Consistency leads to championships for Tigers


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Swinney poses with his sons and just one of the many trophies he's helped win
Swinney poses with his sons and just one of the many trophies he's helped win

Consistency.

That’s the word that defines Clemson football during Dabo Swinney’s time as the Tigers’ head coach.

It’s the key to the team’s championship success.

It led to ACC titles and a national title last year. It led the team to transition from Tajh Boyd to Deshaun Watson without missing a beat, and the program got even better, actually.

And there’s a good chance it will lead to Clemson continuing to win at a high level even without Watson, the best player in the history of the program.

Swinney talked about the importance of consistent focus and consistent effort this week as the team prepared for its season opener against Kent State. Yes, the 2017 season will be played. Clemson football doesn’t end with the 2016 championship season.

“There’s no question. That’s a core value of our program. If it’s just something hanging on a wall, it’s just wallpaper,” Swinney said. “It’s got to be something that the players buy into. There’s no question the reason we’ve been successful is the buy-in of the players.”

That dialed-in focus has led the program to unprecedented consistent success during Swinney’s tenure. After a nine-win season to open his tenure (as the full-time head coach, anyway) in 2009, there was a dip to six wins in 2010.
But the focus on the day and task at hand – and not looking ahead – quickly turned things around. And Clemson has reached at least 10 wins for the past six seasons.

“These guys, they know exactly what it takes, and they’re excited to play,” Swinney said. “It don’t matter who we’re playing. We could be playing Alabama or Kent State; our guys are excited to go play. It’s time to play a game, and we don’t get caught up in that. If you do, you become very inconsistent.

“If you’re looking ahead … it only takes one good punch to knock you out. You’re in trouble. All of the sudden, you go out there and turn it over a few times, this and that; this game I’ve seen it many, many times. There’s no question the reason that we’ve been so consistent is the buy-in of the guys.”

It’s ironic that consistency is the key to Swinney’s program considering the inconsistency that plagued the program when Tommy Bowden was the head coach. And what makes it even more ironic is that Swinney was part of that staff. It’s not like he was brought in from the outside to fix the things that ailed the program during the Bowden years.

Nope, Swinney saw the issues from the inside and has been able to get them corrected.

“Same thing if you have a big emotional win, you’ve got a game next week … you’ve got a game next week,” Swinney said, emphasizing that point. “If you have a big emotional loss, you’ve got a game next week. So that mindset is critical if you’re going to be consistent. You can’t get caught up in the emotions and the ebbs and flow of fans and all the story lines that come with a big win or a big loss or whatever. Or maybe you’re playing an opponent that other people (say), ‘Oh well.’ That’s rhetoric. We’ve got to be locked in and respect every opponent, and we do.

“And again, when you only get 12 guaranteed days out of 365, it’s important, and you want to play well. You want to put your best foot forward every time.”

More times than not – and by a large margin – Clemson has done just that under Swinney.

Daniel Shirley is the sports editor of The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., and co-host of The Midday Sports Zone on Middle Georgia’s ESPN, 93.1 FM and 99.5 FM. Follow him on Twitter at @DM_Shirley and read his blog at macon.com/peachsports.


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