Radakovich says Johnson is ‘right person for this job’

Paul Johnson's program has slid since a fast start but mostly because of defense. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

After 2-4 start, Tech coach Paul Johnson fired his second defensive coordinator. (AJC/Curtis Compton)

In his first two seasons at Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson went 20-7, including 12-4 in the ACC, and won a conference title (the whims of NCAA investigators notwithstanding).

In the 2½ years since, he is 16-16, including 10-10 in the ACC, and has lost nine of his past 13. He also just fired his second defensive coordinator, hoping to salvage a season that has some fans grumbling and wondering if those early results were some aberration.

Yet to be determined: Is this merely a step back before another eventual ACC title run (most optimistic) or ugly foreshadowing of a Bill Lewis collapse (most pessimistic).

Welcome to today’s sports world, which can be best summed up as: What a beautiful morning/Wait I felt A Raindrop/The Sky Is Falling! (Elapsed time: 12 minutes.)

For what it’s worth, the sky isn’t falling in Dan Radakovich’s office. The Georgia Tech athletic director affirmed Tuesday that he has not lost confidence in Johnson as the school’s football coach, nor has he given any thought to making a change in that office.

“I know there’s some erosion in support right now, but the Falcons are 5-0, and there was erosion in their fan base last year, too, when they didn’t win in the playoffs,” Radakovich said. “That’s the thing about sports now. People can express their opinion quickly.

Dan Radakovich said Johnson's resume proves he's worthy of being given the benefit of the doubt. (AJC photo)

Dan Radakovich said Johnson's resume makes him worthy of being given the benefit of the doubt. (AJC photo)

“I have confidence in Paul. He’s the right person for this job, and he will continue to move the program forward. We have to get through this bump in the road. We still have six games left for a chance to have a positive season.”

In at least one respect, being a football coach isn’t different from any other job: When somebody’s tenure begins with signs of very-good-to-greatness, the boss is more likely to give that employee the benefit of the doubt.

Johnson has earned that benefit.

What he accomplished in his first two seasons, including Tech playing in its first BCS bowl game and a first-season win at Georgia, went far beyond what anybody could have projected.

Critics suggest he has made consecutive defensive coordinators, Dave Wommack and Al Groh, scapegoats for his own failings. But apply some logic here: Wommack was fired after the 2009 ACC title season (hence: not a scapegoat). Groh was fired after a three-game losing streak that saw the Jackets score 36, 28 and 31 points but allow 42, 49 and 47. There were late-game defensive collapses both this year and late last season.

Is this really the time to pin Tech’s problems on the triple-option offense?

For as much as Johnson’s offense tends to be a lightning rod for criticism in these just-chuck-it days of football, the Jackets have scored fewer than 14 points in seven of 59 games under Johnson and fewer than 20 in 14 of 59. Overall, they have scored an average of 30.5 points.

Is Johnson ultimately responsible for whether his team wins or loses? Of course. But Radakovich doesn’t see any of the other signs an athletic director looks for when contemplating a coaching change, most notably a lack of effort or hopelessness. “It’s not like we’re getting blown out,” he said. “It’s not like we’re being physically overmatched every week.”

He said he understands the criticism. He expected it. He fields questions at booster functions and reads weekly critiques in his email’s inbox. He just doesn’t agree with them.

“Paul has demonstrated to me that he can coach and he can pull a team together,” Radakovich said. “And it’s important to note that it’s not just here. His entire career [including Georgia Southern and Navy] to me has been as big a positive as anything. He has shown that he’s able to sustain success in an organization over a long period of time.”

Radakovich and Johnson speak daily. The AD was a sounding board for him when Johnson was considering firing Groh.

Radakovich: “It was not an easy decision for Paul, and I look at my role as being someone who can give him a 360-degree view of things. But he’s the head football coach, and I want to give him the opportunity to have the staff that he sees fit.”

If the losses continue, it’s logical to assume that Johnson ultimately would pay a price. But Tech isn’t nearly at that point yet.

By Jeff Schultz

Got some time? Here’s the last dozen blogs

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Falcons are easy highlight in Atlanta’s dark sports weekend

Short takes: Gonzalez, Bryant and missing RG3 in Falcons’ win

Braves’ Frank Wren needs to fix good, but not great, team

Chipper Jones on loss in his finale: ‘Ultimately, I’m to blame’

Braves are hoping to change postseason script

Weekend Predictions: Dogs over Darth Rooster, Falcons over Skins

Spurrier should take lesson from Richt on handling criticism

Video: It’s Winnersville! We talk Braves, Falcons, UGA

Medlen becomes an unlikely key to Braves’ postseason

Georgia has uncomfortable mix of highlights, slapstick

Chipper Jones: Braves lose a legend, fans lose a hero, I lose reason to open laptop

317 comments Add your comment

Jeff Schultz

October 9th, 2012
4:25 pm

General comment since others have touched on recruiting: Chan Gailey recruited some really good players. Problem was that Paul Johnson won more with Chan’s players than Chan did in previous years. If you believe Chan would’ve gone 20-7 in the first two years that Johnson took over, you’re in the minority.

GT Joe

October 9th, 2012
4:25 pm

Yes, Jeff. Tevin is the real problem.

I wonder if Groh would still have his job if:
1. Tevin doesnt throw that INT in OT at VT.
2. Tevin doesn’t audible to a sneak in OT on 4th down vs. Miami.
3. Tevin doesn’t gain a paltry 4 yards on 19 carries vs. MTSU.
4. Tevin doesn’t screw up on 4th down in the first drive vs. Clemson, basically giving Clemson a TD.
5. Tevin doesn’t fail on 3rd and 4th down in every key situation this season.
6. Tevin doesn’t lead us to a doughnut in the last 30 min. of the Miami game.
7. Tevin doesn’t lead us to a FG in the 4th quarter of the Clemson.
8. Tevin doesn’t lead us to a paltry 7 points vs. MTSU in the 2nd half.
9. Tevin doesn’t go 3-10 with 2 INTs vs. UGA last year.
10. Tevin doesn’t lead us to an 8-13 record vs. BCS AQ conference teams.

Need I go on?

GT Joe

October 9th, 2012
4:28 pm

New nickname for Tevin Washington: Teflon Tevin.

Jeff Schultz

October 9th, 2012
4:29 pm

GT Joe — I won’t go down all 10 pts but let me say this: If you believe that Tevin Washington and Groh/defense is responsible for what happened against MTSU, you have some anti-Tevin Washington agenda. That’s fine. But to blame a quarterback for the defense getting steamrolled by a Sun Belt team is just silly. As for the Virginia Tech game, I’d say TW and defense both share blame.

single white dove

October 9th, 2012
4:30 pm

My father was an gt alumni, class of 66. He passed in 08. I think that he would not approve of johnson. If johson wants to be a defensive coordinator, then he shouldnt have a problem going to a different school and being one. He is barely a head coach…js

macrotech

October 9th, 2012
4:33 pm

2dogs….I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’re a pup fan. For ANY pup fan to cry, “No more excuses” is laughable! REALLY liked the pup fan that came up with the BRILLIANT reason for uga losing to Carolina this past weekend….subliminal messages played through the P.A. system?! REALLY?! EVERY year, the pups are pre-season world beaters and then, when y’all lose…the excuses flow freely and expectedly! STILL laughing at the subliminal messaging one….GOTTA be the best one, yet!!!

taylor

October 9th, 2012
4:38 pm

It seems to me that the 2013 season is going to be Johnson’s most important one at Tech.

GT Joe

October 9th, 2012
4:41 pm

Jeff, the defense doesn’t operate in a vacuum. A QB (and offense) has to be at least moderately successful to take pressure off the defense (works both ways). Was our offense successful against MTSU? Let’s look at the 2nd half:

1. Drive #1: failed 3rd down pass attempt by Tevin.
2. Drive #2: Fumble on 1st play.
3. Drive #3: Tevin rushes for -2 yards on 3rd and 10. Failed 4th down pass.
4. Drive #4: Tevin TD. Hallelujah.
5. Drive #5: Tevin INT on first play.
6. Drive #6: Tevin sacked for 7 yard loss on 1st down, then incomplete passes on 2nd, 3rd AND 4th down.
7. Drive #7: Vad Lee goes 61 yards in 1:17.

Tevin sure doesn’t help that defense at all.

G

October 9th, 2012
4:43 pm

I am not surprised to hear that GT is fine with mediocrity, just surprised to hear Shultz say it.

single white dove

October 9th, 2012
4:43 pm

October 9th, 2012
4:25 pm
General comment since others have touched on recruiting: Chan Gailey recruited some really good players. Problem was that Paul Johnson won more with Chan’s players than Chan did in previous years.”

Should tech have chan only do recruiting???lol

macrotech

October 9th, 2012
4:44 pm

The Old Coot

October 9th, 2012
4:47 pm

Al Groh: “It’s been an honor to be a part of the legacy of Georgia Tech. I feel positive that this is a good time in life to move on to a new situation.”

Interpretation: Georgia Tech promised me every penny of my remaining contract as long as I said positive things about Georgia Tech.

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
4:48 pm

it is what it is

October 9th, 2012
4:48 pm

GT needs to get Giff Smith back as recruiting coordinator. CPJ would do alright with a new DC and Giff back. I mean why hasn’t that happened. Up the ante. Who wants to live in freezehole Buffalo anyway.

dwagdawg

October 9th, 2012
4:54 pm

Where is Superdawg? Will he be at BDS sometime this year?

superDawg

September 26th, 2012
7:50 pm

ss you are a little man that likes to hide behind others.If sc beats UGA I will come down and tail gate with you and your brethren at tek.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Superdwag, will you be wearing black and red tights? Will you have an S on your chest? No phone booths nearby, but plenty of PortaPotty’s for you to change in. Please RSVP so we can have extra beer/dogs for you.

single white dove

October 9th, 2012
4:54 pm

Shultz, my father was always puzzled at the Chan Gaily firing…

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
4:56 pm

2dogs…..http://www.fcs.uga.edu/hace/undergraduate/courses.html#cp

Now you tell me which is easier. The Tech MGT degree most athletes take or the Housing degree moany dWag athletes take.

Now you do some research on Wake & whatever other schools you mentioned and post their class requirements for a degree from those schools.

Greg

October 9th, 2012
4:57 pm

Is this really the time to pin Tech’s problems on the triple-option offense”

Yes because no defensive stars want to play here because they feel they will be practicing against it and not get prepared for the next level. Look how dismal the recruiting has been on defense. Tech always had a stud on the line or at lb or in the secondary at some point in a year. Now they have no one. But yeah, that’s not pj fault. Riiiight.

Pat

October 9th, 2012
5:02 pm

Another great article, Jeff! Always enjoy reading them and your wit always makes me laugh.
Question: Do you think that the UGA coach would relieve BoBo of his duties following the SC beat down? Also, would AD McGarity give CMR an ultimatum? Just a question but things must be changed in Athens IMO.

Stu

October 9th, 2012
5:04 pm

Tevin has put the defense in many tough situations this season. He is not a qb for this level. For every drive he looks good, he has 3 that are terrible.

redhairedpimplefacenerd

October 9th, 2012
5:05 pm

It’s the white helmets with a stripe

Stu

October 9th, 2012
5:06 pm

True Greg
Michael Johnson and of course that Falcon Vance walker. Not to mention Morgan Burnett for the Pack and D morgan for tenn i think. What has gt’s defense done the past 2 years and going forward? Well they have one guy who played one season who has potential and he couldn’t even start this year on this crappy defense. That says it all. Crappy coaching and recruiting.

macrotech

October 9th, 2012
5:08 pm

Greg? WHICH part of getting off the block, playing assignment football and tackling isn’t covered in Tech’s D? THESE are the things needed to succeed at ANY level of football…including the NFL. Just wondering.

dawghater

October 9th, 2012
5:11 pm

What else is D Rad going to say? He doesn’t have $10.4 Millon to buyout CPJ’s contact. And who’s fault is that, HIS!

GTBob

October 9th, 2012
5:17 pm

What else is D Rad going to say? He doesn’t have $10.4 Millon to buyout CPJ’s contact. And who’s fault is that, HIS!

CPJ had just gone 9-3 and beaten UGA and was getting coaching interest from others who would have payed him alot. What was DRad supposed to do?

Richard

October 9th, 2012
5:21 pm

Stu,

Tevin put the defense in a lot of tough situations? Really? I’ll give you that he put the D in a tough spot against VT, but, other than that, what are you talking about?

If anything, I would say that the defense has been putting Tevin in tough spots all season. When your QB is forced to score a touchdown on every drive because the defense can’t tackle, that’s a tough spot.

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
5:23 pm

dawghater
October 9th, 2012
5:11 pm
What else is D Rad going to say? He doesn’t have $10.4 Millon to buyout CPJ’s contact. And who’s fault is that, HIS!
=====================================
You must be a NEW Tech fan.
It is not even close to D Rad fault he doesn’t have $10.4mill to buyout Johnson. it is a guy name Dave Braine and his great financial move to give Paul Hewitt a Lifetime contract.

JetBuzz

October 9th, 2012
5:26 pm

CPJ’s post-game analysis ALWAYS expresses needed improvements for Offense (not just D or ST). As well, a cursory view of his game-time sideline demeanor/comments actually shows more restraint for D & ST play than for miscues on O. By no means does he throw others under the bus before himself; much less does he seek scapegoats. He’s too blunt and bottom-lined for that.

And his famous stubbornness has yielded to major changes, firing two DCs, hiring ST coach, installing more passing plays even w/o a strong passer, etc.

It’s more than obvious he’s giving 100% to build a competitive team, and to respond to his “customers”. It’s a different world than at Navy or Ga Southern. He’s got at least thru next season to mend some fences, and as DRad and Jeff infer he deserves it.

5150 UOAD

October 9th, 2012
5:27 pm

Richard….I have to agree. TW has had to keep the ball away from the other team a lot this year to protect his D for sure.

How many more wait till next year

October 9th, 2012
5:30 pm

Right move year late..Now lets give CPJ and staff a chance to right the ship. Go Jackets kick some a@@.

Can’t wait to see Both BASKETBALL teams in New Home!
Lady Jackets could make the Final four mens too.

How many more wait till next year

October 9th, 2012
5:33 pm

Dig Braine up so we can bury him again.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

October 9th, 2012
5:33 pm

The person that updated his contract is the problem and now you get to eat it. Unless Johnson would accept 500k each year until his contract is paid in full then you’re stuck with the guy as well as awful recruiting. As elite is a Tech education is then all those high paid folks can suck it up and buyout Paul Right? GT is done until PJ is gone. Denial isn’t a great plan. HS recruits aren’t coming to be apart of the trainwreck at GT. GT should hire Mike Leach. Forget the BS at Wash State for nobody will win at that useless place. The Pac 12 should boot them for trying to impersonate a football program.

Big Crimson 75

October 9th, 2012
5:36 pm

and was getting coaching interest from others who would have payed him alot
——
Put the sauce down, Bobby!!

Paul in NH

October 9th, 2012
5:37 pm

Rick James does have a point that GT doesn’t have the high end playmakers who are as good as Derrick Morgan, the Johnsons, etc.
However, I watched the UGA-USC game and I am pretty sure that Jay Finch and Umoregie Uzzi could start for UGA.

GT1990

October 9th, 2012
5:38 pm

Hey DRAD don’t let your friendship with CPJ get you fired to!

GTBob

October 9th, 2012
5:39 pm

Put the sauce down, Bobby!!

The reports in 2008 were saying that Auburn was trying to lure him for close to 3 million a year. He then met with DRad, got a pay raise, and told Auburn no thanks.

GT1990

October 9th, 2012
5:41 pm

If CPJ does not take to GT to a bowl then he needs to go. Tech can not afford another season like this.

Fire AD

October 9th, 2012
5:43 pm

I say fire the AD and Coach at Tech. The AD and Coach are bringing the program to its knee’s. Both are bad and I say boycott all games CPJ coaches from now on. When the money goes away, they the President will be forced to listen to the fans and alumni. I will not attend another game for football until he is gone. Lets go Basketball !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and Baseball in spring.

pb

October 9th, 2012
5:45 pm

Do not see things getting better this year in short term under CPJ. But D Rad is stuck with him for awhile, GT cannot afford the buyout. Al Groh and defense were only part of the problem. Firing Groh will not get rid of the offense Johnson uses, which does not work against good defenses.Maybe Johnson is the about the best they can expect at Tech right now. Like someone said, they are accepting MEDIOCRITY.

Big Crimson 75

October 9th, 2012
5:46 pm

Willie — it’s amazing isn’t it??
A lifetime contract to Paul Hewitt!!
A 10+ million dollar buyout to Paul Johnson.
I thought we were suppose to be the dumb ones!!
What calculus genius came up those contracts!?
If they had any sense, they’d hire Jim McElwain, pronto.

GTBob

October 9th, 2012
5:47 pm

If CPJ does not take to GT to a bowl then he needs to go. Tech can not afford another season like this.

CPJ isn’t going anywhere whether we make a bowl or not. You can rally around him and hope he gets it turned around or you can sit in your room and cry. Your choice.

CM

October 9th, 2012
5:48 pm

The problem is the defense has no one to practice against during the week. Who are they going up against that is supposed to mimic that week’s opponent?

GTBob

October 9th, 2012
5:51 pm

A 10+ million dollar buyout to Paul Johnson.

Its not really a 10+ million dollar buyout, its paying him the remainder of his contract. There is a reason that most teams don’t fire coaches just a couple of years into a contract. Because its expensive and downright stupid.

SS loves Obama

October 9th, 2012
5:55 pm

@GTBob…good point.

GT1990

October 9th, 2012
6:05 pm

@GTBOB-It’s a DAMN shame that the problem is deeper than CPJ. The AD and the whole athletic board need to be removed!

Hal

October 9th, 2012
6:19 pm

CPJ is a solid coach. He has not solved the situation he finds himself in where the top players in the state of Georgia do not want to attend his school because of the conference Tech is in. For the first time in college football history there is less rivalry between schools and more between conferences. This has to be the reason because if you can play at the college level the NFL will find you period. It does not matter what school or conference you attend or are in especially when the truly gifted don’t graduate anyway.

BDodd

October 9th, 2012
6:43 pm

Good point on recruiting today on 680. Trying to recruit GA and FL against GA, FL, Aub, AL, SC, Clemson is stupid. Stretch out in the NE and Midwest like Bobby Ross did and you’ll get more good athletes. I like GA players as much as anybody, but we’re getting killed trying to recruit against the big boys here.

Go Tech….Johnson article from 6th year at Navy….Johnson took over a program that had posted a 1-20 record the previous two years before his arrival in 2002. After a 2-10 mark in his first year, the Navy football program has achieved what many thought was no longer possible at an Academy, as Johnson has brought the Midshipmen back into the national spotlight with a 35-15 (.700) record over the last four years and has led Navy to a school-record four-straight bowl games and a school-record four-consecutive Commander-In-Chief’s Trophies. The 35 wins are the second most in program history over a four-year time span.

Rick James

October 9th, 2012
7:07 pm

@GT Joe

Rick James: the only thing worse than losing to UGA would be watching UGA win an NC.

That said, the only thing that cures a bad loss by GT is to watch UGA underachieve and get blown out.

Please. Keep Richt. Please
——————————————————————————————————————————-
I guess if we never beat Tech I could understand..Sounds quite sad actually.

Rick James

October 9th, 2012
7:14 pm

@GTBob

Aside from Calvin Johnson, name all of the players recruited by Chan that would start for UGA’s current team.
——————————————————————————————————————————
I’m talking about the current Tech and Georgia teams..I hate it when you pretend to be stupid..Morgan Burnett,Derrek Morgan,Jonathan Dwyer Bay Bay Thomas all could have started at Georgia.And I’m sure there are others.

GT GRAD

October 9th, 2012
7:16 pm

I fully support DRAD & Coach Paul Johnson.

PJ is the best coach for GT.

Face facts: GT simply cannot recruit with the Top 15 teams in the NCAA; however, Coach PJ allows GT to be competitive even against teams that obviously have “better” or more talented players.

Thanks for all you do for GT!!