Paul not Perfect … Ask about A-Pop

Recent media reports to the contrary, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is not the perfect football coach.

Just ask him about A-pop (since apparently none of the pundits will).

The annual Georgia-Georgia Tech battle looms at historic Grant Field Saturday night and the story’s all about Paul.

Tech swaggers in at 10-1, ranked 7th in BCS standings, champions of the ACC Coastal Division, most likely bound for a big-time Florida bowl game.

All because of Paul.

Georgia staggers in at 6-5, freshly wounded from a second-half collapse against Kentucky, head coach Mark Richt on the business end of fan discontent for the first time since he arrived in Athens, a potential trip to shivering Shreveport souring the post-season.

All because of Paul leading Tech to a rousing victory in Athens last season.

At least that’s the story scribes are selling us.

Heck, I bet Johnson even offed Uga.

This morning I learned from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley that a couple years ago Paul hit the green on a par-5 with his second shot … after his partner suggested he lay up.

Wow, move over Knute Rockne and back off Bear Bryant.

In the same section, I discovered from Jeff Schultz that Johnson had done a better job than Richt of developing a quarterback this season because Josh Nesbitt has outplayed Joe Cox. Schultzie failed to explain how the great JP might have rounded the slow-footed Cox into an option quarterback had Johnson inherited him instead of the multi-talented runner Nesbitt. But, I’m sure Bear – er I mean Paul – could’ve.

In online versions of the AJC, the esteemed Mr. College Football (Tony Barnhart – not Paul Johnson) claims PJ will bring the hammer down on Georgia should he get the chance, and Tony wonders whether the Dogs will have the heart to fight back and keep the game close.

Slow down fellas.

Paul Johnson is a very good coach, possibly on his way to becoming a great one.

Keep in mind he does have a losing bowl record and got completely outmaneuvered by the less-than-esteemed Les Miles of LSU in last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.

While I’m a Georgia grad, I grew up pulling for Tech too, saw many games off North Avenue, have wonderful in-laws who are Tech people, love the triple-option offense, and sometimes still even cheer for the Jackets. So, my comments are not knee-jerk reactions because the Wreck is rambling along pretty good right now.

Still, local hero worship by Atlanta scribes to the contrary, Paul’s not perfect.

Georgia just may need him to have an A-pop moment this weekend.

Read A Civil War: A Year Inside College Football’s Purest Rivalry, John Feinstein’s fine book about the Army-Navy game of 1995. While Johnson (Navy’s offensive coordinator) comes across very well in the book, earthy, profane, funny, and smart … he’s also overly confident and bold. That boldness leads to a blunder that costs the Middies dearly.

Deep into the fourth quarter, Navy led 13-7 and drove to the Army one-foot line. Facing a 4th and goal, all the Midshipmen needed was a chip shot field goal (their kicker was 2-2 that day) to take a nine-point lead, forcing the Cadets to score twice to win the game – an implausible possibility.

As Navy head coach Charlie Weatherbie pondered what to do, Johnson came over the headset and exclaimed “We can score with A-pop … they’ll have so many people on the line it’ll be wide open.”

Rarely will such a smart coach make such a dumb call at such a bad time.

Navy was an option team. Same offense Tech runs today. The Middies had the ball on the one-foot line. Logic dictated the field goal, or – if the team decided to go for the TD – a quarterback plunge or fullback (B-back) up the middle. Instead, Paul Johnson called A-pop … a short pass into the flats to one of the wingbacks (A-back in the vernacular).

All the Navy coaches with the exception of one supported Johnson’s silly call. The pass fell incomplete and the game turned.

Army drove the ball 99 yards, scoring with just over a minute left in the game to win a 14-13 thriller, one of the best games in the storied series.

A-pop was the pivotal call in the game. Johnson blew it.

Paul Johnson’s a good coach, perhaps on his way to being great.

He’s also prone to being overly confident and bold.

Georgia needs PJ to have another A-pop moment this weekend.

He just might.

* Note: Wonder about the lone dissenter on the Navy staff oppposing Johnson’s boneheaded call against Army? Defensive backs coach Gary Patterson, now head coach at TCU … a team that might well face Georgia Tech in a bowl game. Maybe he’ll remind PJ of A-pop.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s