In Johnson We Trust
During the 2008 season, when things weren't going as well as we would have hoped, a saying was born - in Johnson We Trust. The idea behind it was that, no matter the deficit or constraints, Brian Johnson would lead Utah to victory. Sure enough, in every game that season, the Utes won and Johnson's legendary status was cemented.
Now he faces a different challenge, one that probably won't end nearly as well as four years ago. Still, with so much on the line these next few weeks, a season on the brink, in fact, Johnson's legacy once again reemerges. As a young coordinator, with zero experience calling plays up until two weeks ago, the task ahead of him is daunting - not only does he need to fix this offense, he has to do so without his starting quarterback and, possibly, even his starting running back. The path ahead is littered with challenges. Fitting, I guess, since Johnson's rise was also wrought with struggle.
In Johnson we trust because there is no other option. Utah can't afford for Johnson to fail. Whether you feel Kyle Whittinham's choice to promote Johnson, a person, let's be honest, was not entirely qualified to run a Pac-12 offense, is moot at this point ... it's been done and we need it to succeed. We need it to succeed because the only other option is failure and then turnover. This program can't afford another turnover - not after five offensive coordinators in four seasons.
This offense has struggled to find its identity mostly because it hasn't had stability in the coaching booth. For all his faults, Andy Ludwig was at least a consistent voice and the lack of coaching turnover, on both sides of the ball, certainly aided the Utes in their undefeated season in 2008. However, since his departure, Whittingham's experimenting on offense has largely failed. Dave Schramm was not the answer in 2009 ... Aaron Roderick wasn't the answer in 2010, and while Norm Chow, in retrospect, meant more to the program solely for his guidance, he proved not to be the long-term answer, either. Which brings us back to Johnson, who was most likely picked because of his long-term potential. At only 25, he's certainly locked into the position for a few years.
But there in lies the problem ... what if Johnson isn't the answer? I'm not suggesting, after two games, we have enough evidence to say he can or cannot get the job done - but the possibility, I'm sure, has crept into all our minds. Even so, it doesn't help us right now to claim either is the case because there isn't much we can do about it. We knew when Whittingham made the hire that he was staking a lot on an unknown and if it doesn't pan out, if, in three years, Utah has slumped to the bottom of the conference and the program is in the dire straits, we'll be worse off for it. But we can't think of that right now, not with so little to go on and because of that, and I can't stress this enough, it's important we be patient and see this through.
I trust Johnson. I still believe in Johnson. But I also know, and now expect, some growing pains. I just hope the fan base can cut him some slack and realize how much more devastating it might be to the program to force a change than to see this through.
In Johnson We Trust.