The Pink Elephant

It’s on the back of everyone’s mind.

It has been generations since Navy football has been the recipient of this much national attention. A week after the Mids ended their 43-game losing streak to Notre Dame, the stories are still pouring in. We hear Roger Staubach’s take, Phil McConkey’s take, and reactions from random Navy fans. Feinstein believes in miracles, Ram Vela is E.J. Henderson’s inspiration, and bloggers are reveling in Notre Dame’s 1-8 record. It’s fun to be the talk of the college football world… mostly. Not all of the attention is welcome.

We’ve heard one or two people a year ask why Paul Johnson doesn’t get more mention when the annual coaching carousel begins. We’ve heard his name tossed around here and there, but never very seriously. Ole Miss was rumored to have a little bit of interest a couple of years ago, and Johnson was also said to have turned down East Carolina. Last year, several newspaper reports claimed that Johnson was on the short list at North Carolina, NC State, and Alabama. As it turns out, none of those schools were as interested as they were alleged to be. But now that Navy has been put in the national spotlight, more and more people have started asking the question: when will some BCS school take notice and hire Paul Johnson away from Navy?

Half of the traffic on this blog consists of Nebraska, Georgia Tech, and Clemson fans who, apparently lacking any original thought of their own, link my posts on their blogs and message boards to use as propaganda in their campaigns to convince fellow fans that Paul Johnson is their man. Those of you who have been reading The Birddog from the beginning might have noticed that my “Five Myths of Paul Johnson’s Offense” post has disappeared, along with the video that I made to honor PJ on his 100th win. Those were the top choices for visiting scrounges to pilfer. After the Notre Dame win, though, my blog isn’t the only source for content anymore. Media voices around the country are seemingly counting down the days before Paul Johnson gets scooped up by some State U.

It’s sort of funny how people think that Paul Johnson is all of a sudden on the map because he led Navy to a win over Notre Dame. Nothing has really changed. Athletic directors have always known who Paul Johnson was. They still have the same reason for not hiring him; namely, his offense. Being an “option” team carries a stigma that a lot of ADs apparently just don’t want to deal with. I’m not sure why, exactly. It might be because some people think it’s boring and would drive fans away. Some look at the lack of option offenses in college football today and figure that it just doesn’t work anymore. And if you do run the option, but it doesn’t end up working and you have to find yet another coach, you’ll end up screwing that guy because he’ll be stuck trying to implement something new on a team full of option players.

Despite the perceived risks in hiring him, I really thought that Coach Johnson was history after last year. I was certain that UNC or NC State would have gone after the North Carolina native. Neither did, though, and Johnson returned for his 6th year in Annapolis. Looking forward, there are a few other schools that might consider him. The popular names to talk about are Nebraska, Clemson, and Georgia Tech. Nebraska is ridiculous, in my opinion. The only reason he gets any mention there is because of the whole “option” thing, even though Paul Johnson’s offense looks like nothing that Nebraska ever ran. If he ran any other offense, nobody would make the connection. Tommy Bowden may have earned a reprieve at Clemson with their play the last couple of weeks, and who knows what’s going on with Georgia Tech. And now people are starting to talk about SMU? It’s hard to predict who the next competitor for PJ’s services will be.

When Paul Johnson was initially approached by Chet Gladchuck about the possibility of taking the Navy job, he wasn’t interested. It wasn’t until he heard people saying that he couldn’t win there that he began to come around to the idea. There was a long list of things that people said couldn’t be done at Navy, but one by one, Johnson accomplished them all. Winning seasons? Bowl games? Commander-In-Chief’s Trophies? All done. And now, Johnson has accomplished the holy grail of Navy football impossibilities: beating Notre Dame. Media speculation has centered around how the Notre Dame win might have affected Johnson’s marketability. I don’t think it’s much different than it was before the game. What I wonder about is if the win has made Johnson himself feel more comfortable about moving on, that he’d be able to leave without feeling like he had unfinished business. Does Paul Johnson feel he has more to accomplish at Navy? Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question.

There are several factors that make Navy an appealing job for Coach Johnson. He has plenty of reasons to stay. I can’t help thinking, though, that now he has one less.

11 thoughts on “The Pink Elephant

  1. Rob

    If I was him, I’d want to crack the top 20 before I felt I proved a point. He knows the team and if it is a possibility over the next few years. I think the offense, even with losing Reggie, Zerb, and Adam, will be very good next year. Shun can be the new Reggie. Kettani can hold onto the ball and replace Adam. Kaipo is back. Maybe you can shed some light on the next 2 slotbacks. The defense, however, can suck again or end up being very good next year and 2009. Alot of young players are getting time. Injured stars will be back. 1 more year in the weight room, etc… At the very least, missed tackles should go down precipitously. Also, as you hinted at, maybe a new DC. Anyhow, it is possible that Navy can accomplish quite a bit beyond the CiC Trophy and Army next year. Plus, PJ is not an AD’s dream coach. For one, I can’t see PJ at Nebraska with Osborne looking over his shoulder and making suggestions. This is all I have to cling to.

  2. Rob

    I should add on the downside that PJ is clearly here for just football. Not that I would expect anything more, but it seems that Army and Air Force have had coaches that enjoyed working with Academy players for the intangibles. I’ve never heard anything out of PJ’s mouth that hinted he’s here for anything other than win football games. So, if had a chance to coach players with greater ability, I think he would take it and that would be his only criteria.

  3. 85er

    PJ appears to be a goal-oriented and goal-driven guy. Over the past few years, Navy has accomplished its articulated goals (CIC trophy), reaching a bowl game, etc. The big unarticulated goal — beating ND just got done.
    What reasonably reachable goals are left? I agree w/ Rob that cracking the top 20 or top 25 would be it. Without such a goal, PJ might just move on.
    On the other hand, isn’t this job appealing? From what I can see, PJ enjoys tremendous good will with the administration, the AD, the Brigade, and the alumni. That is worth something and cannot be easily rebuilt somewhere else. Moreover, coaching the mids has to be a bit easier than coaching a team like, say, Nebraska. Who wants to deal with a bunch of near-convicts? Finally, his is well paid. That’s not to say that Uncle Chet shouldn’t look into his wallet, if necessary, to keep that contract sweet.

  4. thebirddog

    It’s unfair to describe other schools’ players as “near convicts.” Navy doesn’t have a monopoly on good kids. Besides, when you hear about these problem kids it usually starts with coaches tolerating their behavior. If PJ doesn’t want to deal with them, he just won’t recruit them.

  5. Gary

    Do you think when that time comes that perhaps the most logical choice would be HC @ Hawaii?
    We know PJ must have no real timetable as he has a sweet deal at the Academy and will be heading toward “God like” status as Navy coach when he breaks the wins record in a few years.

  6. richie chick


  7. j holla

    I agree beating ND in the year they only win 3 games AND IN THE SAME SEASON U LOOSE TO DELEWARE to me is not a big deal .. How about beat RUTGERS BEAT WAKE FOREST BEAT A GOOD ND TEAM GO 12 N 0 AND GET TO A BIG TIME BOWL GAME !!! AND BE IN THE TOP 10 TO 25 THEN I CAN SAY U DID SOMTHING dont tell me about the types of kids navy has they get some GREAT players yes I said GREAT !! AIR FORCE THIS YEAR WAS SNIFFING AROUND THE TOP 25 ALL SEASON SO IT CAN BE DONE !! I THINK P JOHNSON HAS ALOT LEFT TO DO !! GO NAVY !!

  8. j holla

    Well that only deals with one of the points I made so 1 out of 3 not so bad it would be nice to accomplish all these things in the same year that is all i am saying WKF WE CAN BEAT RUTGERS WE CAN BEAT AND I WOULD LOVE TO BEAT ND WHEN THEY R good !! THEN they would have a legit shot at 12 n 0 and bigger bowl game then i understand Paul Johnson moving on I STILL THINK THEY AHVE WORK TO DO

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