Is Paul Johnson underappreciated in Atlanta?


Since becoming Georgia Tech’s head football six years ago, Paul Johnson has led his program to a BCS bowl appearance, two seasons that yielded at least nine wins, and a pair of division titles. Of all 14 ACC coaches, he’s tied with Dabo Swinney for the third-most division championships, and he trails only Frank Beamer when it comes to bowl streaks of active coaches in the conference.

Still, Johnson doesn’t have to go far to hear the most critical voices. At least, that’s what he said at this year’s ACC Football Kickoff.

“It’s interesting sometimes when you get outside the Atlanta area,” Johnson said. “Sometimes the negativity in Atlanta consumes you, and when you get outside Atlanta, the other people look at what you’re doing and your program a whole lot differently.”

Despite the media’s prediction that Georgia Tech would finish fifth in the Coastal (along with only one first-place vote), the seventh-year Jackets coach described it as “refreshing” to talk to people who “can see it in a different light.”

“It’s like [the ones in Atlanta] are the people who you would think would be more positive. But that’s probably the nature of the way it is most places, I guess.”

Johnson’s 47 wins in six seasons is good for the fourth-most of any ACC school during that span, trailing only Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech. The Yellow Jackets haven’t won more than eight games since 2009, though, and they have lost five of six bowl games under the 56-year-old coach. Whether it be the spread-option offense or lack of highly sought-after recruits committing to play for Johnson, many Tech fans have become frustrated with the program. In January, there was even an obituary in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calling for Johnson to be fired.

Only time will tell whether or not the negativity in Atlanta will increase or decrease, but one thing’s for sure: Another division title or win over Georgia wouldn’t hurt. Until then, it’s tough to imagine things getting any easier.

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