ATHENS — It’s reasonable to assume — and we have to assume since Athletic Director Greg McGarity is reserving comment — that Georgia will extend the contract of head coach Mark Richt after the season if the Bulldogs get past Kentucky on Saturday to secure a spot in the SEC Championship Game.
Richt has only two years remaining on his agreement following this season and it would only seem logical that UGA would lengthen that by at least three or four years sometime after the season.
But there’s another contract matter with which the 15th-ranked Bulldogs are going to have to deal if the season continues to progress as it has.
The three-year contract that Todd Grantham signed to come to Georgia to coach its defense expires on Jan. 31, 2013. And while that’s still 14 months away, what the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator has done on his side of the ball in Year Two has made him a pretty hot commodity.
So says Grantham’s agent, at least. Michael Harrison, an attorney out of Stevenson Ranch, Calif., said he has already “gotten inquiries” from some NFL teams about the possibility of his client returning to that league as a coordinator. Harrison also said he has “gotten feelers” indirectly from colleges gauging Grantham’s interest in becoming a head coach.
Grantham came to UGA from the Dallas Cowboys, where he coached linebackers, and he was a defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns before that. It’s Grantham’s stated desire to one day become a head coach — the buyout in his contract is waived if he does — and several college positions have already opened up. More will surely become available at the conclusion of the regular season, and Harrison expects Grantham to be a part of those conversations.
“Todd wants to be at Georgia, though,” Harrison insisted. “But we’d like to get an extension.”
Here’s the rub: McGarity is not likely to be keen on providing multi-year deals for assistant coaches. It’s something he never did in 18 years as Jeremy Foley’s right-hand man at Florida.
Georgia’s multi-year contract for Grantham was executed by former UGA Athletic Director Damon Evans, who previously also had not offered extended deals for assistants. Grantham is the among the top three highest-paid coordinators in college football at $750,000 a year, according to a survey by USA Today, and the only UGA assistant coach with a multi-year deal.
How McGarity might actually feel about the situation we have no way of knowing because he’s not willing to comment on it at this point.
“We don’t talk about anything like that during the season,” McGarity said Monday, referring to both Richt and Grantham. “Our full focus is on our players and our opponent and right now that is Kentucky. We’ll deal with all that after the season.”
Asked whether the decision on Grantham would ultimately be his, McGarity said, “the head coach makes decisions on his staff.” But you can be sure McGarity will have input.
This much is also certain: Georgia’s defense has looked a lot better under Grantham’s guidance. After Georgia’s 45-7 win over No. 20 Auburn this past Saturday, the Bulldogs (8-2, 6-1 SEC) moved up to No. 4 in the nation in total defense. They’re also No. 5 against the run, No. 5 against the pass and they lead the SEC in quarterback sacks and tackles for loss. The TD it allowed in the first quarter against the Tigers was just the ninth in the last eight games against the defense.
In fact, Georgia’s defense has improved significantly in national ranking in every category kept in Year Two of Grantham’s leadership.
72———–Pass Eff. ———–5
The improvement over 2009, before Grantham was defensive coordinator, is even more significant.
Of course, Grantham does not come without faults. He was roundly criticized for making choke signs at a Florida kicker as he prepared to make the game-winning kick against Georgia in overtime in 2010. And Grantham ended up in a shouting match with Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin at the end of the Vanderbilt game last month. Both incidents resulted in internal reprimands from UGA and certainly could be a factor in any job considerations going forward.
Harrison said he does not believe it will be an issue. “A lot of people want a coach with Todd’s fire and passion for the game,” he said.
Certainly it would be in Richt’s best interest to keep Grantham. Richt has spoken glowingly recently of his defense and its coordinator.
“It’s a lot more fun to coach when you’ve got a good defense and the guys are playing the way our guys are playing,” Richt said Saturday. “It makes up for a lot of deficiencies. It just kind of helps you iron some things out sometimes. . . . Todd studies defenses and offenses as well as anybody I’ve been around. He will have a plan and he will understand what needs to be done. But then he’ll try to make it as simple as possible for our guys. He understands tendencies, he understands formations and groups and when different guys are in the game. He knows the percentages and he’s got fire in his belly. He’s really doing a great job.”
So I put the question to you. Should the Bulldogs move to lock up Grantham as soon as they can for as long as they can? Or should Georgia remain guarded in their approach to long-term contracts?
– Chip Towers