To Dabo, or not to Dabo?
All talk about Nick Saban’s eventual replacement can be broken down into two categores: “The Dabos,” and “The Non-Dabos.”
“The Dabos” is straightforward: It’s a category of one, current Clemson head coach and former Alabama player and assistant coach Dabo Swinney. Given Swinney’s success over the years, his continuing affinity for his home state and for Gene Stallings, and his deep connections with other Alabama football alumni, the calls for Alabama to throw millions of dollars at Swinney run loud and deep.
Swinney’s resume needs no review here. He’s no worse than the second-best coach in college football at the moment, with only Nick Saban ahead of him. He’s cleared Urban Meyer for second place (whether Meyer elects to come back to college football or not) and he checks off all the boxes for most of the Alabama faithful: He’s local, he’s an alum, he’s man of faith … and he puts winning teams on the field that score a lot of points and don’t give up many. That last one is kind of important.
On the flip side, Swinney has gotten a major boost in recent years from defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who is the Mickey Andrews to Dabo’s Bobby Bowden. Getting Swinney without getting Venables to come with him is a small gamble, but the same thing used to be said about Swinney as an offensive coach before Chad Morris left Clemson for SMU. Swinney did just fine in Morris’ absence, but then again, Swinney’s offensive coaching prowess (and particularly his playcalling) has never been particularly in question, at least not to TideFans.com staff. Defense is another matter, and if Venables stayed behind or opted to take a position with a different school (or even an NFL team), Alabama might be caught buying a pig in a poke.
More importantly, though, is the question of timing. Assuming Nick Saban decided to coach to the age of 75, Swinney would be 57 when offered the job. That would be a year older than Saban was when he came to Alabama in 2007. Swinney has been at Clemson so long now that his kids have been raised there, and it is most definitely “home” to his family more than Tuscaloosa would be, at least immediately.
The verdict? It’s the most popular option on the table, and doesn’t require a lot of thought follow-through, but it might not be as automatic as Alabama would hope. And if Venables doesn’t come as a package deal, the success of the hire is far less assured.