Commentary - Bowden Among Best at Coach-speak

by - Correspondent -
Bowden can be both informative and entertaining. But he also can dodge questions with the best of them.

CLEMSON, SC -- There is a term we in the business use to describe the way a coach answers questions from the press.

Such responses are designed to give the inquisitor enough information to write his or her story, but never intended to shed any real light on the subject matter at hand. The term is "coach-speak" which, loosely defined, means the ability to talk for 15 minutes or more and say absolutely nothing.

Some coaches have become a master of such double talk, while others fall short of being either informing or entertaining. Those unfortunate souls usually either have a track record of winning so long that an act of Congress couldn't threaten their job, or find themselves grilled by the press so intensely they suffer from char burns before hitting the unemployment line.

That being the criteria, it appears Clemson fans will be enjoying Tommy Bowden-isms for as long as he chooses to stay at the university.

Now understand, Bowden can be both informative and entertaining. But he also can dodge questions with the best of them, or talk around a subject long enough that you almost forget the original question.

He also has mastered the art of straddling the fence, but does so in a way which implies the real answer is lying just beneath the surface.

For example, in recent weeks Bowden has said both of the following:

-- We haven't seen Clemson's entire offensive package, 18-plus months into his tenure;

-- He and offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez are holding back nothing offensively.

Cornered in a private, light moment following his Tuesday press conference, I went for broke. Which is it, coach? Inquiring minds want to know.

"Both," he responded.

Somehow, I wasn't surprised.

However, he continued with an explanation.

"We're not holding anything back," Bowden said. "That's like, for example, against Maryland. They're fatigued, so we ran the ball. We could have gone out there, spread it (out) and thrown the ball some. But I thought that was the best thing to do at the time.

"But we haven't run all the offense because we haven't needed it. We've had four games that were over at halftime, so we haven't needed it all. Now against N.C. State, we used a whole bunch of our stuff."

So there's nothing specifically filed away for, say, a certain trip to Florida the first Saturday in November?

"No, we haven't done that at all. We're doing what we can execute at this point in time."

There, in the simple twist of a phrase, lies the beauty in coach-speak.

Of course Clemson is doing only what it can execute. However, drawing from the above conversation, is it too far-fetched to think that there are calls in the playbook Bowden hasn't dropped on his offense yet? If so -- technically -- execution would be impossible, would it not?

Common sense tells you a football team can't execute, in game conditions, a play it hasn't practiced.

So Bowden told the truth, yet at the same time left open the very real possibility that indeed there is more to come with this offense. Of course maybe that's what he wants us all to think, which could be part of some sick master plan to use the media to his advantage.

Would a coach do that? You bet Death Valley's free press lunch he would.

Somewhere, probably on a celestial bar stool, Casey Stengel is smiling.

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