Fans have had plenty to say about Clemson Football following their loss in overtime to Florida State. The Tigers now sit at 2-2 on the season, just as they did in 2021 after four games.
Opinions have been split. Several fans are frustrated. They are critical of head coach Dabo Swinney and his program. Some are pointing at the staff and the lack of experience, which they feel leads to a lack of player development. Some point to how the team builds the roster primarily through high school recruiting, instead of utilizing the transfer portal. Others point to in-game decisions by coaches.
There is a fair share of fans on the other side who don’t see things quite as negatively. They see a team that played well most of the day Saturday that lost because of a handful of mistakes that came back to bite them.
While this might sound like strong language to illustrate a point, there seems to be a split in the fanbase between people who feel Swinney and the staff have been negligent of the program in some way and people who feel the program is well managed but simply not playing championship football right now.
I have been critical of Swinney’s decisions on coaching hires before. I have said I would like them to use the portal a little bit more than they have been (though not in the same way many fans would like them to use it).
There are aspects of the program that I feel could improve for the better. I have questioned if the program has leaned too far towards protecting the “culture”, and sacrificed too much in other areas as a result.
I do not see Swinney or his staff as being negligent in any fashion. I agree the program is at a crossroads for the season, and will have to decide how much they care about being as successful as possible when the most they might achieve at the end of the season is 10 wins and a berth in the Pop Tart Bowl.
The balance of this season will dictate if changes are needed. I believe Swinney will make changes if needed, which is something I didn’t expect from him at this time last year.
I am far from convinced that will be necessary. Losses sting and sometimes nothing soothes that sting in the short term, but I mostly fall into the group of fans who still see a team with the potential to have a very good season.
I played lots of sports when I was younger but one of the best lessons I learned that I apply to situations like this came from high school marching band. Our director explained that sometimes what you hear can be deceiving.
Clemson Football appears to be close to being a very good football team
Sometimes a piece of music sounds better earlier in the rehearsal process than later. This is because everyone is making mistakes, hitting wrong notes, and not always on tempo when the band first rehearses a song. There are enough mistakes that none stand out above the rest.
As the band becomes better at playing the music, sometimes it can sound worse. While most of the mistakes are worked out, the few that are still happening stick out like a sore thumb. There are fewer mistakes than earlier in the rehearsal process, but it can sound worse.
While there is continuous improvement, the music can sound worse at a certain point right before it all comes together and sounds great.
I think this is where the 2023 Tigers are right now. I might be proven wrong, but I think we simply overestimated what they were capable of right out of the gate. I see the overall improvement over the first third of the season, and I think they aren’t far away from putting it all together.
That doesn’t mean they will string off ten straight wins. They still have plenty of games on the schedule that could go sideways if they regress at all. It takes a lot of poise and proficiency to never have a bad day.
Should things go sideways, Swinney will have some hard decisions to make. I’m not convinced things will veer in that direction yet.