Ding, dong, the Grinch is dead, put out to pasture by either Lincoln Riley or Jen Cohen, depending on who you believe.

Alex Grinch’s tenure as USC defensive coordinator is finally over, months after it should have been. Lincoln Riley finally mustered the gumption to do the hard work and fire his loyal comrade in arms.

The final straw? A 52-point bombing by the No. 5 Washington Huskies.

Not the 49-point near-loss against the Cal Bears, who only hit that number just one other time this year.

Not the 34 points surrendered to a Utah team on its third quarterback, which featured an 11-play, 54-yard game-winning drive by said quarterback.

Not the 48 points allowed to hated rival Notre Dame, which dealt USC its first loss of the year.

Not the 41 points that Arizona put up with a redshirt freshman making just his second career start.

And not the 41 points that Colorado managed despite starting two cement blocks on the offensive line with pass-heavy play-calling that would make Mike Leach blush.

All that was acceptable.

A half-a-hundred to the best offense in the conference? Fireable offense.

Just Saturday night, Riley wouldn’t even go there. Asked about Grinch’s status after the loss to the Huskies, Riley was defiant.

“Not into the big-picture questions right now,” he said. “My job is to go try to beat Oregon next week and to coach what we have.”

But that could not and would not happen with Grinch, not after a string of futility that ranks among the worst in USC history.

USC ranks 121st nationally in scoring defense (34.5) and 119th in total defense (436.9 yards). The USC defense was 87th in SP+ in 2022. This year’s ranking through 10 games? The same — 87th.

But at least last year’s unit was opportunistic and big-play oriented, with guys like Tuli Tuipulotu and Mekhi Blackmon ranking among the country’s best at their positions. This year, despite the additions of talented transfers like defensive linemen Bear Alexander and Mason Cobb, USC is just getting gashed.

Without the big plays, the Trojans have just fallen further and further behind. The strongest indictment? They’ve got just 2 sacks in the past 4 weeks.

Meanwhile, USC’s national offensive ranking? Eighth.

Scoring offense? Second.

Passing efficiency? Third.

Passing yardage? Fifth.

First downs? Third.

Riley will now carry the scarlet letter of having wasted the brilliance of Caleb Williams, whose raw emotions emptied into tears on Saturday night following what was, for all intents and purposes, a Pac-12 title-eliminating loss and likely the end of his Heisman dreams.

As he broke down in sobs on his family’s shoulders, it was impossible not to feel for the kid, even if his ego is the size of Montana. His talent might be twice that big, and now what is it going to be used for?

A 7-5 season? Maybe 8-4? It’s hard to imagine the Trojans beating Oregon in front of its Autzen Stadium crazies on Saturday. Then comes a season-ending matchup with UCLA before a curiously-timed Week 13 bye week that will only give them extra time to stew, rather than to prepare for the Pac-12 championship game.

When Riley said he did not want to focus on the “big picture questions,” he continued by taking ultimate responsibility for USC’s failures.

“I know as a head coach, it all falls under my responsibility and I don’t shy away from that — and I never have,” he said, “but there are times and places for those discussions and those will happen at the appropriate times.”

That appropriate time was around 1:20 p.m. or so on Jan. 2, 2023, just about the 4:30 mark of the 2023 Cotton Bowl.

The Trojans led by 15 points after a Denis Lynch 43-yard field goal, and they seemed primed to cap off a 12-win season in Riley’s first go-round at USC, a stunning turnaround from 4 wins in 2021.

But then an even more stunning turnaround happened.

Tulane’s Michael Pratt hit Deuce Watts for a 59-yard gain, setting up a Tyjae Spears 4-yard touchdown run. Then, after a Mario Williams muffed kickoff return put the ball on the 1-yard line and USC’s Austin Jones was taken down for a safety, the Green Wave marched 66 yards on 12 plays for the game-winning touchdown.

The fact that Grinch wasn’t summarily fired after that unforgivable finish speaks volumes about Riley’s loyalty, and speaks even louder about his unseriousness as a coach.

Can you imagine Nick Saban sticking with Grinch? Mike Gundy? Dabo Swinney?

Of course not.

So before we go congratulating Riley for making a decision any of us would have made eons ago, let’s pause to realize that this is only the first step of a much-needed fix.

The hard work, somehow, is yet to come.