While kicking around the Mark Richt question — his seat: hot or not? — I got to wondering. What exactly would it take for Paul Johnson to plop himself down on the baking bench? (He has, after all, lost two of his past three games.) And here’s what I’m thinking:
Paul Johnson could lose the next 12 and get drubbed by Georgia 51-7 and punch Dan Radakovich in the face and it wouldn’t much matter. Because Georgia Tech fans love the man. They love him more than they loved George O’Leary, which is saying something. They love him because he’s not only a really good coach but because he carries himself exactly the way Tech people believe a Tech person should.
Meaning: He’s not deferential to the state school. (Quoth PJ: “What’s the last thing they won?”) All their lives Tech people are outnumbered by Georgia backers, and Georgia backers aren’t just many — they’re loud. Tech people feel no need to apologize for the Institute’s academics or starting salaries in the real world, but they have over the decades developed an inferiority complex regarding football.
PJ does not have an inferiority complex. He has a superiority complex. He’s pretty sure he’s smarter than the average bear (or Bulldog), and in his first year at Tech he beat a Georgia team that began the season ranked No. 1 in the nation. Tech folks have cause to be wary of naming someone coach-for-life — see Hewitt, Paul – but they’d do it for Johnson if they could.
Because he doesn’t just coach: He acts the way every Tech fan wants to act — aggressive, self-assured, disdaining of critics, in awe of no one. If you were drawing up the ideal Georgia Tech football coach in one of the laboratories at the North Avenue Trade School, he’d be it.
So maybe I overstated earlier. Were the Jackets to go 0-12 and get Chan-Gailey’d by the Bulldogs, Johnson might come in for a smidgen of criticism. But Tech folks wouldn’t stop believing. Because they see in PJ everything they didn’t see in those days of Bill Lewis and Gailey. They see the right man in the right spot. They see the new Bobby Dodd.