In the interest of full disclosure, here goes: When Georgia and Georgia Tech both hired new defensive coordinators in January, I had more confidence in Paul Johnson’s decision to bring in Al Groh than I did Mark Richt’s decision to hire Todd Grantham.
The reason was simple: While Groh was a disappointment as a head coach at Virginia, he was a proven commodity as a defensive coach in the NFL and college, working with the likes of Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. I also believed that taking a college coordinator’s job at 66 indicated that he must be truly motivated to win again. Conversely, while Grantham came highly recommended, most recently as the linebackers coach of the Dallas Cowboys, he had been a coordinator only once before: with the Cleveland Browns, where he had mixed results (2005-07). Grantham was closer to an unknown commodity.
Now, while Grantham hasn’t beeen stellar in Athens, Tech’s defense has been a disaster. That has to be a reflection on Groh. I’m not saying the guy forgot how to coach defense, but neither do I buy into the notion that the Jackets are completely devoid of any talent.
In fact, I will now pose a question that before this season would’ve seemed unfathomable: Who has been worse — Groh as Tech’s defensive coordinator or Mike Bobo as Georgia’s offensive coordinator. (Vote in our poll. This should be interesting.)
My view: Groh is the bigger bust because he is in complete control of the defense at Tech. Bobo works for an offensive coach (Mark Richt) and designs the game plan with his boss in mind.
The Jackets were smoked by North Carolina State, 45-28. They have allowed 12 offensive touchdowns in the last three games.They have an ACC low two interceptions, rank eighth in the conference in total defense (367.8), ninth against the pass (212.5) and 10th in scoring (26.8).
They didn’t have to be great defensively this season — they just had to be better than in the last two years under Dave Wommack. That hasn’t happened.
Johnson is trying to temper the criticism of Groh. Quoting from Tuesday’s news conference: “As I said when [Wommack was fired], I don’t want to put all that on Dave Wommack. Guys have to make plays, too. You can’t change coaches every time you don’t tackle somebody.
“We’ve got guys who have played for two or three years here that are doing things there’s no explanation for.”
Johnson is equally upset about the Jackets’ play on both sides of the ball. He counted 85 missed assignments against N.C. State — 43 on one side of the ball and 42 on the other (he didn’t remember the breakdown). He believes the team is playing with a lack of urgency, saying, “We need to go to Winston-Salem and play like our hair’s on fire.”
As for this excuse by some that Tech just doesn’t have enough talent, he said: “It’s like anything. The more talented you are, the more mistakes you can make. Do we have guys as talented as Derrick Morgan? No. But that doesn’t mean we can’t play better defense if everybody didn’t do what they’re supposed to.”
That’s mental, not physical. That’s where coaching comes in.