Is Clemson college football's newest dynasty? A tired but happy Swinney weighs in
|Tuesday, January 8, 2019, 1:36 PM- -|
SAN JOSE, CA – Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney walked into Tuesday morning’s final College Football Playoff National Championship press conference with tired eyes and a raspy voice, all the result of a long night of celebrating his program’s second title in three years.
His smile was full of energy, however, as he and the team celebrated not only the title but the birthday of the late Dwight Clark.
“What a quick night we had, but what a fun night, celebrating with our team and our families, fans, and friends, celebrating just an incredibly special, special accomplishment by this team,” Swinney said. “So proud of our guys, proud of these two guys, and just, again, as I said last night, just so happy that we have the opportunity and the blessing to experience such a great moment.
“Kind of unique, today is January the 8th, and we're here in obviously the San Francisco Bay Area, and it's Dwight Clark's birthday. Dwight Clark was a Clemson Tiger, and I just think it's pretty neat that we're here this morning as the national champions here and just got to think that he's smiling down on us. Hope everybody has enjoyed your time here, and we appreciate all the CFP folks for all their great efforts in making this an awesome experience for everyone.”
Swinney said he was confident in his team’s ability to beat Alabama, but not four touchdowns confident. It just happened to be the Tigers’ night.
“Oh, that would probably be crazy confidence. I don't think that we went into the game thinking we were going to beat Alabama by four touchdowns,” Swinney said. “It just kind of went that way. It was our night, and we got control of the game, and sometimes when – I've been on both sides of it. Sometimes when you get momentum rolling like we were able to get it and just the energy all channeled in the right direction, it can kind of be insurmountable, and that's what happened last night. I mean, it was just kind of an overwhelming collective effort by our group.
“But I think to – first and foremost, you don't make it about Alabama. You know, I think that that's – I've been at Alabama. I spent 13 years there, so I can't tell you, there was a lot of times as a player I walked off the field and I wasn't sure that we were better than that team, but they thought we were better, and we won a lot of games when we got off the bus.”
Swinney said the win was a result of the program’s culture.
“I think for our program, it's something that's been important to me from day one is to make it about us. It's not about the opponent, and it's not a disrespect to any opponent, but we really – we try to treat everyone the same,” Swinney said. “I mean, we don't practice any different for Alabama than we do for Furman, and that's not – that's certainly not disrespect, it's just that's what we do, and that's exactly what Coach Saban at Alabama does, too. I can tell you that right now. He focuses on his team.
And I think any championship-level program, that's the mindset that you have to have, because – and that was when I first got the job, that was one of the things I told our guys back in '09 was listen, we can't – we've got to lock in on the things that we control.
“You have to win in your mind first. To do that, you have to have a routine that you believe in, and every game is the biggest game, and you play to a winning performance. It shouldn't matter who you play. Oh, well, this week we're playing Florida State so let's really practice hard. Let's meet really with some intention and purpose. We just don't look at it that way.
“So you certainly know that there's some – some of these games the margin for error is much smaller. I told them last night it's going to be a few plays. But we just try to keep it all about Clemson, prepare to a standard, and that's allowed us to have a lot of consistency.”
Are the Tigers college football’s new dynasty?
“No, we're a long way from a dynasty. We're a great program. We're a great program,” Swinney said. “There's no doubt about that. We're incredibly consistent in every area of our program. I mean, and that's what I'm more proud of than anything is just the consistency, and one of the things we talked about this week, over the last decade, everything we've done once, we've done multiple times, and it's kind of been a progression. We won our first division in '09, well, we've won seven now. At that point, we had not won a division, and then we come back in '11 and we won the league. We hadn't won the league since like 1991. Now we've won it five times. We won 10 games in '11. That was the first time since '90 or '91. Now it's been eight years. We got to a BCS in '11 and '13. I told them they lit up the Empire State Building once, and now they've done it again.
“So the only thing we hadn't done again was win it all. It's just been kind of a progression for us. We've just kind of kept our head down over the last decade and gone about our business. We're certainly – I think we're as good a program as there is out there, but we're a long way from a dynasty. I think from a dynasty standpoint, Alabama is kind of in a category of their own. I mean, Coach Saban may have won five National Championships in 10 years, or however long he's been there. It's incredible the run that they've had. But we're just thankful that we got the opportunity to experience it. But to be able to win two out of the last three, I think that certainly puts us in a place that's pretty special from a program standpoint.”