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The Four Horsemen, Circa 1924
Those who dismiss Johnson's offense out of hand usually say one of two things: that the flexbone is a gimmick designed to “trick” an unwary defense, or an old, boring, out-of-date throwback to the Pop Warner era, before the forward pass rose to prominence.
In reality, these arguments cancel each other out. Yes, the option has been around a long time, long enough that if it really amounted to a gimmick, defensive coordinators would have “figured it out” a long time ago. Johnson’s modern flexbone, with which he resurrected an ailing Navy program a decade ago, is actually based on a version of the run-and-shoot offense, spreading the game out to create even more running lanes and confusion for opposing defenses.
From the deadly ground game that made Nebraska a perennial contender in the '80s and '90s to the prolific punch of today's Ramblin' Wreck, teams have historically proven that the option play is no passing (or running) gimmick. Johnson’s combined 141-58 record as a head coach at GSU, Navy and Georgia Tech shows that his offense is not smoke and mirrors, but a system of plays designed to consistently counter any modern defense.