Johnson’s Georgia Tech program has stagnated

sports@macon.comDecember 3, 2013 

Georgia Georgia Tech Football

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson works the sidelines against Georgia during the first half of an NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Atlanta.

DAVE TULIS — AP

Paul Johnson has been Georgia Tech’s football head coach for six years now. This is his program. These are his players. And it’s appropriate to judge his time as the Yellow Jackets’ head coach.

After the 7-5 regular-season record this year, Johnson has won 47 games and lost 31 at Georgia Tech. But a closer look makes it understandable why some are skeptical of Johnson’s ability to lead the Yellow Jackets for the future. He was 19-7 in his first two seasons and only 28-24 the past four years.

Any time a head coach does well in his first two years on the job, it’s natural to wonder if he simply did better with someone else’s talent. Former head coach Chan Gailey recruited most of those players on the 2008 and 2009 teams, but Johnson obviously got the most out of those players with two solid seasons.

But since the players have been Johnson’s players, the team has been mediocre.

Oh, and in his six years on the job, Johnson has beaten Georgia only once. And for some Georgia Tech fans, that really matters the most.

Johnson is a good football coach, but he can be arrogant. He believes in his style and seems reluctant to be flexible when necessary. The Yellow Jackets rack up plenty of yards, but the inconsistency has been somewhat tied to Johnson’s inability to recruit the perfect quarterback to run his triple-option offense.

Defense has been a problem, too. Al Groh was a disaster as the defensive coordinator, but strides were made this year with Ted Roof back in charge.

But can Georgia Tech take that next step and get back on top of the ACC Coastal Division? And do the Georgia Tech fans want more than what Johnson has done the past four seasons?

Gailey also led the Yellow Jackets for six seasons. He was 44-32 and never had a losing season from 2002 through 2007. But fans thought he was too mediocre, and the consensus was that someone could do better.

Has Johnson done better? Not really or at least not that much better. Gailey’s winning percentage was .579, while Johnson’s is .603. Johnson has coached in two more games in the same number of seasons and won three more games. That’s really not a significant improvement over Gailey’s record.

Georgia Tech fans have gone from believing Johnson was an upgrade (and he was in his first two years) to wondering if he’s really that much of a difference.

And now it has to be difficult to see Duke, a team Georgia Tech beat, going to the ACC title game against Florida State. Some (including myself) believed Georgia Tech had a chance when the season started, but back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and Miami in October killed the Yellow Jackets’ shot.

Johnson will need a very good 2014 season to stay off the hot seat, and he really needs to beat Georgia to get others off his back. It all comes down to what Georgia Tech fans expect. If they are OK with seven or eight wins a season, Johnson needs a new long-term contract. But if they think someone can do better, Johnson will find himself taking the triple-option elsewhere in the near future.

Sure, there are obstacles in just getting just anyone into Georgia Tech to play football. The academics are tough. But look at what has happened at Stanford and Vanderbilt the past few seasons. Those programs have showed it can be done.

This is about talent. Johnson has just not had enough in the past few seasons, and that’s why his program has flat-lined. There’s way too much talent in this state for Georgia Tech to be mediocre. Bobby Ross won at Georgia Tech, and George O’Leary did before resume-gate. If Johnson is going to get it done, it needs to happen soon, or Georgia Tech needs to give someone else a try.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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