Graphic Post: Unpopular Opinion Alert! Todd Grantham Isn’t Much Better than Willie Martinez
Dude’s Note: At the time of publication no official announcement has been made regarind Todd Grantham and the Philadelphia Eagles. This piece was written over the course of two anticipation-filled days, and we still have no news to break.
Where I’m Coming From:
To be clear: I’m coming from a dark place right now. It’s Wednesday evening, I’ve just flown back to rain-soaked Atlanta from a conference in sunny West Palm Beach. I miss that weather and I’m a little beat-down from the busy-ness (and the business) of the conference. I should be having a detox night in which I stare into DogYouCrazy’s eyes, sip on some bourbon and think about nothing. Instead I’m feverishly trying to dig to the other side of the earth in an effort to understand the whole Manti Te’o thing and mentally preparing myself to marathon this week’s new episodes of Revenge and Pretty Little Liars with a lone episode of Modern Family squeezed in for comic relief.
It’s nights like this that make me painfully aware of how difficult life can be. How am I supposed to balance the mentally disturbed Manti Te’o news with Emily Thorne’s plot to destroy the Hamptons in the name of vengeance? I can’t even process just how evil Toby Cavanaugh is or explain why Ezra Fitz is M.I.A., so how am I supposed to begin to dig into the rumors of Georgia Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham’s departure for the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Well here’s a pro tip: I can write about this mess – or at least start writing about it – and post it later. That’s how I can do it. Technology, baby. So I’m going to start, and then I’m going to do some more research while I catch up on the Tubery that I’ve missed and then I’m going to finish writing and preemptively post this before Grantham leaves so that I don’t feel so bad. Because frankly, I think that he’s going to. And because I’m writing this from the aforementioned dark, dark place, I’m going to go ahead and begin to dislike Grantham and discredit everything he’s done – or hasn’t done!
So let’s jump in…
Unpopular Opinion Alert!
Todd Grantham hasn’t been all that great as a Defensive Coordinator for the University of Georgia.
If you subscribe to the notion that “following an idiot” is fundamental to one’s success at a new institution, then you probably think that Grantham made one hell of a career move when he jumped to the University of Georgia to replace the much maligned Defensive Coordinator Willie Martinez. Willie couldn’t do anything right! He couldn’t keep points off the board, he couldn’t stop opponents from moving the ball. He was a total disaster. Just last week I joked that the three best days of my life were 1. My wedding day, 2. My first fourth of July and 3. The day I found out Willie was coaching DBs for Tennessee. He was awful, so Grantham had to look good.
Well if you truly believe all of those statements, then Todd Grantham has beenpretty daggum mediocre in his own capacity.
To examine that unpopular (and possibly untrue – again, I’m mad right now) notion let’s dive into four sets of data:
- Points allowed: The purest representation of an opposing team’s success at scoring the ball.
- Yards allowed: The purest representation of how well a team progressed the football.
- Passing yards allowed: A way to differentiate how much value was placed on stopping the pass.
- Rushing yards allowed: A measure of efficiency against the run.
To be clear, I am not and never would make the direct argument that Willie Martinez was a better DC than Todd Grantham. I’m not asking for Grantham’s removal (if he hasn’t left yet). I’m certainly not asking for Willie’s return to Athens. I am simply making a case for the point that I identified above using the following words: Todd Grantham hasn’t been all that great as a Defensive Coordinator for the University of Georgia.
For all sets of data hereafter I will use Willie Martinez’s last three years (2007-2009) and Grantham’s first three (2010-2012).
Admittedly this is the least compelling argument against Todd Grantham when it is isolated. That being said, I think it is a foundational building block (I was intentionally repetitive there on purpose. See what I did there?) that must first be understood before any of the other points can be put into context.
When looking at “points allowed” I kept coming up a little short. Frankly that number is deceptive on two fronts: 1. It unfairly punishes a defense when an offense throws a pick-six or when a kick is returned for at touchdown. 2. Conversely the defense is let off of the hook for missed field goals and extra points. Accordingly, to get a better picture of points allowed by a defense I removed the points that weren’t really given up by the defense and I added points that would have been scored had every kick been made by opposing teams. Defenses shouldn’t be punished for what crappy decisions by the offense or crappy execution by Special Teams. Similarly, defense shouldn’t be let off the hook for a botched snap, hold or kick.
In the end, here is how the normal data (labeled “raw”) compared with the revised data (labeled “true”) on a per-game basis. (Dude’s note: two point conversions are untouched in this and labeled as non-defense allowed. I realize the defense allowed them but it would have taken too much time to sort through all the data. Those instances are few and far between, so I don’t think any meaning is lost.)
As you can see, the data differs ever-so slightly with the lone exception of 2011, a year in which Grantham’s defense was actually much better than the scoring figure indicated (I actually discussed that at length back in August and reviewed that premise a few days ago). But, again, I think this data is the most accurate.
What stands out here should be the fact that Grantham’s defenses are better than Martinez’s were. But, it is also noteworthy that Grantham’s 2012 defense underperformed relative to the previous year (as discussed here). More noteworthy, however, is just how close these adjusted totals actually are. The defenses fronted by Willie gave up an average of 23.15 points per game while those headed up by Todd gave up 19.82.
The significance of that 3.33 point gap is debatable. On an individual basis, three points can change a game. But in Willie Martinez’s last three seasons the Dawgs only lost one game by three points or less, and I’m not sure that I can be sold on the notion that Martinez lost his job because of a three-point loss to Georgia Tech in 2008. Furthermore, I’m not sure that there’s anything we can glean from this data that would indicate Grantham’s defense yielding a significantly better game-by-game product than what Martinez showed if we’re using points allowed as the lone measuring stick. In other words, I’ll buy that Grantham’s defense would have allowed 3.33 fewer points in any given game that Martinez was coaching, but anything beyond that is pure speculation. And again, that 3.33 would have resulted in just one more win.
But, a 3.33 point per game differential equates to about six fewer touchdowns allowed per year, which is certainly a good thing over the long haul. And yet functionally, a defense that averaged 19.8 points allowed (like Grantham’s three-year true average) would have ranked 22nd in the nation while the 23.15 number (Willie’s true average) would be 34th. In real world comparison’s we’re talking about the difference between Connecticut’s defense (19.8 ppg in 2012) and TCU’s defense (23.1 ppg), and I’m not really sure how wide that gap is.
Yards Per Game
The yards per game numbers offer an equally indecisive edge in favor of Grantham, although I was much less creative with the statistics. I simply used raw yards per game numbers and reached the following (remember: Willie Martinez was DC for 2007-2009, Grantham for 2010-2012):
|Year||Yards Allowed Per Game|
We’d all agree that 2011 was a phenomenal defensive year by this measure. But I’m not sure that 2011 stands out any more than the general inconsistency of Grantham’s defenses. Martinez’s squads surrendered an average of 323.8 yards per game (and hovered in that general vicinity while Grantham’s groups gave up an average of 318.5 (and were has high as 351 and as low as 269). How close are those overall figures? Functionally speaking Martinez’s defenses gave up about 3.975 more feet (not yards) per quarter. Practically speaking this year those averages would have ranked 13th and 16th in the nation.
The difference in plays per game proves to be negligible (average plays against Willie’s defense: 64.26 per game, against Todd’s defense: 64.36 per game), and all of a sudden we’re left with the task of making sense of how Martinez’s defenses allowed only 5.3 more yards than Grantham’s and yet that equated to 3.33 points.
Not seeing where I’m heading with this? If Georgia’s opponents typically scored 3.33 points for every 5.3 yards gained then the 2012 Georgia Bulldogs would have allowed an NCAA record-shattering 220.7 points per game. In other words: although the three years of rule examined for both Grantham and Martinez present remarkably similar data sets, it doesn’t quite make sense that Grantham holds the “big” advantage (small as it may be) that he does in scoring defense.
But wait…there’s more….
I’m a student of the game of football and in my extensive studies I have found that there are two primary ways to move the football on offense: passing and running. Throwing the ball takes less time because an offense can pick up large chunks of yardage and there are clock stoppages with first downs or incomplete passes (granted it takes up a lot more “real world” time to watch). Running is slower and characterized most often by more plodding with fewer big plays and less clock stopping. Feel like you’ve learned something? I didn’t think so.
The biggest complaint regarding Willie Martinez was his soft and girly cover-2 pass defense. DBs would sit back and wait while the DL struggled to put pressure on QBs. QBs would hit WRs and TEs for 10-15 yard gains all days and RBs would sneak out for LOL wheel routes for TDs left and right. U C?
That complaint is well represented in the per-game passing yardage data from 2007-2012:
|Year||Passing Yards Per Game|
That gap is clear. Martinez’s defenses gave up a three-year average of 198.13 passing yards per game – more than 23 more yards per game than Grantham’s squads. And, knowing what we know about the passing game (faster ball movement) it shouldn’t surprise us that a few more points were scored against Martinez’s defenses (the ones that gave up more big, quick plays) than Grantham’s.
Furthermore, if we dig a little deeper we realize that Martinez’s defenses allowed 12, 17 and 15 passing TDs respectively in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Grantham’s defenses allowed just 15, 12 and 13 in his first three years. Thus, Willie’s defenses allowed an average of 1.38 passing TDs per game while Grantham’s squad gave up just 0.98. That gap of .40 comes pretty darn close to making up for the mystery 3.33 points that Martinez gave up and Grantham didn’t. In fact, if you subtract the value of those .4 more passing TDs (a value of 2.833 points per game) you’re left with just half a point which seems much more reasonable (but still a bit high) for a five yard discrepancy in total defense.
So, that must be it. Martinez’s defenses gave up too much in the passing game, that’s why he was canned and that’s why Grantham has been so much better. There’s just one problem with that statement, and it’s the first part. If Martinez was canned for giving up too much in the passing game (and again, that was Georgia fans’ biggest complaint), then the running game must not have been a factor. And as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago: there are two ways of moving the ball on offense – not merely one.
Saying that a good run defense is vital to an SEC team’s success is the equivalent of saying that we all (male or female) have dated better looking women than Manti Te’o. It’s a no brainer; it goes without saying. Here is how the same six-year period (three with Martinez, three with Grantham) shapes up with regard to Georgia’s ability to stop the run:
|Year||Rushing Yards Per Game|
You’re sick of numbers at this point, so I’ll jump to a few conclusions:
- Martinez’s defenses allowed 125.67 yards per game while Grantham’s averaged out to 143.4
- Grantham’s defenses were once again much more inconsistent, but still offered the two largest season rushing averages.
- On average teams ran against Willie 35.4 times per game and against Grantham 38.4 times per game.
- Teams also got more yards per carry against Grantham.
- Teams scored 1.33 more rushing touchdowns per season against Grantham’s defenses.
If we’re going to say that teams had too much success passing against Martinez and that his defense was rendered ineffective by this weakness, can we not say the same thing about Grantham’s running defense? And is a poor rushing defense any less viable as an indictment against a Defensive Coordinator than a poor passing offense? Would it not be all the more important as rushing is a slower moving process and accordingly keeps the defending team’s offense (the lone force that is designed to outscore an opponent) off the field for longer?
Can you confidently say that a team that surrenders five more yards per game and a few more points per game while doing a better job controlling the line of scrimmage is decisively worse than a team that reduces yardage by five and allows 14% more rushing yards and thus more time of possession? I can’t say that.
The other complaints against Willie Martinez’s defenses were lack of QB pressure and lack of turnovers forced.
Martinez’s last three defenses averaged 32 sacks per season. Todd Grantham’s crews have averaged 30.33. We’ve celebrated the Justin Houston’s and Jarvis Jones’ of the world, but as a whole the Dawgs aren’t creating any more sacks.
Grantham’s defenses on the other hand dominate total turnovers forced by a margin of 88-54. But, that is a slightly distorted figure as I’m not sure that it is Martinez’s fault that only 31.6% of the fumbles his defenses forced were recoverd (Grantham’s squads recovered 42.9%).
I’m still coming from a bad place, and I’m sure I’ll miss him. But the potential loss of Todd Grantham isn’t the worst thing in the world. Holiday traffic on Barrett Parkway in Kennesaw, GA is.
Will he be missed? Absolutely. Was he better than Willie Martinez? Probably. But even that point can be debated.
Ultimately the promise we all saw from the 2011 defense was left unfulfilled and for all we know that season was an outlier. Statistically speaking, it sure does stick out like a sore thumb relative to his other two years. We’ll all be OK.
That’s all I got/