Here’s proof that Paul Johnson is, as Paul Johnson often suggests, winning at a rate that’s in keeping with his station. When asked about the difference between his first two seasons, when Georgia Tech went 20-7 on the field, and the past four, when his Jackets have gone 28-26, Johnson invariably notes that, over the Jackets’ history, double-digit win totals are the exception, not the rule.
(Dave Braine, Tech’s athletic director at the time, said something similar in November 2005: “Georgia Tech can win nine or 10 games but they will never do it consistently. That’s my belief.”)
Comes now an ESPN Insider post from Brian Fremeau of the always informative Football Outsiders, in which he notes that Georgia Tech ranks as one of the nation’s five most stable programs over the past 25 years. (Not one of the five best, mind you. Fremeau points out that Tech’s winning percentage of .564 over that quarter-century is the 34th-highest among FBS programs.)
Some programs aren’t built to be conference and national contenders but have found a groove at or just outside the Top 25 that has produced regular bowl appearances and just enough victories to keep coaches in place for a long time.
And that, for better or worse, would be Tech, when has over the past 25 years won two ACC titles (1990 and 2009, the latter having been forfeited) and the UPI national championship of 1990. Except for the lamentable reign of Bill Lewis and its aftermath, the Jackets have been competitive and occasionally very good — they were 11-0-1 under Bobby Ross in 1990, 10-2 under George O’Leary in 1998 and 11-3 on the field under Johnson in 2009.
Only in 1994, when Lewis resigned after a 1-7 start and O’Leary went 0-3 as interim replacement, have the Jackets failed to win at least five games over the past 25 years. If that doesn’t make them a colossus, neither does it stamp them as a doormat. (Remember, they’re on a streak of 17 consecutive bowl appearances.)
Johnson’s six-year tenure, Fremeau writes, has been of a piece with the bigger picture:
Johnson’s record against FBS opponents in his six years with the program matches Georgia Tech’s record over the past 25 years (56 percent) and their FBS closed set record, too (55 percent). The Yellow Jackets have been nationally relevant on occasion, but the Johnson era is typical for a program on the fringe of the Top 25.
There are those — I’m among them, and apparently Tech AD Mike Bobinski is, too — who believe the Jackets are capable of better. Fremeau is less optimistic, writing: “With Florida State restoring its status as one of the nation’s elite programs, it will be very difficult for Georgia Tech to ascend to the top of the ACC without a big boost in efficiency.”
Yes, we knew that already. Surely Johnson knows that, too. But Fremeau’s findings should offer him, and perhaps his constituency, a bit of solace. These past four years don’t represent the low point of Tech football. On the contrary, they’re what Tech football has become — not nearly great, but not terrible, either.