The Chad Morris-Rich Rodriguez parallel. The interesting thing Dabo Swinney said. Johnny Football’s tweet. And stability (for 2013) at last?

CLEMSON – Thirteen years ago – Nov. 25, 1999 – a cutting-edge Clemson offensive coordinator named Rich Rodriguez interviewed for the Texas Tech job.

He didn’t get it.

A guy named Mike Leach did. Rodriguez spend another year at Clemson and took the West Virginia head coaching job the next season.

Should we draw parallels between Rich Rodriguez and Chad Morris?

As Rodriguez’s name was tied to more and more vacancies, then Clemson coach Tommy Bowden assured Clemson fans and recruits that Clemson’s prolific offense that featured an 1,800-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in Woody Dantzler in 2000 was not just Rodriguez’s offense, it was Clemson’s offense.

Clemson went 6-2 in the ACC in Rodriguez’s final year in 2000. Clemson didn’t win six ACC games again until a year after Bowden was fired in 2009. Coordinators matter.

Flash forward thirteen years later to Wednesday ….

Hours before Texas Tech announced it had hired Kliff Kingsbury on Wednesday night, I asked Dabo Swinney if he would keep the up-tempo, no-huddle offense after the Morris Era (whenever that was) as a source had told me was Swinney’s intention.

Said Swinney: “It’s a Clemson offense, not a Chad Morris offense. We hired Chad because it’s what we wanted to do philosophically.

“(After 2010) I really knew what I wanted to go to it was just a matter of the right timing and having the personnel. The only candidates I was considering were guys that fit (up-tempo, no-huddle) philosophy. That’s who we are. That’s the personnel we have that’s who we’ll continue to be.”

Very interesting.

*It’s true that Swinney was probably in large part trying to communicate to concerned recruits that Clemson’s offensive philosophy wouldn’t change.

*It’s true that Swinney said at the time of the Morris hire in January of 2011 that the up-tempo, no-huddle was the offensive identity we was seeking. After all, two up-tempo, no-huddle teams (Auburn vs. Oregon) had just met in the national title game.

*It’s true that Clemson can have an up-tempo, no-huddle philosophy with or without Morris.

*But what’s folly is suggest that this is not Chad Morris’ offense. In large part, it is. Every up-tempo, no-huddle offense is slightly different, Morris’ features more Wing-T and option elements than others. Moreoever, Morris has proven to be a very good QB coach, a taskmaster motivator. That’s a lot of positive attributes in one offensive coach.

*If this was a Clemson offense and not a Morris offense, Morris wouldn’t be paid $1.3 million.

*Up-tempo, no-huddle might have been Swinney’s vision but very few coaches can implement it like Morris has. That’s why it’s so critical for Clemson that Morris return for 2013 and it looks like he will after the Texas Tech vacancy was filled.

Can Clemson be successful without Chad Morris? Sure. Swinney is right that it is mostly about the players. Clemson averaged more yards per play in 2003 (5.7) than in Rodriguez’s last year (5.6) in 2000. But a transition to a new offense would have made 2013 much more difficult and could have led to more player turnover.

Still, whenever the post-Morris Era arrives, Swinney believes Clemson will still be prolific on offense.

“I think one thing we’ve hopefully demonstrated in four years is we can take players and be creative with them and have success,” Swinney said. “My first year, in ’09, we had three pretty dynamic guys in (Jacoby) Ford, (C.J.) Spiller and Michael Palmer. I think it’s well documented we used those guys in a lot of ways and set school record for scoring with a little different way of doing things.”

But Rich Rodriguez demonstrated 13 years ago, not every scheme can be easily taught and mastered, especially in one offseason. A school might have a philosophy. But sometimes it is the coordinator’s offense.


Minutes after Kliff Kingsbury was announced as the Texas Tech coach Wednesday, Texas A & M quarterback Johnny Manziel made this tweet:

@JManziel2 Chad Morris back to his alma mater?? #paytheman #baller

Sorry Mr. Heisman, but Chad Morris’ buyout to leave for another assistant job is $6.5 million this offseason. His buyout declines $1.3 million per season. Morris isn’t leaving for an assistant job.


These are the remaining head coach openings:

FIU, La Tech, Temple, San Jose St, Kent St. and W. Michigan and Wisconsin. Wisconsin is the only school that could afford Morris’ contract demands and I doubt Wisconsin wants to get away from its smashmouth identity.

It looks like Chad Morris will be back.

Clemson QB Tajh Boyd can breathe again.

I don’t think Boyd was ever a threat to leave – I was told his decision will be solely based upon his draft paperwork – but there’s no doubt Boyd has a comfort level with Morris.

Morris could perhaps compel DeAndre Hopkins to return.

Clemson should have seven starters back on offense in the third year under Morris in 2013. It could be poised for a special season.

It appears Boyd, Swinney, and Clemson Nation, can breathe again: Morris (we think) is staying put in 2013.

9 thoughts on “The Chad Morris-Rich Rodriguez parallel. The interesting thing Dabo Swinney said. Johnny Football’s tweet. And stability (for 2013) at last?

  1. Coordinators certainly matter but what I think you failed to mention is Bowden was all over the place after Rich Rod left. We started 2003 trying to go power I and traditional and got drilled by UGA 30-0 (Mike O’Cain calling plays?). Then by the end of the season we were spread again and beat Tenn in the Peach Bowl (Brad Scott calling plays?). Then you have Rob Spence with a different system which I thought schematically was great but he really struggled on the motivation and gameday side of things. Just trying to make the point that I am not sure Bowden ever knew exactly what he wanted to do on offense but coordinators certainly make all the difference with CEO type coaches.

  2. G, I think you hit on something important: it is important to have scheme consistency and I referenced this in my previous blog.

    One reason the Steelers have been so good for so long in the NFL is they have mastered the 3-4 defense. They knew the scheme so well and they can identify the players that fit into that scheme. As Clemson showed last decade, you can’t be switching between offensive identities every two or three years. So I think Dabo is right to want to keep the no-huddle, up-tempo offense after the Morris Era.

    That said, not all offensive minds are created equal. Clemson might find a suitable replacement for Morris. That replacement might be on staff. But we won’t know until we see that on the field. We do know Morris is a very good coach/playcaller.

  3. Might not wanna be so fast on the “Sorry Mr. Heisman, but Chad Morris’ buyout to leave for another assistant job is $6.5 million this offseason. ” statement. To me $6.5 M is a lot of money (and maybe you), but Mr Heisman’s school has the 10th largest university endowment in the coutry @ $7 B.

    There’s a story that has been circulating on the Web in the last week or so that Stanford estimated the 2011 Heisman Award had been worth about $200 M. In order for Johnny Football to win the 2013 Heisman Award it might take someone like Chad Morris as an offensive coordinator. Another $200 M to A & M might make the $6.5 M investment worth a reasonable gamble; not to mention it has been reported the Chad Morris is an A & M graduate.

  4. RD,

    Interesting, thoughtful post. Very cool that Stanford tried to quantify the value of the Heisman.

    While Texas A & M has a sizeable endowment as you pointed out, universities want their athletic departments to be self-sufficient, especially if they are a major football factory.

    Texas A & M’s athletic revenues are $87 million this year, its athletic expenses are $79 million.

    To pay Morris his buyout and compensate him at his current rate ($7.8 million) would essentially wipe out all profit for a single year.

    And isn’t A & M paying the Big 12 an exit fee?

    If you were hiring a head coach, that’s one thing. But $8 million in 2013 for an assistant?

  5. I’m more concerned with Clemson’s defensive identity. It has been missing for over a decade no matter what the stats say. This used to be a team full of headhunters.

    • Yeah, it’s amazing to look back at that 1991 defense, I think it allowed a nation-best 1.8 yards per rush.

      To me, it’s all about the DL. Clemson needs impact players there. While the Tigers lost Nkemdiche (for now, anyway), I do think Reader and Carlos Watkins have some considerable upside.

      The 2009-10 defenses were the best under Swinney because it had Bowers, Thompson and Jenkins up front.

  6. Travis, My point was, A & M has many wealthy alums and supporters, i.e. $7 B endowment. All it would take would be a phone call from Kevin Sumlin and A & M could raise the $6.5 M for the buy out before the sun set in West Tx. Don’t think it will happen, but Tx football is a whole different world I’m told.

    • RD, I hear you. I could see a program going beyond its budget – acquiring funds from elsewhere – to get an elite head coach. But I’ve never seen a program pay such a sum for an assistant. But I suppose there’s a first time for everything.

  7. Pingback: Seven Reasons Clemson Could Play For The 2013 National Championship | Home Runs, Apple Pie, and Rock 'n Roll

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