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.
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.”
*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.
JOHNNY FOOTBALL’S TWEET
Minutes after Kliff Kingsbury was announced as the Texas Tech coach Wednesday, Texas A & M quarterback Johnny Manziel made this tweet:
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.
STABILITY AT LAST?
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.