Al Groh’s problems at Georgia Tech weren’t pure ‘fantasy’

Al Groh's teaching methods and schemes failed from day one at Tech. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Al Groh's teaching methods, schemes failed from outset. (Johnny Crawford)

Al Groh was a mistake. He was Paul Johnson’s mistake. It took about 2½ years for the Georgia Tech head coach to realize that.

Groh, who had success as a defensive coordinator in the NFL but was a disaster at Georgia Tech from the outset, was fired Monday by Johnson, who has seen the Jackets regress since Groh’s hiring in 2010.

It’s not surprising Johnson would fire an assistant. He fired Groh’s predecessor, Dave Wommack, even after winning an ACC championship in 2009. He fired a coach (Groh) whose defense had given up 42, 49 and 47 points in the last three games, collapsed late in overtime defeats to Virginia Tech and Miami and allowed 510 yards in offense to Middle Tennessee State.

The stunning part is that Johnson did this now. I had been asked several times by readers over the past two weeks whether I believed Groh would make it through the season. My answer always was yes, simply because it’s so rare for college assistants to get fired during the year. Clearly, it had become an unworkable situation.

Groh can’t complain that he wasn’t given a chance. Johnson gave him more than enough rope, even while reaffirming before the season that the defense had to get better.

Let me take you back to 2010. Georgia Tech lost 28-25 to a Kansas team that a week earlier had lost to North Dakota State 6-3.

After the game, I asked how Groh how an opponent (Kansas) that had managed only one field goal in 12 possessions against North Dakota State could score four touchdowns against Georgia Tech.

He bristled. The response: “That’s fantasy football. I just deal with what happened today. … That’s not the game coaches play. Coaches play the game that’s played today. The rest is talk radio, those guys who have all the answers.”

The problem being, it wasn’t fantasy. It was real. If it was fantasy, Groh would still have a job. But his teaching methods did not translate well to players and the change to a 3-4 defense also was questionable, given the Jackets’ difficulty in recruiting that kind of personnel (particularly a big enough and good enough defensive tackle).

Johnson is trying to save a season that has spun out of control since an impressive early season win over Virginia. I don’t know that this will do it. But removing Groh certainly removes a problem. For the increasing amount of abuse Johnson has taken lately, it’s not like the Jackets have been losing games because of his offense.

By Jeff Schultz

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208 comments Add your comment

Coach Cool

October 8th, 2012
3:44 pm

Throw the ball coach. PLEASE!

JIMBOB

October 8th, 2012
3:45 pm

Todd

October 8th, 2012
3:45 pm

Maryland Jacket

October 8th, 2012
3:46 pm

Eh…the offense hasn’t ben helping.

LanierJacket

October 8th, 2012
3:46 pm

hire Charlie Strong as HC

Ray

October 8th, 2012
3:46 pm

Well I know my friend might be a little happy to hear this. Although I’m a Dawgs fan and he a Tech fan I feel a little bad for them right now.

JIMBOB

October 8th, 2012
3:46 pm

Who is the official GT belt supplier?? I kind of like those things. Not really into pleats though.

Peter

October 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

3-4 defense…. Wow how does Tech find a guy 350 plus in the middle ? Silly really !

Greg M.

October 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

The right call. I wish CMR had the b**** to fire Honey Bo Bo..

Groh no mo’. | Get The Picture

October 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

[...] Schultz weighs in.  Turns out it only took about two years for Al Groh to go from impressive to a mistake. // Share this:TwitterEmailStumbleUponRedditFacebookPrintDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

drew

October 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

I hope that Al Groh was the problem. But I suspect there’s also a lack of talent, due to poor recruiting, that accounts for some of Tech’s defensive issues.

Jim

October 8th, 2012
3:48 pm

It is good to see that at least one head coach in Georgia has the guts to get rid of a coordinator when it is obvious things are not working.

RogersParkRob

October 8th, 2012
3:49 pm

So has anyone asked CPJ who will the DC? Joe Speed? Charles Kelly? He should probably call Tenuta, with hat in hand.

jdawg

October 8th, 2012
3:49 pm

Oh well….I guess they will blame uga in someway….

Hiring?

October 8th, 2012
3:49 pm

Looks like the AJC could use a copy editor.

Birmingham Jacket

October 8th, 2012
3:49 pm

Giff Smith will do a better job with the X’s but will fix the number problem… Recruiting.

db

October 8th, 2012
3:50 pm

If the season doesn’t turn around soon, CPJ will be looking for employment elsewhere also.

GT Dude

October 8th, 2012
3:51 pm

We scored more than enough points to win 90% of our games during the last three year if we had any resemblense of a decent defence.
Never really like to see a man get fired, but in this case I have to admit I am smiling
Al, on the way out don’t let the door hit you, where god split you…

Bobby

October 8th, 2012
3:51 pm

We need a QB like UGA’s Murray. Even with the game against USC this Saturday Murray would have done well leading the Yellow Jacket offense.

Sad Sack

October 8th, 2012
3:51 pm

Maybe CPJ can now be both OC and DC…

JIMBOB

October 8th, 2012
3:51 pm

Clean house and bring in Phillip Fulmer!

@ jdawg

October 8th, 2012
3:52 pm

I think you have your own problems to worry about right now.

Just sayin’

Who cares?

October 8th, 2012
3:53 pm

He’s not the only problem.

lol @ Sad Sack

October 8th, 2012
3:53 pm

GT Dude

October 8th, 2012
3:53 pm

actually meant to say: …if we had any resemblance of a decent defense…
got so excited that I couldn’t spell check

StingerSplash

October 8th, 2012
3:54 pm

Al Groh had been a defensive coordinator in the NFL. But just what kind of success did he have there? He wasn’t the defensive coordinator when the Giants won the Super Bowl. He was the DC the following season.

C. Tampa Ironworse

October 8th, 2012
3:55 pm

That will ALWAYS be Paul Johnson’s problem. He always thinks he’s the smartest in the room or at minimum, people just misunderstand his greatness. He’s the guy who has a heart attack and tells the doctor “I don’t get sick”. Too much ego…not enough understanding of the politics of college football.

SS loves Obama

October 8th, 2012
3:55 pm

Good move I think

spider

October 8th, 2012
3:55 pm

i think all the fans should be the new def coordinator since they are so smart.

juvenal

October 8th, 2012
3:56 pm

Jeff, other than ‘Bama, anybody in D1 running the 3-4 successfully? (UGA obviously not included)

Hamad Meander

October 8th, 2012
3:58 pm

Which is worst at Tech – defensive coaching or talent level? They are both pretty bad, though Steve Spurrier thinks D1 talent in Georgia is as good as it is in Florida. The GA schools should be able to get good players and let Spurrier get what’s left over, but that’s not the case.

If Tech had any defense at all, they would be 4-1. That last series against VA Tech in regulation was one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

Alabama Jack

October 8th, 2012
3:59 pm

Since CPJ came to Tech, the offense has scored 14 or more points in 55 of the 59 games played. The defense has held the other team to less than 14 points in only 7 of those 59 games. Three of those games came in 2008 – Mississippi State, Duke, and Gardner-Webb. Two were in 2009 – NC and UVA.
One in 2010 -SC State and the last one Presbyterian this year. Dave Womack was DC in 2008. Al Groh 2009 – today.

WhatUpDawg

October 8th, 2012
4:00 pm

We have not had a good recruiting program since Giff Smith left.

Blame Game

October 8th, 2012
4:00 pm

I think its more of a recruiting problem, which is a result of the CPJ! Groh never had a chance. Look at CPJ track record at Navy and GT. The Defense has never been very good.

beezit

October 8th, 2012
4:01 pm

Radakovich should turn the program into an incubator for up and coming defensive coaching talent….we’ve got the offense…

mothers conerrns

October 8th, 2012
4:02 pm

They need to fire the Coach also !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Buddy Ryan

October 8th, 2012
4:03 pm

Recruit, Recruit, Recruit- Buddy Ryan in the 1980’s couldn’t run this talent less defense

Jeff Schultz

October 8th, 2012
4:03 pm

Jevenal — vast majority run 4-3 or some kind of hybrid, but honestly not aware who runs 3-4/4-3.

All I'm Saying Is....

October 8th, 2012
4:04 pm

Hire Bill Lewis or Willie Martinez or Buddy Ryan or Jerry Glanville…can’t be any worse (or older) than
Grandpa Al

JB

October 8th, 2012
4:05 pm

They will handle it in house and hire for next year. No one is available mid season…or in their resume right mind would accept for a few games.

Big Crimson 75

October 8th, 2012
4:07 pm

Juvenal — the Gators.

Ted M

October 8th, 2012
4:07 pm

This certainly can’t hurt… but I think Johnson is the bigger problem.

In Johnson defense at least looks at the defense and sees a problem.

Jacket Man

October 8th, 2012
4:09 pm

Randy Shannon and Tyrone Nix should be on the short list; anyone even thinking about it now, forget Giff Smith, just look at the Bills defensive stats and that should be enough.

Ted M

October 8th, 2012
4:09 pm

So who is the interim DC?

MrDan

October 8th, 2012
4:10 pm

Here’s another mistake. The State, Columbia SC’s newspaper is reporting Aaron Murray’s and Christian Robinson’s house was egged and rolled after Saturday’s game.
http://www.thestate.com/2012/10/08/2472843/national-notebook-ga-player-says.html
If this is true, and it’s being reported there and elsewhere, I want to say to the cowards who did this. You’ve done more to hurt Georgia’s recruiting than any loss to SC, or any coach, or any sportswriter could ever do. I hope someone’s man enough to turn in whoever did that and the school or authorities is man enough to do something about it. Grow up you chikin s*&t bas*%(ds.

Pete

October 8th, 2012
4:11 pm

He was a H U G E mistake.
Thank God he’s gone.

DecaturHurricaneAlum

October 8th, 2012
4:11 pm

Please Al Groh, man please I actually would like to see your program go in the right direction I am tired of the ACC having middle of the road teams. But until you start passing the ball, and get some players in your secondary that can stop the pass and run you well be here next year. And how is it we can get four top defense players out of Georgia and those same players not even be approached by Georgia Tech?

collegeballfan

October 8th, 2012
4:12 pm

“Jeff, other than ‘Bama, anybody in D1 running the 3-4 successfully? (UGA obviously not included)”

Wonderful question. Anyone know the answer?

Just speculating on GT as a 4 – 3 team with the present players:

DE – Deike & Crenshaw
DT – Barnes & Green
DT – Cross & Cummings
DE – Williams & Drummond

OLB – Watts & Monroe
ILB – Nealy & Hunt-Days
OLB – Attaochu & Marcordes

And sub frequently – relentless pressure.

GTater

October 8th, 2012
4:13 pm

It’s not likely, but I hope GT brings Tenuta back (you know, if he wants to come back). He did a hell of a job with less-than-elite talent. I know he wanted the head coach job but I think he’s realized by now that he’s not gonna get a head coaching job in D-I. [Crossing my fingers.]

Jimbo Fisher

October 8th, 2012
4:13 pm

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