To say that UF’s defense wasn’t great last year would be too kind.
The Gators ranked 83rd nationally in yards per game allowed and 72nd in third down conversion percentage. With a dynamic offense led by quarterback and Heisman candidate Kyle Trask and a slew of weapons like former tight end Kyle Pitts and former wide receiver Kadarius Toney, even a slightly better defense could have possibly propelled them past teams like Alabama — and almost certainly would have propelled them over teams like Texas A&M and LSU.
This offseason, Florida made some moves to fix it. They ditched safeties coach Ron English and cornerbacks coach Torrian Gray and replaced them with former Auburn defensive backs coach Wesley McGriff and former USF cornerbacks coach Jules Montinar. Both are experienced hires who should fill in for the expunged staff nicely.
But there is an elephant in the room. After this recent round of hirings and firings, it’s still taking up space: Todd Grantham
Grantham has had an interesting career. Prior to Florida, he had not lasted more than three years as a defensive coordinator anywhere he had held the position, including the Cleveland Browns, Georgia Bulldogs and Louisville Cardinals. In fact, he hasn’t lasted more than four years at any coaching job he’s ever had.
And there’s a reason for that.
Grantham’s Cleveland Browns struggled massively on the defensive side of the ball, managing a tenure-best 16th ranked team in total defense in 2005 before sliding to 27th and then 30th in the next two years.
Grantham’s first three years at Georgia saw the Bulldogs stay within the top 40 in total defense with a high of 18th in 2012. The team then slid to a miserable 89th during his last year.
He was most successful in Louisville, with his highest ranking coming in at 25th his first year there and staying within the top 40 for the rest of his tenure.
This will be Grantham’s fifth year with head coach Dan Mullen after following Mullen from Mississippi State to UF. With a shaky resume and a relative lack of success, why did Mullen decide to stick with the man in charge of Florida’s flailing defense?
To put it simply, Mullen has trouble firing coordinators he hires.
In the 12 years Mullen has been a head coach in the SEC, he has only fired a single coordinator — Peter Sirmon, who he fired in favor of Grantham. Mullen is loyal to those at the helm of his offenses and defenses, and he appears reluctant to fire someone who is quite literally his neighbor.
In this case, allowing Grantham to lead the defensive unit is only delaying the Gators from making it to a national championship with every year he commands the unit.
There’s a reason Grantham doesn’t typically last with teams. Until Mullen finally decides to let him go, every offseason change on the defensive coaching staff will likely be the wrong one.
Contact River Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @riverhwells