Snagging Garrett Riley When Clemson did was Nice Timing

Dabo Swinney has been praised by many people for his decision to move off of offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter and go get Garrett Riley to be his new playcaller. 

The Clemson head coach might’ve changed the landscape at some other schools in the process.

Riley is considered one of the top offensive minds in the game right now, especially after getting TCU in his first season there as OC into the College Football Playoff and to the national championship game. 

It was a strong move for an often-criticized head coach. Swinney saw a need to improve his passing game yet keep running the football a priority. 

He addressed that need in an emphatic way, and the decision has been highly regarded by some of the same media members and talking heads, even the ones who haven’t liked some of his previous moves. 

Sure, you could argue Swinney should’ve gone outside the program for an offensive coordinator last year after Tony Elliott left to be the head coach, but you aren’t gonna find many, if any, people who think he didn’t do a good job landing Riley. 

Even more impressive is the method in which he pulled it off, and, most importantly, when. 

According to Swinney, he made the decision to go a different direction after spending a few days reflecting and evaluating his program following the Orange Bowl loss to Tennessee. 

He called USC head coach and friend Lincoln Riley looking for insight into some potential candidates. Garrett, Lincoln’s younger brother, came up, but he was preoccupied with preparing TCU’s offense for a test against a stout Georgia defense. 

So Swinney waited until the day after that Monday night game to contact and offer Riley. Two days later, Swinney fired Streeter, and Riley was on a plane bound for Clemson.

That was on Jan. 9. The timeline is very important because Swinney didn’t hesitate, and he beat a few very interested parties to the punch. 

Reportedly, Clemson wasn’t the first team to contact Riley for an OC job. Had Riley ultimately turned down the Tigers, they wouldn’t have been the last.

Think about this: Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien left Nick Saban’s staff to take the same post for the New England Patriots two weeks after Riley landed at Clemson. 

Had this move happened earlier in the month, would Saban still be welcoming former offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to Tuscaloosa this week? 

Maybe not. That’s not to say that Rees is a good or bad choice to be Saban’s offensive playcaller. It’s just that one could argue Riley is more highly regarded at this stage in their careers, even though both have coached an offense in the College Football Playoff. 

Riley has a stronger pedigree and a coveted, recently-successful system. Rees is going to Alabama to run Alabama’s offense. Maybe that wouldn’t have appealed to Riley or maybe Saban had already tested those waters before O’Brien exited. Who knows? But it doesn’t feel like Alabama got the bigger name. The move to Rees was regarded as a bit of a surprise last weekend.

And think about the chain reaction, too. Now Notre Dame is looking for a new OC. You’ve got to think they would’ve been interested in Riley if Saban got Rees anyway.  

Plus, there sits the Miami Hurricanes. Head coach Mario Cristobal didn’t fire OC Josh Gattis after one season until Jan. 27. There still hasn’t been a new hire in Miami, another proud program with money…lots of money. 

This turned out to be a bit of a coup for Swinney. He made his decision, found his man, and got him in Clemson before the upheaval at three major Power 5 teams occurred. 

It’s safe to assume that in the coaching rumor mill, there were probably a lot of folks expecting some of those moves to go down. 

Swinney struck at the right moment. No lengthy deliberation. No second-guessing. 

No time to waste.

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