Groh, Al

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Al Groh
Al Groh was the head coach of the New York Jets for the 2000 season.

Contents

Background and pre coaching career

Born July 13, 1944 in New York City, New York, was a 1962 graduate of Chaminade High School in Mineola, and a 1967 graduate of the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce. Groh played for the University of Virginia football team from 1963-65, lettering at defensive end in 1965. A two-sport athlete, Groh also lettered on defense for the Cavalier lacrosse team.

Coaching Career

Before the Jets

Throughout his career, Groh has been a friend and protégé of Bill Parcells, working with him for over 13 years in both collegiate and professional positions. Groh was an assistant under Parcells in two Super Bowls, including a 1990 Super Bowl XXV victory with the New York Giants and a 1996 loss in Super Bowl XXXI with the New England Patriots. Groh began his college coaching career in 1968 as the defensive coach of the plebe squad at Army, working with Parcells for his first time. Groh returned to Virginia in 1970 as head coach of the freshmen team and later defensive line coach. From 1973 through 1977, he was an assistant at North Carolina, followed by a year (1978) as Parcells’ defensive coordinator at Air Force and a year at Texas Tech in 1980. Groh received his first head football coach experience with Wake Forest from 1981 through 1986 where his record was 26-40. In 1987, Groh made his NFL debut as the special teams and tight ends coach of the Atlanta Falcons. After a brief return to the college ranks in 1988 as the offensive coordinator for South Carolina, Groh joined the New York Giants coaching staff. He served as the Giants’ linebackers coach from 1989 to 1990 and as defensive coordinator in 1991. Groh’s expertise in linebackers led to Bill Belichick hiring him as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns in 1992. Groh then reunited with Parcells in New England from 1993 to 1996 as the defensive coordinator, following him to the Jets as the linebacker coach.

With the Jets

Groh was linebackers coach under Parcells from 1997 til 1999. In 2000 Parcells announced his retirement from coaching, moving up to becoming the director of football operations. Bill Belichick, the Jets defensive coordinator was announced as new head coach, as a result of a deal in which he was paid a million dollars from the late owner Leon Hess. However, Belichick quit the next day at what was to be his inaugural news conference as head coach, Parcells turned to his longtime friend Groh to stabilize the Jets. Groh had enjoyed a moderately successful first season as the head coach after serving as the Jets' linebackers coach under Parcells for three years. He endured scathing criticism for orchestrating the off-season trade of receiver Keyshawn Johnson to Tampa Bay for two first-round draft picks, and players grumbled about his rigorous practice schedule early in the season. Johnson blamed Groh for trading him, saying 'Don't f------ tell me, 'We've got bigger fish to fry right now.' Excuse me? Your biggest fish is out to sea, in the sand. If you don't communicate with me, it's over. It just is. It's sad.' In September 2000, before the Jets played the Buccaneers, Johnson let rip again. Talking about Groh: "If he extends his hand, it'll still be extended. ... There's no need for him to say anything to me. ... I don't respect a guy that makes a decision to trade you and then has somebody else tell you." The Jets went on to beat the Buccs.

The Jets started out 4-0, then 6-1 and by December, they were 9-4 and needing one more win to make the playoffs, but a three game slide ended their season. By then, Groh had lost the team. Groh made many long-winded speeches to players this year. At the core of Groh's words was the message of giving more, making sacrifices. The players were asked to beat themselves up in what one Jets assistant coach called the most demanding practices in the league Vinny Testaverde agreed, saying that the team had run out of gas at the end of the season because of Groh's grueling practices, while nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who lost his starting job near the end of the season was also bitterly critical of Groh. By the end, Groh's nickname among a number of the players was 'Phony Al',

Yet when it was time for Groh to make the tough call, to heed his own messages about sacrifices, he went running off to Virginia. Groh held a meeting with his coaches the day after Christmas and, according to the offensive line coach Bill Muir, Groh was even in the office on Friday. But he said nothing to his assistants despite being in contact with Virginia officials.

On December 30, 2000, Groh quit.

'The University of Virginia is my school,' Groh said in a statement released by the Jets. 'I wore that jersey and it means a great deal to me. My mom lives there and my dad is buried there. At the end, all those things were too much to deny. I realize there will be some criticism of this. But only I know my heart. Too, this provides the type of long-term security and stability not commonly found in the N.F.L. nowadays. I want to thank Woody Johnson, Bill Parcells, Steve Gutman, my staff and players for their trust and effort on my behalf and especially the wonderful Jets fans.'

And that was that. A man who continually went on and on about putting team goals ahead of individual ones, had quit without even a hint of an apology.

After the Jets

Groh was named the head coach of the Cavaliers that day, succeeding George Welsh, who retired as the winningest coach in school and Atlantic Coast Conference history. At Virginia, Groh has become known for his implementing a 3-4 defense, rare for the college game, and for maintaining his NFL mentality (well, the bit that doesn't involve running out on people). Since a 5-7 record in 2001, Groh led Virginia to four consecutive winning seasons and three bowl victories before another 5-7 campaign in 2006. He was named the ACC Coach of the Year in 2002. In the 2007 preseason, Groh was voted the worst coach in college football by Sports Illustrated Magazine


Preceeded by Jets Head Coach Succeeded by
Bill Parcells 2000 Herman Edwards
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