Clemson Football: The Upside of Change and the Coaching Carousel

Change is something that is inevitable, it’s the norm.

Some folks embrace it, others like me, dread it. However, for the purpose of this article, I’ll try to take a reasonable, objective view of the how’s and why’s of this yearly coaching carousel phenomenon and how Clemson might be effected.

It’s kind of funny, as legendary coach, Steve Spurrier, calls it the “silly season.” One fraught with wild speculation and fan’s anxiety. Ironically, he is usually the silliest during this season, it just fits him. All that aside, this is serious and the fickle finger of fate has a way of changing everything for some programs.

Is Clemson going to be one of those programs that fickle finger points towards this year? While nothing of substance has come to fruition yet, this is merely conjecture on my part and just intended as conversation.

Objectively, both Brent Venables and Tony Elliott are extremely worthy candidates for any vacant job. Their body of work speaks volumes of just how great of a job they’ve done. Any program would be lucky to get either. However, understandably and selfishly, the Tiger faithful don’t want to lose either but unfortunately, that does not factor in to the equation.

Dabo Swinney has surrounded himself with exceptional craftsmen of their trade. All are energetic, dedicated and integral to the vitality of this program. As you might expect, Swinney is the first to encourage his coaches to follow their dreams and desires of being a head coach, if that is indeed what they want.

One needs to look back at how proactive Swinney was in helping Jeff Scott secure the USF job. Even going as far of calling the athletic director himself to give Scott the highest recommendation and his blessing. What an exceptional boss.

Let’s be honest here, Tony Elliott and Brent Venables have had many opportunities to leave, but they’ve always stayed. This year, however, seems different. In some ways, the rigors of this past season have brought out the ugly side of passion with regards to a very small, yet vocal faction of the Clemson faithful.

Regardless of how thick-skinned a coach may be, there has been some very harsh criticism that would make many question if it’s time to move on. Some will point out that these are highly paid professionals and such behaviors are “just part of their jobs.” While that assertion holds some truth, even millionaires aren’t immune to cruel words and overt questions of their integrity.

So, what could be the possible ramifications of losing one or both of these coordinators? First, continuity of staff. Each of these men have been in this program for over ten years. They’ve been, in large part, the glue that’s held this magnificent machine together through it’s run of greatness. While no one is irreplaceable, it would be a daunting task to replace either, let alone both. However, this program was built to last, to survive, to weather any storm and I believe it will continue.

Tony Elliott’s departure, if and when it happens, appears to have a clear line of succession, in Brandon Streeter. Streeter has been a successful assistant (quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator) during his time at Clemson. Before his arrival, he was also a brilliant offense coordinator at both Liberty University and University of Richmond, leading prolific, very successful offenses at both places.

While some have been vocal in assessing blame for the quarterback issues Streeter’s way, he is more than capable and provides that much needed continuity. He’s also been under the tutelage of Swinney, Elliott and Scott. He was made for this, he’ll add a new energy to the offensive side of the ball. As a Clemson Alumnus and former quarterback at the school, this is home and most would be delighted with his promotion.

Venables departure, real or speculative, has no clear line of succession, no immediate, on staff replacement. There are fantastic defensive coaches and Swinney could look from within, but this is a high profile job, one with huge shoes to fill. One might expect Swinney will do an extensive, national search for a replacement.

With the salary Clemson could offer, few choices are off the table. If the culture of this program appeals to prospective recruits, it should be very appealing to a coach looking for a proven winner and an elite program in which to call home. I can’t offer a suggestion for a replacement for Venables, if indeed one will be needed but fans would do well to just trust Swinney and his process.

In the midst of all this mad speculation, this silly season, objectivity is very important. Objectively, one needs to remember the angst that surrounded Chad Morris’ 2014 departure. Many feared the offense would flounder without his brilliance. Oh how wrong those worries proved to be. Many doubted the audacious move of having co-coordinators but it worked. I’m of the belief, Morris’ departure, rather than an ending, it was a beginning of something much greater. Nothing personally against Morris but he could only lead this team just so far. It would take others to carry it forward and they did, brilliantly.

Then, there’s another issue that comes into play when a coordinator leaves. That is taking staff with them. It happens and it’s real. Again, this is speculation, a “what if” conversation of who would stay and who would leave. Honestly, who knows? What needs to be remembered, this program remains firmly in the hands of one of the greatest leaders, CEO’s, head coaches, in all of college football, Dabo Swinney. In that respect, our fortunes should continue.

If the “worst” happens, fans must sit back and trust the man, the architect of this program, that undaunted, over believer, Swinney. He’s successfully and brilliantly led this program for thirteen years and doubt this man if you like but do so at your own risk. He has a way of making a downside look and feel like the ultimate upside.

That’s what visionaries do, always keeping their eyes forward and a willingness to embrace change. I believe it’s appropriate to say, don’t worry, Dabo’s got this. Admit it, you already knew that fact, right? It’s what Clemson has come to know and have faith in, Dabo’s embracing and believing in the upside of change.

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3 thoughts on “Clemson Football: The Upside of Change and the Coaching Carousel

  1. Swinney would be best served to take whatever pay cut is necessary to retain Venables, who is clearly irreplaceable. Lets not fool around guys, Brent Venables has saved the Tigers countless times and he routinely stymies other top schools’ offense. If we need to appease bean counters, then simply move some of the current beans on the table to Venables and dont make a brainless money decision. Thinking caps, people. Venables kid played for the Tigers and even he toe’d the line until his body gave up.. He’s clearly married to the school, so keep him in the family and keep paying him enough. Highest paid assistant coach?-fine with me-worth it and worth more than the cost of losing him.

    Regarding offense, i do not think more of the same is in order. Another Chad Morris should be priority. We have issues with subpar players that have not been fixed, and these are former blue chip recruits. Part of the blame is players, part of the blame is coaches. When we had franchise guys like TL and Watson then you could afford to have ordinary industry standard coaches. Currently…we should be looking for someone extraordinary. It is unrealistic for Clemson to win the best recruits, but we certainly can afford to pay top salary for coaches who make a decent players into something special and that is the rub. 3-4 years and the players turnover, then we start over and should be MAKING great players with great coaches.

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