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Dabo’s Time

Posted by cuorange on September 1, 2009

cuorange_exclusiveAs the 2009 season approaches let’s take a step back and take a look at Clemson’s football program and try and add some perspective as it relates to two things:  Dabo and winning immediately.
Though the vast majority of Clemson fans are happy with the choice of Dabo as head coach there is a vocal minority that wanted a “name” coach or at least a coach with head coaching experience.  I certainly understand and appreciate that.
There are times when, for a variety of reasons, managers make decisions on people, right or wrong.  That’s their job.  Terry Don Phillip’s job was to find the right person to lead Clemson’s middling football program.  He looked at coaches with more experience, perhaps a better resume and pedigree and “bigger” names.  He didn’t look at every available coach or every coach every Clemson fan wanted and this fact has caused some consternation.
Obviously he saw something in Dabo even before October 13th of 2008.  But it’s what Phillips saw after October 13th that won Dabo the job permanently in my opinion.   Many of those that are unhappy say Dabo won the games that Bowden would have won and lost the games that Bowden would have lost, so what’s the difference between Dabo and Bowden?  Really?  Name the date that Tommy Bowden beat Boston College? 
I’ve heard the argument that Dabo learned from Bowden so they are going to be exactly the same.  My opinion is Dabo is the anti-Bowden and learned what not to do by seeing how Bowden handled things.  Dabo is open, communicative, genuine and hands on.  Bowden was closed, stiff, difficult at times, and a CEO type coach.  Two completely different coaches.  If you can’t see the differences you are simply not trying.  Listen to Dabo handle himself at a weekly press conference and you can’t help but notice the differences.

It was Phillip’s job to find the right coach for Clemson and he will bear the responsibility for the hiring of Dabo.
There are those that say Dabo should win in year 1 or be fired.  Did Nick Saban win big in year one at Alabama?  But Nick Saban has a history of being a proven winner they say.  He has earned the right for time to build a program.  Perhaps.  But there was a time early in his career when Nick Saban was allowed to develop as a coach while growing a program.  Saban’s first four years at Michigan State go like this: 6-5-1, 6-6, 7-5 and 6-6. Dabo deserves a similar opportunity.

Dabo Swinney

Dabo Swinney

Things have changed in college football since the mid-90s when Saban was at Michigan State.  I’m not suggesting that Dabo be given 5 years to prove himself.  I’m suggesting to only give him one year is not appropriate, especially in light of how recruiting works these days.
But Clemson has the most talent in the ACC and some of the best in nation the anti-Dabo crowd shouts, he should win immediately.  Bull.  Clemson has the third best talent in the ACC and is way down the line on a national scale. 
Dabo is attempting to change a 10 year culture of a laissez-faire attitude and a “soft” reputation.  That doesn’t change overnight.  It changes with intensity in practice, a driven coach, and time.  Those players that don’t, won’t or can’t fit that mold need time to exhaust eligibility, graduate or transfer.
This process started immediately upon Dabo being named interim.  Rob Spence was fired and the “two point” stance of the offensive line was junked for the most part.  Shortly after the regular season Vic Koenning resigned as defensive coordinator when it became apparent that he was not going to be retained.  Koenning’s philosophy didn’t mesh with Dabo’s desire to be more aggressive.
Dabo has handled most of the coaching personnel issues in the correct way.  The one exception I see is Billy Napier as offensive coordinator.  It’s not just that Napier has no play calling experience (other than the last 7 games of 2008); it’s that Dabo also has the same, limited amount of head coaching experience.  My preference would be for Dabo have hired an experienced offensive coordinator and let Dabo manage the game without having to worry about making the occasional play call.  But again, good managers make judgments on people, hire good people and let them do their thing.  Time will tell whether this was the right move or not, and much as Phillips will be judged by the hiring of Swinney, Swinney will in part be judged by the hiring of Napier.
When Clemson takes the field on Saturday I’m convinced we will see a different team than we have for the last 10 years.  I’m not suggesting the Tigers will win every game or win their division or ACC this year.  I am suggesting that September 5 is the dawning of a new and different era in Clemson football and Dabo is laying the groundwork for success in the near future. 
The question is will that success lead to championships.  The jury begins deliberating Saturday.


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