Tech’s Paul Johnson: The best playcaller in the business

PJ's adjustments haven't included sending this guy in motion. But just wait. (Brant Sanderlin, AJC)

PJ's adjustments haven't included sending this guy in motion -- yet. (Brant Sanderlin, AJC)

It was the night of Oct. 3. Georgia Tech was playing Mississippi State in Starkville. With 9:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Jackets punted.

I mention this for a reason. That was more than a calendar month ago, and the Jackets haven’t punted in a second half since. Not at Florida State. Not against Virginia Tech. Not at Virginia. Not at Vandy.

Eight quarters of football. Not one second-half punt. And you know what this says?

Paul Johnson is the archduke of adjustments.

We hear announcers talking about them all the time. We hear Erin Andrews and her sideline-reporting ilk ask, “Coach, what adjustments will you make at halftime?” Ninety-five percent of the time coaches wind up doing the same thing in the second half as they did in the first.

Not PJ. He tweaks. He brings a guy in motion from a different angle. He splits a guy a tad wider. He runs the same stuff, only slightly differently. And Tech’s offense goes from powerful in the first half to unstoppable in the second.

You might ask Willie Martinez about this. Last November Georgia went from leading 28-12 at halftime to trailing 35-28 — in the span of seven minutes and five seconds. The Bulldogs had the game in hand, and suddenly they were chasing it. (And once PJ gets ahead, forget it. Tech is 8-1 the past two seasons in games decided by five or fewer points.)

“He’s not really coaching,” says Wayne Hogan, the pithy Tech associate AD. “He’s playing a video game!”

And that’s it exactly. Johnson figures stuff out on the fly. Even if the opponent seems to havee a handle on his stylized offense, he performs his little ju jitsu. He wears a headset on the sideline, but it’s  just for show. He could make the same mid-course corrections wearing earmuffs.

We’ve known for a while he’s an outstanding head coach, but what sometimes gets lost is that he’s the best playcaller in the business. Hogan again: “Our coach is pretty cool.” And that’s it, too. To borrow Bob Greene’s description of Frank Gifford, PJ of GT is always the coolest guy in the room — even if the room holds 80,000.

451 comments Add your comment

cluett

November 5th, 2009
10:56 am

another good one Mark. and first

TechDan

November 5th, 2009
10:59 am

Crap. Beaten to the “first” punch. Grat article, Mark.

TechDan

November 5th, 2009
11:00 am

Oops. “Great” not “grat”

Mark Bradley

November 5th, 2009
11:00 am

Man, you guys are fast. We’re going to have to get away from just having a “first” to doing like the Olympics and having a gold, silver and bronze.

WTH

November 5th, 2009
11:04 am

You know you are going to be accused of being a Tech Homer, don’t you?

ColaJacket

November 5th, 2009
11:04 am

“He wears a headset on the sideline, but it’s just for show. He could make the same mid-course corrections wearing earmuffs.” This statement is not true. CPJ says he depends upon his guys in the pressbox to tell him about the alignments of certain defensive player on certain plays, so that he can perform his little ju jitsu.

reebok

November 5th, 2009
11:05 am

Didn’t realize that punt stat – amazing. But remember…this is a high-school offense that will never work against Division I teams. GO JACKETS!

Yellow Fuzz

November 5th, 2009
11:05 am

dog nation,

Great to see the jealosy that so many georgia fans (I hope you can hear me) have developed toward the new Tech Nation. Maybe you should have been kinder, gentler competitors in the past instead of obnoxious azzholes. But since that is your trailer park nature I say

1. Get used to it
2. Deal with it the best you can
3. STFU until you beat us again!

Bid Factory

November 5th, 2009
11:07 am

CPJ I would give him a bid.

Tech75

November 5th, 2009
11:08 am

I’m not quite sure he’s the best in the business; but he’s been running this offense for so long that he’s seen just about everything that can be done to try to stop it; and he has counters for each of those.

This is really gonna be scary about two years from now when his players are starters and he’s getting good execution.

This just feeds off of itself. Right now we’re hurting on defense and we lack depth offensively and defensively; now that the “high school” offense is proving itself to be reliable, the players will come; everybody better watch out!

Eastside Jacket

November 5th, 2009
11:09 am

It’s hard to argue with PJ’s results. No punts in the second half of four straight games? Are you kidding me?

If I recall correctly Navy led the nation in fewest punts the last two years PJ was there. That man HATES to punt.

WTH

November 5th, 2009
11:09 am

Wow Yellow Fuzz, it took less than 10 minutes for you to take this to the gutter. I don’t like the dogs either, but I try to let them start the crap first.

WTH

November 5th, 2009
11:11 am

Navy actually went somewhere around four straight games without a punt while he was there. I am not sure of the exact number but I believe it was four.

TechKen

November 5th, 2009
11:11 am

I was one of the skeptics when he was first hired and especially after the spring game in 2008, but I like you am now a believer…
This will be a fun ride for all of us TECH fans

buzz is wiser

November 5th, 2009
11:11 am

Mark, WTH says you might be considered a Tech Homer, don’t know if he is right but if he is welcome. Embrace your inner yellow jacket. See you at Boddy Dood on sat.

Hot Sauce

November 5th, 2009
11:13 am

jacketbacker

November 5th, 2009
11:14 am

Its great to be a Yellow Jacket!!!!!….Beat the Deacs!!!

Navyfan

November 5th, 2009
11:15 am

PJ is the best. Hands down. He’s blundered before (vs. LSU last year), but I can count those games on one hand in the 8 or so years I’ve been following his success.
BTW, PJ does mental jiu jitsu vice ju jitsu… Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the current ground game being implemented worldwide, while ju jitsu is a defunct Japanese predecessor.

GoldenTornado

November 5th, 2009
11:18 am

@Eastside — Navy punted the fewest times in the NCAA in PJ’s last 4 years there. Total punts from 2004-2007:

Navy 147
Hawaii 149
Louisville 160
Texas Tech 163
Air Force 180

Interesting that this contains the two most pass-happy teams and the two most run-happy teams, huh?

Mark Bradley

November 5th, 2009
11:18 am

Oh, yes. I’m a famous Tech homer. That’s why I was dubbed Bark Madly on the Hive.

Ralph

November 5th, 2009
11:19 am

Mark, can you confirm that Florida is negotiating to have either Tech or Georgia State replace UGA on it’s schedule so they might have some competition?

William the Martinizer

November 5th, 2009
11:19 am

Adjustments? Those are what I get at my chiropractor.

Scrap

November 5th, 2009
11:20 am

CPJ is definately one of the best in the business, and time will tell if he is the best ever. I think the key is that he never looses his cool. He’d be tough to beat in a poker game.

What a combination the Jackets have. The smartest, and coolest coach, the aboslute TOUGHEST quarterback in the country, a Heisman quality B back, a fleet of top notch A backs, and a world class wide receiver.

No wonder this offense is unstoppable.

All we ask for is 5 more games of maximum effort.

Saint Simons

November 5th, 2009
11:21 am

Tenn Tech 77, Uga 0!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Uga accepts bid to Carpets of Dalton Bowl!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

lefty fielder

November 5th, 2009
11:22 am

a very simple question: if the triple option is/was so great, why did almost everybody stop using it?

UGA Grad

November 5th, 2009
11:22 am

I wonder how Tech ranks in number of all punts compared to other teams. I bet Tech hasn’t punted much.

Mark Bradley

November 5th, 2009
11:23 am

Because, Lefty, it’s hard to sell to recruits. And it’s also hard to coach. It requires precision.

CW

November 5th, 2009
11:23 am

More support for Coach Johnson “coaching them up” at Tech. Link below to Birmingham News article comparing recruiting ranking with results on the field: USC and UGA – not so good. Ga Tech “No. 51 [recruiting] class but in the AP Top 10.”

http://bit.ly/4BmiO3

Delbert D.

November 5th, 2009
11:23 am

The man know his game. It’s incredible. Like telling Peeples, “The next time we call that play, take off down the field.”

Mark Bradley

November 5th, 2009
11:23 am

There are teams that have punted fewer times than Tech. (I checked.) But not many.

HPB

November 5th, 2009
11:24 am

Dead on the money Mark. I’ve not feared a halftime deficit since uGA last year. He (and GT) will have their losses, but we never feel we’re out of it now.

StingerSplash

November 5th, 2009
11:24 am

Come on, Mark, you know the headphones aren’t for show.
The assistants are telling him such pertinent things as where the free safety is lining up, if an A-back missed a block and asking such relevant questions as what do you want to do third and 3 and where are we going for lunch tomorrow.

lefty fielder

November 5th, 2009
11:24 am

MB: More precision than the spread and all of its options?

James

November 5th, 2009
11:24 am

I know that it’s also an indictment of our awful kicking this year, but I think if Paul Johnson had his way, he would eliminate the “foot” from “football” altogether. How many field goals have we attempted? We never punt in the second half. We go for it on fourth and four. We get two point conversions. I bet he would prefer that instead of kickoffs, he just runs a pitch play from the 20, and wherever the player is stopped, the opposing team gets the ball there.

It seems that Paul Johnson just wants to eliminate special teams and defense from football. And just play offense all day long. He’s a madman!!!!

But, Mark, you’re right. He’s the best.

UGA Grad

November 5th, 2009
11:25 am

Tech doesn’t run the traditional triple option, Lefty Fielder.

James

November 5th, 2009
11:26 am

I meant to mention also that the only thing that stops opposing teams from scoring is the fact that our offense holds the ball for the entire game…

GT93

November 5th, 2009
11:27 am

Thanks Mark. Good article about CPJ and his play-calling talents. His demeanor is EXACTLY what GT was looking for: heads down, focus on your task, take accountability … his “just win” personality is reflected in the team and that can lead to a long road of success. Its an exciting time to be a Yellow Jacket!!

Eastside Jacket

November 5th, 2009
11:29 am

lefty fielder I think you’re confusing the triple option with the wishbone. Pretty much noone but PJ runs the triple option like he does. The spread is similar (like Florida runs), but most run it out of the shotgun while PJ runs it from under center. The obvious difference is teams like Florida choose to pass more often. Why, I don’t know. Everyone knows when you pass the ball only three things can happen and two of them are bad.

78 DAWG

November 5th, 2009
11:29 am

Johnson, can’t compare to Bobo. He’s ok, but Bobo has the big stadium and high salary and 5 star recruits and the great fan base. It’s not really fair but, there’s just no way Tech can compete with the DAWGS! Johnson doesn’t even have a fake tan or a hair line that moves faster than AJ Green or that I just burned one look on his face.

Delbert D.

November 5th, 2009
11:31 am

CW – Thanks for that link. Stanford recruits for character, as does Tech.

Ralph

November 5th, 2009
11:32 am

Hmmm. MB passed on commenting whether Florida wants some state of Georgia football competition in Jacksonville. Maybe GA Southern is in the mix, too, and such negotiations are too sensitive for journalists to discuss openly.

UpwiththeWhiteandGold

November 5th, 2009
11:32 am

PJ is one of the best things ever to happen for GT – don’t be so hard on Willie. We like for him to stay in Athens for a very long time.

Tom

November 5th, 2009
11:33 am

Current NCAA punts per game…..

1. Florida 2.625
2. Stanford 2.75
3. BYU 2.875
4. (tie) Georgia Tech 2.889
4. (tie) Idaho 2.889

DMWC

November 5th, 2009
11:34 am

Admit it, “Bark Madly” was a funny, funny nickname. Maybe undeserved, but funny.

Knew it

November 5th, 2009
11:35 am

I am so glad to have been one advocate of summoning Johnson two years ago! No credit to me. I was just believing what Furman Bisher wrote.
GO JACKETS!!! BEAT WAKE!!!

hedge puller

November 5th, 2009
11:35 am

Johnson is a great coach: he is tough and it’s his way or the highway. His players fear him but they also respect him. When these players are older, they will love the guy.
Defense: Johnson has to know defense and how to defend in order to have the offensive success that he has had. When he says their defensive sub par performances are a team effort on defense, it makes sense, but every individual on the team has to do three things. Get off blocks and get off the ground when they are blocked; break down by cutting speed and getting butt down and being ready to tackle rather than running full speed, butt high, trying to make the big hit and whiffing the ballcarrier when he changes direction; and they need to be severely punished for not hustling when the play goes away from their side of the field. If they are not in the picture when the ball carrier is tackled on the other side of the field, they should run stadiums till they puke. It is amazing, even if players don’t break down and get in possition to tackle, how missed tackles seem to disappear when five guys are around the ball carrier. If the first one misses, no one remembers it because the second, third and fourth guy clean up.
And, while this old timer is getting cathartic, you players stop laying around on the field when you get a boo-boo. Why do you want to let the other team know that they have hurt you? Unless it is a spinal injury, get off the field: don’t give the other team the pleasure of seeing one our guys rolling around on the ground.
I cannot tell you how happy I am that Johnson is our coach. We have needed an in your face, spit flying coach for a long time.

m

November 5th, 2009
11:38 am

Thanks to God and Greyhound, chan gomer gailey is gone forever. Any Tech fan that contributed to keeping gomer for 6 long sorry years, whoever defended or supported gomer in any way, you suck as bad as he did.

We could have had Paul Johnson in 2002. Think about that.

Nativebird

November 5th, 2009
11:39 am

I’m a Jackets fan, but you have GOT to be kidding me? OPTION RIGHT, OPTION LEFT!

nuff said.

UGA Grad

November 5th, 2009
11:39 am

Thanks, Tom!

Flowery Branch Yellow Jacket

November 5th, 2009
11:40 am

I listened to CPJ’s radio talk show last night, wherein he discussed his personal input into not only the offensive performance, but also the defensive side of the ball. Assuming he’s being truthful, CPJ is pleased overall with his staff, including DC Wommack. I get the feeling that the only thing we really lack is DEPTH … and that’s true to some extent on both sides of the ball (with the exception of the running back positions). If you think that we make good adjustments at the half now, can you imagine how much more effective we’ll be when we actually have enough players to cover every position 2-3 deep? It’ll be more fun times at The Flats.