Dabo’s backup plan … the drawback of CEO head coaches … and SI’s mock playoff selection

NORTHWESTERN COMMAND – It is not a question of if Chad Morris becomes a college head coach it’s when. And that ‘when’ could be very soon as N.C. State is very interested in Morris.

And why wouldn’t N.C. State be interested in Morris? Morris’ offense scored 62 points against the Wolfpack earlier this month. Offense sells tickets. The up-tempo, no-huddle philosophy is spreading, including to N.C. State’s neighbor, North Carolina.

Even if N.C. State goes elsewhere and hires, say, Sonny Dukes, there are a number of other openings – and trickle-down openings this offseason for Morris – and surely next offseason, as well.

Knowing Morris is unlikely to be paired with Swinney in the long-term I asked someone close to Swinney, and familiar with Swinney’s thought process, this question earlier this year: ‘Who is the next Chad Morris?’

I expected the answer to be another up-and-coming non-BCS playcaller like Morris was at Tulsa. Perhaps, even a radical high school coach that Clemson is keeping tabs on instead.

Instead I received this name: Jeff Scott, Clemson’s recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach.

Will this be Clemson’s play-calling duo in 2013?

Clemson fans mostly had a negative reaction to this when I put it out on Twitter last night. But it makes sense at a variety of levels:

*Scott – and Swinney – have had two years to observe and absorb the Morris offense. They have copies of the Morris playbook. They know how it’s implemented and practiced. This is the only way of preserving the same system if Morris leaves. Yes, there are a lot of up-tempo, no-huddle schemes in the country but in talking to a veteran DC they are all unique and they can’t simply be swapped as interchangeable parts. Promoting Scott is the only way of keeping philosophical continuity.

*Scott is one of the most important recruiting assets at Clemson. He’s been the recruiting coordinator since 2009 and has been personally responsible for signing elite prospects like Tony Steward. He’s well connected in Florida. If Clemson doesn’t promote Scott, another program will eventually make him an offer. Lane Kiffin tried to hire Scott when he left Tennessee for Southern Cal.

*Swinney might also want to have more influence over the offense. Yes, he gave up control after the 2010 season when he was on the hotseat but my guess is he still has a desire to show folks he can run an offense. Swinney would likely become something of a co-coordinator if Scott was promoted.

Why some folks are questioning the idea:

*We saw what happened in 2010 when Dabo Swinney and Billy Napier shared control of the offense. There were calls vetoed, there was a butting-of-the-heads in regard to some philosophy. While personnel was a key issue, having dueling coordinators did not help the offense develop an identity or rhythm, and perhaps it is fair to wonder if promoting Scott would be a repeat of history.

*There are a lot of good coaches out there looking for good jobs. Swinney proved with the Morris hire he can go outside the organization and identify and hire good coaching talent. Why not do it again?

*Clemson showed last fall it is capable of implementing a new offense and having success in its first year.

From Coachingsearch.com here’s a list that should be in Swinney’s top desk drawer: it’s the 20 offenses that improved their scoring by 9 or more points per game and those offenses’ playcallers.

(Wouldn’t Terry Bowden to Clemson be interesting?).

Here’s the top 10:

Team 2011    ppg 2012 ppg Improvement Play-caller
Louisiana Tech    30.08          51.5      21            Tony Franklin
Marshall               21.85         40.92     19            Bill Legg
Kent St.               17.08         34.42    17             Brian Rock
Tennessee           20.33          36.17   15             Jim Chaney
Ole Miss             16.08             30.92   14           Hugh Freeze
New Mexico           12               25.77 13             Bob DeBesse
UCLA                   23.07            36       12            Noel Mazzone
Ohio St.              24.46            37.17   12             Tom Herman
North Carolina           28          40.58    12            Blake Anderson
Akron                     14.17         26.08   11            Terry Bowden


There have been a lot of successful CEO-style coaches, Bobby Bowden, Mack Brown, etc. They are typically very good recruiters, like Swinney, and talent acquisition is still the name of the game.

But there are limits if your head coach is not a standout offensive or defensive mind. For one, if you’re hiring the right people they’re going to be hired for head coaching jobs leading to continuity issues.

Right now, Swinney is a CEO-style coach. He does not have play calling-duties. When Morris leaves, this will be an interesting dynamic to follow. I’ve been told Swinney is undervalued for his tactical ideas. He has a good understanding of offense. It wouldn’t surprise if he wants to have more influence over the offense.


Interesting stuff from SI, as it had a mock selection committee try to come up with a four-team playoff field this fall.

Their takeaways

*”It confirmed my thought how hard this is going to be for three, four, five, six,” said Ohio State’s Smith. “I think one and two are clearly going to emerge. But three and four: Oh my God.”The consensus among SI’s mock committee members was that the exercise gave them a better understanding of what will be at stake for the real committee. The difference between teams four and five is a sliver on paper and a canyon in meaning. Hancock said in an email that there will not be a significant financial gap in the monetary payout for teams No. 4 and No. 5. But there’s no way to quantify how many millions making the playoff could mean to a school in terms of exposure, recruiting and the university’s overall profile.

“I think it’s going to cause people to re-think how they’re scheduling,” Smith said. “It’s good for college football. It really is.”

Not as good for college football: the temptation for coaches to run up the score. For years during the BCS era, the sport’s leaders tweaked formulas to negate the impact of margin of victory. But numerous participants in SI’s call said that they realized style points will be more of a factor than ever.

“Even if you say you’re not going to look at it, you’re going to look at it,” Luck said of margin of victory. “You have to grasp onto something. I don’t know any way around not doing that.”

Since there are so few common opponents, committee members on the call were constantly going back to any comparative scores. They referenced blowouts versus close games, for example Oregon’s 49-0 win over an Arizona team that took Stanford to overtime.

“That scares me,” Smith said of the reemergence of importance of margin of victory. “You know why. It’s obvious. I did not think about or anticipate the experience would take me there.”

Smith relayed a telling anecdote from his time as chair of the men’s basketball committee in 2011. The group was debating the case of VCU, a controversial addition to the field.

“It really came down to someone in the room seeing VCU multiple times and saying, ‘Guys, I’m going to tell you, this team is better than those teams and here’s why.’”

Smith called it the “shirts vs. skins” conversation, meaning the committee members had to forget about uniforms, conference affiliation and history and rely on their eyeballs and instincts to determine if VCU belonged in the field. Obviously, the Rams did: They stormed to the Final Four that year, validating the controversial choice.

“At some point in time, you have to say, ‘Who is better?’” said Smith. “The body of work and the data might not bring you clarity.”

3 thoughts on “Dabo’s backup plan … the drawback of CEO head coaches … and SI’s mock playoff selection

  1. Think it’s time to replace your masthead photo of Clemson beating a 3-9 Auburn team that fired its coach? Maybe you could use one of the great shots of Clowney sacking me?

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