Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham lasted at the University of Georgia no longer than the length of an un-redshirted college scholarship. Just like many of his players, he served his four years and moved on.
But the effects of Grantham’s tenure will still reverberate on this team long after his departure.
A much maligned figure at the university, Grantham was in some ways the polarizing foil to the admiration received by another figure who served the same four years on the team: quarterback Aaron Murray. Whereas the Murray era will always be remembered with rose-tinted glasses, the very same Grantham era will be looked back upon as an underachieving and unsuccessful set of years.
But is that true?
When Grantham joined the Bulldogs staff in 2010 after a decade spent in the NFL, the defense was far from achieving at its expected level. The 2009 season ended with the Bulldogs finishing seventh in the Southeastern Conference in defense by yardage and 10th in the conference by points allowed. The Bulldogs finished 8-5, a disappointing result for a team which began the season ranked 13th.
Switching the team to a 3-4 defense from previous defensive coordinator Willie Martinez’s 4-3 scheme, Grantham’s new defensive changed the way Georgia played completely. The 3-4, which de-emphasizes the point of attack at the line of scrimmage and gives linebackers freer reign, worked well with the athletic recruits Grantham and his staff brought in.
Although the team finished with a 6-7 record in his first season as defensive coordinator, the defense improved by a considerable margin, allowing 4 fewer points per game.
Over the next two seasons, Grantham’s schematic switch propelled the Bulldogs defense to an elite status, allowing less than three touchdowns per game in both 2011 and 2012. In fact, Grantham’s 2011 defense ranked among the top five teams nationally.
Though the team did regress defensively in Grantham’s final campaign as defensive coordinator at UGA, 2013 was the first season where his defense fared worse nationally than the team had before he arrived in Athens.
Despite this, very few students look fondly upon the Grantham era.
“[My feelings] were mixed,” senior English major Allan Rakowiecki said of the Grantham era. “It was kind of weak most of the time. He just couldn’t get the players together. Something wasn’t there, it wasn’t cohesive.”
Why is it then that despite never coaching a below average team defense that Grantham is remembered so negatively? Does every team need a scapegoat or was there a deeper reason?
Perhaps the problem people had with Grantham was not that his team was bad, but rather that his team was not as good as it could have been. With so many high-level recruits who went on to be early draft picks in the NFL, the expectation was that no defense in the NCAA would be as talented as the Bulldogs.
But since talent does not necessarily equate to production, Grantham was the easy person to blame.
Now former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is the man in charge of the defense. Is Pruitt the man who can finally propel the Bulldogs defense to previously unreached heights?
Or rather, will Pruitt be just another scapegoat, another figurehead to blame, another Grantham?