Does Paul Johnson Tweet?

Paul Johnson Ga Tech
July22/ 2015

You DO NOT “Gotta like Paul Johnson”.   Not at all.   A faction of his own fan base never will.   I always have “liked Paul Johnson”….. from his success at GeorgiaSouthern…. to his success at Navy…. to his success at Georgia Tech.

He believes in his “gimmicky offense”.   He has won everywhere he and his “gimmicky offense” have been.  He knows “his gimmicky offense” so well he works a game day sideline without a laminated play sheet.  WHOA!   Georgia Tech put on a “run” last November that came within one play of knocking TeamJimboJameis out of “the playoffs”.

EVERY (not “most” but EVERY) article ever written about “playing Georgia Tech / Paul Johnson” has to – by law – mention (1) how difficult it is to prepare for his “gimmicky offense” in just one week …. (2) how his “gimmicky offense” involves illegal chop blocking …. (3) how he can’t recruit “Blue-Chippers” because his “gimmicky offense” does not showcase NFL wannabe skills.  ….. I call those “Donald Trump hair” comments.   EVERY article “about Donald Trump” HAS to, by law, have a hair reference.  I also call’em “feed the monkeys” comments.

Paul Johnson’s name has come up during several UNC and NCSU “wake up the sleeping giant” coach searches over the past ten years.  I betcha if he had ended up at either UNC or NCSU, he would be as successful as he has been everywhere he has been.  ….. and “a faction of that fan base” would never like him.   Paul Johnson has “some TO’B in him”.   He doesn’t try to be “cool”…. or “hip” (is that still a word?).

I love his final lines in this recent interview from ACC Media Day…..

“We start next year and lose two games, the doubters’ll be right back. That doesn’t change. It’s just part of the game. It is what it is. You just have to accept it and move on. I’m not going to change anybody’s mind,” Johnson said.

“People who think I’m a good coach think I’m a good coach. People who think I suck think I suck. I ain’t gonna change their mind.”

I don’t know but I’m gonna bet…. Paul Johnson doesn’t Tweet.   Another reason I like Paul Johnson.


Ode to Paul Johnson

Posted 7:05 p.m. yesterday


Politicians and head coaches alike love to give the impression that they’re just like you. They’re a “Common Man” (or Woman). They don’t think they’re better than You, Common Person. They can be your friend.

Social norms dictate that we Common Folk, even when confronted with people or things that annoy us, smile and nod and play the game. Even when on the inside, we’re rolling our eyes or banging our heads against a wall.

Paul Johnson has no time for that kind of nonsense. So in that way, he’s MUCH more like us Common Folk than the coaches and politicians. He is cloaked in his feelings. From his razor-sharp side-eye to carefully crossed arms.

He trudges over to the table at the ACC Kickoff in Pinehurst to sit down with a sense of resigned inevitability he’s just been handed a number at the DMV.

“Good morning,” he said in the same way a stranger might say, “You have toilet paper on your shoe.”

He collected himself in the chair behind the table, crossing his legs and then his arms over each other at the wrists. It almost looks as if he’s seated in the fetal position somehow, hunched over in a crescent moon shape that looks horribly uncomfortable. He settles in and looks over the assembled media in front of him coolly and evenly.

“Tired of talking to us?” someone asked him.

“Uh, maybe a little.” (A lot.)

“Are you basking in the glow of being picked to win the Coastal?” someone else asked.

“I hope they finally got it right for once.” He paused and waited for the fake reporter laughter to subside, raising his chin and forcing his mouth into something that resembles a wry smile. “We’ll see.”

“You always finish above, so does that mean you’ll win the ACC outright?”

“Who knows? You know what I think about all those things.”

As he talks, he leans backwards slightly, pushing slightly on the ACC backdrop behind him subtly but almost as if he hopes he can disappear inside of it. I secretly pray that it will tumble over, just to see how the normally implacable Johnson would react. It doesn’t. He doesn’t even notice that it’s in peril.

The way he pushes on the logo ever so slightly as if he doesn’t know it’s there is almost akin to his own team’s presence in the league itself. Under Johnson, as he reminds the assembled media repeatedly this day (and most ACC Kickoffs past), his team has reached the ACC Championship game three out of seven years. Including last year, when the Yellow Jackets were picked to finish fifth in the Coastal Division with one first-place vote and won the Division outright.

Finishing higher than the preseason vote has been the norm, as Patrick Stevens from pointed out.

No matter what his team does, though, the doubters remain. His option offense is a “gimmick” that won’t work on this level. Then Georgia Tech pushed Florida State to the limit in the ACC title game and beat several of the ssssss’s off of Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl. Big bad SEC and all. That was after ending the regular season with a win over in-state rival Georgia.

The media finally paid attention this year and picked the Yellow Jackets to win the Coastal Division. Not that Johnson cares. Just ask him. It shouldn’t have taken a few wins over the SEC to get people to pay attention.

“I think that when we beat Georgia and Clemson beat South Carolina and Florida State beat Florida and Louisville beat Kentucky and yada yada yada then yeah, it helps the league. It helps us. It excites the fans,” Johnson said.

“But as far as the program, the program ain’t changed. I’m not a better coach today than I was a year ago suddenly, or whatever. Same thing. What you see is what you get. There’s a track record there. It ain’t like we went from winning two games. We averaged eight wins a year. We’ve been to the ACC Championship game three times in seven years. We have gone to 19 straight bowl games. We have 17 straight years with a winning record in the league.

“It ain’t like all of a sudden, poof. We won 11 games four years ago. So.”

Instead of enjoying the newfound attention and glory surrounding the Yellow Jackets, he was annoyed. He was like hipster dude who is mad when people start to like his favorite band that no one had ever heard of before.

Despite the fact that his annoyance can show through at times, his lilting southern accent often mitigates what might otherwise seem more biting. And make no mistake about it – the Newland, North Carolina native throws shade as beautifully and as elegantly as a bitternut hickory tree.

“If you look at that last weekend (of the 2014 season), the ACC pitched a shutout, didn’t they? 5-0 against the SEC or something on rivalry weekend. I think we’ll have to do it over and over and over, and I’m still not sure anything will change then.”

The outline of Newland on Google Maps looks like a raised middle finger. A small town of about 700 nestled in the North Carolina mountains, it is famous for having produced both Johnson and Joyce McKinney, who kidnapped and raped a Mormon missionary in England in 1977. At least that’s what Wikipedia says.

He punctuates almost everything he says with a shrug, so often that he tends to resemble a human version of the ASCII shrug.

There are different versions of the shrug. Some are so slight they’re barely perceptible, almost as if it’s an unconscious tic. Some are more substantial, full-out shrugs that are designed to demonstrate one of his favorite phrases: “it is what it is”. Some are followed by an eye roll. There are different versions of those, too.

He was asked about his B-back this coming year, and who it might be. He finally just said: “We’ll be okay. Whoever plays B Back, they’ll have over 1,000 yards. Two guys, one guy, it doesn’t matter.” Then he turned away from the reporter in question and surveyed the group slowly, looking at every media member as he shrugged like Michael Jordan when he hit his sixth straight three-pointer, grinning ever so slightly.

He plays his cards closely, and doesn’t open up much to the media unless he either likes the question or is angered by the question.

Any inkling of doubt – perceived or real – in the question that revolves around what he’s built in Atlanta is dealt with curtly and swiftly. Like when something that was barely audible, except for the word ‘recruiting’.

“We’ve never had any issue recruiting. I mean, if you expect us to reel in a top-10 recruiting class at Georgia Tech, when’s the last time that happened?

“Never,” the reporter said.

“Okay. I mean, our recruiting has been about on par for when they were running the pro-style offense.”

“It’s a little bit better, actually,” the reporter ventured cautiously.

“Well, that’s what I’m saying. It is what it is. We’ve never had issues recruiting a quarterback.”

He wasn’t even asked about this, but it’s been an issue that outsiders have raised in the past – why would future NFL players want to go there to play in an offense that doesn’t resemble an NFL offense? The idea is that, of course, if you want to be an NFL player, you won’t play at Georgia Tech, especially if you’re a skill position player.

Johnson doesn’t much care for that.

“The kids who base where they go to school on places where ‘Well, a coach says he can get me to the league’, they’re buying a 10-pound bag of crap,” Johnson said. “The only person that’s going to get you to the league is you. If you work hard and you’ve got the ability, then you’ll get there. If you don’t, then no coach is going to get you there.”

Speaking of crap, Johnson gets plenty of it from the locals, too. It’s not just outsiders who don’t always understand his program. Obviously after last year’s success and returning many of last year’s players, he’s not getting as much of that. Maybe like a two-pound bag of crap.

“Well, the Falcons took our place,” Johnson deadpanned in response to a question about the Atlanta media. “Somebody’s always getting beat up there – you’ve just got to be not the one.”

He’s not all shrugs and narrowed eyes and derisiveness. Johnson’s offense has worked everywhere it’s been. He calls games himself on the sideline and doesn’t use a play sheet. He thrives on the chess match, and he lit up when he was asked about this.

“I think that’s probably one of my favorite things in coaching. I enjoy the actual game, going back and forth. That’s probably why I haven’t given it to somebody else to do. I feel like that I enjoy doing it and I think I’m decent at it, so.” He shrugs.

He’s misunderstood often as having a “get off my lawn!” type of sensibility. The truth is, we don’t really know what his sensibility is. Before Johnson walked to his table begrudgingly, a prominent ACC media member who knows Johnson well said, “About 98% of the people in this room don’t have any idea who Paul Johnson is.”

That’s probably true. But one thing is very obvious – he’d rather not deal with the media. But it’s less “get off my lawn” than it is “why must I pretend that I care about you people?”

He uses cliches as a weapon rather than a crutch, and he uses them to bludgeon a question he either doesn’t want to answer or doesn’t particularly like.

When asked if he thinks this Georgia Tech team is particularly ready to win the ACC, I thought I detected a barely suppressed an eye roll. “It’s always our goal every year. The goal is to get to the ACC Championship game every year. We’ve been fortunate to be there three of the seven, so if we make it this year, it’ll be half the time. If we make it this year, it’ll be four out of eight. That’d be a pretty good percentage.”

But are you more optimistic this year than most, the reporter asked?

“Oh, I’m always optimistic,” he said, forming his mouth into a grin that looked like it hurt his face. “If I ever thought I couldn’t win, I wouldn’t show up.”

He followed up on that thought later when asked about the difficulty of this year’s ACC schedule, which includes Clemson (Georgia Tech’s normal crossover opponent) and Florida State.

“We play Clemson every year (as a crossover opponent). It is what it is. It’s a tough schedule, but you’ve got to play. The way our league is set up, some teams have got it better than others,” Johnson said.

“Everybody talks about the (Atlantic) – we’re 5-3 against Clemson since I’ve been there and 2-3 against Florida State. That’s better than what we are against Virginia Tech and Miami. We’re not scared of Florida State. They might beat us, but we ain’t scared.”

He’s a study in contradictions, like most of us are. Even if we say we don’t care what people say, we kind of do. He knows where his team has been picked most years, and relishes playing the underdog role. He doesn’t care what they won’t get to play it this year.

But he did seem bemused, perhaps, at the notion that somehow he’s still proving people wrong. And he put it as only Paul Johnson, teller of truths and shrugged of shoulders, can.

“We start next year and lose two games, the doubters’ll be right back. That doesn’t change. It’s just part of the game. It is what it is. You just have to accept it and move on. I’m not going to change anybody’s mind,” Johnson said.

“People who think I’m a good coach think I’m a good coach. People who think I suck think I suck. I ain’t gonna change their mind.”



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