ATLANTA — Georgia endured plenty of rejection in its search for a new defensive coordinator. The Bulldogs finally got someone to take the job Friday, and insisted he was the right man all along.
Todd Grantham, who coaches defensive linemen for the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, agreed to a three-year contract worth $750,000 annually to end a search that began six weeks ago and included several high-profile misses.
Among those turning down the Bulldogs: Virginia Tech’s Bud Foster, LSU’s John Chavis and Alabama’s Kirby Smart. All got hefty raises to stay in their current posts.
“I know this process took a little while, but in the end we got the right man for the job,” head coach Mark Richt said. “I’m 100 percent confident of Todd’s ability to get the job done here.”
The Bulldogs have been searching for a new coordinator since Willie Martinez was fired Dec. 2 along with two other defensive assistants.
Even now, they’ll have to wait a little longer before Granthan comes on board. He’ll remain with the Cowboys as long as they keep winning in the playoffs, which could delay his move to Athens for about three more weeks. Dallas travels to Minnesota on Sunday to face the Vikings in the divisional round; the Super Bowl is Feb. 7.
“I’m a big believer that you’ve got to finish what you start. From that standpoint, I feel like I’m obligated,” said Grantham, who has been with the Cowboys for two years. “I need to follow this thing through and see how far we can go, because it’s the right thing to do. Right now, I’m working hard to see if we can beat Minnesota.”
Even if the Cowboys do advance, Granthan said there will be enough time early next week to talk with potential recruits by telephone in addition to preparing for Dallas’ next opponent.
Grantham previously spent three years as defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns and a total of six years as an assistant with Houston and Indianapolis. He’s also coached in the college ranks, at Michigan State and his alma mater, Virginia Tech.
Grantham was hired on the same day that rival Georgia Tech settled on former Virginia coach Al Groh as its new defensive coordinator.
Like Groh with the Yellow Jackets, Granthan plans to switch from the 4-3 alignment to a 3-4.
“We’re going to be an aggressive, attacking style of defense,” he vowed. “To make plays, you’ve got to have playmakers, and you’ve got to put them in position to make plays. The biggest thing is to evaluate players, learn what our assets are and find ways to help them make plays.”
The Bulldogs failed to make enough plays under Martinez, who was fired after steadily declining results in his five-year tenure as coordinator.
This past season, Georgia ranked 10th in the Southeastern Conference in points allowed (26.4) and seventh in yards allowed (328.4). Over the last two years, the Bulldogs surrendered at least 30 points in 10 of their 26 games.
Linebacker Rennie Curran, the SEC’s leading tackler, and safety Reshad Jones gave up their senior seasons to enter the NFL draft, but the returning players are looking forward to turning around those disappointing numbers.
“Everybody is glad the search is over and we finally know what’s going to happen and we can start learning some new things,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said.
Senior linebacker Darryl Gamble has never played in the 3-4 but sounded enthusiastic about making the change.
“I’ve seen it a lot in the NFL,” he said. “It’s a pretty aggressive defense. You can do a lot of pass rushing. A lot of good pass rushers come out of the 3-4. From what I’ve seen, it’s very productive at getting guys to the ball. I think it’s a good defense to run.”
Grantham said his goal is simple:
“After the game is over,” he said, “the team you just played is happy they don’t have to play you anymore.”