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

Al Groh’s problems at  Georgia Tech weren’t pure ‘fantasy’

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

Jon

October 9th, 2012
12:29 pm

I hope they keep Paul Johnson a long, long time. Go Dogs.

Answer This

October 9th, 2012
12:31 pm

Safe…..until the AD feels a drop!

UGA = Yawn

October 9th, 2012
12:32 pm

Yeah Jeff but Johnson brought an NCAA violation to our school and soiled the name of GT. What does Dan say of that? Or better yet, why not ask him once?

Sonny Randle

October 9th, 2012
12:34 pm

On the bright side, maybe Al can return to UVa. They seem to be in need of a DC…………..

GT

October 9th, 2012
12:35 pm

CPJ has been in the games, still a very good coach. The defense just couldn’t figure out the fast offenses out there. I wonder if the 3-4 working in this no huddle offense, if it is too complicated for a split second decision making. We will see.

ignition

October 9th, 2012
12:38 pm

@UGA = Yawn.. Ignorance
If any one should bare the blame for the sanctions its is D Rad himself.. He completely botched the investigation. O’Leary & Gailey had sanctions place on them while at Tech as well so the Tech “name” was sullied well before..

Craig

October 9th, 2012
12:39 pm

Yawn, that is revisionist history at its finest! It was RADAKOVICH who brought on the violation. The NCAA said to Dan, “Don’t say anything to anyone”, and he went straight to Coach Johnson. Now you’re saying that’s Coach Johnson’s fault???

TheBabe

October 9th, 2012
12:39 pm

He says CPJ is “moving the program forward.” Is 16-16 moving forward? Is the persistent poor play in the last two years moving forward? Is the caliber of recruits moving forward?

ezekiel

October 9th, 2012
12:40 pm

The problem for Paul Johnson and Dan Radakovich is that there was a major bump in the road in 2010, the first losing season at Georgia Tech in over a decade. Now two years later there’s a BIGGER bump in the road. The excuse in 2010 was that the last of Chan’s recruits were the problem. Now the excuse is that Al Groh was the problem. Talk more GT football at: http://gtsportstalk.com

GTJeff

October 9th, 2012
12:44 pm

Fire the AD & the Coach. Season is lost anyway. I’m sure there are enough boosters who would foot the bill to boot Johnson out of Tech.

GTBob

October 9th, 2012
12:46 pm

Is the persistent poor play in the last two years moving forward?

Since when is winning 8 games considered poor for GT? We weren’t that bad last year and exceed the expectations of most experts.

TheBabe

October 9th, 2012
12:47 pm

To those who write that CPJ has been in the games and still a good coach, I would wonder if playing close for two or three quarters is now what passes for full competence. Is GT now seeing reduced expectations to the point of looking at “moral victories” because they “almost” won a couple of games? That’s never satisfying to fans nor polishes a coach’s resume.

GTBob

October 9th, 2012
12:48 pm

Yeah Jeff but Johnson brought an NCAA violation to our school and soiled the name of GT.

You keep harping on this. How exactly did Johnson cause the NCAA violation?

Paul

October 9th, 2012
12:50 pm

As a UGA fan, I hope he stays.

TheBabe

October 9th, 2012
12:51 pm

GTBob, if you were satisfied with winning 8 games last year and the way the season urned out, that’s fine. Are you also ok with the way this season is playing out?

JustinSyder

October 9th, 2012
12:52 pm

@Paul: I bet USC fans hope Richt stays as well.

USMC

October 9th, 2012
12:53 pm

Tech is lucky to have a headcoach like Paul Johnson.

You have to admit that his offense, whether you like it or not, is extremely productive and at times nearly impossible to shut down.

I also like CPJ’s “no nonsense” approach to coaching and running the program.

At least you can put a finger on what your problems are right now and attack it, ie. improve the Defense. AT UGA, we live in a House of Cards!

Tech4Life

October 9th, 2012
12:55 pm

Why don’t you wait for the rest of the season to conclude before we make more judgements. Every remaining game on this schedule is winnable, including UGA. UGA actually reminds me of a less exciting and overrated Clemson team.

GTBob

October 9th, 2012
12:56 pm

Are you also ok with the way this season is playing out?

No. This season has been pretty bad and people have been fired for it. If it continues then CPJ should be canned. He has time to turn things around though and he seems to be trying.

TheBabe

October 9th, 2012
12:58 pm

I concur, @GTBob. My only point really is that when Radakovich says the program is moving forward under CPJ, I see evidence that is not the case. And like you, I would support firing him if this season continues in the second half as it has through the first.

GTBob

October 9th, 2012
1:02 pm

And like you, I would support firing him if this season continues in the second half as it has through the first.

I would personally give him more time then that. This season is pretty much done. Next year we should have a better QB and a new defensive coordinator. If he wins 6-7 games with those changes then yes, the hot seat talk can begin. I doubt he gets fired before the end of the 2014 season unless we are a Bill Lewis like train wreck.

MC

October 9th, 2012
1:05 pm

You know the end is near for PJ when the AD gives his confidence speech right before he fires him. Drad came from LSU. He saw talent. He knows the correlation between PJ’s 1st 2 years and the Gailey talent from that team that populates NFL rosters isn’t coincidental. No talent…no confidence..no job. See ya PJ.

crackbaby

October 9th, 2012
1:06 pm

Schultz,

Do you ever have any knowledgeable insight to offer on this matter (or any subject you write about)?

Other than poking fun and regurgitating sports “journalists” statements, your columns suffer from blandness and a vacuum of knowledge.

Since you write about football, how about telling us who may be good candidates for Tech’s next D-coordinator hire? Maybe go through a list of position coaches who are excellent recruiters and would welcome an opportunity at Tech.

Meh… probably too much work for you….

ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……..

joet

October 9th, 2012
1:06 pm

Jeff,

CPJ can not recruit the type of player needed to compete at a high level. Period. His ONLY success has come with players he did NOT recruit. The numbers don’t lie, they are right there in the article. If DRAD is happy with a .500 football program, keep him.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
1:07 pm

Without the firing, I was going to be a no show.
With the firing, I’ll be there.
Curious if the newly promoted assistants can right the ship, maybe by blitzing occasionally so the other team’s QB doesn’t have all day to pick us apart.

crackbaby

October 9th, 2012
1:09 pm

@UGA=Yawn

If memory serves, D-Rad actually sparked the NCAA’s ire by telling CPJ about the investigation when he was expressly forbidden to do so by the NCAA.

You may not like CPJ, but let’s keep the mierda in the appropriate pile(s).

MC

October 9th, 2012
1:10 pm

Tech4life….COME ON MAN! UGA will kill this team. Every team on their schedule so far is better than GT with the exception of Buffalo. Think about it. What team in the SEC could this GT team actually beat this year?

crackbaby

October 9th, 2012
1:11 pm

@Jacket Detective – rather than occasional blitzes, how about early and often? Like voting in Chicago, LOL ;)

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
1:16 pm

About Gailey’s recruits.
On the 2009 defense were future 1st round pick Derrick Morgan and 3rd round pick Morgan Burnett.
What about the other none players from Gailey’s recruiting?
They stunk.
We gave up lots of big plays in spite of having two high round future pros.
The other nine had to be 2 stars if that.
Derrick Morgan might have had even more sacks but the lack of talent elsewhere allowed for double teams.
We may not have as many future pros but we do have a higher level of defensive talent now.
With Groh gone, I think we will start to show it.
Groh demoralized the group by getting outcoached every 4th quarter.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
1:18 pm

@crackbaby.
I like the idea.
Good joke too.

TheBabe

October 9th, 2012
1:18 pm

GA likely will beat GT. But I suspect GT would beat Vanderbilt, Missouri, Miss, Auburn, Ky.

Adel Jacket

October 9th, 2012
1:19 pm

Except for a hiccup in 2010, Johnson’s offense has improved each year both in total yards and points scored. His first year they averaged 26.2 ppg and this year through six games 37.8 ppg. This is a huge difference!

In contrast the defense has gotten progressively worse each year. In 2008 it gave up 18.8 ppg and 312.7 ypg. This year the numbers ar 30.2 ppg and 431.0 ypg. If we had the Wommack’s 2008 defense what would our record be? With the defense giving up so much and not creating stops, it puts more pressure on the offense to score on every possession. We are tied for second in the ACC in interceptions with 7. But this has not slowed down or phased any quarterback.

Johnson had no choice but to let Groh go. The definition of insanity is to keep doing what you are doing and expect different results. If Groh had stayed till the end of the season the hangover would be worse. Sometimes you have to cut your losses.

Paul in NH

October 9th, 2012
1:20 pm

D-Rad will give CPJ to at least the end of 2013.

Flat Tire on I95 in Jacksonville

October 9th, 2012
1:20 pm

Johnson would look better in swim trucks than Mark Richt!

walton

October 9th, 2012
1:21 pm

Yeah Jon, everyone knows that the only reason GT doesn’t beat UGA is because of our coaching. Our stadium is better; our fans are better; our school is better; basically our program is better, we just need to find the right coach and then we will beat UGA like we should.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
1:22 pm

I think the NCAA overpenalized us but DRAD handled the situation very poorly.
Part of the problem was the infraction occurred right before the Uga game and we did not want to lose either Morgan or Burnett for that game.
I still do not see why some agent fooling a player by using Morgan’s cousin or friend should be allowed to cause our program harm.
What penalty did the agent get?
None most likely.

MC

October 9th, 2012
1:23 pm

Has everyone forgotten the declaration that once PJ got HIS recruits in here the juggernaut would have arrived? Well HIS recruits are here now and the juggernaut looks more like the Titanic. LMAO!

Paul in NH

October 9th, 2012
1:23 pm

“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.)”

This depends on the fan base. It took GT a couple of weeks to go from “we can still win the ACC” (after the UVA game) to “fire everybody”.
It only took UGA 3 hours on October 6th to go from “we are going to win the MNC” to “fire everybody”

crackhead

October 9th, 2012
1:25 pm

punch em in da mouf

Jack G

October 9th, 2012
1:29 pm

If DRAD cantd see the problem, maybe he is part of the problem.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
1:30 pm

Ga Tech 31 Boston College 17.
The firing will revive the defense, not to mention the fanbase.
Jamea Thomas will be all ACC before he leaves.
Jabari Hunt Days will also be all ACC with 3 more years after this one.
Attaochu may be the best of the three.
With so little pressure on the quarterback, it is difficult to fairly evaluate our secondary.
The game had passed Groh by.
He got outcoached every 4th qt.
This will be a rivival for the team.

joet

October 9th, 2012
1:30 pm

Jacket Detective – Look at the numbers. They don’t lie. CPJ’s record is getting worse every year. He can not recruit. He’s done.

MC

October 9th, 2012
1:31 pm

Jacket Detective one glaring stat is the rate offensively that we now fail on third down and when we go on 4th as opposed to the days of Dwyer, Nebitt, Bey Bey, et al. Also the amount of offensive plays 20 yds or more has declined. What does that tell you?

Jacket Man

October 9th, 2012
1:32 pm

Although no one dreamed this season would turn out as bad as it has so far, It was expected that next season would be the better year record wise because the schedule set up for that way and, in all honesty, the transition to a new starting QB would be in place.

When Paul Johnson first came to Atlanta, and implemented brand new offensive and defensive schemes, the team managed to go out and compete better than anyone could hope for. Now that the offense is pretty much in place, with the exception of breaking in a new QB next season, which we did when we first started running his TP/Spread Option Offense. Once again, however, the team will potentially go through a transition to a new defensive scheme.

On the positive side is that GA Tech recruits and signs intelligent plays who play as a team rather than as individuals, so making transitions, such as these, are often-times quicker, and easier, for our players than other teams. The only potential issue might be the “physical type” of player who might be needed to play in the new defense, like was necessary in the 3-4.

But if you get a quality defensive coordinator, he’ll be able to work with the players he has on the roster and then bring in players who will fit his future plans. If I were a betting man, which I’m not, Paul Johnson and DRad already have a short list and maybe have even spoken to a coach or two, and it won’t take too long to get someone on board so that the recruiting process can be stabilized. More than likely it will happen after the season ends, as a courtesy to other teams, but it won’t be much after the season ends.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
1:32 pm

I was unhappy with Paul’s hiring of Groh but Paul has too good a contract not to give him a few years to finally get it right (hiring a good D coordinator).

Ted M

October 9th, 2012
1:33 pm

He has to say that because he does not have the cash to fire him.

GT is getting blown out. All the teams that beat GT stink. Va Tech has had a 3 game losing streak. Miami got flat out embarrassed by Kansas State & Notre Dame. MTSU lost to McNeeze State & LA Monroe (OMG) and they physically dominated the Jackets in every way. Even Clemson lost to FL State pretty soundly.

Johnson can’t even beat bad teams.

Mike S.

October 9th, 2012
1:34 pm

ADs are never quick to write off coaches, but your fooling yourself if you think Johnson will ever recruit the talent he inherited from Gailey. Yes the option can perform very well given that talent, but it unfortunately can never recruit it. Johnson scored 28 pts on a MTSU team he scored near 50 on in the two previous years. He managed 31 against a Clemson defense that has been absent most of the year. That’s not numbers you expect from this offense. Johnson still has yet to beat a solid team that had more than a week to prepare for him.

Jacket Detective

October 9th, 2012
1:35 pm

@joet.
We are paying Hewitt 1.7 million a year and have 4 more years to go of that.
We finally have finished with paying Gailey off.
We cannot afford to fire Paul Johnson.
Unless we have a Bill Lewis type meltdown which we won’t, then Paul Johnson has 2 more years to get it right.
There are some good linemen coming in.
This team is better than it has played, especially the defense.

ibidGT

October 9th, 2012
1:37 pm

Why do people not allude to the defense as Johnson’s defense? Is it not his? He’s the coach so ultimately everything is traced back to him. As good as his offense might be the defense falls back to him just as much as the offense does.

His offense does enough to win games, but his defense doesn’t, so in the end we lose games. That’s not acceptable, doesn’t matter how many you score if at the end of the day the other team has more. And YES it is CPJ’s fault, because just as much as the offense is ‘his’ so is the defense.

Mike S.

October 9th, 2012
1:37 pm

Fact is, the defense has been awful since day one Johnson took over. Womack was no better than Groh. Johnson’s offense just made up for it. Johnson’s offense was driving the field and scoring a lot of points with Nesbitt, Dwyer, and Thomas. The last two years, the offense hasnt been doing that. That puts more pressure on a defense that has never been up to the task under Johnson.