The Tao of Groh
Best Seat in the House column by Chris Graham
I have been threatening since the summer – when Al Groh broke down for me how simple football really is – to write a book of The Wisdom of Groh.
Backstory: At the ACC Football Kickoff, I asked the Virginia football coach a question about life on the hot seat – which Groh was assuredly on at the time of my query, given his 42-33 record in six seasons at UVa., and his opening-game 23-3 loss at Wyoming still pending.
In characteristic fashion, Groh responded to my questioning with this profundity:
“Even though I’ve been doing this for 14 years, I guess I could best answer that based on this being the 14th year that I’ve been the head coach, every season and every game that I’ve ever been the coach of the team of, I’ve felt an urgency to figure out a way to get more points than the other guys.”
I thought that about summed things up – but then Groh expounded on the Get More Points Than The Other Guys Theory last week as he addressed his upcoming Gator Bowl matchup with high-scoring Texas Tech.
Scoring more points than the Red Raiders – who average 42 points per game – is a mighty tall order even for somebody like Groh who knows that it must be done.
So, how does he aim to go about getting the job done?
Take notes, boys and girls …
“Every week, we have to look organizationally at, how do we keep this team from scoring?” Groh said, seemingly innocently, but actually with a purpose.
“That’s the first thing – in any sport, really. If you’re a baseball manager, you try to figure out, how do we keep the run production of this team down? If you’re a basketball coach, I’m sure they’re thinking, how do we keep the points down?
“Once you have a plan for that, and certainly football, that involves more elements – that involves field position as created by special teams, offensive possessions, so forth,” Groh said. “And then you say, how do we go about scoring our own points? And so it’s been two particular circumstances – that clearly we have to find a way to reduce this point total down from the average of 42 points per game. That’s too much to ask just 11 players to do. OK? We need 33 players to do that – 11 on defense, 11 on special teams, and 11 on offense.
“Then we have to find ways to raise our point total,” Groh said. “So even if we reduce the point total to a more workable number, it’s not reasonable to go into the game thinking it’s going to be 10-3. And so we have to find a way to raise our point production – and again, to get points of that number, again, it will probably need the collaborative effort of 33 players. Defense is going to have to do something in terms of takeaways and field position. Special teams is going to have to do likewise. And then the offense is going to have to cash it in.
“So it has been intriguing from the one side of it, defensively – but looking at the big picture, putting the whole game together, that’s what’s really been the bigger puzzle,” Groh said.
Working title for my book: The Tao of Groh.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The SportsDominion.