Behind the Grantham Ouster: Part 1

During the 2007 season, the OBR provided the only real coverage of the issues that led to Todd Grantham's ouster. Now, Lane Adkins begins an exclusive three-part series providing new information and perspective on what caused the changes. In Part 1, we get a view straight from the locker room about really happened to cause the defensive divide...

Todd Grantham is out as defensive coordinator and, with lightning quickness, Mel Tucker is in.  The press releases have been issued, and Grantham has already moved on to a new job with the Dallas Cowboys.

That doesn't mean, though, that there aren't lingering memories of what happened in Berea, as Grantham went from being the potential face of the organization to an ex-employee in less than a year.

Todd Grantham has not been available to discuss the situation, and the Cleveland Browns organization has no further comment other than a press release announcing his departure.

One player associated with the team and Grantham has discussed the firing of the coach with us at the Orange and Brown Report and we can exclusively bring you at least one point of view that hasn't been heard outside Berea.

The Orange and Brown Report was the first to bring fans stories which have now been echoed throughout the media. If you follow these pages, you know that players commented on their distaste for the former coordinator's defensive scheme, that some believed that Grantham attempted to sabotage the head coach.

As you would expect, there is of course another side to the stories.

If you have been locked in a room, barricaded in a cave or have just become a valued subscriber of the Orange and Brown Report, you just may have missed on some interesting news and notes over the past few weeks. Here's what happened: 

Of course, you know that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was fired by the team, just about six-months after receiving a two-year contract extension by the team. "A potential head coach in this league," Vice president and general manager Phil Savage noted when speaking of Grantham at the time. Not only did Grantham lose his job in Cleveland, but the respect of many associated in and around the game due to what has been perceived as poor judgment, or in perhaps even a lack of loyalty to others in the organization.

A former player under Grantham, whom we'll call "Bigs", shared his thoughts on this situation and clarifies his position pertaining to the rumors and speculation with us, in a Q & A format.

LA: Can or should the underachieving Cleveland defense this season be attributed to the coaching of Todd Grantham? Were there issues within the scheme which led to the perception of poor play or was this player/coaching type issues?

Bigs: Man, there are numerous things that transpired during the season that led to us not playing nearly as well as we could have. Players playing hurt, others not being mentally into the game and preparation as well as some others not giving a crap about this profession. Coach Grantham did his thing everyday, he did not put the players on the field and he is not the guy that has to perform out there. I know he wanted to be more aggressive, at times he could not be due to the situation and he did not want to give up the big-play. There was talk that coach Grantham wanted to run things differently and was not permitted the opportunity.

LA: You mention players not mentally into the game and preparation was this common or just something that occurred as the season progressed?

Bigs: Coach did not have the players he wanted and was forced to play the hand he was dealt by the head coach and management. Coach asked for players to help us stop the run for a long time... it was something that did not sit well with him. Coach played who he was told to play or given. Look at his background, coach liked to get after the offense, so what did we do this season? We laid back, we were not physical and aggressive and we were slow-footed in areas where you need playmakers. From early on, there was a difference in philosophy I guess you could say between the head coach, coach Grantham and some others on the staff.

LA: Basically, you are telling me that Grantham was not able to utilize a scheme or direction of the defense which he preferred? Where did this come from?

Bigs: Coach Grantham was over-ruled by the head coach on many instances and it became an issue where the players looked at the situation as coach not being the man. Not everyone was happy in their role and some players were very supportive of the head coach. Some of the same players were close to the head coach, which led to some belief that there was some backdoor campaigning going on.

You were there at camp and talk to some of the guys. You tell me if you saw the best players playing all the time. Being the best player or being a player that may have the loyalty ties to someone on the staff is quite different.

Put it this way, the defensive line was banged up all season and guys were busting their asses in practice. This is not to call anyone out... but here is the reality of the situation... how does an old veteran lineman keep his spot and play poorly throughout? Our outs (outside) linebackers are not run stoppers. Our (in's) are often slow to react or get pushed. Sure, the line was a major issue, but coach Grantham wanted to make changes to the scheme and player roles and was not permitted.

When you have a staff that is not on the same page as the defensive coordinator, there are going to be problems. Not all involved on the defensive staff either liked or respected the defensive coordinator for whatever reasons. I've never been around a situation where the communication was so poor and so many so-called respected coaches didn't work together.

I believe the staff and possibly head coach undercut coach Grantham just as much as Grantham stirred the pot with his difference of opinion.

LA: Back in training camp Grantham received a contract extension and there was a general belief he was a potential candidate to replace the head coach if the team faltered. Some in the media have reported that he changed after receiving the extension, along with the notion he was going to replace Crennel, if the team struggled.

Bigs: There was some change in the way coach acted going back to training camp. He was more intense, more determined and in a way more aware of everything going on around him. Some within the team believe when Savage noted coach was a potential head coach type candidate that the pressure was immediately placed on him.

The funny thing about it was, the head coach changed as well. I believe that the pressure was on the head coach and he was not trusting of coach Grantham any longer, like coach Grantham had been lying in the weeds waiting to pounce on the chance to take over the team. Well, I can see where this perception comes from. As far as I am concerned, if anything there was a division after this went down and those who liked the head coach were on his side and those who really didn't care or think about it did their thing. Hell, at times players went through the motions. We had players sleeping, not paying attention in film. Same guys, same story. The organization is at fault for elevating this to be such an issue. It got to the point where trust was a real issue.

LA: Did coach Grantham sabotage or attempt to push the issue in which the head coach could be relieved of his duties?

Bigs: I really don't believe so, but many people in the locker room really believe that the defensive coordinator was working to create a divide. To me, the situation created the issues and from there they just compounded. There were times when players would question a defensive call or the scheme which we were in, but many times players were out of position or just did their own thing as well. If anything, coach got the heat for the play of the defense, while some of the guys were making mistakes over and over. Man, there were players doing what they wanted and it was blown off as being a scheme issue or a communication issue, which is B.S. Really, it is hard to tell the truth from fiction. Players not respecting, coaches not in-tune, I don't know if this was a figment of someone's imagination or something someone thought of to help push him out the door, but I do not believe the coach would go there personally.

LA: Would you say the relationship between the head coach, the defensive coordinator and coaching staff changed as the season went on and the defense struggled?

Bigs: Some of the coaches have an influence or trust with the head coach, more so than others. Coach Grantham had the look of being more on the outside as the season went on, though the defense did play better in the second half of the season. I would say the new defensive coordinator is a great fit for this team, he certainly is for the head coach. I know the head coach had a better relationship with the other coaches than Coach Grantham. Most trust the head coach, while others looked at coach Grantham as somewhat of an egotistical type. I am sure some of this compounded the notion he wanted to become the head coach.

LA: Was Grantham removed to make room for Mel Tucker, the former defensive backs coach?

Bigs: Tucker is a very good coach and communicator. He is really the type of coach that the head coach likes and believes in the system. While many of us were surprised that coach Grantham was fired, we really weren't when really thinking about it. Coach Tucker was on the way up and the issues with the defense and those between the head coach and coach Grantham couldn't have come at a better time for the head coach. There were too many things going on week-in and week-out for coach Grantham to remain with us. He was not trusted by many those that played for him, overall his assistants certainly did not seem comfortable with him and I know that the head coach had issues with him. So, yeah Grantham was removed to make room for coach Tucker in a sense.


**Part two of this three-part series will continue with questions and answers regarding the Cleveland defense, former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the future of the Browns defense.**






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