He carries his playbook around in his head. He rarely if ever wears a hat – even if it rains. But even the water doesn’t disturb the game plan. You see these NFL coaches walk about with a big plastic game plan in their hands. Not Paul Johnson. His next play hinges on what happened the play before. Sometimes
he may look like he’s reading palms, and sometimes he may look like he just played a bad hand. But he never wavers.
You’ll never see him playing any uniform tricks, or surprising the team with a sudden change in headgear. “There’s not much I can do,” he says. “We’ve got only two kinds, blue and white. The first time I saw a Georgia Tech team play, they wore white helmets. They looked pretty good, so I see no reason to mess with it. I don’t answer any questions about uniforms. Uniforms never decide who wins.”
He has no agent. “I do have an attorney, but he’s not on the phone calling around telling people I’d like to coach their team. I’ve never looked for a job. The jobs I’ve always had people came looking for me.”
His teams won 38 games in a row at Georgia Southern. That’s when the Naval Academy came shopping for him. They’d said you can’t win at Annapolis. “When somebody tells me I can’t get something done, that makes me want to do it more.”
So he went to Navy and he won. He dominated the other military academies, then he beat Notre Dame, something Navy hadn’t done in years. Then why did he leave for Georgia Tech?
“I thought you could win here,” he said.
A few of the players he inherited didn’t think so.They left. One, Colin Peek, a 6-foot-6 end, told him, “I think I can play in the NFL.Your offense doesn’t throw the ball enough.” He left for Alabama.
The starting quarterback said the offense didn’t favor the passing game, and Taylor Bennett was a passer, He left. Meantime, Josh Nesbitt, who succeeded him, ran a versatile offense, passing and running, and this season, Demaryius Thomas, one of his receivers, leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in receptions.
Tell him you can’t get something done, PJ will do it.
So Georgia Tech plays Wake Forest this weekend, and it’s at a time like this that Wake Forest is a dangerous opponent. This is the time you have to look out for Wake Forest. They’ve lost some tough games and they’re a good team. They had Miami beat, then lost their quarterback. (Riley Skinner came down with a concussion.) He has been cleared to play. After Wake Forest comes a resurgent Duke team, and this is when the season gets turbulent.
That’s when Paul Johnson is at his best. It’s in his hands. Or, rather, in his head.