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Ashway: Georgia adds by subtracting Grantham

POSTED: January 14, 2014 6:23 p.m.

Adding by subtracting.

That seems to be the guiding principle at work in Athens.

Those faithful members of Bulldog nation hoping for changes on Mark Richt’s staff following a disappointing season and lackluster bowl performance finally got their wish.

Branch Rickey, the man who invented baseball’s farm system and brought Jackie Robinson into the big leagues, gets credit for originating the adding by subtracting philosophy. Sometimes the player or coach deleted is more important that the one added.

For a recent example, look no further than the 2013 Boston Red Sox. They won the World Series just a year after jettisoning three highly-paid negative influences. With a clubhouse infused with lesser talents who just wanted the play the game the right way, the Sox went from last place to World Series champions in a single season.

This fall, as Georgia’s season unraveled, criticism centered on the defensive side of the football. Specifically on the defensive secondary.

Lo and behold, last Thursday Dawg fans rejoiced over the news that secondary coach Scott Lakatos had resigned for personal reasons.

A bigger shocker came Sunday, when defensive coordinator Todd Grantham bolted for the same position at Louisville.

You remember Louisville. Former and future home of one Robert Patrick Petrino. You also remember, and doubtless revile, Petrino.

Without digressing to recap the myriad ways Petrino has assassinated his own character during his tumultuous career, suffice it to say that he could never sell his soul to the devil. The devil wouldn’t take it.

So when you hear that someone would leave the staff of Richt, a man whose moral integrity is beyond reproach, to work for a bum, you can’t help but exclaim, “Good riddance!”

Now, quite possibly Grantham was eased toward his exit. Richt had his season-end evaluation sit-down with athletic director Greg McGarity on Thursday. You judge the timing for yourself. It’s also possible that Grantham heard the thunderous, never-subtle rumblings of displeasure with him rolling through Bulldog nation.

Quite simply, it might have been an offer too good to refuse. Moving to Louisville guarantees Grantham $5 million over the next five years. His Georgia contract had two more years at $850,000 a year. With no guaranteed extension. Even Grantham could do the math.

Here’s some math he couldn’t master: Georgia’s defensive statistics during his tenure.

Grantham arrived in 2010. That July, he told Tim Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “We want to be aggressive. We want to attack. We want to be relentless in our pursuit of the ball.

“The talent in this state is everything I anticipated, and I feel like we can reach all the goals we want to reach — I know we can — if we just stay the course with what we are doing right now.”

That first year, Grantham’s defense appeared to be playing in sand. They had difficulty reacting without thinking first. Nothing was automatic. Yet the defense improved over Willie Martinez’s final edition.

In 2011, Grantham’s defense performed brilliantly. It finished fifth in the nation in total defense (277.21 yards per game) and 24th in scoring (20.57 points per game).

But in 2012, with the same defense back intact and stacked with future NFL draft picks, rushing defense, total defense and pass efficiency defense fell way off.

And then we witnessed this season’s clunker. Like a train wreck, so hideous you couldn’t turn away. Total defense fell to 45th in the nation (375.5 yards per game, and a whopping 5.41 yards per play). Scoring defense slipped to 78th, Georgia allowing a mind-boggling 29 points per game. What in the name of Erk Russell was going on here?

Other national rankings fared no better. Georgia finished 84th in pass efficiency defense, 40th in rushing defense, 66th in third down conversion rate, 60th in passing yards allowed, 86th in red zone scoring, 109th in turnovers.

Only in sacks, where Grantham’s guys finished 28th with 2.54 per game, was the defense even moderately successful.

I ask you: Is this the defense of a million dollar man? I think not.

Apparently, neither do McGarity and Richt. When asked, McGarity would only say that Grantham informed him Saturday of Louisville’s inquiry, as his contract required him to do. Richt gave the standard “we appreciate his contributions and wish him the best,” and then went on at some length about the bright future awaiting. He had already turned the page.

But putting everything else aside, the two lingering memories of the 2013 Georgia football season remain: The miracle pass allowed at Auburn, and the 99-yard pass allowed against Nebraska.

Now the two coaches responsible for those brutal gaffes are gone.

Adding by subtracting.

Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays.


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