Believe me, I was all for the guy leaving town. Once you dive into the statistics for this season alone it's enough to make your head spin. And I guess there's still a chance that someone flirts enough with him to lure him back to the NFL as an assistant...
The decision to retain Grantham will end up being the best decision for Georgia. I like the guy's intensity and I believe he can turn things around with the talent on the roster. Quite frankly, the idea of another coaching search where we're met with the reality of who we truly need to turn things around versus what we're likely willing to actually spend was enough to change my mind. And then when you get right down to it, Grantham's guys played hard for him down the stretch. That's not something to overlook.
That all being said, one thing that has to improve (and is primarily the reason for my uptick in terms of the direction of the defense) is turnovers. Looking back at Martinez's last season as defensive coordinator, going through all of the epic failures, yards surrendered and points allowed, it was the complete lack of fumbles and interceptions gained that lead to that defensive staff packing boxes before Christmas. In 2008 we had only 16 turnovers in the black. In the final season of the Martinez era we only had 12.
Likewise, much of the reason for Grantham's popularity in his first season was the enormous increase in fumbles covered up and passes intercepted - 26. His defenses followed that up with totals of 32 and 30 the next two seasons. Now we're back down to Willie Martinez levels (much of which can be attributed to the youth this season, especially in the secondary) with only 14 fumbles and picks.
But it's important to note that of those 14 turnovers (six interceptions and eight fumbles), five came in the final two games and nine came in the last half of the season. That small breakdown as well as the fact that the defense will only mature exponentially heading into next season (both in terms of their understanding as well as their familiarity with the speed at this level) lead me to believe that this season we're about to close the book on has tremendous potential to be a weird outlier for Grantham.
Ultimately, the defense played too many snaps and couldn't get off the field at key moments. Getting back into the top ten nationally instead of with the cellar dwellers can go a long ways towards turning that around.