Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson did something that he never felt necessary to do throughout his coaching career. On Monday, Johnson fired a coach during the middle of the season, firing defensive coordinator Al Groh after two plus seasons and a horrible three game stretch. Opponents of the Yellow Jackets lit up Georgia Tech’s defense in three consecutive games for more than 40 points in each contest during that losing streak. Johnson said he had no choice.
”To me, it was inevitable,” Johnson said. ”I didn’t want to give up on the rest of the season. I still think we can come back and have a good season. That’s why I did it now.”
Johnson’s Yellow Jackets are 2-4 with a 1-3 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play. After dropping three straight games to the Miami Hurricanes, Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders and Clemson Tigers, Johnson had to make a change to the nations’ 91st ranked defense in terms of points allowed per game at just over 30, and it all had to start with Groh.
Although the Yellow Jackets just allowed 47 points to the Tigers, it could have been their 49-28 debacle at home to Middle Tennessee State that did Groh in in the end. Giving up over 40 points to Miami and Clemson is one thing, but a performance such as the one turned in against a team such as Middle Tennessee State is not going to be tolerated.
Johnson has never fired one of his coaches during the season, but if he was ever going to do it, the time was now. Georgia Tech has a bye this week, allowing them an extra week to implement a new defensive system before the Yellow Jackets host the Boston College Eagles, who are capable of putting up points on the board as well.
This decision may have been quite some time in the making. After losing five of their seven games to end the 2011 season, Groh had to figure he was on thin ice. And after watching the Yellow Jackets lose some comfortable second half leads with poor defensive play, this was an easy decision for Johnson and Georgia Tech.
”I was hopeful as we started, this being the third year. I was hopeful we would see some improvement,” Johnson said. ”I was encouraged at the first of year, but it became apparent that was short-lived. The last three games was a carry-over of the last six games a year ago.”
Unfortunately for Georgia tech and Johnson, that just never happened.
Secondary coach Charles Kelly will take over as interim defensive coordinator going forward. It is unknown as to what direction Georgia Tech will go throughout the rest of this season as well as beyond 2012. But with more than a few games remaining on this year’s schedule that can certainly be viewed as winnable, Johnson had to do something before it was really too late. It may be extremely difficult for the Yellow jackets to get themselves into a position of becoming bowl eligible, but they cannot afford to throw in the towel now with many recruits starting to form their judgments about what school they will attend and play football for next year.