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Monday Musings: Flexbone in the Wind

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In which I regret missing Elton John’s farewell tour.

Georgia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Press play and please sing along.

Goodbye Norma Jean CPJ

Though I never knew you at all

You had the grace to hold yourself run the ball

While those around you [threw]

They crawled out of the woodwork said you were from high school

And they whispered into your brain

They set you on the treadmill complained about your blocks

[But] they made you you didn’t change your [scheme]

And it seems to me you [coached] your life

Like a [flexbone] in the wind

[Always] knowing who to [pitch] to

When the [key] set in

And I would have liked to [keep] you

But I was just a kid it was time to go

Your [flexbone] burned out long before

Your legend ever [will]

[Getting respect] was tough

The toughest role you ever played

[Georgia Southern] created a superstar

And pain was the price you paid

Even when you [retired]

Oh the press still hounded you

All the papers had to say

Was that [the flexbone] was found in the nude gone for good

And it seems to me you [coached] your life

Like a [flexbone] in the wind

[Always] knowing who to [pitch] to

When the [key] set in

And I would have liked to [keep] you

But I was just a kid it was time to go

Your [flexbone] burned out long before

Your legend ever [will]

Goodbye Norma Jean CPJ

Though I never knew you at all

You had the grace to hold yourself run the ball

While those around you [threw]

Goodbye Norma Jean CPJ

From the young man in the twenty second row

Who sees you as something more than [novelty]

More than just our Marilyn Monroe cut blocks and rocket toss

And it seems to me you [coached] your life

Like a [flexbone] in the wind

[Always] knowing who to [pitch] to

When the [key] set in

And I would have liked to [keep] you

But I was just a kid it was time to go

Your [flexbone] burned out long before

Your legend ever [will]

Your [flexbone] burned out long before

Your legend ever [will]

I’ll give everyone a moment to stop crying. Listen to this if you need to cheer up.

Okay we’re back.

Love him or hate him, Paul Johnson has been the central figure for Georgia Tech Football since his first season on the Flats in 2008. Our quirky, salty leader came to us with an innovative offense that had dominated the lower ranks of college football, ready to be unleashed on the big boys. The next 10 years were a wild ride for us and we’ve finally reached the end of the journey. I felt more and more like this was going to happen as the season went on, but it still feels incredibly weird that CPJ only has one game left. Gonna be an odd thing to get used to.

For most of my time as a Tech fan I was a huge advocate for Paul. I always thought that he was the right guy for the job at the right time. Regardless of your opinion of him (or his offense), he’s done some wonderful things for the program. ACC Championship Games. Orange Bowl. Three wins over UGA. 83 total wins. It’s not easy to take a small academic school with a plethora of recruiting woes and create a program that could compete and win at the highest level. He took us from the perpetual 7-win seasons of Chan Gailey and brought us four 9-win seasons. He led us to a year-end AP Poll ranking three times, something than Gailey couldn’t do once. At times he and his offense were frustrating. But I think that the positives outweigh the negatives for the most part. I’m not sure any other coach could’ve had the success that he had here. He was able to spark an aggressively mediocre program that was losing ground in the post-O’Leary years. He was able to showcase how incredible his “high school offense” could really be. Again, I think he was the right guy for the job at the right time.

I think when we look back 30 years from now Johnson will be thought of as the guy that bridged the gap between the old days and the modern ones. He kept the program nationally relevant, something that is a huge attraction to potential hires. Imagine if, instead of the relative success he had, we made a bad hire (or two, or three…) during that time and became Rutgers or Kansas level bad. We would never be the (fairly) desirable location we are now. Johnson is the one who put us in this position to get a great hire and bring the program into the modern era.

On a more personal note, Johnson provided me with two of my favorite memories from college: the 2014 Orange Bowl and 2015 Miracle on Techwood. I won’t ever forget road tripping down to Miami with my friends to see our Jackets absolutely smash Mississippi State in the mouth. If you’ve never seen the “every offensive play” video from this game, do yourself a favor and watch it. It is an incredible display of how devastating the spread option can be when run well. As far as the Miracle on Techwood goes, I’m probably conflating a wild stroke of luck with the coach who just happened to be on the sideline, but still. Hearing Bobby Dodd louder than it’s ever been, storming the field, screaming the fight song on the 50 yard line, and feeling the energy of 50,000 fans in complete pandemonium is an experience that I’ll always associate with the Johnson era. I have a vial of Grant Field grass from that night in my room at home and it is one of three things that I insistent my parents take with them when they have to evacuate for hurricanes. Call me crazy, but it is without a doubt one of my most cherished possessions.

It’s tough to sum up my feelings on this. I mean what I’ve said: Paul Johnson has been good for the program. But I’m not quite sure that I’m sad to see him go. I think it was the right call; it’s time for a change. There’s always been kind of an underlying feeling to Stansbury’s vision that Johnson wasn’t going to be the guy for long. I dunno. It’s bittersweet. We can be excited for the future while also remembering the past fondly.

Once the final game has been coached I’ve got a piece that I’ve been working on called “Comparing QBs in the Paul Johnson Era”. It’s exactly what it sounds like, so stay tuned for that. Until then, see y’all in Detroit (ugh).