I like to make fun of Jeff Schultz as much as anybody. However, his article
which asks the question "how should Mark Richt handle the distraction of Todd Grantham's interest in the NFL," is not unreasonable. So, we will take a look at the question, in FJM format, because I'm lazy, have shoveled snow twice today and don't feel like writing from scratch. So without further ado, take away, Mr. Schultz:
One day after interviewing with the New Orleans Saints to be their defensive coordinator, which came one day after professing his adoration for Georgia, Todd Grantham released a statement Friday night saying he would remain the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator.
To preempt some of the weeping and gnashing of teeth from the AJC commentariat, let me state that this I think this is unequivocally good news. I understand that the Georgia defense had some issues with the run this year. I understand that the defensive unit as a whole did not live up to the expectations which 2011 set up. But, at the risk of stating the blindingly obvious. Todd Grantham is very good at coaching football. Every year he spends in Athens is a good one.
He punctuated his remarks with, “...My family loves it here, and I do as well. This is where our heart is.”
Nice touch, even if slightly disengenuous. Don’t expect Grantham's heart or any other organs to be sticking around Athens for very long.
Really, this really is not meant as a criticism of Grantham. (Sort of.) As I wrote Wednesday when Grantham’s sudden candidacy in New Orleans unfortunately intersected with national letter of intent day, he is like almost every other assistant football coach. He’s a climber. He is always going to be looking for the next best thing. He wants to be a head coach one day, which is only natural. But that means his loyalty extends only as far as the next want ad.
I'd like to try to cut the heart of this matter with Kingesque (Kingsian?) concision: NFL defensive coordinator, or major college head coach are better job than UGA defensive coordinator. Todd Grantham wants these jobs, and when one is available he will take it. Schultz's want ad metaphor is runs contrary to stipulation that NFL coordinator or college head coach are natural things for a college assistant to want, and "want ad," as a comparison minimizes the scarcity of these opportunities, but essentially Schultz is exactly right. We the University of Georgia community, have made a trade with Todd Grantham, to the extent to which his defenses perform, he will be rewarded financially and with increasing responsibility, from the University of Georgia, or, at his discretion his next employer. That last bit was verbose, so let me try it in three words: this is America. While the etiquette of how this system operates is certainly up for discussion, no change in the system is likely to be forthcoming.
Grantham and his agent haven’t been shy about using his potential candidacy for other jobs for raises.
Again, this is how we do it in this county. Todd Grantham gets what he can get, and when he asks for too much Greg McGarity calls his bluff. If Grantham backs down, hey defensive coordinator stays in place at current cost - that's good. If Grantham walks, the position is that much more attractive to the new guy, because the old guy left for something that is just about the pinnacle of the trade. Schultz is of course accurate in his assessment here. I'm detecting some indignation in his tone that I think is naïve, but that might be my imagination.
So even if he is focused on his coaching duties while in Athens, this is bound to become a growing distraction and opposing coaches certainly will use it against Georgia in recruiting. That's the problem.
Jeff is probably right here, but if I were an opposing coach I don't know that this would be how I would go about recruiting a prospect. If I tell a prospect "UGA's coordinator is going to the NFL, come here so you don't have to worry about that." I think I'm implying that my coordinators are stable but not as good right? So fine, prospect is on board with that argument, what happens when one of your own coaches leaves for a better gig? "Coach, you told me not to go to Georgia because Grantham was leaving - now the same thing is happening here? What gives?" Say neither of those happens, it's still kind of bad salesmanship to run down another program. I think that if you need to talk bad about another team you come across as insecure in your own merits. Recruits, I assume, can smell this. I wouldn't encourage it. But again, it probably happens. I'm just not sure that it's quite the problem Schultz is suggesting.
I’m not sure what Georgia coach Mark Richt can do about this.
I'll take a stab at two solutions. First, he should have a succession plan for when Grantham leaves. I assume he already does. Second, I think he should be completely candid in recruiting. I would pitch it like this. We know you have some concerns about Coach Grantham leaving. Just like you're a great high school player that worked for year to have the opportunity to be a great college player, college assistants work for years for the opportunity to work in the NFL or as college head coaches. At Georgia we want the best people at every level of our organization, and we want them to have successful playing careers, coaching careers, spiritual lives and family lives. The nature of college football is that it is often a crossroads in people's lives. A chance to go on to the next level, sometimes as a player, sometimes as a coach, but always and most fundamentally as a man who has worked, grown and achieved with the best group of people in college football. We're committed to helping you get to the next level of your life. And because this commitment is the core of your organization I can't promise you that Coach Grantham will be here next year. But that opportunity that allows him to achieve in his life also allows you to achieve in yours.
I'm not on board with the suggestion by some fans that Grantham should be fired, unless the situation just mutated into something unworkable.
That would be a touchy subject in the interview for his replacement wouldn't it. "So Coach Richt, thanks for having me in, just one last question, why did the last guy leave this job." "Well, he had an opportunity to interview one of the best jobs in football, and the snake took it. Naturally we canned him on the spot." "I see." In all seriousness, the people who argue for firing Grantham, are missing the point that player recruiting is important, but Mark Richt also has to recruit coaches. It is extremely important that the coordinator jobs in Athens, Georgia be extremely desirable positions. Firing Grantham would not only cost UGA an excellent coordinator, it would risk poisoning the well of new candidates by implying that the job is only available to people willing to commit the rest of their lives to UGA. Not to mention, Grantham's contract has an exception to his buy-out clause for NFL coordinator positions. Isn't the exception an acknowledgement that we understood NFL coordinator is something Grantham would leave for at the time we hired him? If so, I don't think it's appropriate to penalize him for going on the interview. I understand that the timing is unfortunate, but Sean Peyton is not concerned with the college recruiting calendar.
But at the very least, Richt and athletic director Greg McGarity need to tell Grantham to be a little more low key about matters, and there can't be repeat of Wednesday's embarrassment in signing day.
McGarity: Todd, we understand that it's in your financial and career interest for these interviews and rumors to be as public as possible. We'd like you not to make them public.
McGarity: Well if you don't we will have to fire you.
Grantham: Well if you did that I'd have to take one of a dozen comparable jobs to this one which would become available to me pretty much the second I got fired. I'd have to move, but I was ready to do that anyway. You know what? Go for it.
This has the potential to become a major distraction over the next year and Richt must be wondering how he is going to deal with it.
The University of Alabama is coached by Nick Saban. There are rumors he is going to the NFL virtually every year (he should totally go). It doesn't stop them. Also, Mark Richt isn't going anywhere. Distraction? Sure. Major distraction, I don't know.
The fact Grantham withdrew his name for the Saints’ job tells me that he probably wasn’t going to get it anyway.
But he is going to get other job offers, either as an NFL coordinator or a college head coach, and eventually he will be gone. The question is how Richt deals with it until the inevitable happens.
Own it. Sell that Georgia is a place that prepares you for the next level, whatever that level is for you.