Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham gave fans a taste of his particular brand of fire in the Bulldogs’ first game of the season – just after one of the defense’s few mistakes in a 55-7 win against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Grantham screamed at safety Bacarri Rambo, the culprit in a blown coverage that allowed the Ragin’ Cajuns’ lone touchdown. He punched the air. He erupted in a fit described in this column space as "a low-level meltdown."
After witnessing Grantham’s fiery sideline antics, it was not particularly shocking to see video this week of Grantham responding to trash talk from Florida’s Chas Henry by grabbing his throat and yelling to the Gators’ kicker that he was about to choke on his game-winning field-goal attempt.
Which of those two incidents was worse?
Actually, that’s a trick question. Neither incident was at all bad.
Many Georgia fans stood and cheered while Grantham lit into Rambo on the sidelines back in September, signaling their approval of that much-needed demeanor on Georgia’s often-lethargic sideline.
But that kind of in-game intensity isn’t something you switch on and off.
Praising Grantham for his admonishment of Rambo and then vilifying him for yelling at a kicker – in overtime against Georgia’s most hated rival, no less – is utterly ridiculous.
Henry made the kick to secure a 34-31 win and Grantham has been a media whipping boy all week.
Jim Rome ridiculed his behavior on his ESPN TV show. Veteran columnists have written that Grantham should be suspended and fined for the incident. Some demanded that he apologize for his behavior.
When, exactly, did this become tiddlywinks that 92,000 people are showing up to watch? God forbid the big, mean coach say something to the poor, defenseless player on the other team – who started the whole incident by opening his mouth, let’s remember – and hurt his feelings.
Georgia coach Mark Richt didn’t hire Grantham to be nice to the other team – particularly to Florida. Being overly nice to opposing offenses was what got Willie Martinez a one-way ticket to Norman, Okla., to coach defensive backs.
Grantham likely wishes he had not gotten caught up in the emotions of the moment and done something that brought negative attention to his program, but he owes nobody an apology.
As long as he doesn’t pull a Woody Hayes and physically confront a player, Grantham is well within his rights to call out opposing players when they direct trash talk toward his sideline.
Apparently even Henry, the defenseless kicker, agrees.
"As far as coaches and repercussions – that’s ridiculous," Henry told the Palm Beach Post. "I’ve heard people say, ‘He should have apologized.’ It’s in the middle of the game. It’s an intense game. It’s one of the most intense rivalries in college football.
"Stuff like that, it’s not even on the field. It has nothing to do with it. … I think it’s ridiculous what people are trying to say that he should have to apologize for it or be fined or anything. He’s a great coach. I look at his record. It’s just an intense game."
Football is a violent, vulgar sport. The sidelines are not for the faint of heart or the easily offended.
If you expect coaches to behave on the sidelines the same way they would at a tea party, you live in a dream world. The list of coaches – including Henry’s own coach – who have committed objectional transgressions on the sidelines in the name of winning a game is long enough to fill an encyclopedia set.
This is Georgia-Florida, a series where the Bulldogs have now lost 18 of the last 21 meetings. If Georgia is ever going to turn things back in its favor, it needs coaches like Grantham lighting a fire under a Bulldogs team that too often seems like it’s playing in quicksand in Jacksonville.
If that means the rivalry occasionally slips into over-the-top professional wrestling antics, all the better. They’re not supposed to play nice.
I like Georgia’s 2007 end-zone dancing. I like Urban Meyer’s celebratory timeouts the next season. I like Georgia’s entire roster linking arms on the sideline and getting hyped before overtime last Saturday.
And yes, I’m all for Georgia’s defensive coordinator coming unglued when the other team’s kicker directs trash talk toward his sideline before attempting the game-winning field goal in overtime.
If I’m a Georgia fan, I like all those things because it shows the rivalry means as much to the players and coaches as it does to me.