A retreat from ambition? Al Groh bypasses NFL for Yellow Jackets

Doug Farrar
January 15, 2010

Well, that possible tug-of-war between Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick over the services of Al Groh just got a premature cancellation. Groh, the longtime coach and coordinator who was fired as the head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers this offseason after posting a 3-9 record in 2009 (he had coached there since 2001), goes back a long way with Parcells, the man currently playing the role of Don Corleone with the Miami Dolphins. They worked together at Army and Air Force, and Groh was on Parcells' staffs during the Big Tuna's turns with the New York Giants, New England Patriots and New York Jets. Groh was Parcells' choice after Belichick famously backed out of the Jets' head coaching job in favor of the Patriots. When Miami defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was fired, Groh interviewed with Parcells for the position. It's also been rumored that Belichick's Patriots were interested in talking to Groh about their recently vacated defensive coordinator position after Dean Pees stepped down.

But now, reports indicate that Groh, who has professed a preference for a coordinator's job in his next destination, has accepted that very job at Georgia Tech. Tech finished last season 11-3 despite a defense that ranked 77th in Football Outsiders' proprietary metrics, and former defensive coordinator Dave Wommack was fired last week.

It's a good opportunity for Groh, we suppose, but in the face of two possible NFL jobs, it's a bit difficult to understand. Groh has been nothing but a head coach at the pro and college levels over the last decade. To turn away from the NFL and take a demotion at the NCAA level? He hasn't been a college position coach since 1988 (offensive coordinator, South Carolina). Is it possible that Groh has joined the ever-increasing ranks of coaches who see the grind that the NFL requires and would rather have nothing to do with it? Or is this a temporary break from the grind? He is 66 years old, and maybe this is the best option for a coach with the ability to make his new position work for everyone involved. Still, we can't help but wonder if he'll regret the decision to spurn possible gigs with one of two of the NFL's marquee franchises.