Tech’s Johnson ranks with the greatest

If I had to go to a football game — and I’ll say this with all honesty — I’d pick one in which Paul Johnson is coaching. This is not some overnight observation. This comes from a guy who has seen Neyland, Dodd, Blaik, Wade and Lombardi coach, not to mention having sat for hours with Bob Zuppke. You know, the guy who coached Red Grange at Illinois.

Of course, they’re all gone now, so I’m left with the new fella at Georgia Tech, like it or not. I bring this up after an evening of watching him on “white-out night” Thursday — and let me add, that I despise mid-week night football games. This may or may not appeal in the least to the present-day students in the stands.

(Though, did you notice that during the Georgia Tech-Clemson game, a synchronized cheer of “Fight, fight, fight” broke out in the quite intelligent home-team section? That’s old-time Ivy League stuff that you don’t hear any more, drowned out by that dreadful pregame ear-splitting stuff.)

On the subject of coaching, I will surmise that this was not one of Johnson’s scientific highlights. His Yellow Jackets athletes had rumbled along to a 24-0 lead then went into a mental fog.

Sort of the same affliction that struck them in the opening game with Jacksonville State, no powerhouse but bothersome. One of those touchdowns scored against Clemson totally addled a lot of us. We looked up and the place-kicker, Scott Blair, a junior from Calhoun, was actually throwing the football to Demaryius Thomas, better known as “Bay-Bay,” for a touchdown, and looked quite comfortable at it. That gave Tech a lead of 24-0, and that looked rather well-invested.

Johnson’s athletes must have felt the same way, for they began to bumble and bobble about. And — get this — they never scored again until the fourth quarter, by which time Clemson had taken charge, 27-24.

Keep this in mind, since Tommy Bowden took leave last season, the Tigers have re-tooled their coaching staff. An assistant named Dabo Swinney, unfamiliar to most of us, but an Alabama alum, took his place, and surprising to some, was eventually cemented in place. He hired a young and rather promising offensive coordinator named Billy Napier, and it was Napier’s offense that pummeled the Jackets before Johnson could stem the tide, as they say.

It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t slick. It was all done by Blair and his field goals. Tech never scored another touchdown. After Napier and his offense took the lead, 27-24, Blair tied the score from 34 yards out, then kicked the deciding field goal from 36 yards in the last minute, and color came back in the faces of all those people dressed in white. The next problem was traffic.

Johnson had thrilled them, but not as planned. On the other hand, the Tiger folk got a thrill of their own. More to come from Dabo Swinney, who admires Mack Brown so openly that he went to Texas and sat at Mack’s feet for hours, learning how to be like Mack Brown. I’d say, he’s off to a good start.

As for Tech, I’d suppose that those kids will be spending more time in the football lab before they get to Miami.

197 comments Add your comment


September 12th, 2009
4:22 pm

Furman, the ‘fight – fight – fight’ you heard was no Ivy league reference – there was ACTUALLY A BIG FIGHT in section 207! Should’ve seen it!


September 12th, 2009
4:50 pm

Mr Bisher: Your comments about P Johnson are amplified by the performance that Navy (his prior team) had at Ohio State last week.
A four point loss. That was a shocker. Of course, tremendous credit goes to the new staff at Navy but Paul’s influence had to be there somewhere.


September 12th, 2009
5:13 pm

Furman, always enjoy your articles. Been reading them I know since the early 50’s. Sure do wish you would reminisence sometime about those great Tech teams of the 50’s and 60’s. I remember the Tech-Tenn game in 1956 when both were top ranked and Johnny Majors came to town and beat Tech 6-0. I was sick for several days. Great time, great team and great memories.


September 12th, 2009
5:21 pm

Johnson is a genius. no bobo can beat a johnson


September 12th, 2009
5:31 pm

Paul Johnson is a demi-god. All hail, false prophets!


September 12th, 2009
5:36 pm

Paul Johnson sits on the right hand of Barack Obama, from whence he shall judge the quick and the talented.

That was a pivital game,

September 12th, 2009
6:13 pm

Enter your comments here

David Granger

September 12th, 2009
6:14 pm

I agree with you, Mr. Bisher. And I think that Coach Johnson will win at Georgia Tech about as much as it’s possible for ANYBODY to. (Hard to admit, being a staunch Dawg fan.) It’s not easy to recruit at Tech, because you don’t have those “General Studies” kinds of majors to help keep players eligible. And because of his offense, GT will rarely get the four and five-star recruits. The top-rated QBs and WRs want to play in a passing scheme, and the top-rated RBs want to play the I-formation so they can carry 35 times a game. But you get some smart kids running that offense…especially if they BELIEVE in it….and you’ll win some games. I’ll bet Coach Johnson takes some of those three-star recruits…who might have a little chip on their shoulder from not being rated higher…and beats a few teams with better talent along the way.
The UGA-GT game is going to be competitive in the coming years, I think.

and Johnson has Tech on the right track,

September 12th, 2009
6:16 pm

Wonder how Clem(p)son will react? Dabo has indicated that they will only lose that game one time and it will not determine the rest of his season.


September 12th, 2009
6:17 pm

I think it’s a little early to rank PJ up there with Lombardi. I’d say the same think about MR, also.


September 12th, 2009
6:26 pm

I was looking for some insight on the actual coach and what he has done to deserve the high rank billing. Instead, the article talked around things, was descriptive, and as always well written. Probably could have just wrote the title and left it alone unless some true comparisons were made…i.e. how many wins did Dodd have after his first 15 games, etc.


September 12th, 2009
6:51 pm

If I agree or not with anything you put in prose I will always enjoy the read. Thanks for the PJ love, but houw you say it is so beautiful. Would you please pen some pros for me to use to tell my boss off? You would make it sound like a complement.


September 12th, 2009
6:54 pm

houw? ment “how”. pen “ME” some “PROSE”

go tech

September 12th, 2009
9:53 pm

Mr. Bisher,
Nice article, thank you. I’m one of those younger generation folks, but looking back at the early Tech articles, I appreciate how you told the truth about what the Bama people did; it was truly eye opening and I can never root for Bama knowing how low they (esp. Bear Bryant) stooped. It’s really a shame Bryant is held in high regard at all given his lack of class and ethics.


September 12th, 2009
10:07 pm

Bisher….this is worthless crap.


September 13th, 2009
12:37 am

I beg to differ Josh. You, sir, are a worthless piece of crap with no respect for your elders. Mr. Bisher has forgotten more about college football than you will ever know. I suspect that you are part of the Bulldawg Nation Trailer Park alumni, not to be confused with the Fightin’ Irish Subway alumni.


September 13th, 2009
12:43 am

josh….you are worthless crap.


September 13th, 2009
1:07 am

One feels like Tech will have a chance to win the game at the end end of the game. Even UNC last year with a few breaks would have been much closer. Johnson and staff and Nesbitt (as well as the whole team) seem to be gamers. Meaning they find ways to try and win particularly when the chips are down. The only critique I can offer is to work at getting the passing percentage up without turning the ball over. One idea would be to hit more passes in the short and med. range to open up both the long pass and the option game. One or two passes were dropped so 50% completion was’nt that far off. 300 yards rushing again is phenom with no turnovers. Johnsons coaching and special teams play were the difference. Sometime the Defense or offense are’nt up to par so other aspects make a difference. Miami by the way is for real and we need our “A” game to show up across the board. Great Blog, Furman.


September 13th, 2009
1:20 am

Well, Furman, why don’t you tell us about your son’s football exploits? Oh! Wait, he never played a down. But Bobby Dodd gave him a scholarship. Of course, this free ride never influenced your writing–slick as it is. I just wish there were a drop of honesty in it.



September 13th, 2009
2:28 am

Mr. Bisher,

With all due respect, to start an article about Paul Johnson and mention the names you did is…bizarre. The guy has yet to really win now that he is coaching the big boys. He was out coached several times last year and was clearly out coached this past game, but was saved by a “booster club bonus” to the refs. I realize and respect he had a great win last year in Athens, but one win hardly qualifies as a great coach. Les Miles, who I think is a complete goob, completely out coached him last year, frustrating him so badly he called maybe the worst fake punt ever. (Inside his own 30 and run by a defensive end in the first half) and then yelled at his players for lack of execution. Time will prove him to be the run oriented version of Hal Mumme. Has anyone else noticed that he looks like those California Raisins from a few years back? I do still love you though Mr. Bisher and will always be grateful to have read your articles.


September 13th, 2009
3:19 am

If I read this correctly, he mentioned that the old names are all gone, but he’d just as soon see Paul Johnson coach over any of the current coaches. I still think that is very inflated praise considering the likes of Meyer, Carroll, Stoops, Saban, and Tressel are all out there and are proven commodities. Even within the ACC, you still have Beamer and Butch Davis – who I think is one of the most underrated coaches in the nation.

This is basically a column to get the yellow and white all excited. Great. Mission accomplished.


September 13th, 2009
7:15 am

VeryOldDawg: The world would be better off without you in it. For those that don’t know, Furman’s son passed away while at Tech.

Jim Grogan

September 13th, 2009
8:15 am

Furman, I’ve read your by-line since the old days of the morning Constitution with Jesse Outlar and the evening Journal with you. Thanks for still making the effort, we all appreciate it!! Of all the spectacular plays Thursday night, two that stood out for me were: (1) Richard Jackson’s 53 yard field goal that would have been good from over 65 (maybe 70)yards, and (2) Gerrard Terrant’s touchdown saving leap and knock away of the deep ball thrown to C. J. Spiller with a few seconds to go. What a game!!! Go Jackets! THWG!

War Jacket

September 13th, 2009
8:32 am

There’s a lot to like about PJ, especially for Tech fans after having slogged through the Gailey years. But for me, the jury is still out. I think he is a very good coach, time can only tell if he belongs in the Dodd/Lombardi class.

I did find it curious that in his list of coaching greats, Bear Bryant and Vince Dooley were both omitted. I guess character does count in Mr. Bisher’s evaluation criteria.



September 13th, 2009
8:39 am

Furman you’re thinking with your heart not your head. Would you say the same thing if Paul Johnson was coaching at any other school. Time to lay down the stone tablet and retire


September 13th, 2009
8:48 am

Over the years Furman has written many good articles about Dooley. I guess he could not list all great coaches he has seen. Now leaving Bear Bryant out was easy. Ethics and Bryant just didn’t go together and would not gets “props” from a ligit sportswriter like Furman.

Toe Meets Leather

September 13th, 2009
9:10 am

Furman, you have more college football history in your little finger than these “puppy fans” do in their last 2-3 generations. Some of that old gold and white history – “Toe Meets Leather”, Tech’s 1990 victory over Virginia – can now be bought at !


September 13th, 2009
9:25 am

How does Mark Richt rank.


September 13th, 2009
10:23 am

Way off base Fisher. You belittle the greats. Johnson may indeed turn out to be fabulous…and initial indications are that he is solid. However, let’s see a few years of consistent fabulous production at Tech before you call him one of the greatest.

David Granger

September 13th, 2009
10:27 am

Big Dawg fan here, superDawg, and I’ll give you my two cents’ worth in response to your questions about MR:

Coach Richt does two things very well. He’s an outstanding recruiter, even by Georgia standards. The state of Georgia produces a lot of athletic talent every year, and if you get…say…25% of the four and five-star recruits here…along with an occasional blue-chipper from outside the state (ala Matt Stafford from Texas, for exampe) you’ll have the basis for a strong team. Add to that an occasional Jr. College or three-star recruit to either fill a specific need or who looks like they might develop further, and the team should be pretty solid (talent-wise) year-in, and year-out. Coach Richt has done that, and I guess that’s the most important ability for a coach. Georgia should be a competitive team just about every year.

He also represents the university well. He’s a clean-cut, nice-looking guy…well-mannered…makes a good speech and says the right things. He talks about God a little too much, which can begin to sound a bit disingenuous. (I do think he’s sincere, just wish he’d tone it down a little because a little bit of that goes a LONG way.) Also, I think he’s respected and genuinely-liked by his peers.

And (to me), that pretty much concludes his positives. The negative…and it’s a big one, to me…is that he’s a very bad game coach. We do some real silly things on the field, at critical times.

Perfect example: Last week, against OSU, we were playing a team that is KNOWN for occasionally sneaking in a “quick snap”, to catch the defense unprepared…especially in short yardage situations. So you prepare your team for that, right? Yet…in the second half “crunch time”, when the game was being decided…OSU caught us with short-yardage quick snaps TWICE. Once getting a crucial first down, the other time getting an easy touchdown. And they didn’t do it by just out-powering a strong defense waiting for ‘em…instead, UGA was just standing there looking around, with half the players not even set.
And look at how many times UGA gets hurt when we blitz in critical third and long situations. I don’t know if we telegraph it, or if our short-middle coverage setup is poor, but it seems that at least three or four times a game we blitz…the opposing QB picks it up and hits his “safety valve” receiver slanting in right over the middle, and he runs for the first down because there’s nobody there…all the LBs are pass-rushing, and all the DBs are back deep. (The 13-yard TD pass yesterday to Brian Maddox that made the score 14-7 SC was…what else? A UGA blitz that Garcia picked up and hit his safety-valve, who strolled in for an easy TD.)

I like Coach Richt…but his one real negative is a big one.


September 13th, 2009
10:30 am

It’s a fine thing that the winners of the only two
all-ACC games this season will play this week, even if
it is one of those Thursday night games.


September 13th, 2009
10:43 am

furman is an old crud. Someone is posting his articles for him. This guy is stuck in his own world. Somebody should give him his meds and wheel him to the nearest retirement home.

He is out of touch his best days are behind him. AJC retire this SOB.


September 13th, 2009
10:57 am

Intelligent home section? Ha, only at Tech would the home fans shake their car keys in the air with 20 seconds left following Clemson’s incomplete 4th down throw. Or, consider the throngs of Tech fans that cussed the Athletic Department for hiring PJ because a Navy coach was not good enough for Tech.


September 13th, 2009
11:16 am

I’m always struck by the anonymous haters on these blogs. Furman is a fine writer, maybe the best sportswriter Georgia has ever seen. He’s also a good man.

The only consolation – when I see crude remarks aimed at Bisher – is realizing that these are made by meek and powerless people who have a chance, because this is anonymous, to act if they are tough. The little people of the world have found a way – for just an anonymous moment – to act as if they had earned power and respect.


September 13th, 2009
11:21 am

Furman, seriously…

It’s 2 games into the season…


Jesse Outlar

September 13th, 2009
11:23 am

Shouldn’t a coach need to win a conference much less a national title before you declare him the greatest you ever saw? You have lost your mind. You and Lou Holtz should hange ‘em up, you’re decades past your prime.

ND Alum

September 13th, 2009
3:02 pm

Great, Furman? And what one have to accomplish to achieve “greatness” in Bisher’s world. Win a NC in a lower division on a team built and handed to him by Erk Russell? (Chan Gailey won a lower division NC too.) Win 4 games in 6 years at Navy against teams with winning records? Not exactly the stuff of Dodd or Lombardi Furman. His greatest achievement so far is winning 9 games at Tech. (Chan Gailey did that too Furman) Paul Johnson has yet to play in an ACC championship game and you already annoint him as “great”? Furman your standards are way to low. By no measure does Paul Johnson pass the litmus test of greatness. Can you just wait until he actually does something of note Furman?

Hugh Folk

September 13th, 2009
3:45 pm

Those who insult others anonymously are cowards and are obviously ashamed to reveal their identities. Some of these comments are indecent. I will admit that Bisher asked for it. Surely he must understand by now that labeling a few coaches great will annoy those who admire a different bunch. To put someone with as short a record as Mr. Paul Johnson among the greats takes a lot of guts. No one can predict the future performance of anyone in any profession. Mr. Bisher has more experience at prediction than any of us, and his opinions deserve respect, not insults. Those who hire head coaches for million dollar jobs must predict future performance. They are nearly always wrong. Only a few stars will turn out to deserve the label of “great.” Coach Alec succeeded John Heisman, and never was accorded the fame of his predecessor. He had some great successes, such as the Rosebowl year, but that was his last real winning team for a decade. Every year there were alumni who wanted to fire him. That would have been a great mistake. He never had another national championship caliber team, but when he got Clint Castleberry and Eddie Prokop he had great success. He was demanding and respected. One day at practice in 1940 he was so disgusted with the guys that he walked over to where a group of us kids were messing around with a footall and tried to teach us how to play. In those days we judged coaches on their character, not their won-loss ratio. Good thing we did. When Dodd succeeded Coach Alec, he had no immediate success. Many people wanted to dump him, but the school hung on. The undefeated 1951 and 1952 teams were evidence of a greatness which few had predicted after his first few seasons. Today few coaches could survive the years of losses that Coaches Alex and Dodd overcame. Alumni are not nearly as patient as the school was in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I think it is demanding too much of Mr. Johnson that he join that handful of “greats” who led football factories to national championships. Tech is a university that strives to rank academically with UCBerkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Michigan that win more Nobel prizes than national championships. Harvard, Princeton and Yale that dominated the early years of college football have long retired to the football sidelines and will never again contest national championships. No one expects their coaches to be coach of the year ever again. I believe that demanding a Georgia Tech coach be “great” to be successful is absurd and demanding too much. If he teaches players character, effort, and indominable spirit he will be great (regardless of wins and losses) and Mr. Bisher’s prediction will turn out to be inspired. Check back in ten years or so to see if Mr. Johnson has met Mr. Bisher’s or even more stringent standards of greatness. .


September 13th, 2009
4:17 pm



September 13th, 2009
4:29 pm

Only time will tell about CPJ but it looks great so far. 11-4 in his first 15 games isn’t too sabby, now is it? A lot of coaches would take that. By the way, what’s CRM’s record during that time, 11-4. Granted the ACC isn’t all that right now but I do see definite signs of improvement. UM looks to be the real deal. UNC despite the showing yesterday to UC, they are on the rise and FSU will get it back real soon. GT and VT are the pack leaders right now. CPJ has definitely taken this team to a new level. Things are only going to get better. It’s finally great to be a Jacket fan again. GO JACKETS!!!!


September 13th, 2009
4:32 pm

You nitwits, Mr. Bisher simply voiced his opinion about whose games he enjoys watching. Try rereading the first paragraph. I don’t consider that he compared CPJ to these outstanding coaches, he was simply telling you a bit of his background, coaches that he has known (none of those listed are alive) and considering current day coaches, he enjoys watching CPJ coached games.

You dawg fans need to go back to your kindergarten school in Athens and learn to not only to read but to comprehend what you read..

“If I had to go to a football game — and I’ll say this with all honesty — I’d pick one in which Paul Johnson is coaching. This is not some overnight observation. This comes from a guy who has seen Neyland, Dodd, Blaik, Wade and Lombardi coach, not to mention having sat for hours with Bob Zuppke. You know, the guy who coached Red Grange at Illinois.”

By the way, your insults to Mr. Bisher show you to be the classless punks we always knew you to be. THWG


September 13th, 2009
5:17 pm

At least GT can beat the best team in South Caronlina. USCe is a doormat team, and it took University of Houston to beat OK State for you! UGA 7-5 season at best with loses to Ark,FL, LSU, and GT.

Joe Schmoe

September 13th, 2009
5:19 pm

And you wonder why UGA is ranked as some of the worst fans in NCAA football. Typical, and as well shameful!

Darn Truth

September 13th, 2009
5:24 pm

Furman,If you like watching gimmic football being played then Paul Johnson is your man as far as a coach is concerned. I don’t think he can coach any other kind of offense..he’s never proven he can.Tech has also not played any team yet this year that is better than average. They will lose at Miami next week…and at Fla. State and Va. Tech and on November 28th they will lose to Georgia by at least 17 points. Let’s face it the only great athletes that you will ever see playing at Grant field in the future will be those playing for the team Tech is playing. No athlete with his eye on the NFL will ever go to Tech and play in a gimmic offense.The Tech fans should have fun while they can because their team will lose when they begin to play against teams with coaches and athletes that are far superior than those found on the flats.


September 13th, 2009
5:30 pm

UHouston>OkState>UGA, never will win anything significant with CMR, and full of 5 star underachievers!

Darn Truth

September 13th, 2009
5:32 pm

I like guys!


September 13th, 2009
5:44 pm

Darn Truth, what an idiot. If our offense is such a gimmick then why did we win 9 games last year and beat UGA? I guarantee you we beat at least one and probably two of those teams you mentioned. Tech will fair well against VT with their start RB out and should take down FSU after what I’ve seen recently from them. I’m more concerned about us dropping a game to a team we shouldn’t. CPJ is a great coach and whether you see that or not is your problem. It’s people like you that make people at Tech hate UGA fans. Personally, I was one of the people actually congratulating you guys after your win last night, but no just keep on bringing the hate.


September 13th, 2009
5:44 pm

Anybody with a Johnson already has a leg up on me.


September 13th, 2009
6:04 pm

Hey GatorFan…If my memory serves me…a CMR coached team kicked the Gators a$$ the year before last and made your coach and QB cry. Have fun while you can..when boy wonder graduates this year we’ll see how goood your coach really is.I watch the Ole Miss win over Florida last year every chance I get….I love to watch Meyer cry!

John Davis

September 13th, 2009
6:15 pm

GTPAK, thank you. It’s amazing the reading skills the nadlickers have.