Not expecting much from Johnson, Georgia Tech usually is a mistake

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson speaks to the media during the recent ACC college football media days in Charlotte. (AP photo)

Paul Johnson is going into his 10th season in the same job and has won more football games than any coach in Georgia Tech history except for the three guys who have buildings and/or a trophy named for them: Bobby Dodd, William Alexander and John Heisman.

This always seems worth pointing out because most stories about Johnson tend to frame him as ol’ grumpy gills or mock his offense or ignore the fact that he has gone to three ACC title games and won three conference coach-of-the-year honors and – bang – won three times in Athens.

There remain questions at Georgia about what kind of head coach Kirby Smart will be, but there shouldn’t be about Paul Johnson.

“I’ve said this all along: People outside our program appreciate what we’ve done more than people inside our program,” Johnson said.

And …

“There’s a lot of revisionist history. It’ll be the same here. We’ll be (remembered as) much better after I leave than when I’m here. But I don’t think we have to apologize for what we’ve done here.”

And …

“I wonder if I had been coaching 59 years whether I’d still have to answer a question about the offense.”

Georgia Tech opened preseason camp Thursday. The Jackets have been picked to finish third in the ACC Coastal Division (behind Miami and Virginia Tech). They’re buried in the “also receiving votes” category in the just-released preseason Top 25 coaches’ poll (at 43rd among all teams that received votes) – behind Appalachian State but at least ahead of Tulsa and Wyoming and several welding schools.

It turns out that returning 16 starters from a team that finished 9-4 last season doesn’t count for much. Las Vegas pinned Tech’s over/under win total at 6.5, even though the Jackets have averaged nearly eight wins under Johnson.

Athlon magazine, which annually puts out a college football preview edition, recently went the sleaze route of running conference previews with nothing but anonymous quotes, allegedly from conference coaches talking about opponents.

With that as a dubious backdrop, here’s one printed comment about the Jackets: “They had a freshman back (Dedrick Mills) that is going to be pretty good. But other than that their personnel is probably towards the bottom of the league.”

If you take recruiting rankings as gospel, that quote might have a kernel of truth. Johnson never has. It’s an amusing signing-day tradition of his to bash Scout and Rivals and other self-appointed recruiting gurus. Nor does he believe any ACC coach would ever say that about Tech. He said nobody from the magazine spoke to him or any of his assistants about the other conference teams.

“We were laughing about it in the staff room today,” he said. “They just make that (stuff) up. I think it’s pretty funny.”

Back to Tech: I’ll take the over on 6 ½ wins.

Replacing Justin Thomas at quarterback won’t be easy. But expected starter Matthew Jordan came off the bench at Virginia Tech last season and engineered an upset of the No. 14 Hokies. There’s a fair amount of talent at the skill positions, including Mills, and the defense (with eight returning starters) improved down the stretch last year when the Jackets won six of their last seven games.

So, yes, there’s reason to feel good about things on North Avenue. At least until the opening kickoff against Tennessee at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Labor Day night.

“This team is composed a little like our 2014 team with a new quarterback and a couple of new guys, but the majority of them have played,” Johnson said. “We’d like to have the same result we had in ’14.”

Tech finished 11-3, including an Orange Bowl win, that season and wound up No. 8 in the rankings.

The Jackets’ over/under for wins that season: 6.5.

Johnson probably is right. His achievements at Tech won’t be fully appreciated until after he’s gone. But he’s in somewhat of a comfort zone for the first time in several years. He was hired by former athletic director Dan Radakovich (now at Clemson) but didn’t love his replacement, Mike Bobinski (now at Purdue). Bobinski balked at giving Johnson a contract extension a few years ago. Morale in the department dropped to unforeseen lows.

The atmosphere has changed under new athletic director Todd Stansbury, a former Tech player who was hired away from Oregon State in September. Stansbury understands the Tech culture and appreciates what Johnson has accomplished.

“Everybody has a different style,” Johnson said. “When I first came here I was hired by Dan, and we had a great relationship. We talked all the time. The next guy came along, and it wasn’t the same type of deal. It wasn’t the same type of leadership style. Todd is somewhere in between.”

(Note Johnson’s reference to, “The next guy.” Continuing now …)

“(Stansbury) has been a great fit for Georgia Tech. Clearly he loves the place, and he wants to provide us with everything we need to be competitive. To this point I’ve had a great relationship with him. We talk and go through things, and I feel like he’s listening.”

Johnson denied ever feeling pressure from the previous administration. But he added, “At times I felt like I was on my own. And I shouldn’t say that (about) the whole administration, just from (the athletics department).”

The only coach in the ACC or the SEC who has been at one school longer than Johnson is Nick Saban (11th season at Alabama). Whether you’re an admirer of Johnson’s, there’s probably a message there, even if it tends to get lost this time of the year.

EARLIER: Poll analysis: Jackets have tougher schedule than Bulldogs this season

EARLIER: ESPN projects Hawks to finish with NBA’s worst record

Subscribe to the,We Never Played The Game” podcast with the AJC’s Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. Episodes also can be downloaded from on-demand link on WSBRadio.com.

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64 comments
@eidsonb
@eidsonb

Three, maybe four years, Kirby Musechamp is fired at UGA,  

Coloradojacket
Coloradojacket

Alright, not trying to stir up trouble but for you Dog fans.  What about your team this year is different than last year? Why high expectations since nothing has changed. You have a quarterback that quote is a 5 star...playing in Washington State where nobody really plays football.  Just asking. Defense, saw how good that was in the 4th quarter against us.

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Coloradojacket

Nobody plays football in Washington???

University of Washington has fielded some pretty strong teams over the years--as have the Seattle Seahawks. Even Washington St has improved.

You must be from Colorado.

jarvis1975
jarvis1975

" the Jackets have averaged nearly eight wins under Johnson."
"The only coach in the ACC or the SEC who has been at one school longer than Johnson is Nick Saban (11th season at Alabama)."

Those two messages together tell me that Tech doesn't fire coaches quite as readily as most.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

It may not mean much to people but NCAA football is a business, the entertainment business. Johnson wins but Tech needs to find out how to put butts in seats. That is the only way they will be able to afford the amenities Johnson wants for his team.

GMAB
GMAB

" GO JACKETS "

USMC2841
USMC2841

UGA needs to worry about the SEC east.  It should be an embarrassment that GT is the last team from the state to beat Vandy and the boys in Statesboro (GA. Southern the Harvard of the South) are the last team from the state to beat Florida.

bigmacondawg
bigmacondawg

Tech might have a good season against a soft schedule and win 8-9 games.  But there's one thing that's for sure:  We will win what amounts to a glorified scrimmage on our practice field by Coke in ATL this November to get us ready for the SEC Championship Game.  2 decades of absolute domination and counting.

techfan12
techfan12

You mean a harder schedule than y'all play? in a better conference? after we beat y'all in your own stadium? and before y'all are getting ready to play in a trash bowl because y'all don't win the east? you sir are an example of most uga fans and should be flat out embarrassed by ur comments

Crazy-Catfish
Crazy-Catfish

I love how you nerds try to make comparisons between kirby and old fish fry.. fish fry has been at tech for 10 years and has accomplished absolutely nothing. He had one decent season and only made it to the orange bowl big deal. do you really think in 10 years kirby will not of accomplished more. with his recruiting and talent your can't be serious. yes tech beat him last year.. they did against all of old disney-dawgs players not kirbys. You all know what is about o come in the next few years. I'm not saying this year even.. but give him 2 more seasons for his style and talent he is bringing in. Sh....boys you better go and hide your pocket protectors.. it;s over.. you will be nothing more than a mercer. we will probably have to move you to the first game of the year and a noon kickoff. a tune up game to start the season..

GTBob
GTBob

@Crazy-Catfish So in your opinion, Kirby is a significantly better coach than Richt? 

khd713
khd713

@Crazy-Catfish Typical non-English speaking UGA dumb@$$. Probably never got into and never attended a single class in Athens, but has lots of cousins who did, hence the inability to communicate via the written word. 


"do you really think in 10 years kirby will not of accomplished more."


No, I don't. Further, I do not think that in 10 years Kirby will have accomplished more, either. Get your facts straight, too, bud. PJ has taken Tech to two Orange Bowls, and in the last one he beat the tar out of one of your SEC brethren. Now go back to your trailer park and make your mom dinner like a good boy.

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@Crazy-Catfish @SvenOttke Cause they played them 2-3 times over a 4 year span fool.  You don't play the same ooc teams each year moron. Btw, mtsu has been a better team than vandy  over the past 5 years

dawg fan
dawg fan

Oh wow.  Now I'm really confused.  Jeff says expecting little out of the Joke is a mistake but their own fans say we're not supposed to expect much out of them.  See below.  The Techies cannot get their story straight.  I guess all we can do is laugh at them.  That works. 

DawginLex
DawginLex

I'm pulling for Tech to bash Tennessee


Tech won't beat us though


TOJacket, I'm still waiting on you to man up and accept the ban bet on UGA/GT game

DawgNole
DawgNole

@DawginLex

Yeah, you'd think as much as he brays about "owning this state" that he'd have no problem taking that bet.

But you should never expect anything "manly" from TOJ. You'll be disappointed every time.

kennesawpage
kennesawpage


All I can say is that #1 Dan Quinn managed to lose a game that he had won. #2 Kirby Smart has supposedly had the best talent and can't beat tech and a bunch of others. Including the doormat of the SEC in Nashville. #3 Mike Budenholzer has presided over the demise of the Hawks. #4 Josh Pastner is an unproven commodity. And these guys are rated ahead of Paul Johnson??? Who in the h---is making these rankings?? Oh yeah, our less than intelligent and overpaid sports writers. The last one on this paper with any sports talent turned out to be a comedian (Lewis Grizzard). God help us. No wonder Paul Johnson holds the press in such disdain. 

4thWarden
4thWarden

I myself am over the good/pretty good teams of CPJ and ready to move on. Beat a couple of good teams and lose to a few bad teams... broken record

GTBob
GTBob

@4thWarden If you want to replace probably the most successful coach at GT in the last 50 years, you better have a heck of a replacement already lined up.

khd713
khd713

Yesterday Steak Shapiro on 680 The Fan ranked the seven local coaches of major sports. As best I can recall, this was his ranking:


1. Dan Quinn

2. Kirby Smart

3. Mike Budenholzer

4. Josh Pastner

5. Paul Johnson

6. Brian Snitker

7. Mark Fox


I may have one or two of the other guys out of order, but I know Smart was second and Johnson was fifth. Wow. Yeah I know, take it for what it's worth. How Steak Shapiro has a job analyzing sports on the radio every day is hard to explain, and it's obviously more about entertainment than actual sports knowledge, but still. The disrespect for Johnson and what he does with the talent he has is beyond insulting. Smart second? How? Why? On what basis? In his first season he went 8-5, lost to Johnson, and the team and his hot-shot quarterback totally underperformed, so Steak ranks him second among all local coaches? I would rank him last, and Johnson second. So clueless, and yet par for the course for the increasingly delusional UGA mutt nation.

GTBob
GTBob

@khd713 If he really ranked Kirby second, then he is a moron. Im not sure you could put Kirby ahead of Mark Fox at this point.

DawginLex
DawginLex

@khd713 We don't know enough about Kirby to rank him anywhere but last. FCS level OL and the only player drafted was a 125 LB slot receiver. Freshman QB playing behind a crappy OL. This year will show us all we need to know

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@DawginLex @khd713 You don't blame play calling? Blunder against tenn. Dumb play call against vandy. And dumb play call against gt at end that led to int. Coaching lost those games. Coaching lost the falcons the sb too

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ads1172

I see JS took a few tidbits from my post yesterday. I feel so proud.

dawg fan
dawg fan

Why does every Georgia Tech column from the AJC reference UGA? They don't care about us Jeff. Their pot bellied hillbilly coach says we don't define them. We're so irrelevant according to the nerdherd. I'm confused.

Even more confusing is the premise of this column. Tech is a very mediocre 37-29 the past 5 seasons. Expecting little out of this joke half a**ed football program is not a mistake. It's reality.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@dawg fan Two teams that are infatuated with each other, neither of which will ever win a national championship ever again.

dawg fan
dawg fan

I don't have a crystal ball and can't predict the future nerd so I'm not going to argue with you about that. One thing I do know is this: If UGA doesn't get it done it won't be for lack of trying. Tech on the other hand will remain lifeless cowards and continue to hide behind excuses. I'd rather have balls and try than be a coward who is afraid to fail.

The AJCs clear agenda to hype up your joke program is laughable and has those nerd heads in the clouds. 21-19 in ACC play the past 5 seasons and Schultz wonders why people discount Fish Fry. Freaking unreal.

Hell Horsey
Hell Horsey

@dawg fan I'm not a fan of either program, or any of the other gutless quitters in this city and state.

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ads1172

@dawg fan You're an idiot. If any program makes excuses it is GA. Every year a top 10, sometimes top 5, recruiting class. Yet not a single appearance in the NC game OR the playoff.  You're supposed to get there. Gt no. So again, where is the excuse making? I like the comment from yesterday. Who was the last team from the state of Ga to beat the gators.  Haha. The answer is hysterical. 

ToeMeetsLeather
ToeMeetsLeather

@dawg fan


Dude, you need to calm down before you have a heart attack. 


You may want to look into some meds if we end up making it 3-outta-4 against your mutts when it comes late November.

dawg fan
dawg fan

LOL. Can you chew gum and walk at the same time? And why isn't GT supposed to be there? Who is stopping you? If GT is not supposed to be there, why should that concern me? Is that anyone's fault but your own? Am I supposed to give a flying crap and feel sorry for you? Do you need a hug?

Thanks for proving my point idiot. Techies are cowards who refuse to take responsibility for their own football program. You're a joke and a disgrace to this state.

gbespy
gbespy

@dawg fan How did these nerds so against the 4 and 5 star Bulldogs 2 of the last 3 years. Compare their ACT scores and who is called boss when they meet after graduation?

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ads1172

@dawg fan Man you have some serious lacking in reading comprehension skills and basic knowledge of football. Not every college is a football factory. Uga is fool. The only point you prove over and over is you are a clueless idiot.