Clemson Football kept shooting itself in the foot on Monday. The loss to Duke still stings and will sting until the Tigers right the ship.
The presumption was that the old offensive system wasn’t performing with Brandon Streeter’s leadership, so the new system installed and run by Garrett Riley should look significantly different right away.
Though observers have stated that the formations and plays had changed, the reality is that the results didn’t look much different from when Clemson lost to Tennessee in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers gained yards but had trouble scoring. Additionally, most of the yards gained were from small plays and not chunk plays. There were rarely attempts to push the ball down the field in the passing game.
As a result, the overreaction is that Riley wasn’t calling the plays and that it was actually Swinney. Proponents of this theory point out the following:
Swinney has never called plays (he never served as a coordinator) and he has limited knowledge.
Swinney carries a playcard with him on the sidelines, so he must be telling Riley what to do on the headset.
Riley has been in charge of three Top 20 offenses in a row, so if the offense didn’t look good, it must have been Swinney calling plays instead of Riley.
Thus this week’s overreaction: Dabo Swinney isn’t letting Garrett Riley call the plays.
First, Swinney does carry a playcard. He often holds it up in front of his face so cameras can’t see what he is saying in his headset microphone. Sometimes people try to read lips and use it to their advantage. Coaches go to extremes to stop it.
Second, Swinney is the head coach and sometimes must make big decisions in critical situations. He is the guy who decides if the team will go for it on fourth down. He is the guy who will decide to run a fake field goal.
Insiders have said that Swinney does get involved with the offense from time to time. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised to know that Swinney was the one who said to run the ball on third and long against Duke. That’s what a head coach needs to communicate to an offensive coordinator. If Swinney thinks the best strategy is to run the ball and then punt and play defense, he needs to make that decision.
Dabo Swinney has influence because he is the head coach, but he isn’t the playcaller
That doesn’t mean that Swinney is calling most of the plays, and the feedback from people who are on the Clemson beat said exactly what has been said before: Swinney has input, but he wasn’t the play-caller. Riley called the plays Monday night.
This has been stated by Jason Priester of All Clemson Tigers (though it is in a Facebook group, so I am unable to link it) and published on TigerNet by David Hood. Not just a fanboy like me that writes as a hobby – two people who have connections to the program who are ‘in the know’.
I understand the knee-jerk reaction to a loss that was a difficult loss to process, but believing Swinney is the puppet master behind a struggling offense just isn’t true, and unfortunately, it isn’t just everyday fans repeating this overreaction.
There are some Clemson influencers out there on social media and podcasts who are spreading disinformation by repeating this. When everyday fans hear the people to whom they listen/read stating “Dabo needs to let Riley call the plays”, those fans take it for granted that what they are hearing is based on reality, not wild speculation. Then they repeat it to others and before you know it, a lot of people are pointing fingers.
That just leads to more people who don’t understand what is going on. You can be critical of Dabo for many things, but this overreaction just isn’t true.