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Chip Towers

Rewind: Grantham’s UGA departure was inevitable

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mark richt, georgia bulldogs, tood grantham, defense, georgia bulldogs, sec, southeastern conference

Georgia head coach Mark Richt has heard from possible candidates to replace Todd Grantham. (Rob Saye / UGA Sports)

MONDAY MORNING REWIND

ATHENS — How was your weekend? Georgia’s was a little busy.

Of course, Todd Grantham’s departure for Louisville dominated the news, and rightly so. I have to admit, it’s something I didn’t see coming. Coach Mark Richt had spoken convincingly at the end of the season of the need for continuity on defense, with 10 starters returning on that side of the ball next year. Then we had the resignation of secondary Scott Lakatos on Thursday and Grantham’s acceptance of Louisville’s rich offer sometime between Saturday and Sunday.

So now we’re left with the chicken-and-the-egg question. Is this something that Richt initiated or is it something that just happened? There’s evidence on both sides of the equation.

Consider the timeline:

  • Richt meets with AD Greg McGarity for his end-of-year review on Thursday morning.
  • Thursday evening, UGA announces the resignation of Lakatos.
  • On Saturday, Grantham informs McGarity that Bobby Petrino wants to talk to him about Louisville’s defensive coordinator position.
  • On Sunday, news breaks that Grantham has accepted the Cardinals $5 million offer.

Here’s what I think: I believe the Lakatos resignation was going to happen anyway. There is some validity to the “personal reasons” the fourth-year assistant cited and clearly the Bulldogs needed to address the shortcomings at that position.

As for Grantham, I happen to know that he had no plans whatsoever to leave Georgia as of Friday night. Louisville swooped in fast-and-furious on Saturday. But the Cardinals’ lucrative offer left the Bulldogs no choice.

Based on Georgia’s sketchy defensive performance the past two seasons, there was no way Richt or UGA could justify a $300,000 raise for somebody who was already under-performing as the highest-paid assistant by far on the Bulldogs’ staff. So when Grantham informed his bosses of the employment offer at Louisville, they had no choice but to say, “Congratulations. So long and good luck.”

And nobody can blame Grantham. He had two years left on his contract with Georgia that pays him $850,000 annually and he would not have been assured of coaching beyond next season. Based on the performance trends of the past two seasons, he would have been firmly on the hotseat next year. Better to accept a $5 million guarantee now from Louisville than a $1.7 million from Georgia.

But this is also clear: Grantham’s latest move is a career downgrade. Even moving to the ACC, being the DC at Louisville is a demotion. If things don’t go fantastic in the Bluegrass State, Grantham’s stated goal of becoming a college head coach or NFL coordinator (again) will be dashed. His next stop would b be as an NFL or college position coach.

In the meantime, Georgia must move quickly to find a replacement. The open period for recruiting resumes Thursday and the Bulldogs will be a tough sell to defensive prospects if they don’t know for whom they’re going to be playing.

I’m hesitant to throw out a bunch of names of candidates because it’s pretty much impossible to verify 100 percent their validity because the primary parties on either side will not confirm. However, there are several that would make sense from a logical standpoint.

Of course, the one name Georgia fans throw out immediately is Kirby Smart. I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to the Alabama defensive coordinator. His UGA ties aside, I tend to look at these schools as Fortune 500 companies, and Smart is already working for one that has greater resources and opportunities overall. A more likely move for Smart at this point in his career would be as a head coach. I’m not saying it couldn’t happen or that Georgia shouldn’t try (I’m certain it will, or should). It just doesn’t seem likely to me.

Of course, former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is available after Mack Brown’s retirement and there are some ties between him and Richt. And Georgia has two strong candidates on its current staff in linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Either would be quite capable and would provide continuity of system Richt desires.

But that’s another blog for another day. As it is, it appears that Grantham simply hastened inevitability. It’s my understanding that he never bought a home in Athens. He has been renting the four years he’s been here. My guess is he’ll rent in Louisville as well.

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