Most teams can lose and have it just be a loss. When Georgia Tech loses, it’s an indictment of Paul Johnson. This mightn’t be fair, but it’s reality: When your stock in trade is a stylized offense, any reversal is going to be personalized. And Paul Johnson, as we know, tends to take things personally.
As noted earlier, he delights in flouting conventional wisdom, especially when it comes to his offense. Well, that offense just managed 95 yards rushing against Miami — 377 fewer than it did against the same Hurricanes 10 months ago. Yes, Jonathan Dwyer got hurt early, but Tech was supposed to have increased depth in the backfield, was it not?
So now Johnson will have to hear this topic bandied about in both cyberspace and the real world: Has the rest of college football caught on to his spread option? And he’s going to say no, that the offense if run properly will always work against any opponent, but how he wearies of the whole discussion and turns testy?
The loss to Miami was far more comprehensive than the Chick-fil-A thrashing by LSU. That game could be explained away — and Johnson tried — as a failure of motivation and special teams. The offense, he would say, wasn’t at fault. Well, this time it was. The offense did nothing. The defense did less. The Jackets trailed by 14 points at the half and by 23 after three quarters, and now nobody’s really sure what to make of Tech.
“I think we’re going to be good,” Johnson said a couple of weeks ago, but the near-flop against Clemson and the total collapse against Miami have left everything open to question. And next comes North Carolina, which came closest to shutting down that offense last season, and dates with Florida State and Virginia Tech — and yes, with Georgia — still remain.
A cult of personality has arisen ’round Johnson. Tech fans love his tough talk, and they loved it even more when he beat Georgia. But now his highly regarded team has suffered a major blow, and it’s incumbent on PJ not to take the inevitable questions — from both fans and media — as signs of insubordination.
He gets paid a lot of money to coach his team. Here’s where PJ has to duck his head, ignore the chatter and keep coaching.