CLEMSON FOOTBALL: Swinney: Coaching continuity big plus
CLEMSON — It’s not unusual when you are one of the best teams in the nation to have your assistant coaches courted by other teams looking to fill vacancies within their coaching staffs. But that, strangely enough, is something that Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been able to avoid for the most part during the Tigers run over the last six years.
In fact, Swinney has lost only three assistant coaches during that time frame — offensive coordinator Chad Morris (2014), who left to become the head coach at Southern Methodist before becoming the head coach at Arkansas last week; defensive tackles coach Dan Brooks, who retired after last season, and defensive ends coach Marion Hobby, who took a position with the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.
Swinney understands the type of continuity he has been able to maintain on his staff at Clemson is the exception in today’s coaching landscape.
“I think it’s rare, it’s uncommon in this business,” Swinney said. “We’ve had great continuity. This is a great place to work, great place to live and raise your family. But that just kind of comes with the territory. I don’t really get too caught up in that stuff. Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. But if somebody gets an opportunity to go be a head coach, I’m always willing to help and happy for them. If it’s a lateral move, it probably oughta be a good interview, so we don’t really have a lot of that.
“When guys have left here it’s usually because it’s been an opportunity to go be a head coach, or some type of advancement -- go to the NFL -- that type of thing. But for the most part, we’ve had a lot of continuity on this staff and I think it’s great.”
And that is true. The Tigers have not had many coaches leave for “lateral” moves and it would appear that they will not have to worry about any changes this season. Brent Venables, Jeff Scott and Tony Elliot all appear to have taken their names out of consideration for other jobs.
However, when Clemson has had coaches leave — like last season — Swinney saw that as an opportunity to promote from within, moving defensive analyst Mickey Conn to the field to coach the safeties and bringing in a fresh face with the hiring Todd Bates.
“Then we’ve developed our staff. When we’ve had opportunities, we’ve been able to promote some guys from within -- which I think has allowed us to have that continuity as well,” Swinney said. “From time to time you have some change from outside too. Just like this year with Todd coming in. But man, what a great fit he’s been. He’s done an awesome job, hit the ground running and brought great energy in here.
“But I think whenever there’s opportunity -- and if you have the chance, if you’ve got somebody here that’s prepared and ready -- I’ll always think that’s the best option from a consistency, chemistry standpoint.”
For Swinney, the opportunity to keep his staff intact over the last six years has been one of the main reasons for the Tigers success on the field.
Whether it is in recruiting or just simply understanding the program values, having people that are bought in to what the program believes in is a key part to building a championship program.
“Just familiarity, relationship, you’re not starting over as far as who we are as a program,” Swinney said. “People know the philosophies, they know the way we do things, the recruiting relationships -- those things, you don’t really have gaps in that stuff. You just kind of hand the baton off and keep rolling.”
While the Tigers are preparing for their third straight appearance in the College Football Playoffs with all of their coordinators in place, there is sure to come a point in time when Clemson will be forced to either promote from within or go out and hire a replacement.
When that time comes, Swinney believes the Tigers will be just fine because the head coach — not the assistant coaches and the coordinators -- is the one who drives the philosophy and the vision.
“At the end of the day, you may have turnover in your staff, but the head coach is always going to set the philosophy,” Swinney said. “I think as long as you’ve got stability there, even if you have some change on your coaching staff, if you have a good plan and something that you really believe in -- and you’re good enough -- you should be able to maintain some consistency.
“It makes it a lot easier when you’re on the same page right out of the gate, but when you have change, I embrace that too. I think that’s fun to be able to teach a new guy who we are, how we do things and why we do it that way and create that buy in.”