I wanted to put up a couple of comments from Dabo Swinney’s presser today that I thought were very interesting. As I stated earlier Swinney had a noticeable edge to him today. He wasn’t combative or upset and (as usual) he was very open and honest with the media. He was still upbeat but for the first time this season you sensed he might have a chip on his shoulder. He acknowledged as much, saying the 2-2 start is not sitting well with him.
But perhaps there is something else that is bothering him. At the very end of the press conference he was asked by Bart Wright of the Greenville News what the difference between the close losses this year against Georgia Tech and TCU and all the close losses the Tigers had under Tommy Bowden. Listen below to his response.
AUDIO:Swinney on comparisons to Tommy Bowden (1:13)
I followed up by telling him, fair or unfair, he is not like other first year coaches because he was an assistant under the previous coach. Because of this a lot of fans view him as an extension of Tommy Bowden. Swinney understands this point but doesn’t think fans should judge him or the current state of the program on what Bowden did during his tenure.
AUDIO: Swinney on fan perception (1:10)
I think it is clear that Swinney doesn’t like being compared to his predecessor. From the minute he took over for Bowden he has made it clear that he wanted to change the attitude and culture of the program. By all accounts he has done that. The players have a better attitude, the team appears tougher, the fans are more engaged etc. But, and this is a big one, one thing that hasn’t changed is the record. This 2-2 start is very typical of a Tommy Bowden start during his 9 plus years at Clemson.
Usually a first year coach gets a pass. Fans will chalk up early struggles to a the new guy putting in his system and players adjusting to the new coaches and coaching style. But with Swinney it is different. Not only was he on Bowden’s staff but so were other key members of his current staff. The offense is struggling and fans see Billy Napier and Brad Scott and they remember Tommy Bowden.
Swinney is right, it isn’t fair. I think perhaps his biggest challenge this year is going to be convincing people he is NOT Tommy Bowden. Most coaches get three or four years to prove they are better than their predecessor. Swinney has been given less than a season (that is counting his interim games last year). Swinney can talk about the differences all he wants but the only way he will convince people is in the win column. Because of his and his staff’s connection to Bowden, they have to win sooner rather than later. By sooner, I mean now. It may not be fair but it is reality.