Kevin Scarbinsky makes a pretty good point related to the recently announced two-game series scheduled between Clemson and Auburn. If Dabo Swinney shines in these games, it certainly makes him a front-runner to replace Nick Saban, whenever that time comes:
Swinney already has a pretty good case if both parties are interested when the time comes. How many other former Alabama players and assistants are running a major college program? How many of them have won a major conference championship? How many of them have won a BCS bowl game?
Swinney’s done all those things and more, and he’s done them at Clemson, which doesn’t have Alabama’s history.
Not to mention another little fun fact. There have been seven Alabama coaches since Bear Bryant. Only two of them have beaten Auburn more than Swinney has.
Gene Stallings, who coached and employed Swinney in Tuscaloosa, was 5-2 against the Tigers. Saban is 4-3 against them. Swinney is 2-1, and he’s riding a two-game winning streak.
Imagine if Clemson sweeps that upcoming series with Auburn with the highly touted Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Swinney would be 4-1 against Auburn about the time Saban could be seriously considering retirement and Alabama could be feverishly contemplating where to go next.
I would even go as far as to say that he would be on the short list if Saban was to step aside today. He’s a good guy, decent coach, has experience running a top level program and is an outstanding recruiter. Alabama could certainly do a lot worse (and has so before).
The problem with hiring Swinney, at least from my perspective, is that he isn’t an expert in anything except recruiting. Sure, he knows a lot of football, but he isn’t an offensive genius or a defensive guru. To some degree, I think people still look at Dabo as someone who was in the right place at the right time. He stepped in adequately short-term for Tommy Bowden and parlayed that success into a long-term deal. Along the way, though, he’s had some serious defensive issues and has also outsourced his offense to Chad Morris. Sure, Dabo’s coordinated the whole deal, but no one thinks it is his offense ringing up those big numbers and everyone is waiting to see what happens when Morris moves on to be a head coach.
Give Dabo credit, though. He has put it all together. He had the sense to hire Morris. He had the sense to get defensive coordinator Brent Venables from Oklahoma. He is one of the top recruiters in the game. And, I believe, he’s one of the genuinely good guys in college football.
If Alabama hired Dabo, he would no doubt be qualified. And if he could keep the recruiting pipeline open that would certainly enhance his prospects of being successful. But the Tide would essentially be hiring a football CEO instead of a guru. Whether that CEO would turn out more like a Tommy Tuberville or a Derek Dooley would be a major question.