Will stay with Dallas through NFL playoffs
By DAVID HALE
ATHENS, Ga. — It took more than six weeks and the focus swerved from one big–name candidate to the next, but in the end, Mark Richt got his man — and he’s certain the results far outweighed any hitches in the process.
Georgia announced the hiring of Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach Todd Grantham as their new defensive coordinator Friday, putting an end to weeks of speculation and starting a new chapter for the Bulldogs’ defense.
“I know this process took a little while, but in the end we got the right man for the job,” Richt said. “I’m 100 percent certain of that and 100 percent confident in Todd’s ability to get the job done.”
Grantham’s background isn’t the prototypical one for the job — he has spent the past 11 years in the NFL — it’s his attitude and his approach that won Richt over.
Grantham’s work throughout his career earned him plenty of admirers, including his former bosses Nick Saban and Frank Beamer and Richt’s own brother–in–law, former Cowboys quarterback Brad Johnson, who all offered ringing endorsements as the search progressed.
Grantham, who will stay with the Cowboys for as long as they are in the playoffs, played at Virginia Tech and began his coaching career there in 1990. He spent three years with Saban at Michigan State from 1996 through 1998 before departing for the NFL, where he was an assistant with Indianapolis and Houston and the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns from 2005 through 2007.
Grantham has a three-year contract that will pay $750,000 per year.
“The more I learned about him the more excited I got about him,” Richt said. “It just so happens that a lot of coaches that I know in the business know Todd and know of what he’s done in the past and know of his football knowledge. The NFL is really the cutting edge of football and Coach Grantham is one of the best minds out there.”
While Grantham’s football intellect might be cutting edge, his philosophy on defense is every bit that of a throwback to what Georgia fans have come to appreciate.
“I want big, physical, aggressive players, and we want guys that want to be relentless every play,” Grantham said. “I think what you want as a defense is, after the game is over, the team you just played, they’re happy they don’t have to play you anymore.”
Grantham not only brings an NFL pedigree, but he’s bringing an entirely new scheme, which he said will run a base package next season that employs three defensive linemen and four linebackers.
That’s a departure from what Georgia has employed throughout Richt’s tenure, but it’s a system Grantham thinks will be a good fit for the Bulldogs.
“We’re more of an aggressive style 3–4,” Grantham said.
“We’re going to play one–gap defense. We’re going to attack block up front. We’re going to rush the passer. Our outside backers are going to be what we call edge–setters. They’re going to be aggressive. They’re going to be coming. They’re going to be solid setting the edge on the run, but we’re going to develop those guys as pass rushers. The inside backers … they’ll be downhill guys to the ball.”
With the change in scheme, Grantham said he expects a fresh evaluation of the roster, too.
Georgia lost six starters from last year’s defense, but Grantham said he expects some shuffling on the depth chart regardless, and he’ll be giving younger players every opportunity to prove themselves.
“You need to play the best players, and if that means you play young players, then you play young players,” Grantham said. “But it’s important that you play the best players and that you evaluate your players and get your best players on the field.”
Before Grantham evaluates his roster, however, he’ll still need to finish filling out his staff.
Grantham will be taking over coaching Georgia’s linebackers — a role previously filled by John Jancek, who was let go on Dec. 2 along with defensive coordinator and secondary coach Willie Martinez and defensive ends coach Jon Fabris.
Rodney Garner remains on staff, but after working as Georgia’s defensive tackles coach since 1998, his role remains unclear.
Richt and Grantham have yet to decide whether Garner will take over the full defensive line, which would allow the Bulldogs to hire a full–time special teams coach, or whether responsibilities will be divided similar to what had been done under Martinez.
In fact, Grantham said, the rest of the staff is still a question mark for at least the next few days as he concentrates on finishing out his current job getting Dallas prepared for its playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.
“This deal was basically done last night so coach Richt and I will be working throughout the weekend and next week to iron some of those things out,” Grantham said.