So, Georgia didn’t land Kirby Smart. And that sucks.
But this, honestly, isn’t the plane-crashing-into-the-mountain moment some might have you believe it is.
I’ve heard people from all over the blogosphere and the Twitter… the Twitterverse? The… Twitterdome say that Mark Richt has “screwed this up” and the coaching search has been an “embarrassment.” Really? Because from where I sit, we talked to a guy who’s all but a head-coach-in-waiting with nearly a quarter century logged at his current school, a guy who JUST got his position this past season and a guy with a shiny, new Frank Broyles Award trophy and a crystal football touring Tuscaloosa’s Wal-Marts. And each one of them gave us a good look. Remember when we were worried whether or not Georgia would aim high in this search? Remember when we were worried Damon Evans wouldn’t put up the necessary cash?
So we offered and got turned down. It happens. I would hardly call it a disaster. Everybody just take a breath and have a little faith. Let’s consider Richt’s other recent hires.
Offensive Line Coach Stacy Searles’s first season was in 2007, and not only have the number of sacks the Bulldogs allowed trended downward since then, but his units provided the holes for Knowshon.
John Lilly, who hauled in numerous top-five recruiting classes for Florida State, started coaching Georgia’s tight ends in 2008 and although that was a down year for the position, Orson Charles was recently named to the Freshman All-America team, so something’s going right there.
The jury’s still out on Bryan McClendon, hired in earlier 2009 to coach the running backs, but this season shows him to at least be average-to-above-average, with Ealey, King and Samuel’s early, sluggish running balanced out by Ealey and King’s late-season surge.
Ask most Georgia fans, though, and I imagine they’ll tell you all they want out of a new Defensive Coordinator is someone who’s not Willie Martinez.
What’s more, with the hand-wringing over not getting Smart, you’d think he was our only option. What about Todd Grantham? I’ve heard his name tossed around quite a bit. How are his stats?
He’s been coaching the Cowboys’ defensive line for two years now, and in both of those years, the Cowboys have been in the league’s top 10 in sacks, with the D-Line accounting for right around a quarter of those sacks in 2008 and nearly half of them in 2009. The Cowboys finished eighth in total defense last year, and are on track to finish second this season.
Before his time in Dallas, Grantham was the Defensive Coordinator in Cleveland from 2005-2007. In Grantham’s first year, the Browns ranked 11th in total defense after finishing the previous year at 24th. The other two years Grantham’s defenses didn’t fare so well, but had lots of interceptions, which have become something of a myth around Athens recently.
I’m not saying that Grantham is THE candidate or even a better candidate. I’m just trying to point out that we have options outside of Kirby Smart. Things aren’t great right now, granted, but we’re not yet in free-fall. We talked to some of the best coordinators in the game and they, unsurprisingly some might say, turned us down. Big deal. UGA’s done pretty well so far without making any big-splash coaching acquisitions. I still trust Richt to get us the right guy, even with the clock now ticking louder.
Besides, if we hold to the criticisms shouted at Martinez during his tenure, the talent pool more qualified than him is pretty deep, right?