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Opinion Week: Paul Johnson, Anno Decem

A decade of Johnsonianness and all that entails

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Pittsburgh
Paul Johnson’s response when asked if he’s going anywhere
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ten summers ago, the biggest concern on Georgia Tech fans’ minds was which Notre Dame quarterback the Yellow Jackets would be facing in South Bend come September 1st. Irish coach (at the time) Charlie Weis was famously tight lipped about which of his three options he’d be starting, opting to keep his hand close to his chest and keep the Jackets guessing.

We all know how that ended up. Ironically, it was Tech coach Chan Gailey who was shown the door at the end of the season while Weis limped on for another couple years. A 33-3 win over Notre Dame seems like a season-defining win, until Notre Dame finishes 3-9. Then your season ends up being defined by things like this.

And that was that. Gailey was out, Tech got the [Gordon Lightfoot] kicked out of it in Boise, and the Institute passed over my personal choice of Randy Edsall for some dude at Navy running a weird offense.

Nineish years later, that dude - Paul Johnson - is still here. That’s a long time for someone to be at Georgia Tech. Longer than Chan Gailey. Longer than George O’Leary. Longer than Bill Lewis, whose name is still considered profanity amongst some corners of the Georgia Tech fanbase; and Bobby Ross, forever revered for his championship winning season. Paul Johnson’s been here longer than Bill Curry, Pepper Rodgers, Bill Fulcher, and Bud Carson. Believe it or not, he is the fourth longest tenured football coach in Georgia Tech history. That ain’t an accident.

As for those nine intervening years, I daresay it’s been a fun ride so far. Sure, 2015 was “build on ancient burial grounds” level of cursed. But emerging from the 7-5 Chan Gailey malaise (or Gailaise) has seen Tech football reach levels of success not seen since Dodd himself graced this Institute. (Okay, sure, 1990. But keep in mind outside of that year Ross was 20-26.) Johnson’s put plenty of ranked skins on the wall and is running a surplus on field stormings. His teams graced the ACC championship thrice and the Orange Bowl twice.

For people expecting some sort of Sabanian rise to the top of the college football, well, I don’t know what to tell you. 1990 was a long time ago. There’s a litany of factors keeping Georgia Tech from being a consistent contender, and those have been and will continue to be talked to death until several of them change drastically or (more likely) the heat death of the universe. (And please, stop pointing to Duke, Northwestern, or Stanford as points of comparison. These are all bad, for reasons that could and probably will be spun off into an article of their own at some point.) Paul Johnson might occasionally mention some of those things, but most of the time he’s got more important things to focus on, so he’s gonna stick to that and let Stansbury handle the other stuff.

Long ago, when the AJC website was even worse than it was now, they had a feature called “the Vent”. It combined Reddit-style voting with 4chan style anonymity, and it was possibly the worst feature ever put on the internet. Someone once posted upon the announcement of Paul Johnson’s hiring (and I’m reciting this from memory, so the accuracy is less than 100% here): “Georgia Tech is now +option -Tenuta. After so many years, I QUIT.”

Hope the last nine years wandering the wasteland have been fun for you. For the rest of us, there’s a lot to look forward to in year ten.

Days to kickoff: 95.