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December 22, 2014

Relevant? Really?!

While at Georgia, more so than change any
kind of culture...
During a radio interview over the weekend, I was asked about Todd Grantham's newsworthy comments a week ago regarding his time as Georgia's defensive coordinator.

I didn't mind giving my two cents...

I've interviewed Grantham only a couple of times, but from what I gathered, at least, during his four-season stay in Athens, he often offered up typical coach speak: comments similar to what he said last week, like "I think we did a tremendous job [at Georgia]," "we had a really young team last year," "I think [the team] got better from it," and "that's par for [the coaching] business"all of which is understandable coming from a coach's mouth.

However, it appears Grantham continues to give exaggerated coach spin, as well, or a favorable spinning of the facts to make his efforts or circumstances seem much better than the actual results or his situation during his tenure at Georgia.

For example, entering the 2013 season, Georgia's defense was undoubtedly green, and I asked Grantham about his unit's inexperience. He responded with a quick "we actually have eight guys on this year’s team who have started on defense before." After I replied that those eight included Devin Bowman and Connor Norman, who had started merely one and two games, respectively, in their careers and Malcolm Mitchell—who had started three games at cornerback, but was slated to play exclusively at wide receiver—Grantham really didn't offer up much of a response. I should have added that even including Mitchell’s trio of starts, the Bulldogs' defense returned players with a total of only 59 career starts—the lowest for a Bulldog defense entering a season since 1978—however, I didn't want our interview to come to an abrupt end.

As we're all aware, the 2013 defense's inexperience was evident as the Bulldogs allowed 375.5 yards and 29.0 points per game, while forcing only 1.2 turnovers per contest—the fifth-, first- and second-worst per-game averages, respectively, for a Bulldog defense over the previous 72 seasons.

Grantham, whose four Georgia defenses from 2010-2013 allowed per-game averages of 22.7 points and 334.1 total yards, 5.1 yards per play, while forcing 1.87 turnovers—all inferior to what the Bulldogs' defense has yielded/forced thus far this season—said his tenure at Georgia is "something I'm very proud of."  He added, "when you look at Florida, Tennessee and Auburn the last three years, we were 8-1." He then mentioned the success against Tech during his time at UGA.

What Grantham failed to mention was that although Georgia was a combined 12-1 against Florida, Tennessee and Auburn from 2011-2013 and Tech from 2010-2013, the Bulldogs' defense allowed an average of 363.8 total yards and 21.6 points in those gamesstaggeringly high figures considering the team lost just one of the 13 contests.

Last week, Grantham also said, "We changed the culture. We developed a mental and physical toughness there."
...Grantham's defenses choked.

What changed from defensive coordinator Willie Martinez (2005-2009) to Grantham was no culture, but Georgia's inability to defend against what I defined as a "proficient offense," or teams which finished their seasons averaging at least 27 points and 400 total yards per game. You can see for yourself—the statistical difference between the two coordinators is absolutely in Martinez's favor—including the most important statistic of them all, wins and losses: Georgia's record was 10-9 when Grantham's defensive unit faced a proficient offense; the Bulldogs were 12-5 with Martinez under the same circumstances.

Grantham said, "if you go back and look at the changes we were able to establish and make at the University of Georgia during the time I was there, we were able to win some games..."

As far as winning games, the Bulldogs were a disappointing 36-18 while Grantham was their defensive coordinator, or Georgia's second-worst winning percentage of the 15 different four-season continuous totals beginning with the Coach Donnan era in 1996 (i.e., 1996-1999, 1997-2000, 1998-2001, etc.)

And, if I may add, Grantham had plenty of talent to work with. Five Bulldog defenders under Grantham were selected in the four subsequent NFL Drafts (2011-2014), who went on to be a starter for at least one season in the league. In comparison, in the 25 subsequent NFL Drafts of the entire Vince Dooley era (17 years under defensive coordinator Erk Russell; eight under Bill Lewis), only four Bulldog defenders were drafted and then started for at least a season.

Finally, Grantham declared "we really put Georgia back on the map as far as being relevant." Really?! 

What's evident to me is that any relevance the Bulldogs gained from 2010 to 2013 was primarily due to an Aaron Murray-quarterbacked offense, and had little to do with we.

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