So, I finished drinking the Kool-Aid last night – quite tasty, thank you for asking – and finally stopped pinching myself before I went to bed.
And in the cold light of day, I’m still stunned.
The speed at which this came together continues to amaze me. A week ago, we’re arguing with each other about how Richt’s wish for defensive continuity is going to play out this season. Grantham flees Athens last Sunday, leaving us to fret about the process for finding his successor, as well as who that successor will be. But we barely had time to fret! (Schlabach told 680 The Fan yesterday that Richt learned of Grantham’s move at four o’clock that day and had settled on Pruitt as the guy to go after by five.)
Mark Richt snatched victory from the jaws of malaise. He is receiving deserved acclaim for acting so decisively. In fact, I’d call it near-universal acclaim. Outside of the FSU fan base, I honestly can’t find any criticism of the move, not from the media, other coaches, even that part of the fan base that has been steadily critical of Richt (when’s the last time that happened, eh?).
I mean, consider where things have wound up now that the dust has settled. Georgia has swapped Todd Grantham for Jeremy Pruitt, literally, for the same contract terms, and gotten a defensive coordinator with a better recent track record on the field and who is a better recruiter. And in the bargain, has gotten all that without having to make a major disruption to its defensive scheme. That’s about as good as it gets.
It’s so good that it’s making me a little nervous, honestly. Since when does Georgia get this golden? This is the home of funky karma and playing it safe and slow. But I’ll put that aside for now. Let’s look at a few specifics that are worth getting excited about.
- Hey, maybe Georgia isn’t such a bad place to be after all. Louisville isn’t toxic, but Bobby Petrino obviously has a tough sell to make when he hires staff. That’s why it took the most ridiculous contract in college athletics to get Todd Grantham to jump ship. Pruitt decided to leave FSU a week after winning a national title for a contract worth half of Grantham’s. Whatever you think about Richt as a head coach, you’d have to say he’s still got the ability to attract quality coaching talent. Hopefully that’s a meme we can dispose of for a while.
- Recharging the program’s batteries. That being said, this had all the makings of a somewhat sober offseason. The 2013 season was a bummer, from the final record to all the injuries. There’s no question that for much of the fan base the bloom had worn off the Grantham rose. I’m not saying that Richt’s decision to keep on keeping on with the defensive staff was a fatal call – there would have been no way to know that for sure until the 2014 season got underway – but it sure wasn’t lighting much of a fire under anyone. Today, we’re in a very different place. The fan base is pumped up and united for the most part. More importantly, from what I gather, you can say the same thing about the players.
- Music to my ears. Georgia’s got plenty of talent on the defensive side of the ball. And Grantham, whatever faults you want to lay at his feet, wasn’t a dummy. But when you’ve got players having as much trouble getting in position in the bowl game as they did in the season opener, things clearly weren’t working right. So let me say that I flat-out love hearing stuff like this about Pruitt: “He was as good as anybody I’ve been with in the press box in the National Football League and in college ball,” said Sal Sunseri, an assistant on that 2009 Alabama team who now works as Florida State’s defensive ends coach. “He knows exactly how to put the guys in place and knew how to make adjustments. & That’s how we won.” That is some first class Dawg porn for this blogger, ladies and gentlemen. Excuse me while I wipe up this drool…
- More music. Tell me, when’s the last time you heard a Georgia defender talk about his coordinator like this: “He taught us the ins and outs of everything,” Florida State safety Terrence Brooks said recently. “Just the way to pursue to the ball, the way to go get the ball, everything you can think about in football he’s taught us. He really broke the game down to us as to why we’re running this type of defense. “He makes you understand it so much better and I feel like everyone bought into it and that’s why we’re so successful.” Damn it, where did I put that towel?
- If you act now, we’ll include this as a special bonus! I’m thrilled with Pruitt the teacher and schemer. Finding out that he’s one of the top recruiters in the country is icing on the cake. Is this Richt’s best staff ever from a recruiting standpoint? Time will tell, but it sure seems like you can make that argument. Given this – “Pruitt already has impressed the Georgia staff with his knowledge of the Bulldogs’ recruiting prospects.” – it may not take that much time, either.
- Kirby Smart. Who cares?
- Greg McGarity. A better DC, an energized fan base, all without having to spend a penny more in a market like this? Wipe that shit eating grin off your face, man. And don’t forget to take care of Bobo now that you’ve gotten to keep a few extra bucks in your pocket.
- Mark Richt, winner. He made it happen and he deserves the credit he’s getting. If Ivan Maisel’s perception (“that Georgia gave him a three-year deal is a good indication that head coach Mark Richt plans to stay at least that long, a good sign for the Dawgs”) is common – and I don’t buy it, by the way – then this is as good a way to dispel the doubters as I can think of. More importantly, he proved himself to be decisive in a crisis, and by that I don’t just mean finding a new DC. I don’t believe in the conspiracy theories floating around that this whole deal was engineered by Richt from the get go, because there’s no way he could count on the good fortune of a desperate Petrino to put the wheels in motion, but I am convinced that he intended to hold Grantham’s feet to the fire this season, and that Grantham was fully aware of it.
There was obviously plenty going on behind the scenes that we’re never going to be made fully aware of, but that’s water under the bridge now. The program is in a better place today and that’s something to celebrate. At least until we want to start complaining about what’s being done to fix the problems on special teams, that is. But that can wait. Let’s savor the moment for a little while, okay?