Can Georgia Tech Football Move Forward in the Paul Johnson System?


Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Ten losses, five losses, two losses, four losses, four losses, four losses, four losses, three losses, seven losses, five losses, seven losses…and so far, four losses.

Those are the loss totals for Paul Johnson‘s teams at the FBS level. If anything, that list shows that his teams are rarely spectacular, sometimes dreadful, but usually just pretty good. Typically his teams beat the teams they are supposed to, go toe-to-toe against evenly matched teams, and are usually demolished (with the occasional upset) by ranked and top-tier teams.

The latest whitewashing by No. 8 Clemson is a prime example of that statement.

If Georgia Tech were a middling program that had never had a real taste of greatness, or that had no real aspirations of fielding a nationally competitive team, that type of success rate would be acceptable. But the Yellow Jackets football program has a rich history, and plays in one of the top conferences in the country.

Those type of returns should not be tolerated.

This isn’t an essay to add fuel to the fire of the “Fire Paul Johnson” zealots. This is just pointing out the fact that some kind of change has to be made if Georgia Tech is going to move up to the upper echelon of ACC teams, and start entering the discussion that will begin during the 2014 season for possible playoff teams. If things remain status quo on The Flats, then unfortunately head coach Paul Johnson will be the one to shoulder the blame, and in turn, become the flashpoint for change.

It’s become clear over Johnson’s five-plus seasons at Georgia Tech that the triple-option offense has it’s pluses and minuses. It can be used to exploit some teams, but against teams with a solid defensive front seven, it becomes the achilles heel of the Yellow Jackets on offense. The lack of being able to effectively pass the ball sets Tech back light years in terms of competing on a national level.

Johnson is a quality coach, and a smart one, so he can’t be oblivious to the facts that right in front of him. The question is, does he have the flexibility to want to make a change?

You don’t want to see a high-character coach like Paul Johnson fail, and you certainly don’t want to see him lose his job. But in today’s high-dollar college football world and pressure that comes with it, wins are always going to outweigh the character and likeability of a coach, and you have to wonder how many more years of pedestrian finishes the Georgia Tech boosters and alumni are going to tolerate.

It might be time to bring in an offensive coordinator who specializes in spread offense passing schemes, and for him to work together with Johnson to come up with a hybrid-option offense, more similar to what some NFL teams are currently running. The quarterbacks in this system have to be just as adept at dropping back from under center and making reads to find a receiver as they are determining when to take the dive or to pitch the ball out.

Georgia Tech already has a big enough disadvantage when it comes to recruiting. To limit what the team can do on the field is only adding to that problem.

Not all of Paul Johnson’s teams problems are on offense, but even many of the defensive shortfalls can be traced back to what the Jackets are doing (or not doing) on offense. The combination of the two can add up to lopsided wins and losses, which has kept the teams he has coached from really becoming a consistently competitive program. They win, and win enough to be invited to bowl games and to make a little racket in the conference standings. Tech deserves more.

Going to bowl games and pulling oh-so-close to becoming relevant in the conference shouldn’t be good enough. Georgia Tech fans, alumni, coaches and players should expect–and strive for–much more.

Let’s hope Paul Johnson feels the same.