Johnson: ‘We’re not that far away’

If you’re thinking of getting Paul Johnson a Christmas gift, you might want to steer away from buying him a  suggestion box.

The Georgia Tech coach, in the midst of a season that has been a cocktail of disappointment and inferior play, isn’t in the market for advice.

“I’ve managed to survive for 34 years doing what I’m doing without getting fired and we’ve won a lot of games,” Johnson said on his Wednesday night radio show. “If I’m going to go down, I’m going to go down doing what I do and knowing what I know.”

The Yellow Jackets, whose season continues Saturday at Maryland, were expected to challenge for the ACC title and improve on their 8-5 season in 2011. Instead, they’ve stumbled. They’re 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the ACC, in danger of ending their bowl-game streak at 15 games and their 17-year streak of finishing .500 or better in conference games, an ACC record.

Tech has given up 40 points in four out of its past five games, a first in school history. The team has repeatedly faltered in crucial situations. If message boards and blogs can serve as a barometer – a proposal of questionable merit –  Johnson’s approval rating among fans is hurtling downward.

Fingers are being angrily pointed at recruiting, quarterback Tevin Washington and the defense, but mostly at Johnson. This week, from the platform provided him through his weekly news conference and his hour-long radio show, Johnson responded. His main contention was that Tech’s season isn’t that far from being considerably different. Tech has lost two games in overtime, to Virginia Tech and Miami, games that the Jackets led in the final minute of regulation. In Tech’s other ACC loss, to Clemson, Tech led in the fourth quarter before breaking down.

“If you win those two (overtime) games, you’re probably looking at a whole different scenario,” he said. “But if If’s and but’s were candy and nuts … we didn’t get it done. And sometimes that happens. I don’t think you panic and throw the baby out with the bathwater all because you didn’t (win).”

If the losses were by wide margins, “then you might be looking at wanting to make some changes in what you were doing and the way you were approaching and all that,” he said. “In my mind, anyway, we’re not that far away.”

Johnson offered no excuses for the 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State, saying the team “no-showed.” While acknowledging the Jackets played poorly in all three phases against BYU, which beat Tech 41-17 last Saturday, Johnson also asserted the Cougars are far better than their record indicated and are loaded with seniors.

To Johnson, Tech’s senior shortage has been part of the challenge. Six start and there are 12 total. By comparison, nine or 10 juniors will start Saturday and there are 23 on the roster. Johnson concedes that intensity has been an issue. With so few seniors, he said, “we have a hard time staying focused. The maturity level is probably not what you’d like all the time.”

It may not be a particularly satisfying explanation, and may even carry the whiff of an excuse to some. For what it’s worth, N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien gave validation to it this week.

“Some younger guys say, ‘I got one or two more years to play,’” O’Brien said. “There isn’t a sense of urgency when you don’t have a senior (heavy) football team, I think.”

One of those seniors is Washington, whom many want replaced in favor of backup Vad Lee. Tired of the abuse directed at him – Washington and the offense were booed after he threw a costly interception against BYU – Johnson said that he “is busting his tail doing everything he can for Georgia Tech.” Beyond that, he said, he has played Washington because he felt he has given the Jackets a better chance of winning.

“I see those guys every day we practice,” Johnson said. “I know there’s a lot of people that can do my job better than I can. I gotcha. I understand that. But pardon me if I’m not going to listen to everybody who tells me who I should be playing, what I should be doing.”

Perhaps earplugs would be a more useful gift.

In case you missed it…

Georgia Tech gameday

Isaiah Johnson simplifying, improving

Notes: Return home excites Attaochu

Johnson responds to critics

Washington, Lee keep relationship smooth

Tech scrambling to prepare for Maryland QB

On Tech ending its kick-return drought

Johnson says it’s not time to panic

Heisman biography offers revealing history

Notes: B-backs struggling to produce

Notes: Johnson mum on starting quarterback

Thanks for reading.

Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog

66 comments Add your comment

Ice eater 1969

November 3rd, 2012
12:00 am

I fell in to a burning ring of fire—- down down down. The only cure for this fever is Blitz blitz blitz be aggressive and the sky is the limit

GT Alum

November 3rd, 2012
12:21 am

Yeah, but those 2 teams he’s saying we could’ve beat, they’re 4-5 and 5-4. The one that’s got a losing record’s losses have all been by at least 13 points, and the one with a winning record has been on the wrong side of a couple of beatdowns. If you’re going to qualify the BYU loss by saying they’re a really good team, you have to qualify that winning those 2 games wouldn’t be particularly impressive wins, especially since that would push their records down to 3-6 and 4-5.

If we had won those games, we’d have a good shot at being bowl eligible or already be bowl eligible (assuming not absorbing those losses would’ve lead to a better showing against MTSU), but I’d still be worried about our chances against UGA (sic), FSU and any bowl opponent. Just because the division is down doesn’t mean we should be content with playing down to the rest of the division’s level.

I really don’t think CPJ grasps the concept that this is a higher level of football than Navy and that the expectations here are higher as far as results on the football field. For us, just barely being bowl eligible should be considered a bad season, and we expect to be capable of competing on a national scale. Not necessarily competing for a national championship regularly, although being in that mix occasionally would be nice, but being able to play and beat nationally ranked teams.


November 3rd, 2012
12:23 am

it’s mostly disappointing because we had high expectations for this team: senior led ol, senior qb & b back, highly thought of defensive players finally getting used to ag’s 34.
to top that off, only a couple of plays from being 5 – 0.
but no more what if’s. time to put up. i’m with cpj. i like his offense (even thou he seems to have become a little stale).


November 3rd, 2012
12:31 am

Tevin is making A LOT more freshman mistakes than Vad Lee. No offense coach, but what games are you watching? I don’t give a damn about practice and effort unless you tell me Vad Lee is not working at getting better. Just that Tevin is working hard does not make up for the massive gap in talent. Sorry, but yes, I think I know more about who should start than you if you are going to put a scouted 2 star QB, that has proven in games to be a 2 star QB ahead of a 4 star player of the year in South Carolina, proven gamer. You are stubborn to a serious fault coach, don’t give a da** if you like it either. You are wrong for a long list of obvious reasons. Get past your ego and think what is best for GT as a program.

GT Alum

November 3rd, 2012
12:32 am

Well, and I (and other fans) obviously think this team’s inability to close games is a bigger deal than he does. And the fact that he doesn’t seem to have any explanation for it worries me even more. If he could point to insufficient conditioning or lack of depth that’s causing players to be tired and make mistakes or play lazy, that would be something to try to address. From his comments, it sounds like he thinks it’s something mental. That in itself is disturbing, too. That was his explanation for 2010 as well. And once things starting going badly (and we started playing better teams) last year, we pretty much hit the skids as well. Is a lack of focus and mental toughness becoming a characteristic of this program?

Golden White

November 3rd, 2012
12:32 am

No. The sky is not falling at Georgia Tech. I am glad that Dan Radakovich
is gone. He alone was the one responsible for GT having to forfeit the 2009
ACC Championship. And I think the fine [ $ 100,000 ] should have come out
of his pocket. He was clearly told what was coming and to keep his mouth
shut. The player in question had the clothing, price tags still intact. He could
of have given them to the investigator and it would have been over. Of all of
the good things DRad did, he blew it over $320 worth of clothing. What in the
hell was he thinking ? And who let him off the hook ?

I don’t think Paul Johnson was a bad hire. Now it’s his players and his staff
that are in place. I am not happy with the way this year has turned out. But I
am not ready to jump on the bandwagon with all of the naysayers. I was
handed a cup of the kool ade but I did not drink it. This time next year better
be better than this. You see, lo these many years, my cup of kool ade has


November 3rd, 2012
12:33 am

If he doesn’t start Vad for the last home game he may get booed out of BDS. The fans know what they see. Washington’s time has come and gone. Maybe CPJ’s has too.

GT Alum

November 3rd, 2012
12:42 am

Oh, and for the record, I’ve been a CPJ supporter up until lately, and I actually like his offense and think when it’s run properly with the right personnel, it’s highly effective. The problem here isn’t with the offense, it’s with a lack of execution in all 3 phases of the game.

And as far as the QB controversy, there’s a pretty clear pattern of when we play better quality opponents, Washington gets stymied. I’m not questioning his heart or knowledge of or ability to execute the offense, but when you watch him and Vad play against a good team, it’s pretty clear that Washington doesn’t have the natural talent to play with those teams and Vad does.

Houlihan McGee

November 3rd, 2012
1:13 am

One obvious reason AMG might be wrong…Vad Lee is from North Carolina


November 3rd, 2012
1:48 am

What else can the man say? He’s being attacked relentlessly by fans, alumni, media, and folks that have no affiliation with Tech but think his offense is outdated and no longer relevant. However, I do think we as fans and alumni need to keep the pressure on him. I think CPJ likes the criticism. I believe he relishes and lives to prove people wrong. Nothing surprises me with this man, and that is why I still believe he is right for Georgia Tech.

GT Alum

November 3rd, 2012
2:59 am

gtkenz -

He can just acknowledge that this team has displayed serious flaws this season and hasn’t achieved what they’re capable of and give an indication that he has a clue what the problem is and how to fix it, instead of giving the impression he doesn’t know what’s wrong and trying to sugarcoat the results by saying we came close to beating a couple of mediocre at best teams. I’d feel a lot better about our football program if I didn’t get the feeling that our coach is deluding himself to think this team has played better than it has and doesn’t really have a plan for how to address the issues. I would think at least some of the heat would come off him.

It’d also be different if this hadn’t happened just 2 years ago. That team was about the same as this one, and he didn’t seem to have any idea how to fix the issues with that team either, although he at least seemed more willing to acknowledge the team’s issues and didn’t make as many excuses.

But I don’t know if it’s ego or if he’s just gotten so tired of his offense being questioned that he’s developed a defensive and even combative attitude, but he doesn’t seem to think he has to answer to anyone. If he keeps losing to UGA (sic), losing bowl games and posting .500 or below seasons, eventually the fans and alums that he’s dismissing will get him before long. And if he gets fired from Tech, I’m not sure he ever gets another shot at a BCS-level program. It’ll be used as proof that he’s not capable of winning at this level, and an AD will have to have some serious guts to hire him, as he’ll face massive criticism from the time Johnson is even rumored as a candidate.

HSV Jacket

November 3rd, 2012
3:15 am

CPJ may not be that far away from the unemployment line …


November 3rd, 2012
4:11 am

I’ve wondered what other head coaches would be saying (and doing) if deep into a similar season. Saban, Miles, Belichick, Smith….??

The admitted lack of team/player intensity and focus is inexcusable on all parties, from the AD to the water guy. It’s and indictment on leadership and cuts to the very core of the team. Absolutely unacceptable in any organization, much less a D-1 college athletic team. This is about attitude, not athleticism.


November 3rd, 2012
5:43 am

I support this team, but I don’t see Tech winning another game this season. The defensive unit is on CPJ. The offensive line is on CPJ. Special teams is on CPJ.The new AD won’t change anything for a couple of years, so CPJ is safe for now.

Bored in Newnan

November 3rd, 2012
6:32 am

Hey Ken, how about actually researching and writing a story about Ga. Tech once in a while instead of constantly using press conference quotes to fill your report. Are you just that lazy, or are they not paying you enough to care about the quality of your work? My 4th grader could do a better job than the weak product you typically post.

Ice eater 1969

November 3rd, 2012
6:57 am

Ken ! Love your posts keep it up.

this could be 1968, 1973, 1986, 1995, 2002

November 3rd, 2012
7:33 am

Regardless of what year, since 1955, GT fans have been having this same conversation. GT has been irrelevant in big boy football since the early to mid 1950s. Remove 7 or 8 decent to great seasons, GT has been fair to just awful, like this year and last year and will be next year.

GT could switch to Div 1 ball and play Bill & Mary, Samford, Citadel, and rival up with Furman and Bowling Green, and Rice and win a good % of them.

Problem solved.

Lark Richter

November 3rd, 2012
7:40 am

CPJ must be lousy, the head guy in Athens stomps him like a rented mule and this year, as they ready up for the FIGHT OF HE CENTURY in the Dome with Alabama, UGA will pistol whip his Yellow Jackets.

1 win and 5 whippings vs UGA. THERE GOES EALEY.THERE GOES KING. Woosh! Woosh!



November 3rd, 2012
7:42 am

Wouda, Couda, Shouda….Horse shoes and handgrenades…. Ifs and butts—-missed it by >< that much!!!!

This guy is worse than a spoilled 4 year old!!!!!!

William Casey

November 3rd, 2012
7:42 am

@BORED IN NEWNAN: Your interesting insights? Most real GT fans here appreciate Ken’s work.

What happened to ?

November 3rd, 2012
7:45 am

remember that chant ” there s a new sheriff in town”? Ah, h, hahaha aha

There will be a new GT football coach in town as soon as the new AD comes on board.

GT football is going into a very dark period in their sad and very, very long ago history of notable football, dating to the 1950s.

Bored in Newnan

November 3rd, 2012
7:57 am

“Real” GT fans? That requires definition, William. Since you seem to be the judge and guardian of all things GT Real, maybe you should just tell how I should think.

Were not that far away?

November 3rd, 2012
8:19 am

[...] this could cause a man to drink a lot. Maybe CPJ is correct but as I said, I have heard this before.Johnson: ‘We’re not that far away’ | Georgia Tech Reply With [...]

Big Ol Stinger

November 3rd, 2012
8:19 am

Maybe you haven’t noticed that newspapers are dying. The AJC doesn’t have any reporters that research, and do in depth sports reporting anymore. Those days are long gone. Now they have a couple of columnists to offer their opinions (Shultz and Bradley). The rest are “blogs”, which are sort of half assed journalism.

Ken does bring a lot of factual content to his blogs, and he does a great job with it in my opinion.

If you don’t like it, don’t read it. I suspect you and your fourth graders time would be better spent over on the poodle blog.

Oh and What happened to?, interesting that Tech has a more recent MNC than UGA huh? 1990. Although I do agree there seems to be a dark period coming.

Supersize that order, mutt

November 3rd, 2012
8:21 am

What is Coach Paul Johnson smoking? Even if we eek out a win vs. a linebacker QB, Coach should still be fired on Monday.


November 3rd, 2012
8:23 am

I will simply say that CPJ should go. He is a terrible coach. I am sure some will argue as usual, but recruiting is a huge part of being a college coach and he is horrible at it. Hiring assistants is a huge part and he is horrible at it. Motivating players – horrible. In my opinion; as an OC he is also horrible. You might disagree with the last point, but I don’t think anyone can argue the others.

Big Ol Stinger

November 3rd, 2012
8:32 am

How many screen names you going to use/steal today? Dork.

Or, as Bill Parcells always says...

November 3rd, 2012
8:36 am

…you are what your record says you are…

AMG is obviously GT Joe...

November 3rd, 2012
8:39 am

…and Vad is from NORTH Carolina…


November 3rd, 2012
8:39 am

When Tech is winning everybody is happy! When they’re losing ain’t nobody happy! Tech has overachieved when it wins for the most part because it doesn’t have the talent level to compete with the Big Boys. YOu can only go so far with two and three star recruits. It is what it is! Go Tech!


November 3rd, 2012
8:44 am

Agree JetBuzz, when a team plays without enthusiam, intensity, and focus, the coaching staff must shoulder the blame. Many other college teams are playing without a senior laden lineup and seem to find a way to eliminate mistakes and play 4 quarters with intensity. CPJ’s record for the last 14 games is awful. I give him credit for making trhe Groh change, but the bottom line is winning football games. He is getting paid a lot of bucks to win games and his team is underperforming.


November 3rd, 2012
8:46 am

Don’t blame Johnson. When you have a team that averages 33 points per game, you shouldn’t be 3-5.

uh nameless idiot ...

November 3rd, 2012
8:48 am

You’re back?

uh nameless idiot ...

November 3rd, 2012
8:49 am

Tehran: we average 29.7 offensive points per game vs. fbs opponents, ranking us #42, against the #76 schedule. Not good enough.

GT Joe

November 3rd, 2012
8:51 am

Its amazing how aD2 qb makes the talent level of the whole team look like garbage.

Jacket Dad

November 3rd, 2012
9:08 am

Have tried to support Johnson and understand his comments this week. However, our record is not who was ahead in the 3rd or 4th quarter – it’s when the final seconds tick off.

To the players, we support you. Although our comments here and boos at the game may indicated otherwise, it’s because we are passionate. Personally, I don’t care as much about wins and losses as having team that shows up every week to give it their all and plays all 4 quarters.

To Coach Johnson, I think you do have a wealth of experience and have had some success with helping our guys overachieve, but the trend is definitely downward. I don’t want you to fail. I want you to adjust as all great coaches do to the situations and personnel.

To Ken, you do a great job. Although GT is at times given limited coverage due to us living in dog-land, you consistently bring a good product. I for one fan appreciate that very much.

Freddie Blassie

November 3rd, 2012
9:32 am

You pencil neck bed wetters calling for Johnson’s scalp do not know squat and are a bunch of Brendas. Johnson has not missed a block or tackle all season. Your grand daddy might have played pee wee football so that provides your pedigree to hire and fire football coaches?!
You gals are the same ones who hailed the hiring of the quitter Bill Curry and the bust, Bill Lewis. The best Tech coach, Bobby Ross, had one win his first year.
Take a long look at what would happen if Tech started over with a new football coach today. A new offensive system and a football coach in the mold of Paul Hewitt would mean seven years in the wilderness and remorse over losing a coach like Paul Johnson. Tech can still have a great season if we win our last regular season game.


November 3rd, 2012
9:32 am

@GT Alum – Well said and @Jacket Dad – Ditto

Win when you should, beat a better team every once and awhile (aka UGA) and win a bowl game at least every other year. Ugly wins over bad teams don’t make you a quality program and that’s what we aspire to be.


November 3rd, 2012
9:36 am

We are stuck with pj regardless because of the money problems at tech largely due to our last two ads. The way I see it, our only chance is if coach changes the offense to something that better suits our qb (assuming it will be lee). Spread it out like Oregon, Michigan, or west va. Otherwise, we will continue our downward spiral… At least until our finances are such that we can make a coaching change.

Go Jackets

November 3rd, 2012
9:39 am

Where’s your faith?
Keyboard coaches know it all!
I wonder why they’re sitting on their backside while Coach Johnson is getting 2M.
He’s doing a good job with what he has to work with.
There are few majors at Tech for football players.
We’ll start winning today and continue through a bowl game!
Good momentum going into next year!
We’ll finish 6-6 (maybe 7-5)and go to a bowl!

wrecked again and again

November 3rd, 2012
9:54 am

41-17, 49-28 , 47-31 this is close? Vad Lee could be the next Johnny Unitas (he’s not) but who would he throw to? Pj would be one helluva used car salesman.


November 3rd, 2012
10:03 am

Almost time for everyone to put their headsets on and call some plays! For those of you calling the defense and special teams coverage, tell them to tackle, please! Give ‘em hell.

GT Joe

November 3rd, 2012
10:10 am

If CPJ can’t judge the talent difference between vad and Tevin, he should be fired. If CPJ can’t separate practice performance from game day performance, he should be fired. he might see these guys every day at practice, but we see them every GAME day. He can’t get our best talent on the field (snoddy, days, lee). Come on. Stubbornness is the mans downfall.


November 3rd, 2012
10:11 am

I’m afraid there will not be enough light bulbs on the scoreboard in Athens when the clock hits 0. Mark Richt to Paul Johnson….”Who’s your daddy?”

William Casey

November 3rd, 2012
10:14 am

@Doooley: you are an embarassment to your nickname.

Home Crowd

November 3rd, 2012
10:16 am

Vad will start against UNC (b/c it’s in his home town) but Washington will start today at UM w/ alternating drives w/ Lee. Washington starts the last home game at BDS b/c of Senior Day…. Against UGA….who cares….we’ll get killed either way at this rate.

William Casey

November 3rd, 2012
10:20 am

@BORED: No, you’re probably just 17 years old. I’ve never seen you post anything insightful or interesting. Ken gives us the best coverage we’ve had at the AJC in over 20 years.

Veteran Fan

November 3rd, 2012
10:47 am

This is a very young team that is playing a lot of sophomores and freshmen! Let us remember two things. Before the season most reasonable fans believed that we were a year away from a really good season. Second, the September games would decide our fate good or bad. Well it happened and our young players are learning and getting a lot of experience. We will be fine and should finish strong! I will be there in two weeks to cheer them on as there is nothing better than a fall afternoon in Grant Field supporting the Yellow Jackets! THWG!


November 3rd, 2012
10:57 am

Supersize that order, mutt
November 3rd, 2012
8:21 am

What is Coach Paul Johnson smoking? Even if we eek out a win vs. a linebacker QB, Coach should still be fired on Monday.

You are obviously a “name-thief” because the real Supersize has his head too far up CMV’s (Coach Moral Victory’s) keister to ever make any comments like those above.

BTW, according to the computer polls (Sagarin) we are the 81st ranked team and have gone 3-5 vs. the 90th ranked schedule thus far.

For comparison, in the same computer poll Muttville is the 15th ranked team and have gone 7-1 vs. the 38th ranked schedule thus far, with their remaining teams it won’t go up unless they win out and make it to the SEC-CG.

What would GT’s record be if we had played the 38th toughest schedule thus far?



If GT had played schedules ranked in the 30s instead of the high 60s & 70s each yr. maybe CPJ would have already been fired by now.


November 3rd, 2012
11:04 am

Mr. Casey, there are only 2 o’s not 3 in my nickname. Go back and watch Count von Count on Sesame Street for a refresher course.