Georgia Tech Misses Symbolism of Hiring Navy Coach on Pearl Harbor Day

As usual, Paul Westerdawg had the right idea: "Also, when Georgia Tech finally names a coach, I'll likely make fun of them (whoever it is)."

Well, we now know who it is, but, before offering an initial assessment of Paul Johnson, I feel compelled to offer a word in defense of Chan Gailey, because the Americus native's plight was rooted more in circumstances beyond his successor's control than the Georgia Tech faithful---you know, the ones who aren't selling out a 55,000-seat stadium---would like to bee-lieve.

(By the way, when I went to look up their arena's capacity, I learned that the Institute's website describes Bobby Dodd Stadium at historic Grant Field as "easily one of the nation's most unique settings for college football." As I have pointed out to the Georgia Tech faithful before, uniqueness is a binary condition; something either is unique or it isn't. A thing can't be more one-of-a-kind than another thing. Is there anyone at the Institute who majored in English without the addition of the words "as a second language"?)

This is a fact, regardless of whether anyone at The Flats would care to admit it: Chan Gailey was as good a head coach at Georgia Tech as George O'Leary was.

There are those, I am sure, who would argue otherwise, based on numbers offered outside of context. Coach O'Leary, after all, was 52-33, whereas Coach Gailey was 44-32 (although it is open to debate how big a difference there really was between their respective records).

Leaving aside the fact that Coach O'Leary enjoyed a very different level of success with Ralph Friedgen running his offense than he did without The Fridge at his side, the reality must be confronted that Coach Gailey did not face his predecessor's schedule. (Coach Gailey also didn't allow academically ineligible starting quarterbacks to play in bowl games, but that's a separate conversation.)

George O'Leary's Yellow Jackets competed in an A.C.C. that did not count Boston College, Miami (Florida), and Virginia Tech among the league's member institutions. Moreover, George O'Leary's tenure in the City Too Busy to Hate largely coincided with the years during which Clemson was coached by Tommy West, Maryland was coached by Ron Vanderlinden, N.C. State was coached by Mike O'Cain, Virginia was coached by George Welsh in the waning days of his career, and Wake Forest was coached by Jim Caldwell.

By contrast, Chan Gailey had to deal with Tommy Bowden's Tigers, Ralph Friedgen's Terrapins, Chuck Amato's Wolfpack, Al Groh's Cavaliers, and Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons. That Coach Gailey faced a demonstrably tougher schedule week in and week out is underscored by the fact that Coach O'Leary faced Ray Goff's and Jim Donnan's underachieving Georgia squads, whereas his successor had to contend with Mark Richt's Bulldogs.

Georgia Tech fans who see in the transition from one coaching regime to the next a sea change marking a stark break with the old era are sadly mistaken. As long as there is stability on the sideline on the other side of the bridge from the Tate Center, it is of only minor importance who strides the sideline on the other side of I-75 from the Varsity.

Still, even a minor change can make some difference, so let us see what significance is likely to accompany Coach Johnson's arrival in Atlanta. His success at Georgia Southern and at Navy was based on an offensive system that has been consigned to the scrap heap of history at the B.C.S. conference level. The method that made him a success at a Division I-AA powerhouse and at a service academy will have little to no bearing on his ability to achieve at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

What, then, does Paul Johnson bring to the table? The answer, it seems, is "brutal honesty" . . . a term which, after the honeymoon ends, will be found to be synonymous with "a complete lack of people skills." Heck, if that's what the Golden Tornado was going for, why didn't Dan Radakovich just remove the "interim" qualifier from in front of Jon Tenuta's temporary title?

Tony Barnhart put it this way: "Paul Johnson is a low-key country boy from Western North Carolina who tells you exactly what he thinks---even if it stings a little bit." Peter Bean characterized him as "a real man's ranter" who "shoot[s] from the cuff" after the fashion of Denis Leary.

Gee, I seem to remember another coach at a Division I-A program in the Peach State who fit that description:

Welcome back to the Empire State of the South, Coach Johnson. We're sure looking forward to giving you a proper greeting in Sanford Stadium the Saturday after Thanksgiving next year.

Go 'Dawgs!

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