Johnson has no reason to leave Tech for Notre Dame

Paul Johnson has been an immediate success at Tech, and that makes him attractive to other schools. (Johnny Crawford/jcrawford@ajc.com)

Paul Johnson's immediate success has caught the attention of other schools. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Sports writers have a reputation for being cynical. I have no problem with that. The first high school football game I covered 33 years ago, the losing coach said, “Either we’re the worst football team in the league or I’m the worst coach.”

The next day, he denied it. Called me a liar. Eventually, he came clean. I felt like Bob Woodward. But it follows that every interview since has to pass through a trust filter. And when a coach says,  “I’m not taking another job,” my first reaction is, “Did you ever coach at Hamilton High School?”

But I’m going out on a limb here: I believe Paul Johnson. He says he is happy and looking to stay at Georgia Tech, possibly forever. He says he is different, that his ego does not lead him through the marquee job classifieds like so many others. And when he says it, his nose doesn’t grow.

Johnson’s work at Tech is getting national recognition. There’s an obvious ripple effect. He gets mentioned for other potential jobs. Like Notre Dame. When the Irish lost to Navy on Saturday, it might have cemented Charlie Weis’ future, to say nothing of his shoes.  At least one publication has included Johnson on a list of five potential replacements.

Tech has dealt with this before. Johnson’s name surfaced as a candidate at Auburn last year.

“I had an opportunity to leave last year — and for a lot more money,” he said, not naming the school. “But for me, it’s not all about that. I’ve always tried to look at like: Where would I like to live? Where does my family want to live.? That’s always been more important to me than the name brand of where you’re coaching.”

So a major job like Notre Dame wouldn’t be enticing?

“I just don’t think like that,” he said. “People might say, ‘Oh he’s full of crap.’ But really, I don’t. I mean, it doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it did when I was younger.”

When asked about the Notre Dame rumors, Tech athletics director Dan Radakovich said the school “will do everything within our power to keep Paul Johnson. I think we have shown that over the last two years and have created a very positive working relationship. Notre Dame is a great school. We happen to think Georgia Tech is a pretty great place, too.”

Understand something. While Tech is becoming a brand name itself, Notre Dame is bigger. Any coach who restores the Irish to an elite program becomes elite himself. Also rich. North Avenue just can’t compete with South Bend in stature or dollars.

But why would Johnson leave now? The Jackets are closing in on an ACC championship game berth in only his second season. The program is positioned to compete for conference titles, and therefore BCS bowls, every year. When asked if he could accomplish everything he wants to at Tech, Johnson said, “Sure. Would it be harder? Maybe. But I don’t know why you couldn’t.”

He stayed at Georgia Southern five years. He stayed at Navy six. He had offers to leave both earlier. When Radakovich phoned, Johnson spoke with his family, and they concluded it was now or never. He liked the Atlanta area, the school and the A.D.

“I thought I could win a championship here,” he said. “And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I had been listening about how the offense wouldn’t work for so long that I was like, ‘OK, I guess I’ll have to show you.’ ”

He understands the perceptions that there are bigger jobs.  But, “As long as I feel like I have the trust of people where I’m at, and people are doing what they can to move the program along, not throwing obstacles in your path, I’m fine. That’s usually why you move. Or you just want another challenge. When I was at Georgia Southern, honestly, I could’ve stayed there forever. The program was on autopilot. I played golf at the country club. But something about Navy piqued my curiosity. And it was the same thing, people saying, ‘You can’t win there.’”

He is showing you can win at Georgia Tech. There’s no reason to leave now.

624 comments Add your comment

ratherBgambling

November 10th, 2009
2:52 pm

The coach from Cinn will be the next HC at ND

Gdawg

November 10th, 2009
2:54 pm

Maybe he should try South Carolina if he wants to show he can win where others could not. On second though, as a dog fan, I’d prefer that he try ND.

sharecropper

November 10th, 2009
2:54 pm

You know, sooner or later maybe the paranoia of unaccustomed success will wear off Tech message boarders and we will cinch up for the ride.But, fans being fans, probably not.

mike

November 10th, 2009
2:54 pm

maybe cause they are top 10, had a beautiful weather day sat and a 3:30 pm kickoff and there were thousands of empty seats in the house, thats why. the tech fan/base is a joke, the stadium is a joke and the acc is a joke.

Buzz Belle

November 10th, 2009
2:55 pm

PLEASE, PLEAE, PLEASE keep him at Ga. Tech!!!!!

JB

November 10th, 2009
2:56 pm

As a dawg fan, I’ll hate that he’ll stay, but also a little glad. He’s a great coach. He is 100% positive proof that Coaching does make a difference. We are in a flux in Athens at the moment. The dawgs problem is themselves, not Paul Johnson. He has taken care of business at Tech. I hope Damon makes sure we do the right thing in Athens to restore winning.

Andrew

November 10th, 2009
2:56 pm

FIRST! As a tech student, I would love nothing more than for Paul Johnson to stay here forever. Everyone here loves him as our coach.

Brock Lesner

November 10th, 2009
2:57 pm

Would Notre Dame really want another Tech coach? Last one didn’t work out so well.

Buzz Belle

November 10th, 2009
2:57 pm

Mike – does it infuriate you that you have a bigger stadium, have more money, have more “star” athletes and you still can’t get over the fact you are second in the state? THWG

traler trash

November 10th, 2009
2:57 pm

we gonna come drag PJ to athens after we git rid of pretty boy

The Grinch

November 10th, 2009
2:58 pm

I’m a Dawg for life, but I have much respect for Coach Johnson. That said, I really miss Chan Gailey.

BJohnDawg

November 10th, 2009
2:58 pm

No reason for him to leave. Doing a great job at Tech. Has found a home. He should just work them for some more cash.

cpwood

November 10th, 2009
2:59 pm

Gone!!!Maybe not this year…but soon.. It boils down to the $$$. Which GT does not have.

GTAnchorage

November 10th, 2009
3:02 pm

If were such a joke, mike, then why are you looking through Georgia Tech stories to find somewhere to bash Tech. Are you too bored with your fading puppies? Or are you jealous that we have a team that is starting to see success?

atlkeith

November 10th, 2009
3:04 pm

Jeff, you typed “But something about Navy peaked by curiosity”? hate to be one of those guys, but dont you mean ‘piqued my curiosity’

BugKiller

November 10th, 2009
3:04 pm

Sorry Jeff, but if the Dawgs do the right thing and part ways with our current coach who is more interested in the welfare of his best friend as opposed to his program and then hire Brian Kelly, who is a man willing to make the hard decisions needed to compete with Meyer, Miles, Saban, and even KIFFIN (something Mark Richt is unable and unwilling to do), then this creates a ripple effect.

Why a ripple effect? Because EVERYONE with an ounce of common sense knows Notre Lame’s first choice is Kelly.

Signing Kelly to replace the gutless coach in Athens who treats his coaching staff like a ten year-old treats his tree house (best friends only, no matter how horrible you are) would mean that Notre Lame’s next two candidates would be the head coaches at Georgia’s biggest rivals.

Urban Liar and Paul Johnson.

Now, Urban WILL sign with Notre Lame if he, not Bama wins another MNC. What does he have to lose? His bust is minted for the CFHOF with three MNCs. Plus, Teblow is gone. Why not try and restore his “dream job” back to their 1940’s glory (when they actually EARNED their huzzahs instead of being given them by the media, as they were the next 65 years or so).

If Urban loses to Bama, it makes it a tougher choice for him, but Teblow is still leaving, so he still might say yes.

If he says no, there is NO WAY Paul Johnson is turning down Notre Lame. Notre Lame made the option offense the standard in college football for years. This is the home of the Four Horsemen. You don’t think Paul Johnson would be salivating, thinking about how he could recreate the Four Horsemen with his offense? An offense that would be perfect for Notre Lame’s recruiting difficulties?

So, if Damon Evans has a spine, or if Adams forces him to, and Georgia does the right thing by firing Mark Richt, who lost the moral authority to run our program the second he put his best friend Willie Martinez ahead of the best interests of the program, and then hires Brian Kelly, a man who is not afraid to hold players AND coaches ACCOUNTABLE (accountability: something missing in Athens since BVG left), it will cripple one of our two biggest rivals.

Unfortunately, this will never happen. There is a slight possibility if we finish 6-6, an even bigger possibility if we finish 6-7, and it better happen if we finish 5-7.

Axe Mark Richt. Hire Brian Kelly. Watch as Notre Lame cripples one of your two biggest rivals.

A dream to help Bulldog Nation sleep a little better at night under the nightmare known as the Martinez-Richt Years.

GTAnchorage

November 10th, 2009
3:05 pm

By the way, CPJ gets paid 2.3 million which I think is plenty of money for a person who says that its not about that. I think Tech can provide enought money to keep him around for a while.

kate gosselin

November 10th, 2009
3:05 pm

Jeff Schultz I’m not ever speaking to you again. Don’t even try.

Paul Johnson has got to be one of the most, if not the most, sought after coaches in CFB.

JB

November 10th, 2009
3:06 pm

cpwood…….I don’t think so…..They will come up with the money ( although it won’t be through ticket sales). They are winning, and the fan base is not local, so they do not sell out. But, they can come up with 3 or so mil, especially after they pay off Gailey. I think he feels he can be dominant in the ACC and he’s a Southern boy. I agree, I think he hangs around. He’s also at a place where 10-2 keeps you employed forever.

GTAnchorage

November 10th, 2009
3:08 pm

BugKiller, go to a ugay forum to talk about firing your head coach. We don’t care about what you have to say here.

Nativebird

November 10th, 2009
3:09 pm

“I had an opportunity to leave last year – and for a lot more money,” he said, not naming the school. “But for me, it’s not all about that.”

…Bull. It’s always about the Money, and if ND or anyone else offers a high enough number..he WILL go.

GT45

November 10th, 2009
3:09 pm

Mike, There were fewer empty seats than last year, and last year was fewer than the previous year. One thing for sure-he is his own man, and will do dang well what he wants. If he wants to rebuild our program, he will. No Doubt! You best hope he goes. As for myself, and every Tech fan I know, we hope he retires here. Go Jackets-

Steve

November 10th, 2009
3:09 pm

Paul Johnson is a very good coach. I personally think he needs to hire Willie Martinez as either his Defensive Coordinator or Recruiting Director! :)

Glad

November 10th, 2009
3:10 pm

Jeff–you did mean “berth” when you wrote “The Jackets are closing in on an ACC championship game birth in only his second season,” right?

Chuck

November 10th, 2009
3:14 pm

I certainly hope that Tech can keep Coach Johnson in place for awhile. Then, if the head coach in Athens continues to sacrifice the quality of his team for the loyalty to his assistants, maybe the Dawgs can make a run at him. I guarantee the SEC would have no answer for THAT offense. UGA last year and Vanderbilt this year looked absolutely helpless.

JB

November 10th, 2009
3:14 pm

Richt is safe for next year, EVEN if he keeps Willie. But, if he keeps him and next year is a repeat, with a third lose to Tech and another lose to Florida, there will be a new man in Athens the year after.
I think Richt talks Damon/Adams to “let me fix it next year’, and based on ALL our holes next year, he doesn’t, Richt will be gone. Now, I don’t want this, but I don’t see anything this year OR next to right this ship with this staff and a green RF QB. Sorry.

SimpleDawg

November 10th, 2009
3:14 pm

PJ’s ego is what drives him, and will be what leads him to a bigger name some day. Notre Dame could be enticing, but I don’t see them pursuing PJ.

But believe this – PJ is very egocentric….and it makes him snap when things don’t go to suit him….that’s when his mouth loses it’s filter, and he says those petulant things like a child throwing a temper tantrum.

When everything is going well, he friendly as a puppy, but when things go bad….he snaps like an inbred Doberman.

Still…he is a very good football coach….just beware on those Doberman days.

jacket90

November 10th, 2009
3:15 pm

If it is about money, then go. However, Tech has the potential, under CPJ, to be great again (not good, not once-in-a-while okay, but great). Go to Notre Dame, and you’re just another coach trying to turn them around. Stay here, and you could end up with big buildings named after you.

just thinking...

November 10th, 2009
3:15 pm

Quick! Somebody pad his resume’

GT4Life

November 10th, 2009
3:15 pm

Just to clear the air about this myth:

We’ve had over 50,000 (in about a 55,000 person stadium at a school that has 15,000 students) at the following games this year:
Wake Game – 51,000
VT Game – 54,500
UNC Game – 50,500
Clemson Game – 52,000

JB

November 10th, 2009
3:15 pm

that’s loss to Tech

Ga Tech Old Timer

November 10th, 2009
3:16 pm

I think the bottom line of Jeff’s blog is the – Coach Johnson is a man of his word. He’s “cut from a different cloth” as we old timers say. His words and actions speak for themselves every Saturday. He is a man of integrity. He doesn’t get caught up in the hype of everything going on around him as his program rises to the top. He doesn’t need the accolades heaped on him – what makes him happy are wins and gaining the respect of coaches, players and fans. He enjoys the challenge of rebuilding the foundation of a football program long depressed and in disarray for many seasons and many reasons. Life is simple for Coach Johnson and he enjoys it that way – X’s and O’s – draw a play in the dirt – out think the opponent on both sides of the ball – grit it out – and play smash mouth ball. We haven’t known him long but we quickly learned to respect him as a person and a coach. He’s said one of us – and there’s no reason to believe otherwise.

GT4Life

November 10th, 2009
3:17 pm

SimpleDawg, didn’t you get enough bashes in on the other GT story? Wow, you are a sad sad man. Do you just cruise through all GT stories and write the most negative things that come to your mind? He was on this one too guys: http://blogs.ajc.com/georgia-tech-sports/2009/11/10/cpj-wants-a-playoff-system/

Paul's Johnson

November 10th, 2009
3:18 pm

Two typos in one column for Schultz = too many martinis at lunch.

jsmuga

November 10th, 2009
3:19 pm

They want Meyer not Johnson………

bap

November 10th, 2009
3:20 pm

Well here’s another proofreading note….that would be championship game BERTH, not birth!

Sunshine

November 10th, 2009
3:21 pm

Only doggies wish he would leave. CPJ is like the dark shadow over Athens right now, and doggies dont know how to react. I dont think the really big programs would even risk going TO, and if CPJ can accomplish everything he wants here, why would he move. No way he does a lateral move anyways from GT to a program such as Aub… No trade off.

SadDawg

November 10th, 2009
3:22 pm

There’s nothing Tech can do if the Irish offers PJ the job, same as just about every other school in the NCAA. A coach like PJ knows what he could accomplish there. Nothing against Tech, cause he could win a title there with luck and a great team. But at ND, though unfairly, just being pretty good would get you in contention for the title game annually.

Nativebird

November 10th, 2009
3:23 pm

…oh, and if you believith in Him (CPJ), He will wipe away all your sins and transgressions…as He is the 2nd coming, as it was fortold by our Lord (Pepper Rodgers).
He will cure cancer as well.

SadDawg

November 10th, 2009
3:23 pm

And yes, as a UGA fan, I hope he gets that offer!

wiley

November 10th, 2009
3:23 pm

He makes 2.3 million a year…more than all but one ACC head coach…Bobby Bowden. Auburn is only paying Gene Chizik 1.9 million. Charlie Weis makes 3-4 million (exact amount with held due to ND being a private school) a year. All these people who say he will leave for money are just wrong….PJ may leave one day if he thinks he has nothing left to accomplish. He is a program builder….not a coach. Look at Navy…they are having great success even though PJ is gone and I think in his time here he will instill a winning tradition that hasn’t been seen since Dodd and Heisman coached at Tech. He knows that you can win national championships at tech and you can get top athletes here at Tech. Georgia Tech is a FBS school in a BCS conference…PJ knows the grass is not greener anywhere else. Go Jackets!

Jackette

November 10th, 2009
3:24 pm

Jeff,

forget “Rudy” and “Everybody’s All-American”, this coach at GT is on the way to the biggest success story this country will ever see. Less than 5 star talent (according to so-called experts) and playing an offense that the “big boys” and know-it-alls say cannot work. This is a blockbuster movie waiting to happen. Maybe the AJC writers would like to get in on that.

CPJ isn’t looking for another college football challenge if he can win a NC at GT. Maybe if that is accomplished, CPJ might take to the pro level at some point if an NFL owner would like to try it.

The money can come in other ways. All the money in the world hasn’t help Notre Dame out in the last few years. And look at Auburn, big deal, GT beat Auburn with Reggie Ball for God’s sake.

petewrigley

November 10th, 2009
3:24 pm

If he leaves, can Tech claim intellectual property on his offense?

juvenal

November 10th, 2009
3:25 pm

i heard there were lots of empties for tenn-tech-is it better if they were paid for? also, since the degree thing, it’s notre shame-their subway alum base is a lot smaller-go Eagles!

Mike S

November 10th, 2009
3:25 pm

Sorry, if ND came knocking CPJ would be gone in quicker than an ice cream cone in July. You don’t turn down a chance to coach the ‘premier’ job in the nation. I quote premier because, as someone stated above, ND really hasn’t been ‘premier’ for half a century, but the myth is there and the man who returns ND to glory will be listed among the greats forever. just the way it is.

Now, if CPJ actually does turn down the Irish, I will be quite impressed. he has done a magnificent job with GT and has showed that his offence will work in major college football. He is the best thing to happen to Tech since Eddie Lee Ivory juked and danced for 300+ yds.

As a Dawg fan, i would love to see him go, but him staying is good for both schools. I am glad to see him bring the Jackets back to respectability, and I look forward to the UGA-GT rivalry becoming a back and forth slobberknocker instead of the dominance of the past 30-40 years. Georgia deserves two top notch programs, and GT deserves every accolade they are getting right now.

Of course, my hope is Urban Crier takes the ND job.

SadDawg

November 10th, 2009
3:26 pm

Myer won’t leave UF for anything less than a NFL job.

james

November 10th, 2009
3:26 pm

hahaha – “he doesnt think like that huh?” then why did he leave navy for ga tech? it was a better job – more money, more recognition, better recruits, etc. why would he leave ga tech for notre dame? see answer above.
they want his offense, its gimmicky enough to win in south bend. they’ll offer him more money and a chance to no longer be the second program in his state/region (sorry tech fans, it is what it is). id place money on him leaving right now if i could.

JB

November 10th, 2009
3:27 pm

One thing that could make CPJ look elsewhere. These kids ( all of them) are getting tougher to get and keep in school, the SEC and the ACC. Tech brags about their academic status, although I heard Reggie Ball speak after four year at Tech, and no, I don’t think he ever crossed a classroom threshold or learned a thing. some schools are easier, have broader fields of study. If he loses some kids over time, he might listen at a less stringent school.

gdawginkalamazoo

November 10th, 2009
3:28 pm

PJ, listen very carefully, you can’t win at Notre Dame, you can’t win at Notre Dame….not with that system. Oh you don’t believe me? Then why don’t you just go ahead and try. I don’t think he could beat Navy that’s why he doesn’t want to go to South Bend. Which by the way, is absolutely beautiful after a January lake effect snow storm. And the summer, which occurs the week of July 20th next year is usually mild.

Seriously, he may be saying that but he has to keep that in the back of his mind. At least 2.8 to 3 mil to start, a bump to 3.5+ mil after his first BCS bowl appearance. Since ND gets to keep all the BCS bowl game money that’s pretty much his pay check for 3 to 4 years. The NBC money pays fro everything else. At least he would still be winning. Wei$$ hasn’t exact been a bad recruiter. A lot of talent in South Bend.

taxicab driver nerd grad

November 10th, 2009
3:28 pm

Sounds weird to say, but I don’t see any coach in the country leaving their programs for ND. Johnson has a cakewalk in a pathetically weak conference that has an automatic BCS bowl bid. Why would he leave that? Unless of course he wants a real challenge, something the ACC can’t provide.