For the first time in seven years, Clemson didn’t make the college football playoffs last season. The Tigers did not contest for their third national title during Dabo Swinney’s tenure, and their streak of consecutive ACC championships was cut short at six when Wake Forest won the Atlantic Division before losing to Pittsburgh in the conference title game.
Despite all of that, an ESPN analyst believes the 2021 season was the best coaching job Swinney and Clemson’s staff have done since Swinney first took charge of the program as the Tigers’ head coach more than a decade ago.
“I think it was the best coaching job Dabo Swinney and his coaching staff have done since he’s been with Clemson, fixing this ship, not letting things go in the tank, not letting things go downhill .” This was announced by ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill Packer and Durham show last week.
A year ago, before the month of October, Swinney’s team suffered two losses for the first time since 2014 before bouncing back and winning eight of their last nine games, including the last six, and finishing the season with a 10-3 record (6-2 brand in the ACC game) and extend their streak of consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins to a school record of 11.
When the Tigers capped the 2021 season with a 20-13 win over Iowa State at the Cheez-It Bowl to earn their 10th win, Clemson became only the third program in history to have 11 straight 10-win seasons and joined Florida State (14 from 1987-2000) and Alabama (14 from 2008-21).
Clemson now has 18 seasons with 10 or more wins in school history, including 11 under Swinney, who helped the Tigers stay afloat during a season last year in which they endured inconsistent quarterback play with a row struggled from injuries and faced many adversities.
“I’m looking at Clemson because a year ago Clemson took so much public heat because things weren’t going well for the first time in a long time,” Luginbill said. “The quarterback went down a path that wasn’t good — he wasn’t accurate, couldn’t get the ball down. And then there are failures, injuries, and they’re starting and for the first time, damn it, I don’t know how long, they’ve actually had to face some adversity and criticism.
“When you’re going through that and you’ve had a run like that where you didn’t get a lot of it – you didn’t have a lot of criticism, internal and external, you didn’t have a lot of injuries, you didn’t have things that could seep negatively into your dressing room and your building – when you experience this and don’t have, what’s the first thing a lot of people do? They would fold. They would duck, they would find a way to apologize because they don’t know how to respond. This team did exactly the opposite.”
Comparing Clemson’s season last year to NC State’s campaign in 2019, Luginbill believes what the Tigers went through in 2021 in terms of injuries and depth will only benefit them next season.
“It would have been three years ago, in the pre-COVID season, when they had all these injuries,” Luginbill said of NC State. “And next thing you know, all the guys who had to play what shouldn’t have played and all the depth that was established. They’re watching this now, and so NC State is being watched the way they are watched.
“Well, exactly the same thing happened to Clemson a year ago. Clemson had played with a couple of guys they weren’t expecting, especially on offense. Well, it might not have been ideal then. At the end of the year and now into the offseason, Clemson knows a lot more about her football team and roster and what they have. Because of that, I think that will help them carry that over to this fall.
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