This conversation has been had ad nauseum on this board and others for the length of Coach Johnson's tenure, and I'm not sure how much we can contribute of new relevance. But for the sake of conversation, here goes:
I witnessed CPJ turn GSU into a juggernaut of a program. I had roommates play for him as preferred walk-ons. The Southern Conference was the SEC of Div. 1-AA, with GSU, App State, and Furman consistently being ranked in the top 5-10. At that time, he faced few hurdles in recruiting, and was able to get the cream-of-the-crop of talent at that level (for the record, Sewak maintained the high level of play that PJ established, and his offenses were prolific, but his control of the entire program wasn't on par with PJs, and it was about to fall apart).
His success at Navy speaks for itself. Under the most restrictive recruiting limitations, he dominated the service academies and competed with traditional powers. His success in that environment is convinced many of us, including myself, that he could take GT to the next level (consistently competing for ACC titles and top 15 finishes were my hopes).
IMO, the thrilling successes of 08 and 09 had a lot to do with PJs ability to coach up that 1-85 talent (since he did inheret the 1-8 talent of that 07 class). Gailey did a great job getting those guys in, but I don't know if he could have capitalized on that talent with overall team success. PJ did that, even while dealing with a criminal lack of depth on both sides of the ball. For every JD and MB on that squad there was an Austin Barrick and Sean Bedford, playing completely out of position and way above their pay grade. Those guys responded to PJs fire (for the most part), and even though some of them have cooled to him recently, they owe their legacy at GT to the infusion of competitiveness that he brought.
The failures of those first couple of years, however, were obviously in recruiting. Facing tougher academic restrictions than any GT coach in memory (obviously debateable, but my opinion nevertheless), I think PJ struggled to find an effective strategy. GSU used to get studs from south GA and north FL all the time. Its no secret those kids aren't the most likely to get accepted to a world-class research institution. Combine that inexperience with the ALL-OUT ASSAULT that GT and PJ experienced from the local media after we beat UGAg in 08 and bad luck with DC hires, and you had a recipe for our struggles of '10-'12.
CPJ has always been hard. Sometimes he's a jerk. I didn't go to GT, but it seems like that fits with the culture. Sometimes I wish he would buddy-up to the media more, and talk up his players more, and generally be a nicer guy, but that's just not him, and never will be. I'm fine with that.
I think he has kept us afloat, and very competitive, through college-football's major push toward semi-pro status. He has faults, and he doesn't do everything exactly like I wish he would, but I absolutely feel like he is the man for this job right now. With the improvements in recruiting, the obvious upgrades on the defensive coaching staff, and his IMPECCABLE record of student-athlete conduct and academic success (no way to overstate this), I hope he is here for a long time. His integrity and commitment to his players being true student-athletes is what makes me sleep well rooting for GT.