Sometimes we ask: Does a coach make that much of a difference? Let’s recall how wretched Tech looked in its 42-0 loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19. It was outgained 547 yards to 214. It had a punt blocked. (There’s our lasting image of the #404Takeover – 404 blocked punts.) Those Jackets didn’t just look like the worst team in the ACC; they appeared the worst team in the history of the world.
Two weeks later, under different management, they won at No. 24 Pitt. On Nov. 18, they spotted No. 13 North Carolina 17 points and won, holding one of the nation’s best offenses to zero second-half points. In Pittsburgh, they won behind No. 1 quarterback Jeff Sims. In Chapel Hill, they won with their Nos. 3 and 4 quarterbacks. By November, the new-coach bounce had worn off and Tech’s best player had a foot in the transfer portal. Didn’t matter. Key’s team kept trying.
Among the first things Key did after Collins’ sacking was to ditch the frivolity – the hashtags and the depth-chart-that-wasn’t-a-depth-chart. He said, “Let’s play football.” Who knew these Jackets could?
Esteemed AJC colleague Ken Sugiura reports that Tech and Fritz “evidently were unable to reach a deal.” Well, you know what they say – some of the best deals are those you’re unable to reach. Key took a team that looked destined to go 1-11 and nearly took it to a dadgum bowl. He gave the program hope in its darkest hour. He gives it hope for the years ahead.
It doesn’t matter if Key was the first choice. What matters is that he’s the right choice.