Bradley’s Buzz: After Geoff Collins, Georgia Tech needs a #404Makeover

Geoff Collins spoke of rebuilding Georgia Tech after Paul Johnson as a task that would have taxed Hercules. Imagine how the coach who follows Collins will feel.

ExploreCollins, Stansbury out at Georgia Tech

Johnson’s Yellow Jackets won 11 games in his second season. (The victory over Clemson in the ACC championship was forfeited.) They also won 11 games in his seventh year. Collins’ teams won 10 games over 3-1/3 seasons. They never won consecutive games. They won six games at Bobby Dodd Stadium; Mark Richt’s Georgia and Miami teams won nine there.

Collins’ final team ranked 101st nationally in total defense, 112th in total offense, 131st (and last) in kicks blocked. After three-plus years and a round of staff chances, Tech was bad at everything – as bad as Tech has ever been. The final offensive snap under Collins saw Jeff Sims run out of bounds four yards short of the stick on fourth-and-9.

To be fair to Todd Stansbury, nobody saw this coming. That’s not to say Stansbury was justified in handing a man whose history as a head coach comprised two seasons at Temple and a win over FIU in the Gasparilla Bowl a seven-year contract. (We say again: Tech is the worst at coaching contracts.) Stansbury heard what he wanted to hear: “He was really speaking my language.”

Collins: “The first thing we think about is brand.”

Had the football part been even mediocre, we wouldn’t have giggled for long at the gimmicks and slogans. Thing was, there was nothing behind the gimmicks and slogans. Collins’ Tech lost six times by 40-plus points. His final five games against FBS opposition yielded an aggregate score of 210-20. The word “pitiful” has rarely fit the proud Institute’s football team; it was the only adjective – the only printable one – that applied.

Full disclosure: I thought Collins was a good hire. After Johnson, who never bothered with branding, Tech needed to do some selling. Alas, all Collins was hawking was hot air. Johnson’s high-school offense – so-called by his many detractors – was high-octane when viewed alongside what came next. Johnson’s teams won three times in Sanford Stadium. Collins’ Jackets never made it to Athens; in two games in Atlanta, they lost 52-7 and 45-0.

Esteemed AJC colleague Ken Sugiura reports Collins and Stansbury are out. To fire the disastrous hire and let the hirer slide would have made no sense. That seven-year contract renders paying a big-ticket replacement problematic if not impossible. On the most important personnel decision of Stansbury’s tenure, the former Tech linebacker whiffed. Collins, who went 10-28, is owed $11.37 million.

(FYI, Paul Hewitt’s buyout was a mere $7 million. And he did take Tech to the NCAA championship game.)

ExploreTech loses at Central Florida in Collins' final game as coach

After the 2021 season opened with a home loss to Northern Illinois, Collins said of his program’s climb to greatness: “It’s not a matter of ‘if.’ It’s a matter of ‘when.’ "

Even more than the slogans and the Waffle House selfies, such grandiosity made it impossible to take Collins seriously. “All I’ve ever been everywhere I’ve ever been is successful,” he said last season. (He was 15-10 at Temple.) Also: “It always, and will always, end up being in the positive, and here’s why: because I will not stop until it happens.”

And there was this, from last season: “If you can’t see how much we’ve grown, how much we’ve developed, you don’t want to see it.”

No wonder Jahmyr Gibbs left after two seasons for Alabama. No wonder Collins’ 2022 recruiting class was ranked 55th by 247Sports, two years after Tech finished 27th. The longer he coached, the worse it got. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. That’s how it’s not supposed to work.

The string of humiliations ultimately forced the Institute to cut its losses, even if cost $4 million to do it now. Collins’ buyout in January would have been $7.2 million, but by then there mightn’t have been enough Jackets to field a team. And I wouldn’t worry about not being able to find an upgrade. Who wouldn’t be an upgrade?

ExploreMore AJC coverage of the Yellow Jackets

One of the frills Collins brought to the Flats was declaring every opponent’s third down a “Money Down.” The PA guy would yell and music would blare and the guys behind the bench would dance and wave placards bearing the dollar sign. Then the other team would gain 19 yards on third-and-7 and you’d think, “Huh?”

Today, that seems the signature of the worst era in the long history of Tech football. Geoff Collins was money down the drain.

The above is part of a regular exercise, written and collated by yours truly, available to those who register on AJC.com for our sports newsletter. The full Bradley’s Buzz, which includes more opinions and features items like a weekly poll, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We’d be obliged if you’d give it a try.