Clemson football: How Tony Elliott can save his job after abysmal 2021 start

Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott talks with media in Clemson, S.C., September 27, 2021.Clemson Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliott
Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott talks with media in Clemson, S.C., September 27, 2021.Clemson Offensive Coordinator Tony Elliott /

If you had said during the preseason that the 2021 Clemson football team would have an offensive unit potentially worse than the 2010 season, you likely would’ve been received quite the blowback from both Tiger fans and even national media alike.

And yet here we are.

Six games into the season, Clemson statistically has one of the worst offenses in the country and it’s not really arguable. The unit has yet to score more than 21 points against an FBS opponent this season and that took double-overtime in a loss to NC State.

It’s been the perfect storm of errors for this Clemson football offense from bad QB play to inconsistent offensive line performances to poor WR execution, but one area that many Tiger fans have been extremely focused on, and for good reason, is the play-calling and coordination of the offense.

How Tony Elliott could save his job as the Clemson football offensive coordinator

There has been no indication from Dabo Swinney that Tony Elliott is on the hot seat, but his reference to the 2010 season— when Swinney fired Billy Napier– makes us believe that he’s at least taking a closer look at all of his offensive coaches heading into the final six games of the season.

We understand that Elliott can’t make a wide receiver block on the outside or control D.J. Uiagalelei’s accuracy on a pass,  but there are things he could do to put his players in position to have success– and there are things he should’ve done this offseason to transform the offense– and he simply isn’t doing them.

We’re continuing to see a very vanilla offensive scheme in the name of “getting the fundamentals down,” but it’s simply not working.

And, let’s be clear. Conservative play-calling from Clemson isn’t anything new.

The Tigers have relied far too much on conservative play-calling and letting players simply line up and be better than their competition. It’s not hard to put up a lot of points when you’ve got Deshaun Watson throwing to Mike Williams and Artavis Scott with Wayne Gallman in the backfield. Or, when you’ve got Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne in the backfield with receivers like Tee Higgins or Amari Rodgers on the outside.

But, that has to change and, in my opinion, it’s got to change this year for Elliott to hold on to his job.

Elliott needs to show some creativity and willingness to change. He needs to show that the Tigers aren’t afraid to go ‘on the offensive’ and attack the defense rather than trying to take what they give him.

Offenses are changing and Clemson simply hasn’t. It’s going to be hard to adjust a scheme midseason, but that’s exactly what’s going to need to happen.

If Clemson continues to have these kinds of failures for the entirety of a season, Swinney is going to have to make some tough decisions and that may include finding an innovative mind to take over the offense.

However, if Elliott can show that he’s willing to adjust and adapt. If he can show evolution and development in this offense, then there might be hope for the future as the Tigers look past 2021.

Next. Nothing to lose, it's time to open up the playbook. dark