Geoff Collins promised more. Georgia Tech has delivered less

I probably should say thanks. Geoff Collins has made it easy for folks like me. He brought “Money Down” to the Georgia Tech game-day experience. After seeing his defense fail so often – the Yellow Jackets ranked 117th among 129 FBS programs in third-down stops last season – the joke writes itself.

Cue a season ticket holder, storming out of Bobby Dodd Stadium. What’s he saying? “I’ll be darned if I put more money down to watch this!”

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Full disclosure: I thought Collins was a good hire. He and Tony Elliott – now Virginia’s coach – were my gentle suggestions. Collins hit town talking so big so fast you feared he’d hyperventilate. He ticked off fans of you-know-who, which surely was his intent, by proclaiming the immense worth of a Tech diploma over certain others. He blitzed the internet with so many Waffle House selfies you wondered if he consumed food at that eatery, as opposed to just coffee.

The #404Takeover was at hand, even if we were unsure how that might work. Would he recruit no one with an area code of 770? He remade the depth chart into something requiring a paragraph of explication that explained not much. (Was “here’s our depth chart” too plebeian for Sir Geoffrey of Decatur?) His intent was to rebrand Tech football. Sure enough, he has.

From being the program with the high school offense that periodically punched above its weight, Tech has become the football equivalent of a widget. We don’t know what it does. It finished 10th among the 14 ACC teams in total offense last season, 12th in total defense. Granted, Collins has recruited better than his predecessor, but Paul Johnson coached up whatever he had. His first Tech team won nine games. Collins’ first three Tech teams won nine games total.

His first Tech game – afterward he gushed about tackling and effort – was a 38-point loss at Clemson. Not since 1903 had Tech lost to the Tigers by more. Collins’ second Tech team lost to Clemson by 67 points. The Jackets closed last season by losing to Notre Dame and Georgia 100-0.

Tech opens against Clemson on Labor Day night. It plays Mississippi on Sept. 17. The Jackets finish with four road dates – in Tallahassee, Blacksburg, Chapel Hill and Athens – in five. Collins mightn’t still be coaching them. Many observers believe he’ll be among the first coaches fired in 2022. I’m not so sure.

He’s working for Todd Stansbury, who hired him – and handed him a seven-year contract that hasn’t reached its midpoint. Being an alum, the AD knew this is a tough gig in the best of times. These are close to the worst. The pandemic kept Collins from recruiting at full caffeinated force. The transfer portal opened at a moment when more players were looking to exit the #404 than enter. Jahmyr Gibbs, the best Collins signee, is at Alabama.

Legend holds that Vince Dooley recruited the state carrying a calculus textbook, which he’d show to teenagers and say, “Want to spend college with that?” A similar principle could have attached itself to the portal. If you’re an upperclassman looking to relocate and spend your pre-draft season focusing on football, is your landing point apt to be the Georgia Institute of Technology?

The transition from Johnson always was going to be difficult. Tech is 9-25 under Collins. It hasn’t won consecutive games. His first team lost to The Citadel. His third team lost to Northern Illinois. (Which won the MAC title, but still.) Afterward, Collins said of Tech: “It’s not a question of ‘if.’ It’s a question of ‘when.’”

“When” better come soon. Collins has vowed this season will feature “more coaching, less branding.” Give him this, though: As goofy as his stunts seemed to us codgers, we weren’t the target audience. He had to sell a program to 17-year-olds who were in grade school when Tech last ran a pro set. He had to promise the moon. The moon remains on back order. Minus Gibbs, there’s not much here.

But if not Collins, then who? Some point to Todd Monken, Georgia’s OC. Tech grads will recall a man who built his reputation at UGA not making it through three seasons steering the Ramblin’ Wreck. There’s a reason that Bill Lewis’ name is never spoken on the Flats.