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

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
5:19 pm

Keeping you up honey ?

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
5:20 pm

@ JIMBOB keeping you up honey ?

Najeh Davenpoop

October 8th, 2012
5:21 pm

You can’t pull off comebacks with a run-first, run-second, run-third offense. A run-heavy offense is good only if it is paired with a defense that will maintain leads. Georgia Tech would be better off without the gimmick triple option.

Ted M

October 8th, 2012
5:21 pm

Johnson is not going to get fire. 12 mil to buyout his contract and another 3 mil to replace him and some of his assistants.

We are stuck with Johnson… we can only hope he has an epiphany like hey you know what “maybe recruiting does matter”

Stinger2

October 8th, 2012
5:24 pm

GT football will never again be what it was in its prime during the Dodd and SEC era.
There are several reasons such as the mistake of leaving the SEC, the changing times of football recruiting, the players themselves, the fact that the GT alumni and fan
base is no longer the same are only some of the factors.

All GT fans should realize that it is what it is now and either accept the fact that we will be at best a mid-tier ACC program or find another team to root for. The current problems with the defense along with CPJ`s personal preference for an option offense can be improved with the right adjustments. However, there is only so much that can be done and that will never get GT back to the level of a consistent high profile program.

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
5:30 pm

So …………. CU got your boy Groh fired. LOL. Please downgrade to FCS level. All will be well.

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
5:32 pm

@ Ted M — Johnson will be fired. Please acknowledge the reality. Ga Tech Football SUXXXXX

HardHat

October 8th, 2012
5:32 pm

Next to go Paul Hewitt oh I mean Johnson. La Tech has a head coach Sonny Dykes maybe he is the answer.

GTBob

October 8th, 2012
5:33 pm

Hey, GTBob, does this move save CPJ’s job? Or do you think his job is not at risk, at least through the end of this season?

His job wasn’t really in danger. He has plenty of time to turn things around before it ever gets to that point. This move certainly proves that he has the courage to try and correct things though.

Big Jim

October 8th, 2012
5:34 pm

Simply saying “recruiting” is bad in NOT the answer people. (it is bad no doubt) But….

The Johnson could walk into any 5 star kids house with a pound of blow and 3 whooers…and say “hey come to GT, where we run the simply cannot defend vaunted Trippple Option!!!” And they look at him and say “WTF is that? Do they run that in the NFL?

As mediocre a coach as Richt is, he gets loads of talent yr in an yr out. Why, because he runs a system that puts players in the NFL. And yes….piss poor akademick standards plays into it just a bit too.

Just Sayn

October 8th, 2012
5:34 pm

Jeff,

So let me get this straight.

He gave you an honest answer to your stupid question three years ago, and now it’s Paul Johnson’s mistake?

Please explain that logic.

Or did you hold that grudge for 3 years, after your stupid question?

Go ask Todd G “How did you give up 23 points to the SUNY Buffs when they could only manage 7 against Kent State?”

You don’t have the balls to do it, opting to play to the Redneck base in this state.

Vain Jangling

October 8th, 2012
5:34 pm

Well, Johnson can’t fire himself. Although . . . that’s a thought . . .

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
5:35 pm

@Stinger2 —– Johnson will be fired. Please acknowledge the reality. Ga Tech Football SUXXXXX

just sayin

October 8th, 2012
5:38 pm

At least GT has had fewer players arrested than UGA.

4-3

October 8th, 2012
5:38 pm

The only way to play is the 4-3. If you arent getting 5 star athletes for the d-line you cant play the 3-4. only a few schools outside the SEC can play a true 3-4. As for the offense, its doing fine. If the defense wouldnt give up the consistent 3rd down and get the ball back, the offense would be averaging 35 ppg. That would win most game. Fix the D and tech will be okay. GO VAD

Big Crimson 75

October 8th, 2012
5:40 pm

Hey, GTBob, does this move save CPJ’s job? Or do you think his job is not at risk, at least through the end of this season?

His job wasn’t really in danger. He has plenty of time to turn things around before it ever gets to that point. This move certainly proves that he has the courage to try and correct things though.
————-
Ok Bobby, so when the Team keeps losing(which it will) & the Defense doesn’t get better(which it won’t), then what happens?
Johnson should have saved his “go to” maneuver when the Season ended.

pw12

October 8th, 2012
5:42 pm

Ralph fridgen.and let him run his option baesd pass offense with vad Lee like he did joe hamilton..or get a d cord who runs 4/3..that works best with what tech can recruit..or 4/4…i am leaning towards 4/4..i know hire buddy ryan as d coordinator..or is he dead??

Tron5000

October 8th, 2012
5:42 pm

I guess my emails and voice mails for DRad didn’t go unheeded. I knew he’d listen to me eventually. You’re welcome.

crackbaby

October 8th, 2012
5:44 pm

@big daddy – Ted Roof?! You gotta be kidding me.

His D at Tech sucked, his team at Duke sucked, and he got fired at Auburn. The only worse suggestion is Petrino as HC. So many people on drugs or something…

Look for a young coach who is a proven recruiter as a position coach – raid the SEC pantry.

chuck e

October 8th, 2012
5:45 pm

Al Groh was just part of the problem. Tech has a hard headed coach in Paul Johnson that thinks it’s his way or the highway as far as his offense goes and he does a poor job recruiting on both sides of the ball. For all the Chan haters, Johnson’s record after the same number of games is almost exactly the same as Chan and many of Johnson’s wins came in his first two years with Chan’s players.

GTBob

October 8th, 2012
5:48 pm

Ok Bobby, so when the Team keeps losing(which it will) & the Defense doesn’t get better(which it won’t), then what happens?

If the defense never gets better then he will get fired. Its not to that point yet. What makes you think that GT is not humanly capable of improving their defense at all?

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
5:48 pm

THE OPTION DOESN’T WORK ! OMG. so 1987 What ? that’s offense ? NO ! dumbass. It’s your college football gameplan for NOW. wake up and realize that.

Spare Tire

October 8th, 2012
5:48 pm

It is 100% correct. He never should have been hired. Hopefully the change now will help.

Ted M

October 8th, 2012
5:48 pm

Enter your comments here

Lee

October 8th, 2012
5:51 pm

Vlad Lee should start or get some playing time if Tech loses their next game.

Atlanta truth

October 8th, 2012
5:51 pm

I WILL REPEAT ALL NIGHT …………. THE OPTION DOES NOT WORK. Are we clear ? Or are there mental challenges ? Helloooooo ?

Big Crimson 75

October 8th, 2012
5:56 pm

If the defense never gets better then he will get fired. Its not to that point yet. What makes you think that GT is not humanly capable of improving their defense at all?
—–
20/20 vision

Buzzman

October 8th, 2012
6:00 pm

Goodbye Big Al. Now for the rest of the season, we will probably lose 5 out of 6, but who is counting and who really cares about this season, this season is over, now for next year we must do better on recruiting, we need defense players, we need quarterbacks that can run and throw not run and fumble. Also need receivers that can catch the ball (call Chan, he recruited some darn good receivers). Now the biggest problem with recruiting, we have to compete against Georgia,Auburn,Alabama,Florida,Florida State,South Caroline, and Clemson. Did I leave anyone out? Funny Clemson has a top ten recruit out of Georgia already for next year out of Grayson, can’t remember his name. If you were a player would you go to Tech if you had all of these other schools recruiting you. I doubt it. So recruiting next year has got to be a priority.

GT

October 8th, 2012
6:01 pm

The offense is fine. Paul Johnson is fine. The defense was using up all the margin of error. Would be interesting to hear the whole story. I wonder how Groh got here in the first place. Looked like a good pick but this guy is too independent. We need a Johnson man would love to see a black coach with energy. Spurrier type move.

GTBob

October 8th, 2012
6:01 pm

20/20 vision

20/20 vision tells you that we are not capable of not being one of the worst defensive teams in college football history? Break it down for us Big Crimson. Why are we not capable of just being bad and not horrible?

QB/DB

October 8th, 2012
6:01 pm

Right collegeball fan but I would also put 6:5 Waller back to Safety where he wanted to play and was a beast in H.S. the Admin. should lighten up on entrance requirements. I like move now we can see if current Staff can turn this around and we get a chance to grade them in real time -they have a week to change. Randy Shannon with his Soth Florida connections and experience in recruiting kids to Big City atmospheres and Giff as RC will be a home run for CPJ and a change that will also turn recruiting around! Thanks CPJ all you ever needed and wanted was a GREAT D and a very good recruiting years. Right this ship CPJ you are too great of a Coach to let it go down like this!

GTBob

October 8th, 2012
6:04 pm

I WILL REPEAT ALL NIGHT …………. THE OPTION DOES NOT WORK. Are we clear ? Or are there mental challenges ? Helloooooo ?

We are ranked 22nd in total offense and 92nd in total defense. I must be mentally challenged because I see those two numbers and i’m not really concerned about the offense.

Big Crimson 75

October 8th, 2012
6:07 pm

Bob — Al Groh is a good football coach. Ask Parcells!! Ask Belechick!! Ask the Nic-Tator!! Ask Coughlin!!
When you don’t have the Troops, no need to invade Poland!!

GT Redneck

October 8th, 2012
6:08 pm

Hell PJ don’t stop there fire yourself and maybe next year might be better than this year.Plus put Vad in you self ego dumba$$!!

BuzzieBooBoo

October 8th, 2012
6:10 pm

Is there another Dooley we could hire?

BSIM1969

October 8th, 2012
6:10 pm

Shultz is now a Monday afternoon quarterback. How nice.

GTBob

October 8th, 2012
6:11 pm

Bob — Al Groh is a good football coach. Ask Parcells!! Ask Belechick!! Ask the Nic-Tator!! Ask Coughlin!!
When you don’t have the Troops, no need to invade Poland!!

Are you really insinuating that our talent on defense is so bad that there is no coach on earth that could have held Middle Tennessee State to less than 49 points and 510 yards of offense. That was easily their best offensive game of the year. Is our talent on defense that much worse than Mcneese St?

Hmmmmmmm

October 8th, 2012
6:11 pm

@GT Bob

Yes sir, the first sign or recovery is owning the problem GT Bob…. You like many, are mentally challenged when it comes to CPJ and his terrible offense…

Go Jackets

October 8th, 2012
6:14 pm

I guess its Al Groh’s fault that tevin cant make a 4th and 1 ANYTIME…..:-P

pw12

October 8th, 2012
6:14 pm

Ralph with Randy shannon..

GTBob

October 8th, 2012
6:18 pm

You like many, are mentally challenged when it comes to CPJ and his terrible offense…

Give me a good argument for why the offense is so terrible and I might come around to your side. As for now, im fine with the 38 points and 480 yards of offense we are averaging.

Dacusville Bill

October 8th, 2012
6:24 pm

Now fire Pitiful Paul and hire Bobby Pertino(sp)–The last 2 “Bobby’s” did a great job at GT–

Stinger

October 8th, 2012
6:25 pm

MIKE BILOTTI FOR HEAD COACH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stinger

October 8th, 2012
6:27 pm

Mike Bilotti could recruit some the out west talent he did at Oregon.

CC

October 8th, 2012
6:30 pm

Paul Johnson needs to be fired.

noel malone

October 8th, 2012
6:32 pm

who was the idiot who tried to field a kickoff on his own two then slipped,
leading to the screwed-up pitch play that was stopped for a safety?
The pitch play from the two was probably the worst call Johnson has ever
made or will ever make.

big question – why can’t tech recruit defensive players?

noel malone

October 8th, 2012
6:34 pm

hire bobby petrino? are you kidding? the guy has no character.

from a tech fan – class of 57 – living in fayetteville.

wxwax

October 8th, 2012
6:39 pm

I agree with everyone who says that Tech’s recruiting has suffered under Paul Johnson.

He could win with Chan Gailey’s players, but not his own. Maybe he can hire Gailey as a recruiting coordinator when Buffalo fires him?

Stinger

October 8th, 2012
6:41 pm

Randy Sanders ,,,,,,,,,,,,Fulmers former off.cordinator would not be bad decision.

Highly Respected Southern Troll

October 8th, 2012
6:44 pm

It’s about time that Johnson was getting heat some heat at Tech. It should have started after he blew the 2009 game against Georgia. Tech’s biggest games are Georgia, Clemson, Virginia Tech, FSU, and the bowl. His record…

1-3 versus UGA and staring at a likely 1-4
4-2 versus Clemson
1-4 versus VT
2-0 versus FSU but they roll back on the schedule next year
0-4 versus bowl opponents

That’s 8-13 with half the wins coming against Clemson (including two in one year). If you add-in his record against Miami (a second-tier rival for the Jackets) it’s 9-17. If you only count UGA, Clemson, and VT it’s 6-9.

That’s bad, folks.