Paul Johnson Hits It Hard, But Real

Zachary OstermanCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Head coach Paul Johnson of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets looks on against the Clemson Tigers at Bobby Dodd Stadium on September 10, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Paul Johnson got the engineers at Tech to whip him up his own straight-talk express)

Paul Johnson is an anomaly, at least as a college football coach.

He runs the triple option. He's had protracted success in the last 35 years at a service academy. Most refreshing, however, he tells it straight.

Most of your college coaches will talk tough about opponents, or opposing coaches, or the latest scandal within which they might find themselves embroiled.

But rarely will you ever find coaches who give you straight talk—or something resembling straight talk—when it comes to the current state of their team, players or coaches.

Most will give evasive and/or non-descript answers like "We're working on what we know we weren't doing well," or "I know you guys don't see the same things I see, but I was pleased with what I was looking for."

It's completely unspecific, and has the added benefit of making the interviewer (the reporter) sound dumb, even if he or she is not.

Paul Johnson is not one of those coaches.

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Meeting with the media this week, following last week's disaster of a loss to Miami, Johnson dished some real-world gab on his opinion of the Jackets' performance and subsequent state of affairs.

“Miami is an outstanding football team, but it wouldn’t have had to be the way we played.”

It doesn't get much straighter than that. Actually...

“We’re not really good at anything right now.”

These might not sound like the kinds of things a fan wants to hear from their head coach, but Tech fans, on the whole, love it, for three reasons.

1) As venerated AJC columnist Mark Bradley points out, Johnson beat Georgia in one try out of one, so he could dance the samba at his weekly press conference and the white and gold would still revere him.

2) We can all agree Johnson is more than likely underselling his team at this point, and if in some nuclear scenario he's not, then at least he's being frigidly honest.

3) This sort of behavior is so far from Chan Gailey that I'd hesitate to think the two men are of the same genus.

Gailey was the perennial underachiever, a man respected for his offensive brilliance who would talk to no end about how much potential he had and then go and win seven games and call it a season. The way he talked, the way he acted, he came to represent his overall tenure in Atlanta—remarkably, shockingly, incredibly average.

Johnson is none of that. He's tough, intense and honest. He'll tell you to shut the @#$* up if he thinks you deserve. If he isn't telling the truth, then the way he says what he says masks such a reality with great conviction.

It should be noted that one of the great weaknesses of his counterpart in Athens, Mark Richt, is that the Georgia coach can't be all those things, at least to the necessary degree.

More than anything, though, Johnson's shown a penchant for overachieving, the exact opposite of what Gailey seemed capable of.

Maybe that won't be the case this year the way it was last year. But if nothing else, Johnson will be honest about it. And Jackets fans take heart in that.


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