2015 AFCA Notes: Paul Johnson on Building a Consistent Program

Paul Johnson’s record speaks for itself. He’s the first coach in ACC history to be named ACC Coach of the Year during his first two seasons in the conference, and his offenses have been proving critics wrong for years now. Fresh off a huge and dominating upset over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, Johnson spoke during the General Session at the 2015 AFCA Convention in Louisville.

One of the most interesting comments he made was about sincerity and not being able to fool people by pretending to be something you’re not, which echoed what David Cutcliffe said the year before.

By the way, you can get a copy of all the notes I took at the convention by clicking here to be an Insider, or by going up to the top right corner of the page and clicking on the picture of Chip Kelly.

General Session – Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech

– It’s all about the people who surround you and who do most of the work.

– This past season was one of the most fun I’ve ever had because we had a great group of kids and we got back to basics.

– Has worked HS, JC, FCS, and FBS levels for the past 36 years.

“You know you’re starting to get old when you go out recruiting and the grandmas start to look good.”

– He never aspired to coach at the college level.

– When he was initially offered the head coaching job at Navy, he wasn’t that interested, but then he started hearing that the offense wouldn’t work at that level, so that made him decide to take it.

"Be yourself. People are smart and they see right through someone who isn't sincere. Stay true to your philosophies."

“Be yourself. People are smart and they see right through someone who isn’t sincere. Stay true to your philosophies.”

12 Pillars of a Successful Program

  1. Surround yourself with great people and define their role in the program. Great assistants and support staff must be able to check their ego at the door.
  2. Be demanding and hold people accountable while giving them the opportunity to do their job. Treat them the way you would want to be treated if you had their job.
  3. Be yourself, people are smart, and they see right through someone who isn’t sincere. Stay true to your philosophies.
  4.  Be willing to make the tough decisions and be accountable for them! Nobody wants to work or play for guys who can’t or won’t make decisions. There is only one rule in the program: Do right!
    1. “I think everyone knows what the right thing to do is most of the time. (He interprets what that means.)
    2. At the same time, you’ve got to be able to stick to what you know will work. “It’s easy to let people talk you out of what you want to do.”
    3. On tough decisions: “I’d be a better assistant coach now than I was 18 years ago because I know that I don’t know everything.” Sometimes the head coach can’t share everything with the assistants.
    4. He takes input from his assistants, but when it’s fourth down, he doesn’t ask, he just knows what he wants to do.
    5. Doesn’t believe in hard and fast rules, because the guys you’re most afraid of breaking them will be the ones who break them.
  5. Have a plan to develop the total person. They need to know you care about more than football.
    1. Twice a year, he’ll invite local and alumni businessmen to have dinner with the team so that the players can make connections and see what success looks like.
  6. Never try to teach a pig to sing. It frustrates you and annoys the hell out of the pig.
    1. Adapt what you do to your personnel. Find what they can do.
  7. Every good coach I’ve ever been around has had at least 1 of 3 characteristics, and great coaches have all 3:
    1. Fear or respect
    2. Love
    3. Superior Knowledge
  8. Recruiting is like shaving: If you don’t do it at least once a day, you look like a bum.
    1. Start everyday with 3 potential recruits on the board, and have each staff member write a personal note to the kid.
  9. It’s not how long you work but how efficient you work that counts! Have a plan and routine to get things done! Longer isn’t always better.
    1. His rule is that you should be here until you get your work done.
  10. It’s not what you know as a coach that matters, it’s what you can teach and communicate to the players so they can play fast.
  11. Have fun with your job. If it’s only a grind, you won’t make it very long.
    1. Mike Smith, former HC of the Falcons, said that he worked so hard for so long to get to a HC position, but that he never really enjoyed it while he was there.
  12. Every member of the team and staff needs to feel important. You’re only as strong as your weakest link.
    1. The time before practice is when he gets to know those young freshman and redshirt guys.
    2. It’s important to let your support staff know that they’re doing a good job.

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