Tuesday, October 6, 2009

So who really is at fault?

Who is at fault for all of our offensive issues? Like most of you, my first reaction is that the Offensive Coordinator is the primary reason that an offense doesnt "go". But after Bartow's comment that jogged my memory, I'm starting to rethink the situation.

The gist of the comment, which was originally made in the offseason in Spring (i recall it from that time) and resurfaced this week, is that Billy Napier's preference is for a Pro-I style attack, while Swinney prefers more spread formations with multiple WRs.

If you look at the Maryland 1st and 2nd half reviews, you'll see that a majority of our plays are Gun 1B/Ace and Gun 2B sets with at least 3 WRs on the field, with the H-back Ace set coming in 3rd place for formation we run. If you recall, however, a large portion of our offense was run out of the I-formation for MTSU. It has steadily declined through the following 4 games. This much is fact.

What I am hearing from those I know, and yes it is technically heresay so you can make up your own mind, is that Coach Swinney is changing 1 or 2 plays a series from what is called in the booth by Napier. Also, some of the personnel groupings that are sent on the field are not what Napier intends, and don't match the plays called even when Swinney changes them, as well as the entirely wrong play being signaled in, which Swinney takes a part in.

I wanted to put their tendencies into context, given the Bartow comment. Napier was a QB at Furman, two-time All SoCon (2001-2002), and Furman played in the National Title game in 2001 and finishd 12-3. He was a finalist for the Payton award, the Heisman of 1-AA in 2002. Those Furman teams under Bobby Johnson/Bobby Lamb ran a pro-style I-formation attack.

Of course everyone knows Swinney played WR for Gene Stallings and won a national title in 1992. His position coach was Woody McCorvey. Stallings made him a graduate assistant and he stayed on with Mike Dubose in 1997 as a WR/TE coach until Dubose was fired in 2001. Stallings won his title with a pro-style I-formation attack, and Dubose continued it with Woody McCorvey as his OC his first year, but Woody was fired after an awful play call against Auburn in '97. Former Tide QB Tyler Watts comments on Dubose having pisspoor assistants during his tenure here. All of those teams ran a Pro-I formation attack. So both guys we have here come from a pro-style I-formation background, all could throw when needed, usually play-action, but were not pass-happy systems.

What else do we know? Its clear that Swinney believes the Spence system can work. If he didnt think that, he'd have let the entire offensive staff go and hired another outside guy to install a new one. The Spence system is neither entirely spread or I-form running. Its based on high-percentage/constraint passes and zone running games, not the I-formation. Swinney and Napier shared playcalling duties last year, and during the offseason Napier was officially named OC.

The playcalling at the end of last season was ok, and seemed to be coming together as we progressed. Thats my opinion of it, which I think most people shared. I was not enthusiastic about retaining Brad Scott or putting Jeff over receivers.

But now we're in a situation where theres the possibility that the OC and HC dont agree on calls. Now it is 100% within Dabo's power to change a call. I'm glad he will change a play that he thinks is bad. Tommy never changed Spence's stupid calls, even after he took liberties with O'Cain's. Maybe Dabo thinks he must interfere. But if Clemson has a game where we look like garbage on offense, ALL the fans look at the OC, not the head man. People think Swinney has no direct input and has poor people under him, so they want Napier and others fired to placate them. However, if the HC is changing the plays, and those plays make no sense, the fans won't ever know it.

Either way, if the offense fails to perform, Napier gets run out of town. It doesnt matter to the fans whether Dabo is changing the plays and he's the one that doesnt have a clue, they won't hear about it from anyone in the press, so they continue on thinking that Napier is the real culprit and all will be fixed if he's fired.

I'm not saying one or the other should be fired, yet. I do wonder which of them I should blame for playcalls that make little sense whatsoever. If it is Napier, then take his calls away. I dont want them given to Scott, but he's the only one with with OC experience we can use without firing someone. If its Swinney, then he needs to stay out of the playcalling. Three or four plays in a game are fine, but 20% is too much.

I think one of Clemson's beatwriters should step up and press Swinney on this question before we all scream for someone's head on this issue.


  1. Interesting perspective. If there is a disconnect between Swinney and Napier's offensive philosophy, the middle of a football game is not the time to try to figure it out. However, a tug of war between those running the offense would explain the choppiness and lack of fluidity seen throughout most offensive series.

    This is definitely something to investigate before laying absolute blame on either the HC or OC for these extreme offensive woes.

  2. It doesn't make much sense that Swinney would put Napier in as OC if they had radically different ideas about the offense. In fact, last year, Swinney said they were very much on the same page offensively.

    The buck always stops with the HC. If things aren't working, it is his job to direct the people under him to make it work.

    I don't see that we are still using "the Spence system." If so, Swinney would have retained Spence since he is the guy whose name is in the title. No one can run "the Spence system" better than Spence. Instead, he's the first guy that was canned, and now WR screens are an occasionally used play instead of a basis for a passing game. It is true that some of the playbook was retained. I'm not sure it is right to say it is the same offense though.

    Well, the sucking part has stayed the same.

    No doubt there are some questionable play calls on offense, but that can be said for almost any team. A lot of plays look questionable when they don't work. Couple that with what is clearly some poor execution by all parties invovled, and you get a crappy offense.

    I'm glad to finally see some toss plays to Spiller. Now if we could just get them run to the field sometimes, or not on 3rd and 8 out of the shotgun...


  3. No it is completely the same offense. A system is built up of concepts, not the playcallers. We run the exact same plays with the same terminology, thats what we've got.

    The system is built to put pressure on the underneath defenders by making them choose whether to load the box on the zone game, or defend the multiple underneath routes we run so much. This has not changed.

    So the man calling plays is different, but the exact same formations and plays are in it.

  4. I see no real change in the routes being run on these plays, no additional vertical attack. Its still all quick timing routes and zone runs.

    Napier and Dabo already said they didnt add much to the offense, so its clearly the same playbook with the same system of attack.

    But they can use the same plays to attack better than Spence, it still doesnt mean its not Spence's system.

  5. has the press ever struck you as anything but eunuchs excluding the bart wrights and marc hudgens? I mean the most timid radio show host on the drive is also a prominent member of the clemson football press! they all get balls after the person is fired.

  6. Yeah I wish writers would come out and say things and publicly criticize more at times, but theyre all afraid of upsetting the staff and losing any chance at inside information.

  7. You have to have one guy in charge of play calling, not 2. That's why K. Steele left Alabama because of Saban's influence on what was ran. But in Saban's defense he had the experience as a former DC to do that. Just like Spurrier does it at USuCk for the offense.

    Let Napier succeed or fail on his own. Dabo needs to stop micro-managing the offense, step back and let the OC call his plays. Napier has more "practical" experience that Dabo does in that regard. If he is a proponent of using the I formation/ pro set (which maybe Clemson's best option right now) then allow him to do it. If you don't want that and want a spread, then tell your coordinator that's what you want, and let him go about implementing it. Is all of this inconsistency on offense is due to two people warring over different philosophies? If that's the case, no wonder the offense looks so disjointed. People might not have liked Spence's philosophy but at least you could understood what he was doing.

    Look at the situation coach. At least Napier has experience in managing a team as a qb (and a pretty solid one at that). So tell him what you'd like to see on the O (commitment to a running game, attacking the defense vertically, etc.) and let him go about doing his job, calling the plays and choosing the personnel packages. As head coach it's your right to make suggestions, but it should be limited to that.

    I'm sure Dabo tells K. Steele what he'd like to see from the defense, but he also let's Steele do his job and run the defense. Maybe this will help solve some of the darn play clock management issues, which is what the head coach should be focusing on.

  8. Napier was interviewed by reporters today....and guess what?

    Not a soul asked him about this. They gave him total softballs.

  9. I just read this blog.

    Not sure how I missed it up until this point, but I think it is more smoke to the Swinney and Napier rumors.

    Anyway excellent read.

  10. Chris Ard, Roy Philpott, Larry Williams, Dan Scott or Don Munson none of thoses guys have the BALLS to pursue those questions. They throw Dabo lobs everytime the question him even about the altercation thing at practice. It would have to be a Heather Dinich type reporter or another national beatwriter. Dabo is the HC I see on the sideline doing all those signals. The signals should come in to the game via Korn or Boyd. If Dabo is actually vetoing calls regularly it will be the end of his tenure.
    Our skill set on offense with the players we have would be some kind of up tempo spread type offense. CJ, Jacoby, J. Harper, Ellington etc. Speed is what we have. The zone blocking all through the Spence era was the WHOLE problem. With our OL and speedy backs we should be doing more pulling and trapping ie counter plays, quick pitches and off tackle runs etc to create space. If Jamie Harper comes in 100% of the time it a HB dive L or R THATS IT!!! Why would you even recruit Dwayne Allen if you aren't going to throw to him. We DON"T NEED HIM TO BLOCK! Bring in Palmer, Diehl and Burry for that. THROW the ball to Allen. Force the issue. He is has incredible hands. Why would you not throw the ball to Marquan?
    Dabo can be successful and the people around him outside CU will see to it but he better learn real quick to let people do their jobs. When you look on the defensive side we have 2 guys who were SEC DC's last year and the best DL coach there is anywhere and then the offense staff can't call plays as well as Byrnes or Bobby Bentley.
    Take 45 minutes Dabo- Drive up to PC offer Bentley whatever to OC and get his ass over here if not him someone else who is qualified to INSTALL an offense. Or go to Byrnes practices and watch how they do things or his another bright idea go drive up to Boone and watch those guys at App. St.

  11. Bentley deserves credit for starting the Byrnes juggernaut, but he's not under the same time restrictions as College coaches as far as contact and coaching time with players.

    His offense is essentially the same as what RichRod once ran here. How Byrnes has separated themselves from the rest of SC HS FB is that they teach from 6 years old up the same offense. No other local districts do that.

    Its smart, but it doesnt mean that Bentley is going to come in here and be all-world.


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