He had a better year than W.

Slow news day from a college football standpoint, unless you’re wrapped up in the Heisman vote, so I might as well throw in my two cents about Georgia Tech hiring Paul Johnson, aka The Coach formerly known as The Highest Paid Employee of the Federal Government.

My brother, the Tech fan (who told me that Johnson was the #1 target when Chan was fired), is thrilled. Thrilled but realistic. He doesn’t think that Tech is going to regain the upper hand in the series with Georgia, but he does believe that Tech can get back to a level of winning 30% of the time (which after 0-6 is a pretty decent accomplishment). More importantly, though, he thinks Johnson can make Tech a consistent player in the ACC.

Kyle, on the other hand, sounds pretty sanguine about Johnson’s hire. Paul is a little more cautious in his analysis, but not overly impressed.

Obviously, it’s impossible to provide a complete assessment yet – we haven’t seen the staff that Johnson will assemble. (From here, keeping Giff Smith looks like a priority.) But my gut feeling is that this is going to turn out to be a pretty good hire for Tech.

Take a look at the data Brian at MGoBlog assembled on Johnson. Prior to arriving at Navy, the Midshipmen compiled a ten year winning percentage of .36066. After an ugly transition year, this is what they’ve accomplished under Johnson: records of 8-5, 10-2, 8-4, 9-4, and the current 8-4. And remember that in the last four years, we’ve had that little thing in Iraq going on. The service academies are getting great human beings, of course, but they’re not likely to get anyone who has an interest in playing football on Sundays.

In other words, what he’s done in his last five seasons is fairly remarkable. And don’t forget his accomplishments at Georgia Southern, either, where he won five conference titles, four national coach of the year awards, and two national titles. This guy can coach a little. That’s not something even Tech can screw up.

There are a few knocks on Johnson – who knows if he can recruit, he’s on the gruff side personality wise and Tech’s neighborhood is much tougher than it’s been.

The recruiting question is a fair one, which, again, is why I think that retaining Giff Smith (who played at GSU when Johnson was an assistant coach there) may be as big for Johnson as keeping Rodney Garner was for Mark Richt. But there are two things to keep in mind here. First, Navy is one of the few places on the planet where recruiting is even more difficult than it is at Georgia Tech; second, regardless of his sales skills, Johnson is obviously very good at talent evaluation. I doubt Tech will seriously challenge Georgia over time in recruiting, but I think they’ll be as competitive as they need to be. It’s unlikely they’d be any worse, especially if Smith stays.

As for Johnson’s personality, if he wins, I don’t think the warm and fuzzies are going to matter very much. If nothing else, I can’t imagine he’d be dumb enough to say things like this to recruits. And unlike his predecessor, at least he had the sense to say this right off the bat:

“That [Georgia game] is a game Georgia Tech needs to win,” Johnson said. “I embrace that.”

And as for the level of Tech’s competition, yeah, Georgia has certainly elevated itself under Richt. But the ACC? When Kyle writes that “…Chan Gailey had to deal with Tommy Bowden’s Tigers, Ralph Friedgen’s Terrapins, Chuck Amato’s Wolfpack, Al Groh’s Cavaliers, and Jim Grobe’s Demon Deacons…”, don’t you have to chuckle, even a little bit? Certainly Virginia Tech has developed into an elite program over the past decade, but Miami and FSU (who Kyle conveniently omits from his analysis) are mere shells of their former selves these days.

Ladies and gentlemen, Exhibit “A” on the state of the ACC: Wake Forest, 2006 Champions. Now, Jim Grobe is an excellent coach, but I honestly think that Johnson is at least as good at what he does as Grobe and there’s no comparison between the resources at Wake Forest and Georgia Tech (as much as we Dawg fans would like to joke otherwise). It’s anything but farfetched to suggest that Johnson can’t make the Jackets consistently competitive in that conference.

Bottom line? While there may be an awkward transition year (Taylor Bennett running the triple option isn’t likely to strike fear into too many defensive coordinators’ hearts), look for the era of 7-5 and trips to the Humanitarian Bowl to end under Paul Johnson. And I suspect it’s gonna be a bit of a shock the first time Georgia loses to Tech. We’ve gotten a little spoiled with Reggie and Chan.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “He had a better year than W.

  1. kckd

    Johnson is a solid choice. And while some are saying so what, we face Tuberville, Spurrier, Meyer, etc. etc.

    We also have lost to all those coaches multiple times. I doubt we’re gonna enjoy the success we’ve had, but I still think we’ll get them more than they get us.

    That said, has anyone gotten more play out of doing something they were and should’ve been expected to do than P. Johnson and Navy beating Notre Dame.

    I’d have some respect for it if ND had a 6-5 type team, but this was ND’s worst team in their complete history. Don’t ya think that had something to do with it?

  2. To some extent, sure.

    But ask yourself how many kids on Navy were recruited by any D-1 team. And compare that with all of those Tom Lemming-approved prospects on ND’s roster.

    It’s safe to say that Johnson is a better college coach than Weis. ;)

  3. kckd

    Let me ask you this then. Shouldn’t Purdue have celebrated a dominant win over ND in the same fashion if Navy is gonna celebrate an OT win. I mean, it’s not like Purdue is used to spanking ND statistically.

  4. I dunno. Did Purdue end a 43 game losing streak against ND?

  5. Bunch

    Sen. Blutarsky, Tech – and the media, apparently believing it to be true – have made a big deal lately of the “rigorous academic standards” at Tech that are apparently the primary reason for their CFB mediocrity. Do you or any of your readers have access to reliable info on Tech’s admission standards for football? I, for one, am skeptical that their standards are that different from those of the rest of the conference or UGA.

  6. Anthony Barnes

    Bunch, whenever you hear a Gtu fan trumpet their academics, ask them how I am doing. Also, ask them about Joe Hamilton, Joe Burns, Stephon Marbury, etc.

    It is a weak crutch that they have leaned on since Bobby Dodd took them out of the SEC because he was tired of having to compete.

  7. kckd

    Changing the subject again Senator. Nice.

    How many times has Purdue handed Notre Dame it’s arse in the past 43 years?

  8. kckd, I have no idea.

    Look, when a team ends a 43 game losing streak against a school with the national attention that Notre Dame receives, it’s going to be a big story.

    The fact that you say that Navy was expected to beat Notre Dame is big in and of itself.

    Navy didn’t suck all 43 of those years and ND wasn’t a top 10 team for all that time either. You’d think just by the law of averages there’d be a win in there sometime.

  9. kckd

    All I’m saying, is Johnson should’ve beaten them sooner. You could make an argument that he had the better team in two of Ty Willingham’s years. It took him playing the worst ND team in history to beat them in OT.

    Hey, there are a lot of reasons to respect what PJ did at Navy. The win against this years Notre Dame team is not one of them.

    I like to rate teams on how they actually play and not their prestige. I guess I’m weird that way.

    That’s why it pissed me off to see us tear down the goal posts and ruin our hedges over a 2-3 team in 2000. Yeah, it’d been over a decade since we beat them last. But instead of us bucking up and playing up to their level, we had to catch them at a time they were playing down to ours. Disappointing IMO.

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