But Tech’s biggest problem Saturday against Georgia was no different than what its biggest problem has been for four years under coach Paul Johnson. Their defense stinks. They can’t stop anybody or intimidate anybody. Two many games come down to pinball games.
Bad defense got Dave Wommack fired after two seasons. Bad defense under Al Groh should leave his future uncertain at the end of a two-year contract. Groh hasn’t said definitively that he wants to come back, but the question Johnson needs to ask himself is: Do I want him back?
This is no minor issue. Johnson has won 34 games in four seasons. The Jackets’ 8-4 record this season going into their bowl finale certainly is not worse than most projected at the outset of this season, and it’s probably better. But when you have a defense that ranks 43rd in yardage, 56th in points allowed and 89th in third-down conversion, you’re not going anywhere.
Tech is no better off on defense today than it was when they fired the last guy. Nationally, under Wommack the Jackets finished 28th (2008) and 54th (2009) in total defense. They were 64th in Groh’s first season and went into this week 43rd. Scoring defense in the past four seasons: 20th and 38th, respectively, under Wommack; 37th and 56th (entering the week) under Groh.
But the head coach isn’t going anywhere. Groh, we’re not so sure. And when Tech fails, it’s usually not because of the offense.
"Rob Ryan ripped into the cornerbacks, and just launched a profanity laced tirade. To which point the offense turned over from their meeting, to where J was talking to them, in just a nice gentle voice, and turned around and just could not believe. I mean he was bringing some paint off the wall with some of the words that he was saying, and he was particularly upset with some of the corners and their breakdowns in coverage. He let them know, and he used every word in the book to let them know, and everybody on the team took note of it." -Matt Mosley (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ6mmSbBWEc)
Rambis has given [Martell] the freedom to make mistakes and play through them. He said he felt if he made mistakes with the Blazers, "I was going to get barked at and told not to do it again and get the ball to the point guard, yadda, yadda, yadda, etcetera, etcetera. Here, the coach emphasizes you play through it, you don't hang your head. You do it, you get back on defense and you forget about it."
"I may be white, but I'm fast!'
"I never had a clue on how fun defense really is because we never played it."
-Amare Stoudemire, stating the not-so-obvious about the obvious
Hey Chunky Charlie: Learn how to play defense!
Sticking to defensive principles is a big difference from the Wizards of the past. Haywood and his teammates said one of their problems under Eddie Jordan was inconsistent strategy.
Jordan had his defense but brought in assistant Randy Ayers to teach a new scheme, only to switch back when the team was struggling. Later, the players recalled, they returned to Ayers' system.
"We got rid of a lot of bad apples and brought in a lot of good ones," Bailey said. "That was the key to getting this thing really turned around.
It doesn't matter what, outside this locker room, they're saying about this team. We make our own reality in work, the way we practice, the way we prepare, and the way we play on game day. So people can continue to talk about us in the negative. That's fine. We don't believe in that.
Dungy said not to read anything into the photo op although he still intends to ponder retirement when this season ends. ... For the first time since 2003, the Colts had more punts in a season than touchdowns. ... Bironas' miss ended a stretch of 12 straight field goals, dating to Nov. 9. ... The Colts allowed only six touchdowns through the air this season, the fewest ever in a 16-game NFL season. ... Titans linebacker Josh Stamer hurt his groin. ... Titans third-string quarterback Chris Simms played for the first time in 26 months in the fourth quarter.