Having a sense of history, Paul Johnson has heard all the reservations about Navy football.
The military commitment and academic rigors preclude the ability to recruit players who can win consistently. No one who plays for the Midshipmen is planning on an NFL career. The schedule is too tough. There are just too many detriments.
But the former offensive coordinator who signed a six-year contract to become Navy's 36th head coach prefers to discard those thoughts as he prepares to launch a bid to turn around a program that has produced only one victory in the past two seasons.
"If all you do is dwell on the negatives, you're never going to win anything," said Johnson, who was re-introduced yesterday in a pep-rally atmosphere at Alumni Hall. "If the Air Force Academy can do it, why can't the Naval Academy?
"I can assure you if the Johnson family didn't think there was a chance to win at the Naval Academy, we wouldn't be standing here."
The coming-home theme was prevalent although Johnson will continue to coach Division I-AA Georgia Southern, which is shooting for an unprecedented third straight national title under his tutelage.
And, indeed, Johnson's familiarity with the demands of the academy and the difficulties in recruiting was a major influence on athletic director Chet Gladchuk's decision to hire him at an annual salary of $350,000, plus numerous incentives.
"When we looked at the criteria," Gladchuk said of the screening committee, "he just hit on every cylinder. As the process went on, he continued to compute on the radar screen as someone who made a lot of sense for us."
Gladchuk said Johnson was the No. 1 candidate among many after an extensive search and interviews with coaches, athletic directors, collegiate commissioners and former players.
Quarterback Craig Candeto stands to inherit a starting role if Brian Madden is not granted another year of eligibility by the academy administration after missing his junior season with an injury.
Candeto said the players "are all excited about the administration's pick. His [Johnson's] numbers speak for themselves. I went to Georgia Southern a couple times to watch them play [on recruiting trips], and they make their style of offense work.
"After the last two seasons here, everybody is kind of looking for something, and he is a proven winner. We really believe in him and his staff, and I think he's going to get things turned around at Navy."
Johnson and Gladchuk met earlier in the day to discuss several matters, among them assistant coaches. Neither was willing to name names later, but the coach said he would bring some aides with him from Georgia Southern and hire several "guys who were on the staff here in the '90s."
Gladchuk said "everything is open-ended" with regard to last season's 11-man staff, including interim head coach Rick Lantz, and that decisions will be made shortly, but Johnson is strongly leaning toward coaches he knows.
The hiring was announced before the end of Georgia Southern's season because Navy "wants to make a statement on recruiting by having a coach in place," said Gladchuk.
On the other end, Johnson said "there was a concern the story was going to leak and break and our football team [Georgia Southern] was going to hear about it and let it be a distraction. It was better to get it out of the way."
Johnson wants to quickly remedy Navy's trend of losing at home (one victory in three years). "There is a sign on the stadium at Georgia Southern that says `OUR HOUSE,' and we take pride in it [39 straight wins]. I'd like to see our guys do it here."
The first goal is to "get the best 22 players" on the field, and not necessarily in their current positions.
"Chris McCoy [record-setting Navy quarterback] was a defensive back when I came here," said Johnson. "He came into the office one day and said he thought he could play quarterback in the system. I told him to get in line.
"After two reps [repetitions], I told him to get to the front of the line."