Dabo Did It: Riley Hiring Shows Swinney’s Still Serious About Clemson Winning

While all the reasons for Dabo Swinney making the decision to move on from Brandon Streeter and take the Clemson offense in a new direction are still unknown, it’s clear that the head coach didn’t have the trust and belief the Tigers could get to where he wants them to be without change.

Dabo Swinney apparently means business in 2023.

The Clemson head coach wasn’t playing around when he fired offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter, something many people didn’t think he had him because of his loyalty to staff members. 

Swinney pulled no punches in quickly landing one of the most sought-after playcallers in college football when he grabbed Garrett Riley away from TCU

And both the two-time national title-winning coach and still relatively new athletic director Graham Neff showed just how serious they are about getting the Tigers back into the College Football Playoff when they gave Riley a contract worth $1.75 million per year that puts him among the highest-paid assistants in the country.

Sure, those things are Swinney’s job, and you can argue he should’ve made the decision to bring in an outsider a year ago. He’s supposed to put his program in the best position to win as many games as possible and compete at the highest level. But sometimes in doing that, it doesn’t work out. Case-in-point, Streeter, who Swinney had helped groom and built confidence in throughout the years. 

Watch the elite football teams, and it’s evident the Tigers aren’t that offensively anymore. The lack of explosive plays, a reliance on taking what defenses give them instead of forcing their will and a missing identity has plagued Clemson for two full seasons, one of those under Streeter. 

Maybe Swinney, who hasn’t introduced Riley or made public statements on why he made a change, didn’t have the trust and belief he needed to move forward. 

Riley appears to be a man who can at least fix many of those issues. TCU was one of the most explosive teams in the country in 2022 en route to the College Football Playoff and national championship game. Riley created chunk-yard plays with the ground and passing games with his Air Raid scheme

Swinney is a big fan of balance. He’s also a proponent of winning. While the Tigers had won 21 games the last two seasons, they felt far off from the teams of 2015-2020. To get back to that, Swinney obviously felt like he had to do something big.

That something was getting rid of a coach who had been with the program since the end of 2014 and had helped the Tigers amass six trips to the CFP, a host of ACC championships and two national-title trophies.

Steeter’s one-year stint calling plays did boost Clemson from 99th in total offense in 2021 to 48th in 2022, but there’s still too large a gap when you compare the Tigers to the teams that made the CFP. 

There is still a lot to presume when it comes to Swinney’s reasons. Maybe the Orange Bowl, where Clemson had three weeks to prepare with new QB Cade Klubnik made the decision easier. Clemson racked up a ton of yards but only scored two field goals and one touchdown in a 31-14 loss to Tennessee. 

Can you blame a talent change in the drop-off? Sure, but coaches are responsible for recruiting and developing as well. The hope is that Riley can bridge some of that gap with a new, more modern system that takes advantage of all types of talent. 

Clemson doesn’t have much wiggle room to upgrade the offense before a new season. There aren’t enough open scholarships right now to hit the NCAA transfer protal as several high-profile names returned on defense. The 2023 signing class is full and not looking to add in February. 

If the program is going to take a drastic leap offensively this fall, it had to make a drastic change in scheme.

It appears Clemson has done just that, and Swinney showed he’s willing to make major changes to get the Tigers back to the CFP.


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