Grantham: His defense was ‘backbone’ of UGA winning two SEC East titles

Todd Grantham, Georgia, Georgia Bulldogs, defense, SEC, Southeastern Conference, college football
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Todd Grantham says his defense was ‘backbone’ of UGA winning two SEC East titles. (UGA Sports)

Todd Grantham was officially introduced as Louisville’s defensive coordinator on Thursday, and I couldn’t help but find several of his comments intriguing.

It’s clear he wasn’t interested in throwing a lot of bouquets Georgia’s way. One of his first acts on the job was to tweet out of picture of the Cardinals’ indoor practice facility. Georgia, infamously, hasn’t bothered to build one. Then at the introductory news conference Thursday afternoon, he basically said his defense was the reason the Bulldogs won two of the last three SEC East titles.

“We really have been the backbone of getting to those conference championships,” Grantham told the assembled media. “I think the ability to see how we changed an identity and developed some mental toughness and physical toughness there and develop players.”

The Bulldogs’ defense was one of the best in the country in 2011 but regressed significantly the past two seasons.

Grantham said one of the main reasons he left Georgia for Louisville was, “Coach (Bobby) Petrino is a very dynamic play-caller, a very dynamic offensive person. To be able to team up with that was too good to pass up.”

Never mind that he’s leaving a team that was averaged 37 and 38 points per game the past two seasons, respectively, under offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

Grantham also cited the influence of Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich in making his decision.

“Look at the things he’s done,” Grantham said. “To win a championship, it takes a lot of different elements. And the first thing it takes is to have an athletic director that has a vision for the resources needed moving forward. And you obviously have that.”

Again, the inference is he didn’t have that at UGA.

Those all make nice soundbites for the Louisville media. But the truth is, Grantham’s decision was motivated by finances and job security. And nobody can blame him for that.

Grantham accepted the Louisville job after he was presented with a five-year, $5 million contract offer. They also agreed to let him hire his brother, Tony Grantham , previously of Navy, as one of his defensive assistants. UGA has a nepotism policy that never would have allowed him to do that.

Considering Georgia’s poor defensive showing this past season, the Bulldogs were not about to match the offer. Grantham was the highest-paid member of coach Mark Richt’s staff by far as it was. He had two years remaining on the three-year contract that paid him $850,000 annually. And if the Georgia defense had performed next season similarly to this past, Grantham would have been fired.

The worst thing about Grantham’s departure is it forced Kirk Olivadotti and Chris Wilson to explore options. Both would have remained at Georgia otherwise. But with no assurance a new defensive coordinator would retain them — and they were viable coordinator candidates of their own right — they needed cover their own behinds and make sure they had something out there.

Turns out, college football is in what I call the “silly season.” So much money is pouring into the game these days as a result of new television deals and conference realignments and the like that,  if you’re worth your weight in salt as a coach, there’s plenty to be had out there. And Georgia has/had some good coaches.

But after Georgia’s poor defensive showing this past season, it wouldn’t have made sense to throw a bunch of money at a staff that underachieved under Grantham’s guidance. Ironically, the Bulldogs now find themselves in the middle of this voracious market and now they’ll be forced to pay to bring in talented assistants.

Based on the scale that Louisville was willing to pay Grantham it’s clear that it’s now Georgia’s turn to shell out the dough.

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