fired after the defense ranked 54th in yards allowed and 56th in scoring in FBS. Under Groh, Tech finished roughly the same in his first two seasons before plunging to 90th in yards and 89th in scoring this season.

“It was inevitable, at least to me, that it wasn’t getting better,” Johnson said.

Groh will be replaced on an interim basis by secondary coach Charles Kelly, who has been on staff since 2006. Kelly has previously served as a defensive coordinator at Nicholls State and Jacksonville State, two FCS teams. Andy McCollum will move from coaching the defensive line to inside linebackers and Joe Speed will shift from inside linebackers to outside linebackers. Special-teams coordinator David Walkosky will coach the defensive line. Walkosky and McCollum also have experience as defensive coordinators. Johnson said he will provide assistance, as well.

Johnson said he wants to simplify the defense, have players spend more time with their position coaches and conduct more live-hitting drills in practice.

“To me, defense is energy and playing fast and enthusiasm and all those things,” Johnson said. “I think it’s hard to get that if you don’t go live some.”

Johnson made the decision Monday morning. He met with Groh later, and told the team at a meeting in the afternoon. In a statement, Groh said he respected the decision and thanked the defensive assistants and the team. Groh’s contract, a two-year deal with a school option for a third, called for him to make “a minimum of $344,000” this season in his option year.

“I aimed to give the best that I had every day,” he said in the statement. “It’s been an honor to be a part of the legacy of Georgia Tech. I feel positive that this is a good time in life to move on to a new situation.”

Former linebacker and team captain Steven Sylvester said Monday that he enjoyed playing for Groh, citing his knowledge base and his ability to explain difficult concepts easily. Despite the age difference, players related well with the 68-year-old Groh, often stopping in to his office to find him listening to anything from Jay-Z to Maroon 5 to Bruce Springsteen.

“He was a friend and he was a coach,” Sylvester said. “I know a lot of the guys down there are really going to miss him.”

With Tech in its bye  week, the team had Monday off and will resume practicing Tuesday. The Jackets’ next game will be Oct. 20 at home against Boston College.

“I didn’t want to give up the rest of the season,” Johnson said. “I still think we can come back and have a good season. That’s why I did it now.”

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

863 comments Add your comment

Spyro

October 8th, 2012
2:47 pm

Didn’t see that coming in the middle of the season.

USMC Dawg

October 8th, 2012
2:48 pm

At least CPJ has done what a HEAD Coach needs to do at times. That’s why they get paid the BIG bucks.

Now can CPJ please go over to Athens and Fire Mark Richt? :-)

GT Fan

October 8th, 2012
2:50 pm

This has been coming for some time now. You can’t let in 1500 yards in three games and still survive. Good move. Now to look ahead.

USMC Dawg

October 8th, 2012
2:51 pm

GA Tech is a “Decent Defense” away from being at the top of the ACC.
The offense is putting up points every game. The defense is just giving up WAY too much.
Al Groh is a nice man and had a nice career. Enjoy your retirement.

Brock

October 8th, 2012
2:51 pm

Great move Coach!

USMC Dawg

October 8th, 2012
2:52 pm

The Jackets would have won that Clempson game if they had “HALF” a defense.

The Truth

October 8th, 2012
2:52 pm

Good move. Next time, hire somebody under 100 years old.

Brock

October 8th, 2012
2:53 pm

no doubt USMC Dawg. and a couple of other games too

Thank You CPJ

October 8th, 2012
2:55 pm

Kyle

October 8th, 2012
2:56 pm

Agree with USMC Dawg. We’re a decent defense away from being at the top of the ACC every year and an above-average defense away from being a consistent top-15 program most years. Our offense isn’t the problem.

Al Groh has had a great coaching career. Not sure why it didn’t work out here, but these things happen.

Zach

October 8th, 2012
2:57 pm

Good riddance. I still think CPJ made a mistake by not retaining Tenuta…look what he did to FSU this weekend.

Al Groh Fired!

October 8th, 2012
2:57 pm

[...] aspect of our problems, just WOW! Link: Twitter / GTAthletics: #GaTech defensive coordinator … Al Groh fired at Tech | Georgia Tech Reply With Quote     + Reply to Thread [...]

juvenal

October 8th, 2012
2:58 pm

they needed a shake up NOW, when there is a break to regroup..if the players liked this guy, maybe this gets their attention-did not PLAY like they liked him…..players maybe need someone they don’t like (think “Heartbreak Ridge”)

spider

October 8th, 2012
3:00 pm

GT Joe

October 8th, 2012
3:00 pm

Can he fire our QB too? This would be a great time to do it…

Big Dog 89

October 8th, 2012
3:01 pm

When all else fails….blame the coach.

Tech sucketh

October 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

USMC Dawg, as far as UGA goes… Fire CMR and hire who exactly? When you figure that out… get back to us. In the mean time, I like what CMR has going in Athens minus Bobo.

As for Tech, I like that they kept CPJ. He’s a gambler and an idiot. Somewhere between Kenny Rogers and USMC Dawg. Groh is just a sacrificial lamb. Saving CPJ’s azz for another year of mediocrity.

The Grinch

October 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

So Johnson has used his last “get out of jail free” card by firing Groh (which was deserved). Any failures of the program will now have to be soley placed on his belly….er…..uh…..I mean shoulders.

Burdell

October 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

The egos of CPJ and Tenuta can not even occupy the same room much less share a football team.

Kjc

October 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

Enter your comments here

Brandon

October 8th, 2012
3:03 pm

Can we fire Paul Johnson and his high school offense next? please?

CaneInTheVein

October 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

Any chance you guys could fire our DC as well?

Wrecking Ball

October 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

Good move from CPJ, didn’t see it coming before the end of the season. Sometimes I get the feeling he gets his ideas from reading comments here — he hired a special teams coach, he fired Groh… If Vad Lee starts against BC, my conspiracy theory will be complete. :)

Kjc

October 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

Now if they would just fire paul!!

ACC Fan

October 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

Good luck Coach Groh. Thank you for your coaching and leadership.

GT Joe

October 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

If CPJ benches Tevin after firing Groh, I will respect him more than any other coach…ever…

ignition

October 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

I nominate this guy !!!!!! PERFECT FIT !!!!!

http://www.rolltide.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/rumph_chris00.html

Rumph’s defensive line was stellar in 2011 helping the Crimson Tide rank No. 1 nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 72.2 yards per game.

EEAlum08

October 8th, 2012
3:05 pm

Bye week is a good way to get Vad more reps….this potentially removes one of the problems that has plagued Tech this year, if only we can bench the other one…

George Stein

October 8th, 2012
3:05 pm

I get no pleasure out of this, but it had to be done. Johnson has to know this is his last crack at a DC, though. Next time, it’ll be him.

The Grinch

October 8th, 2012
3:05 pm

Spyro
October 8th, 2012
2:47 pm

Actually, I’m surprised it didn’t happen immediately following the Middle Tennessee game.

IronJacket7

October 8th, 2012
3:05 pm

@usmcdawg

“GA Tech is a “Decent Defense” away from being at the top of the ACC.
The offense is putting up points every game. The defense is just giving up WAY too much.
Al Groh is a nice man and had a nice career. Enjoy your retirement.”

I agree 100% with your statement

old dog

October 8th, 2012
3:05 pm

Hope it works out Teckies………..y’alls D is as bad as our o-line (against the better teams.)

ignition

October 8th, 2012
3:05 pm

In Rumph’s tenure at Clemson, the Tigers ranked among the top 25 nationally in scoring defense and total defense in each of those five seasons. The 2010 defense was 19th in total defense (320.3 ypg) and 13th in scoring defense (18.8 ppg). Clemson appeared in bowl games to conclude each of those five seasons and won the ACC Atlantic Division Title in 2009. Rumph coached 2010 All-American Da’Quan Bowers, who led the nation in sacks (15.5) and was tied for first in the NCAA in tackles for loss (26.0). He also coached defensive end Phillip Merling, who was the No. 32 overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Moose

October 8th, 2012
3:05 pm

No way Tenuta was staying, nor does he come back. He knows how to coach football, but he couldn’t recruit kindergarteners to an ice cream truck.

Jacket18

October 8th, 2012
3:06 pm

Agree with Zach that I would love to have kept Tenuta, but not sure that was an option. It appeared he was pretty pissed that he was never a serious candidate to replace Gailey.

Tiger Woods

October 8th, 2012
3:06 pm

Actually, it was 601 yards. But who’s counting? And, Ga Tech’s offense should be embarrassed for only putting up 31 points on Clemson’s defense. Unless you live in a hole, you’d know that Clemson probably has the worst defense among the AQ schools. So, USMC Dawg….if “Climpson” had half a defense, Tech would have been lucky to score 14 points. The only reason Clemson is winning is because their offense is pretty damn good…

ClemsonMan

October 8th, 2012
3:06 pm

Try 601 yards, not 510.

About time...

October 8th, 2012
3:07 pm

Glad they had the guts to do it midseason. Now time to move on and build for the future. Might want to look to the future as far as QB too. Tevin is not bad enough to lose you ball games himself, but he’s not one to win them either. Vad might not be right now, but he has muuuuuuch more upside.

The Grinch

October 8th, 2012
3:07 pm

GT Joe
October 8th, 2012
3:04 pm

Good point. By firing a defensive coordinator at mid-season it tells me the head coach feels the season is pretty much lost. May as well change the QB and start preparing for next year.

7781 Tiger

October 8th, 2012
3:08 pm

Actually 601 yards.

JoeFan

October 8th, 2012
3:08 pm

CPJ will be the next to go, if this doesn’t get the team headed in the right direction. He is ultimately responsible for the “State” of the program, so lets hope the thrid time is the charm when it comes to selecting DCs.

DawgNole

October 8th, 2012
3:08 pm

Spyro
October 8th, 2012
2:47 pm

Didn’t see that coming in the middle of the season.
_______________________

Same here, but it’s the right move. Things weren’t getting any better.

GT Joe

October 8th, 2012
3:08 pm

About time: Tevin not bad enough to lose games himself? See VT and Miami games for clarity.

GT Fan

October 8th, 2012
3:09 pm

First, hate to see someone fired. But, gross underperformance on the job surely warrants being fired.

PJ had to make a move. But he shouldn’t be done yet. IMO, he’s got 2 weeks to prep Vad Lee for his first start. BC, with a poor D, is the perfect opponent for Vad’s 1st start. The ACC coastal is gone, probably a bowl game too. Might as well get the kid some experience before NEXT season. I really don’t think he could do worse than TW (11-12 as a starter).

IronJacket

October 8th, 2012
3:09 pm

whether it is now or after the season is over… PLEASE hire the best DC / RECRUITER money can buy.

1 4 GT

October 8th, 2012
3:09 pm

SHAZAAM!!!! Lightening bolts everywhere!!! BOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMM (thunder)

GT FAN IN PA

October 8th, 2012
3:10 pm

I thought maybe at the end of the season since his contract was up- but not at the Bye-week. IF- and I stress IF Tech could play a little defense they can win. You score more than 30 points a game you should win the game.

The Grinch

October 8th, 2012
3:11 pm

IronJacket
October 8th, 2012
3:09 pm

Not as easy as just throwing money around. Look at what UGA went through.

UGA fan

October 8th, 2012
3:11 pm

Enter your comments here

USMC Dawg

October 8th, 2012
3:11 pm

“USMC Dawg, as far as UGA goes… Fire CMR and hire who exactly?”

I would take BOBBY PETRINO…. Okay get some screen cleaner… but mark my words… whicjever SEC team(Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky) hires Petrino for next season will surpass UGA’s program.
The man is one of the top Football coaches in the country, whether you like him or not.