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

Ted M

October 8th, 2012
6:50 pm

I hope Johnson is fired…and he is but not until 2015.


October 8th, 2012
6:50 pm

The defense is by far the main issue. They have simply looked lost for most of this season. Also not sure why people are so down on the talent of recruits – in looking at Rivals recruiting numbers over the past 6 years , I don’t see a big change.

The offense is doing OK – but should really hum once Vad or Justin gets under center. Then you will see the ball in the air more. I like Tevin but lets face it, he’s slow, has not been great on the option reads and simply cannot throw the ball with any consistency – and we are still putting up good offensive numbers. Might as well support CPJ anyway as we are certainly not going to buy his contract out anytime soon.

LongTime Jacket

October 8th, 2012
6:50 pm

Kirby Smart. We could be “project”.

LongTime Jacket

October 8th, 2012
6:51 pm

Add “his” above.

GT Bee

October 8th, 2012
6:54 pm

Sure wish we would have signed the youngest Shaw instead of the older one.

Mike S.

October 8th, 2012
7:02 pm

I thought Groh was an overrated hire from the start. He got fired from Va for a reason. His defenses weren’t that great there with better recruits.


October 8th, 2012
7:43 pm

I saw this kid Washington throw a couple of passes last week. He looked like he was trying to hit the peanut vendor in the stands.


October 8th, 2012
7:52 pm

Sorry, but your head coach does not recruit good defensive players.Real hard to make it work.

Paul Johnson come in and does real well with Chan Gailley’s players. Everybody proclaims he can walk on water after just one good season. a common mistake. But he may very well be the problem, not Al Groh. Can he recruit players for both sides, offense and defense?

1 4 GT

October 8th, 2012
7:54 pm

Hey you Georgie trolls….don’t y’all have enough to worry about with your own team without being here being jerks over GT. And it’s no excuse to say ours are on your boards. I say the same thing to them. Grow up and get a life, whichever side you troll for and for God’s sake , be better than the other idiots.


October 8th, 2012
7:56 pm

I don’t get why we ever fired Dave Wommack.

Tevin Washington benched

October 8th, 2012
7:57 pm

Tevin needs to be benched. Days and Lee much better . Tech 4-8 at best

Bull Meacham

October 8th, 2012
8:05 pm

I congratulate Tech on having the stones to do this. Short supply in Athens.


October 8th, 2012
8:34 pm

Somebody forgot to tell Kansas State that the option doesn’t work.

I’m rather concerned that our decline in defense started before Al Groh hit the scene. That probably points to a decline in talent. On offense, I think a good scheme can make an average unit into a good offensive unit. I’m not sure that is the case on the defensive side of the ball.

Al Groh

October 8th, 2012
8:38 pm

I don’t think the defenses I drew up were that bad.

Johnson just needs to learn to recruit.

buzzin mycrotch

October 8th, 2012
9:05 pm

i think reggie ball would make a good DC


October 8th, 2012
9:54 pm

Why does Johnson still have a job ?


October 8th, 2012
10:01 pm

Fish Fry needs to fire himself

just thinkin'

October 8th, 2012
10:01 pm

So Dabo, in his confusion is ready to punt early in the game on fourth and short.
We are not ready to accept the ball so we call timeout.
Our timeout gives Dabo time to wake up and change his mind. They get the first down and go on to score.
The coach that called the timeout when they wanted to give us the ball should be fired.
Predictable series of events for Tech fans.

Reggie's balls

October 8th, 2012
10:11 pm

GO COCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!


October 8th, 2012
10:18 pm

Dang Paul Johnson’s firing of Groh taking this weeks heat off the Georgia-South Carolina game just to recapture the ajc sports-beat spotlight.

Edd Price

October 8th, 2012
10:22 pm

Being an UGA fan, I am no fan of anything Tech; but taking a shot at a 70 yr old man on the day he is fired due to him hurting your feelings a couple of years ago says a lot more about you than him.

The truth

October 8th, 2012
10:31 pm

Well now Brian Van Gorder has another place to go!,


October 8th, 2012
11:03 pm

Chris Rumph !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


October 8th, 2012
11:09 pm

I am fine with the offense averaging 38 points per game. Recruiting is the problem, and it isn’t because of the offense we run. Paul just isn’t a good recruiter. Get a defensive recruiting guru and we are fine. Defense is the problem. By the way, Chan wasn’t the great recruiter. It was Giff Smith.


October 8th, 2012
11:11 pm

Granted he also hasn’t proven he can develop a QB in the system. It will take talent on that position as well, and we will not get a guy that has aspirations of playing on Sundays. Dont necessarily have to either. Nesbitt wasn’t.

Grasp of the Obvious

October 8th, 2012
11:18 pm

“”"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.”"”

Wow Schultz, what insight here. I’m amazed. After watching the GT defense get scorched the last 3 weeks, I’m glad you were able to clue us in on this.

Fact Check

October 8th, 2012
11:31 pm

There are so many ridiculous comments on this blog.


October 8th, 2012
11:33 pm

I sense a sinking ship at Tech.!


October 8th, 2012
11:35 pm

At least Tech had the nads to realize they had a problem and make the move, not wait 4 long years, split the entire bulldog nation, just to watch worthless Willie Martinez lose another game.


October 8th, 2012
11:47 pm

Yes Honey Bo Bo needs to go!

Swamp Fox Redux?

October 8th, 2012
11:48 pm

Jeff, your anecdote about an NFL coach not being able to translate to kids reminds me of the stories coming out of Athens when Goff brought in Marion Campbell to coach the D.


October 8th, 2012
11:59 pm

Can’t wait for Carvell’s articles on how this affects the defensive recruits.

around town

October 9th, 2012
1:09 am

What about Oleary? Would Freidgen be interested in returning as OC? For all his offensive “genius,” CPJ cannot hold a candle to him, IMO.

around town

October 9th, 2012
1:11 am

Of course, I mean Oleary as HC. Just seems to me to be a given that CPJ has to go is Tech is going to emerge from the doldrums once more.


October 9th, 2012
1:34 am

groh–a bust in the nfl, a bust at uva, a bust at tech. He’ll walk away with millions in severance cash–another big waste of money by paul johnson and tech’s ad.

joseph gamble

October 9th, 2012
6:15 am

As a Dawg fan this sounds familiar,Ray Goff & The Swamp Fox Marion Campbell


October 9th, 2012
6:52 am

The problem is CPJ the players in Atlanta do not like him and refuse to play for him.


October 9th, 2012
7:39 am

“Al Groh was a mistake.” Well, duh. My UVA friends were laughing their rear ends off 2-1/2 years ago.

bene gesserit witch

October 9th, 2012
7:52 am

Stick your hand in the box, Paul. See how far you can take the pain.
And think of your middle linebacker – name of Drummond – and remember the pain. Never seen a MLB so statuesque – in the way a statue stand there, stands there, stands there.
Of course, it isn’t only Mr. Drummond, the D overall just can’t cut Division I (or whatever they are calling the ‘big leagues’ nowadays) football. Fast, tough and smart offenses are everywhere. Even at Middle Tennessee State. And on the O side at Tech, you have moderately slow, fragile and simple-mindedness; you know, dive play, dive play, option right, punt (or fumble).
Clean house – starting with who is known as ‘D-Rad’.

Joe Biden

October 9th, 2012
8:22 am

Its called “trickle-down defense”

Whiskey Breath

October 9th, 2012
8:27 am

Jeff, you have a lot of nerve. Where was your opinion when the guy got hired? He flunked after many years at Virginia. He was known as a retread. You are a master of the obvious.

Thomas Brown

October 9th, 2012
8:37 am

Georgie tek beat Jim Donnan to have him fired, and now falls on its collective face 1-10 vs our current coach, and we are supposed to talk about Georgie tek has maybe an issue with their defense ?

There have been all these blogs about how the program has dropped-off, plateaued against his competition, not beat the top teams in The SEC nor even against other conferences. Jim Donnan was fired by Mike Adam$ because as Ben Dukes said, he did not beat his rival competition. As Ben Dukes points out Steve O. Spurrier has been at South Carolina starting 2005, and there is no argument anyone can put forth that we were better than USCe 2011 when they beat us last season and made # 9 in AP Poll, while we lost to them head-to-head and made # 19 beating no team who made the Top 25 – in fact losing all 4. South Carolina today, is equivalent to what the vols or Florida was when Jim Donnan was fired. We average # 8 recruiting rankings and South Carolina # 20 starting the same year 2005. We have had huge attrition across the board of the 107 Mark Richt signed who could be playing 2012, and are not. Today, we have 66 scholarship players plus a transfer-in who are available. If we don’t play Chris Conley, Quayvon Hicks, Mark Beard, Jay Rome, Malcolm Mitchell at wide receiver, Sheldon Dawson, Josh Dawson, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Richard Samuel at linebacker, or a back-up Quarterback when our QB states he did not sleep for 2 days prior to the only game on our schedule all 12 games and goes out there with yet another Aaron Murray fumble, another Aaron Murray interception (and several more which should have been intercepted) while again he runs 5 times for minus yards including yet again 2 more sacks – why have there been 30 who have transferred-out of these 107 signed scholarships Mark Richt brought in here ?

Yes, we have more talent than Steve Spurrier. Would you say it is fair to say that Steve Spurrier at 4-4 against Mark Richt, averaging one-third the recruiting rankings has out X and O Mark Richt ?

I believe you can make the point that we have off-field issues which are being shoved under the rug, to avert further embarrassment, that have contributed here to us not beating the top teams.

Starting with Kentucky in 2007, when that was 6 seasons ago, we have not beat an SEC team who made a winning SEC record.

After Auburn # 9 in 2006, when that was 7 seasons ago, we have not beat a team making the Top 10.

34-19 the last 4 years, same as Georgie tek # 31 in the nation.

35-13 Jim Donnan his last 4 years, # 12 in the nation.

For years now, we have been hearing about Mark Richt in terms of his NUMBER OF WINS.

Mark Richt has played 5 more games and not only won 1 fewer but lost 6 more than Jim Donnan – their last 4 years compared.

Even including coming in here and cleaning up Ray Goff’s mess his 1st season – all 5 of Jim Donnan’s years here, comparing that to Mark Richt his last 5 years here :

19 Losses Jim Donnan all 5 years he was here
21 Losses Mark Richt all 5 of his last 5 years here

This is the discussion we get to all the time across this great internet. Jim Donnan was fired for not winning the big games at the time. Mark Richt earned a little give on that with Jim Donnan’s recruits, for Jim Donnan most assuredly did not leave this Top 10 All-Time College Football Program in Wins in a depleted state. He just did not win the games he was expected to win.

I don’t know if you can say we were expected to win the game Saturday night. USCe has a running back and a real dual-threat quarterback, an OL and a DL and Secondary and special teams featuring great players. We matched-up with them, but were out-coached by a guy who has out-coached Ray Goff, Mark Richt and Jim Donnan.

How Mark Richt gets these recruits to come here, when he mis-manages their talent like he has for 12 years of this, and has not in 12 years won as well as all these other SEC programs who have won all these other games in the Mark Richt era against teams who made the Top 10, is anyone’s guess. But, for me, I think they like his forgive approach.

Mark Richt doesn’t think this is any big deal.

He is making no changes to anything.


He’s satisfied.

Plateaued with his recruiting, game plans, preparation, soft discipline and harsh punishment, and coaching staff or lack thereof.

# 8 in The SEC all 12 years to-date beating teams making Top 10

We’re # 8 in just our own conference of beating teams who made the Top 10 all the entire Mark Richt era.

17 games

Won 3

There are all these posters who purport to state that a Top 10 All-Time College Football Program like ours cannot get and does not deserve any better.

Compare this now, to Jim Donnan, they say.

I find it hard to believe that a Top 10 Program cannot deserve the entitlement of better than # 8 in The SEC at beating top teams in the entire Mark Richt era.

Yes, we’ve plateaued. One day, you will all say I said it 1st – about 7 years ago I said it. You have listed excuses for 7 years, and now you all agree with me without one of you saying I said it to you for all 7 of these years of being unable to beat the top teams while our off-field issues continue with a coach satisfied, and very few fans.

Jim Donnan was fired because he could not beat his top rivals at the time, and specifically Georgie tek. That is why we’re supposed to not have this brought up by Jeff Schultz.

GT 70

October 9th, 2012
8:52 am

Without al we would not have gotten attachou. Maybe a fair trade, sine hopefully we will have him for one more year.


October 9th, 2012
9:27 am

Enter your comments here


October 9th, 2012
9:27 am

Crimson 75′ List made a good list for replacements..

Tech fans, here’s the best options to replace Groh:
1. Jeremy Pruitt
2. Lance Thompson
3. Bo Davis
4. Brick Haley
5. Torrian Gray
6. John Neal
7. Mike Tressel
8. Luke Fickell
9. Bob Gregory
10. Mike Vrabel

I like all those names but I would like to add Chris Rumph to this list..
Lance Thompson served under Tech 1990


October 9th, 2012
10:02 am

Thomas Brown…You do realize this is a tech blog right? Did you write all that from memory? Also, you better get rid of the egg cartons in your trunk. They got a lead and it points to you.

wt king

October 9th, 2012
10:07 am

CAG should’a been fired end of LAST season. I think we can all agree on that.

Jeff Schlitz

October 9th, 2012
10:19 am


You got your panties in a bunch when AG was mean to you, you poor thing.

Al Groh is gone but you still run funny and throw like a girl. I mean it in a nice way, though.


October 9th, 2012
10:40 am

If Tenuta is hired back you may lose most of your Alum support. Next to Bill Lewis, was there a more hated, arrogant coach at GT? And he does not like to recruit. Not what you guys need right now.

Thomas Brown

October 9th, 2012
11:17 am

Todd Grantham ?