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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Clearing the Air: 5 Popular Misconceptions About the DC Search

Here's what I'd love to do for you: I'd be thrilled to death to be breaking the news that Georgia has officially hired its new defensive coordinator. It would mean you'd be thrilled that you knew the answer, I'd be thrilled to stop tracking down leads, and we could all sit back and enjoy the pleasant environment that is always created when a fresh start comes to a program mired in criticism. It'd make my day.

But alas, the best information I could give you is guesswork or speculation right now. The information coming out of Butts-Mehre is close to nil, and the rumors surrounding candidates are just that -- rumors. We've already seen on several occasions what happens when we buy in too much to information coming from outside sources. Generally speaking, there's an agent attached to that rumor, wringing his hands and cackling maniacally.

The latest such rumors seem to surround Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham, and ESPN Dallas is the latest to report that Georgia is interested, and the Dallas Morning News is saying essentially the same thing.

I'm a bit thin on NFL sources, and at the Telegraph, our budget shortfalls and staff cuts mean we don't have a full-time NFL beat writer for me to rely on either. So I'll tell you up front -- inside info on Grantham isn't likely to be found here. I've heard about Georgia's interest in him for a couple of weeks, but I haven't spoken to Grantham or anyone close to him to this point.

That said, you can read Grantham's bio HERE if you're looking for a bit more information on the guy.

I had a reader comment yesterday that he figured Bud Foster probably passed along Grantham's name to Mark Richt after Foster passed on the job, and certainly given Grantham's Virginia Tech ties, that's a real possibility. Again, that's all speculation at this point.

But some of what a lot of fans think they do know about the hire isn't so much about speculation, but rather about misinformation. So, while I can't offer you a concrete answer at the moment on who the next DC will be, I figured I can take a few minutes to clear up some of the potentially incorrect info out there on what is going into this hire.

-- Georgia needs someone with attitude, unlike Willie Martinez. I understand the misconception here because the public image of Willie was generally little more than his postgame, "Bottom line, we've just gotta execute better" quotes. And given that Brian Van Gorder made his gruff demeanor pretty public, it was easy to see Willie as a pushover who was hardly living up to the take-no-prisoners attitude Van Gorder created in Athens. But it simply isn't true.

Willie was downright scary on the practice field. Granted, we didn't often get to see much of practice, but even during the warm-up drills, Willie was often all over his players. While he took a lot of the heat for not having Reshad Jones prepared to make tackles against Tech last year, nothing could be farther from the truth. Willie was as hard on Reshad as anyone could have been. The two had a real love-hate relationship for much of Reshad's early career, but it was Willie who had a big hand in getting him on the right track in 2009. This isn't meant to serve as a treatise on why Willie wasn't at fault for the defensive problems, but simply to say that the faults most people found in his coaching style were a bit faulty themselves.

-- Kirby Smart was Georgia's home-run hire.
Could Kirby still be Georgia's guy in the end? Sure, anything's possible. And the more he talks about things, the more it sounds like he's keeping the door open. Of course, any smart negotiator knows that the more doors you keep open, the more money appears in your checking account. So it's probably best not to read too much into that.

But while fans seemed to assume from the beginning -- and, to be fair, most media folks did, too -- that Smart would be Mark Richt's top choice for the job, that's simply not been the case. There have been rumors that Smart and Richt's relationship was a bit frosty during Smart's first stint in Athens as a coach in 2005, but much of that has probably been overblown, too. Most of what I've been told is that Smart left for professional reasons, not personal ones. That said, Smart wasn't Richt's first call when the job opened up, and by Smart's own admission, he hasn't spoken much to Richt at all recently. Yes, Mike Bobo has likely done a bit of lobbying on both sides to bring Smart in, but the fact remains, Richt has offered the job to at least one and, depending on your definition of "offer" as many as three other candidates along the way. And still, Smart hasn't had serious discussions with Richt.

So while it may still end up being Kirby Smart's job, the thought that he was Richt's first choice all along is simply not substantiated by the facts.

-- The only story that matters right now is who ends up as Georgia's DC.
Yes, that's the big story, but it shouldn't be the only one. Let's assume Georgia does hire Grantham -- or any other NFL guy for that matter. The biggest question surrounding that hire should immediately be how he will fill out the staff.

While the DC is going to have a say in who gets hired for the other two open positions, it may be that those other two jobs prove more significant in any immediate changes to Georgia's look. Will the new assistants be college guys? Will they be hired more for their roles in recruiting or for their coaching background? Will the new coach decide he only needs one more defensive assistant, thus allowing Richt to bring in a special teams coach? And for all the credit and blame the DCs get, it's the position coaches that players are far closer to. When we start talking about recruiting commitments and possible transfers from the current roster, it will be those secondary hires that really make the difference.

-- Once a new coach is hired, Rodney Garner is skipping town. Will Garner look elsewhere if the right job presents itself? Absolutely. He's never made any secrets about his desire to be a head coach someday, and he's spent a long time in Athens waiting for that chance.

But assuming that, because his feelings are hurt about not being named the DC himself, he's going to quit rather than work for another defensive coordinator is really selling the man short. He's stayed in Athens through a number of DCs, so why should this one be any different? The thought that he'll react like a scorned high-school crush is selling Garner short in the same way fans sold Mark Richt short when they assumed he wouldn't fire a friend. These guys are professionals, and if Garner has an offer that will put him in a better situation professionally, I'm sure he'll consider it. But if that doesn't happen, he's not going to skip town just for spite.

-- The new DC has to have ties to Mark Richt. When we started throwing out possible names early in the search process, the obvious places to start were with coaches who had ties to Richt or to Georgia. But the fact that Richt has said that Garner isn't a candidate -- and definitive answers to any question are rare for Richt these days -- should tell us that he's not interested in more of the same.

Make no mistake: Firing Willie Martinez was no easy task for Richt. It was painful. So to bring in another coach with essentially the same scheme and essentially the same background and essentially the same mind-set that Martinez had would be silly. Richt could have simply kept Martinez.

Yes, Richt has said he wants to bring in someone with a similar coaching philosophy to his. But that's not necessarily about scheme. What Richt probably means is he wants someone who believes in the same things he does about creating a certain enviroment in the locker room and prioritizing key issues off the field and how players and recruiting should be handled. It's not about whether he's a 3-4 guy or a 4-3 guy or whether the new coach is someone Richt would want to invite over to the house for some backyard bocce ball every Sunday.

It seems pretty obvious to me that what Richt is looking for is someone who is undeniably outside of the circle of friends he has counted on throughout his career. He wants a new voice and new ideas. He wants a shakeup. Now, will he be seeking out those trusted confidants for advice on who gets the job? Sure. But to assume that the next DC has to be a "Richt Guy" is a broad leap in logic that flies in the face of the tough decisions Richt has already made.


Coach J said...

I agree about much of your insight on this. I am of the opinion it will be an NFL coach, probably Grantham or maybe some other dark horse candidate still coaching in the playoffs. It is a culture change CMR is looking for, to get back to the attacking style of play, and he is also looking for someone who is a solid person as well. I held out hope for the TCU or AirForce DCs, thinking a college coach would be better suited for the grind of recruiting. But the more you think about it, CMR is probably thinking from another angle.

Want to get to the next level? Here is a guy who knows what it takes. He can get you ready. The recruiting angle will help take care of itself (Monty Kiffin anyone). Alas, I want to top my cap to CMR for keeping this so close to the vest. I am guessing other than Bud Foster, there were no other candidates. Chavis? I think his agent probably played that up. Maybe he got a call, but an offer? The K State guy? Again, maybe a call, but an offer?

Funny thing is, you don't see near the media coverage or fretting over the vacancy in Gainesville. Did anyone wonder if maybe that is where Chavis got the call from?

Just get the right guy CMR. If it takes til Signing day, fine. This decision will impact us for years to come, just get the best man for the job.

And David, thanks as always for the great coverage.

Anonymous said...

The Richt-Grantham connection is Brad Johnson.

Anonymous said...

Well said David! Nice to hear a reasonable voice calling from the wilderness saying "the sky is not falling"!

Anonymous said...

David, I would like to know who they are considering for Special Teams Coordinator. After all it is 1/3 of the game.
Kirby Smart is living up to his name.

Anonymous said...

Well-said David. Particularly the first point. I was able to go to one practice a couple years back, and I left there thinking "no wonder Richt is so calm and cool: he can afford to be b/c he's got plenty of drill sergeants." Anybody who thinks Willie didnt get in their faces or wasnt intense is dead wrong based on my (admittedly small) sampling of his style. Willie certainly didnt get it done, but it wasnt because he wasnt intense.
Among Martinez, Fabris, Garner and Searels, it was clear to me that we werent running a country club.

Anonymous said...

Having just a *decent* defense would have added a couple more wins to this year's ledger. And that doesn't say anything about our rancid KO coverage, which was our real bugaboo.

Robert said...

If CMR is looking towards the NFL, I'd prefer Travis Jones over Grantham.

Dr. Merkwurdigliebe said...

David, this is the best article I've read on this topic. I agree with everything you've said. I would also add the public commentary stating that if Georgia does not land Kirby Smart then Richt has failed. That's an absurd theory. There are plenty of qualified candidates for the all the reasons you've pointed out in this article. Richt is proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he knows what he's doing and will land the best man for the job. We just need to be patient.

Anonymous said...

I would think that if it wasn't Smart or someone in the NFL they'd have announced it by now. Right?

Who was the job offered to?

Anonymous said...

Agree with Robert. If you're looking at the NFL Travis Jones is the man

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


David Hale said...

Hahahaha... it had been entirely too long since we had a good "Coach" reference here. Excellent work.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hale - you are the best!

dawgjammin said...

I think most fans characterization of Willie as being "soft" stems from his coverage scheme and defensively philosophy. Putting one and one together to make two. One could infer that if Willie imploys a soft zone, rarely blitz, bend but don't break defensive scheme then that probably is his approach to dealing with players as well...

Right or wrong thats was the perception...soft scheme/coverages = soft persona...

Anonymous said...

Sorry. That article does not say much. A lot of words, and very well written. But, where's the beef ?

Coach Richt has no coach with 1 day of NFL experience.

The next coaches hired just have to be NFL coaches.

It is about the scheme. UGA Football, once known for the hard-hitting aggressive hands-on style of Erk Russell, has morphed into a just fall back and try to stay away from everyone, so everyone can see we are in a zone defense.

Honestly, that's no fun.

As for comments about Brian VanGorder, excuse me the Falcons' defense sucks under Brian VanGorder and he never looked the part on our sidelines. Moreover, he left UGA to go be the linebackers' coach at Jacksonville, a horrible football team with just 1 strength - they had very good linebackers already there.

Rodney Garner doesn't carry himself like a head coach. If left to his own devices, he would berate every player every play. Somewhere in there, is motivation, I presume he thinks. And, frankly he has had his butt kicked in this state for some time now recruiting.

More importantly, looking at UGA each season, it is very easy to see our weaknesses.

Rodney Garner never recruits top players for that hole or for those holes so abundantly clear to everyone else.

I wish UGA were Alabama. 32 Bowl Wins. 13 National Championships. Kills everyone in every state for every player in recruiting. A fan base that is not satisfied with what UGA has done since 2001 of losing 7 ballgames to teams not in the Final AP Poll Top 25 that year.

And, another 18-20 Losing Record against the actual Final AP Poll Top 25 teams in the Coach Richt Era.

Clearly, too, while you discuss how Mike Bobo has been lobbying for Kirby Smart to Coach Richt, the facts are (1) Kirby Smart isn't coming here and (2) Mike Bobo has done a horrible job.

Hell, the fans boo his play calls.

The discipline is not there from any coach on this staff.

Coach Richt saved himself from all of us being all over him by firing 3 guys - 2 of whom - every fan said had to go and another who frankly just got here.

Since Coach Richt became CEO, this team has faltered and Coach Richt has proven beyond all doubt that he doesn't know how to hire a coaching staff.

That job should be removed from his responsibilities, or it will be Coach Richt who will find other employment. He has done the worst job of hiring coaches of any coach in America.

And, this search is right up there as evidence of this now too. We are 2 weeks and change away from National Signing Day. We are not headed up, and as far as I am concerned the offense and special teams and receivers and running back coaches and the OL coach, all, along with the Recruiting Coordinator should have all been fired.


That is how you have meat. You say it straight out. Truth. Not what you think the fans want to hear. I am not satisfied given what we give these coaches in this State to work with.