By Any Means Necessary

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Before anyone suggests this is a sour grapes blog post by an excuse-making Gamecock fan, let’s get one thing out of the way: Clemson beat us Saturday fair and square. They were the better team and deserved to win. It’s true and undeniable.

With that said, let’s get to the point of this post.

For years, all we have heard from the Upstate is that Dabo Swinney is a good Christian man who cares about his players above all else. He tells the mamas that he’s going to take care of their boys. On some level you have to hand it to Dabo and say job well done. He’s been able to convince the Clemson faithful and a bunch of talented recruits that he is doing it differently than the other guys; that Clemson is a special place with different priorities. A very large segment of the Tiger fan base (about 99% by my rough calculations), has eaten this fantasy up with a spoon.

But Dabo knows what all other coaches know: winning cures all ills and covers up all flaws. Fan bases are willing to overlook just about any transgression, fault, or risk if their team is winning.

Take Florida State for example. This year Jimbo Fisher has gone from a respected coach to an absolute joke for his repeated, uncompromising support of Jameis Winston, no matter what kind of crap Winston pulls. There is simply no way an average player gets the chances Winston has gotten. You know it. I know it. Every fan in America knows it.

Why does Fisher continue to support Winston and brush aside his transgressions?  Because he wants to win big and knows that he would not win big without Winston at quarterback. Winning trumps everything. In this case, winning trumps justice and the need to discipline a young man who is in desperate need of discipline. Winston has obviously been coddled his entire life by coaches and teachers in awe of this talent. This has continued at Florida State. Fisher has failed Winston the person. He may justify it by saying that he is taking care of it “off the field”. Well, the only way to affect someone like Winston, if that’s even possible at this point, is to take away the thing that’s most important to them. That would be football. And that ain’t happening.

 Which brings us to Dabo.  Blessed with a talented young quarterback but faced with a possible sixth straight loss to their hated rival, Dabo had to be feeling pretty good going into the Georgia Tech game. After all the Gamecock D had proven to be downright awful, and his talented young QB had recovered from an unfortunate thumb injury.

Then, out of nowhere, disaster struck. The young QB went down again, this time with a knee injury.  After the injury the Georgia Tech game turned from a likely Clemson win into a dumpster fire as Cole Stoudt scored a bunch of points for the other team. Dabo and his braintrust had to be shell-shocked. While Stoudt had struggled in prior games, it now became abundantly clear that there was no way they could enter battle against the Gamecocks and hope to win with this guy at the wheel.

After a couple of days of what appeared to be top-secret MRI exams, it was reported that young Mr. Watson did not have a dreaded ACL tear, but instead had a “strain” or “bruise” or something like that. As it turns out, it’s pretty clear that he suffered a partial ACL tear that he finished tearing in practice a few days prior to the Ga. State game. That’s right, in practice. Instead of resting his injured star, the player he promised mama that he was going to protect, he put him out on the practice field with a partially torn ACL to see what he could do. Well, what he did was finish tearing that sucker.

Now, faced the choice of playing Stoudt or a supremely talented but injured Watson, what did Dabo decide to do? Play Watson of course. Why you ask?  Because Dabo wanted and needed to win. The fan base would not have put up with a sixth straight loss, which would have been on the table with Stoudt at QB (Stoudt proved Dabo right in his limited playing time in the game, after an obviously injured Watson limped off the field when he wasn’t even touched).

What about the welfare of Watson you ask?  Well, what about it.  The party line out of Clemson will be that it was Watson’s choice and that he couldn’t hurt it any worse at that point.

Of course an 18-year-old kid is going to want to play. You can’t give the kid that choice. If he has any competitive drive at all he’s going to choose to play in his rivalry game every time. Coaches, the “adults” in the room, are supposed to intervene and make such decisions for the not fully-formed athletes in their charge. Today lots of doctors and former players (including Emmitt Smith, arguably one of the three or four best running backs in the history of the NFL), have come forward to say that Watson should not have played, that playing risked further injury and problems with the knee down the road.  Dabo and his folks surely knew this. Just like he knew that bringing Tajh Boyd back for his Senior year risked his draft placement.

Winning trumps everything. In this case, winning trumps the well-being and future of a talented young man.

Am I singling out Dabo?  No, I’m just pointing out that Dabo is just like most other coaches. They do whatever it takes to win.  Damn the consequences.

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47 Responses to By Any Means Necessary

  1. Evan says:

    If we hear anymore out of the Clemson police state on this matter it’ll be nothing but sunshine and rainbows. I’m beginning to wonder if Clemson fans really know their entire program isn’t any different from any FBS school or if they are just delusional. They can’t really believe it (they may say they do) and if they truly believe the Pickens county hive mind they have the perfect coach.

  2. garnetandblackop says:

    Didn’t The Upstate School fan base jump all over Spurrier for playing Clowney with bone spurs?

  3. Rhonda Goodwin says:

    Spurrier played Shaw with a fractured scapula – So it ain’t just Dabo…. Sad…

  4. gman says:

    Rhonda, I’m not sure you got the point: Dabo and CTU act holier than thou about this kind of thing. They use their perceived moral superiority as is a huge selling point for the program. In reality, they are just like everyone else.

    • Tim McGraw says:

      Lol. You just described every fan base in every major sports. A fan base believes their fan base and coaches are superior to others? You don’t say. Congrats on the astute observation.

  5. Zick Boone says:

    Yep, SOUR GRAPES, that’s about all I hear, and I have been a fan of Spurrier since before he won the Heisman! I listened to the Gamecock faithful whine, moan, and groan when he was first hired, but as you said, winning makes for very short memories!!!
    \

  6. Clemson says:

    For the obviously “excuse-making” Gamecocks fan – YES, Clemson beat South Carolina. The whole nation saw it! You’d be an idiot to say anything else. But get your facts straight before you display your ignorance – it was Deshaun Watson who decided to play. HE chose to do it – NOT Coach Swinney! Coach didn’t ask him to play, Deshaun begged to play! So suck it up and admit the truth. Spurred may have you brain-washed but the rest of us know the truth.

  7. jmarkwatts93 says:

    Plenty of players in history have played with completely torn ACLs. In fact, Tajh Boyd played his entire high school senior season with a torn ACL. Winning isn’t everything, but it is what Dabo is getting paid to do, so I imagine it is a priority for him. His winning is accompanied by one of the highest graduation rates among athletes for the university, so I believe he does do more than win.

  8. gman says:

    Yo Clemson: Read the post again. The adults are supposed to be the responsible people here. They are supposed to be the decision makers. I hope you aren’t a parent. My kids beg to do irresponsible things all the time. As a parent, I have to use my experience and judgment to decide what’s best for them. Is Watson now running the CTU football program?

  9. gman says:

    Jmark, like Rhonda you are missing the point. See above. Graduation rates? Nice try on changing the subject.

  10. Jim says:

    He strained his LCL and bruised his knee during the GT game. He then partially tore his ACL during practice. But proceeded to play vs SCAR with a brace.

  11. Amber says:

    whats interesting is you have ZERO sources to back up your claims.
    Also, before you call out other schools, perhaps you should research the morality issues of your own. Example: Coaches pressuring players to take “easy” majors so they can focus more on athletics.
    I personally know a former USC basketball player who was extremely pressured into changing his major to something “easier.” He graduated with a general sociology degree. What is he doing with that degree now? He’s working as a retail sales associate.
    Is that not the same issue? Coaches putting their needs above the student’s?

  12. Matt Miller says:

    It was a great article until you started throwing stones at FSU. You piece of crap SEC fans love living in a glass house don’t you. Winston has been punished for every transgression that’s been guilty of. Stealing crab legs 3 game suspension sorry it wasn’t football season. Yelled something every frat guy yells 1 game suspension. Now let’s look at some SEC schools. Bama has 3 players brutally beat a student one player gets a year at junior college then is back the following year. They have a drug dealer staying in the athletic dorm and charges not even filed. Treon Harris was arrested for sexual assault then all of a sudden the accuser backs down right before it’s time for Harris to start. Tennessee has a player beating a woman each week now. Nick Marshall kicked off of Georgia for unspecified reasons then stars at AU. Guess what gets caught with drugs and nothing happens. Over 50% of college athletes arrested come from the SEC conference. If anything is a joke it’s people like you pointing out flaws in others programs when your conference has the most flaws.

  13. gman says:

    Looks like there are few sensitive folks cruising the blog. First, thanks for coming by. Second, you folks really need to carefully read what we blog about before exploding back with comments that are off base. A few return comments:

    Matt: I’m not sure what you think I said but I didn’t defend any schools in the post. I love college football as much as the next guy but of course understand that pretty much all major college teams and coaches have a win at all cost attitude. Where exactly did I say that the SEC was free from this kind of thing? I’m looking hard but I don’t see that in my piece. My point was CTU acts talks and acts like they are different. Well, they aren’t. But to suggest that Winston has been adequately punished for his actions is laughable. No one outside of FSU fans think he’s been adequately punished. Sadly most guys like him never are. The responsibility of the coaches should be to teach valuable life lessons no matter the consequences. The pressure to win and win big influences these coaches to do otherwise.

    Amber: We are bloggers, not reporters. We make observations. If you disagree with them, that’s fine, but please stay on the subject. The subject was the fact that CTU and Dabo try to make folks believe that they are different, that they care more for the athletes than the other schools. Well that’s simply not true. I’m not saying they don’t care at all. They just don’t care more. Why? Because the pressure to win is great and they succumb to the pressure like other coaches and schools do. I personally think the decision to play Watson was the wrong decision. Others share this opinion, including former players and quite a few doctors. I’m not out there on a limb by myself. And as to having no sources? Remember, we are bloggers not reporters. This is the internet not Time Magazine. But since you asked, here are some facts for you. Fact: Dabo coaches CTU. Fact: Watson plays QB for Dabo and CTU. Fact: Watson tore his ACL (Note to Jim: the articles I read reported that he “tore” the ACL. Never saw the word “partial” anywhere. But I don’t think this matters to tell you the truth). Fact: Dabo and the other coaches elected to play Watson despite the injury. Fact: Folks have come forward saying it was a bad idea. How do I know this? Because I have Twitter and people post things there (if you look hard, you will see that I actually did quote one source-so your in caps “zero” is not exactly accurate). Yes I saw some folks tweet and retweet some things from players and doctors saying it was a bad thing to play him. It’s not hard to find. Just look. If you want to make a bunch of comparisons of bad things USC and other schools do that are similar to this situation, you have every right to do so. But remember that I was not wagging my finger at CTU to say we are better than them in this regard. Like Matt, it seems like you want to lash out at me for something I didn’t say.

    • Amber says:

      It looks like you aren’t getting the points of our comments. Before you bash another school, take a look at your own.

      Ps- Twitter is possibly the least credible source out there.

  14. The reality of it is that our defense is SOOOO bad, that he could have played Stoudt, and still won. Yeah, he may have thrown an interception, or two. But Clemson’s D was playing lights out. We couldn’t move the ball consistently, so all Stoudt had to do is run the jet sweep over, and over, or turn around and hand it to Gallman. They would have still gotten all those yards. There were 3 or 4 teams we played this year, that broke offensive records for their schools against us. Our D has the ability to make average players look like Heisman hopefuls. I get the point of the story, and I agree that Dabo should have intervened. Since when do players get to decide they are gonna play? It was NOT his choice. Dabo, and the Clemson staff had to ultimately give the OK. My point is, he didn’t even have to do it. They would have won anyway

  15. matt says:

    There is a huge difference. I’ll agree all and I do mean all coaches will play hurt players. However a lot of schools dump student athletes(take their offer or scholarship) where as Clemson has had a history of staying loyal and honoring a scholarship to student athletes that can no longer continue to be an athlete. Also in an age of social media where everything is under a microscope coach Swinney has done a good job at keeping his guys out of trouble(yes there are isolated incidents). This article is sour grapes, purely targeting one decision and declaring that coach Swinney is a phoney and liar. Take a look at your own school sometime.

    • Evan says:

      I’d say it’s an isolated event of Dabo allowing the athlete to keep a scholarship. Players get cut and winning is the game. If you want to believe Dabo is there to tuck 85 college players in at night, make sure they become men first and football players second, have at it. Dabo isn’t any different than any other coach. You know it, I know it, and the Clemson players eventually figure it out.

    • Evan says:

      Also, this isn’t something we didn’t know already. This is just the first high profile “smoking gun”.

  16. James says:

    Don’t forget Willy Korn. Google and read the story of his injury

  17. Thomas knotts says:

    Did Spurrier play Cooper with broken ribs or did I hear wrong? Suck it up and take the loss.

    • buck says:

      You heard wrong if you heard broken. And trying to equate the Watson injury to sore ribs is a bit of a stretch. Kids play hurt all the time. Kids with an injury that requires reconstructive surgery rarely do.

  18. buck says:

    Look folks, we appreciate you coming to our site and taking a moment to comment. This is obviously a subject all sides are passionate about and we appreciate everyone keeping it civil and clean (so far). You have every right to come here and defend Swinney, who I personally believe to be a good man and who has done a heck of a job at Clemson. But please stick to the story as we know it:

    – Watson injured his knee against GT
    – The injury we were told would not require surgery and was described as a sprain and/or bone bruise
    – Watson practiced and then played, apparently in pain, against USC
    – After the game Swinney told us Watson tore his ACL the Thursday prior to the Ga. State game at practice

    If any of those facts as we know them are not correct please let us know. To the best of my knowledge this is what Clemson has reported and has been widely accepted. If they are correct and you can’t understand why some people, not just South Carolina people mind you, have a problem with this, then you’re misguided. And “but Spurrier did it with Shaw/Clowney/Cooper/whoever” is not a reasonable adult argument. Kids play with injuries every day. But if Spurrier put Shaw in danger of significant injury (one that would require surgery) when he played him against Missouri last year then he should absolutely be called out too, and I promise we’ll be at the front of the line to do it. But at this time we don’t have evidence that that is the case, and given it was over a year ago I doubt it will ever be addressed.

    Thanks for the read, carry on.

  19. Football Expert says:

    I think you really showed your ignorance on how football works in this article. Coaches don’t decide when players get to come back from injury, those decisions are left up to doctors. But like you said in a reply to another comment, you’re a blogger, not a reporter, so ignorance is to be expected.

    Those sour grapes taste awfully sweet to me 🙂

    • buck says:

      You’re naïve a) if you think doctors always make the right call in these situations and b) if you think a coach has never put a player in against a doctor’s recommendation. Not saying that happened here, but the doctor does not always get the final say.

  20. tony says:

    If I have to hear another thread, blog, ect. about this………. He was cleared by the medical staff to play, not by Dabo. But I guess with your MD, your review of his films, and the physical exam you performed on him gives you the right to make such a fact based blog. The phrase “ignorance is bliss” or in this case “ignorance allows you to jump to conclusions because your team got dominated and you have nothing else to talk about so let’s go for character assassination” has just been shown.

    • buck says:

      Again, Tony, we’re just going on what we’ve been told by the Clemson staff. When your MD who examined him gets to have his voice heard, either directly or through Dabo, then maybe he can put this whole thing to rest. Until then we have no choice but to make our own conclusions because nobody’s talking.

      • tony says:

        Let me get this right. SO you are saying, all though in a round-a-bout way, that:

        1) He was not cleared to play by the medical staff and that Dabo basically used his influence on Watson – we all can pretty much dump this idea

        2) here is the one I think you are suggesting and this is a very DAMAGING conclusion, that the medical staff knew he could further damage his knee but put the games outcome in front of Watson’s personal health and future

        This article better sound like sour grapes for your sake or calling out a medical professional who I know personally who is an outstanding individual and would never jeopardize any young man’s future

        • tony says:

          Also, HIPPA so there is no way the physician is going to divulge pt. info.

          You are going after Dabo and questioning his character, fine. I expect it from the other fanbase but it’s a very sensitive subject when you throw in a young man, his future and a highly reputable orthopedic practice.

  21. Evan says:

    Riddle me this – Why didn’t Dabo come out and say his ACL was torn a week before the game? He knew, why not tell everyone it’s in the doctor’s hands?

    My opinion is he knew the backlash would have been pretty bad but he also knew a win would soften the news. I think it was a pretty calculated decision.

  22. Jo says:

    Or here’s an idea. Watson told Dabo that he was good to go. Dabo let the med staff decide. They (being the ones with the medical degree) confirmed that the brace they made would function properly as an ACL. Y’all act like dabo told him that if he didn’t play he would pull his scholarship. The reason that Watson kept leaving the field and taking breaks is because according to him the brace caused his calf muscle to fall asleep, not that he was in pain. I’d rather have a Watson that will play on a torn ACL than a doo doo clowney that sits out because he has a tummy ache. And guess what you can talk about how the decision to play Watson coyld have injured him more but I’ll take the diagnosis of a team of medical doctors over a butthurt bloggers anyday. Guess they were right too, cause no further damage was done.

    • buck says:

      “The reason that Watson kept leaving the field and taking breaks is because according to him the brace caused his calf muscle to fall asleep, not that he was in pain.”

      This is gold.

      • Jo says:

        That’s what he said in his interview. And I’m not supposed to believe him? Instead I’m supposed to believe you?

  23. albinhorhino69 says:

    First, I think this blog would have more credibility if you had stopped after the first paragraph. Secondly, are you saying that the professionally trained doctors that treated Deshaun Watson didn’t clear him to play? And knowing that he wasn’t medically cleared to play Coach Swinney said, “no, he’s playing anyway?” If that is your argument then you have a good one. However, I doubt that is the case. The argument you seem to be making is that even though he was cleared to play by highly trained medical doctors and wanted to play himself, Coach Swinney shouldn’t have allowed him to play. I can’t understand that argument.

    • palmer says:

      Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner here, folks. Also, Gman, did you write an article about Spurrier when he brought Shaw in against Missouri last year? If so, please link.

      I just find it extremely funny that the focus is on something that every single one of us isn’t qualified to talk about. This brings up a good point, what are all of us qualified to talk about? How about Football 101, “How to stop the jet sweep?” Seems like a much more relevant topic, but what do I know, I’m not a football coach or a doctor.

  24. garnetandblackop says:

    I think the point of the article is missed. This is not about Carolina losing the game, nor is it a lament about a spartan performance this season. If you follow this blog at all, you should realize that these gentlemen, like myself, come from an era where 6-6 was actually a decent season at times and are not spoiled by our school’s recent success.

    Here is a little enlightenment along a history lesson. The Upstate School fan base, for some reason, tend to hold up their head football coach as a saint (St. Danny, St. Tommy the lessor, St. Tommy, His Eminence, Frank the departed…) all infallible, their cathedral Death Valley the other, and their catechism- the creeds of 1981 and their series record against USC. These Cannons are held loftier more so now than ever before because of two events: The SEC’s rise to national prominence and Steve Spurrier’s arrival to make USC an actual competitor in it. You must understand, Spurrier, like Holtz before him, is a legendary coach. Much like he did with Duke and then his Alma Mater Florida, he came to South Carolina to build up a program that was in shambles; not an easy task by any stretch of the imagination. The initial response from everywhere was “It can’t be done”. This was no more prevalent than with the Upstate School faithful who were prepared to sit back and watch another legendary coach and Carolina go down in flames. Now, add to this, unlike most coaches, the HBC does not censor himself in front of the press. in his own words “It is what it is”. Almost, immediately, he pointed out to the players, university administration, and even the garnet and black faithful, that there are bigger things than just beating Clemson and everyone is on board now. Armed with this, they were all set for the downfall, and then it didn’t happen as they had planned. The instate recruits started coming to Columbia. The state’s top players out of high school, Gillmore, Lattimore, Clowney, Roland, all highly rated national recruits, elected to come to play football in Columbia. The results have spoken themselves over the past several years. These facts, and 5 straight losses have caused a desperate surge among the Tiger faithful to point out that their team is somehow still better because they have a head coach with such high morals in contrast to the popular, unashamed, vocal, shirtless, Coors drinking, Augusta National Golfing, and to use their favorite nomenclature, “classless” Spurrier.

    What G-man is pointing out is that St. Dabo is no better than any of the other head coaches in college football. They are all paid enormous salaries to win, and are going to do what is necessary to do so. Division I college football is big business now and athletes with the talent to make a roster are the tools of the industry. Coaches use the best tools in their tool box for the job at hand. When that tool wears out to were it no longer gets the job done, they acquire another. That’s how it works everywhere, Carolina, Clemson, FSU, Auburn, Bama, fake USC, Carolina- Chapel Hill, Central Michigan, or where ever. I know Dabo personally. He is a good man and has done one heck of job with the program. He still has a job to do: Win. His benefactors demand that he wins over their non-conference rival. He did what he needed to do by all means necessary because, that is his job.

  25. AS says:

    35-17. Give it up. What a waste of time writing this.

  26. Pawrocka says:

    when you open a blog with “Before anyone suggests this is a sour grapes blog post by an excuse-making Gamecock fan …”, then its clearly sour grapes.

  27. Rick says:

    Wow,,,,,,,,,never seen so much concern for a Clemson player. Most USuC fans would be happy if he lost his leg. This is nothing more than seeking cover in a hail storm, You got your ass cut…its going to happen for another 4 years in a row and this is a last ditch effort to try and make up a story to deflect the sorry game the dirtpeckers played and deflect ANOTHER season in 2015 which looks to be even worse. PATHETIC.

  28. Evan says:

    Obviously the doctors didn’t do a good job of assessing the situation the first time because he tore his ACL in practice. The poor decision was that one. The decision playing him in the game isn’t the decision in question. I think it’s a reasonable conclusion he came back too early with bad advise from Dabo and his doctors. If it was a freak accident I’m sure we would have heard about the “clemson family” rallying around each other to help Watson play through the pain to win the rivalry game and end the streak.

    All of you really do believe the PR out of the Pickens County Police State. That is mind blowing.

    • tony says:

      I believe one of your players played with a MCL and LCL sprains one week after his injury so we can rule out the rest of your thread.

      Please, do some research on the subject of types knee sprains and get some first hand information on the severity of a player’s injury before you point fingers at a medical staff or a coach.

  29. Otis says:

    South Carolina did the same thing last year with Shaw, you mouth-breather.

  30. Chris says:

    Excellent piece of journalism. Nearly all my opinions about Clemson’s football program have changed after reading this and understanding your objective viewpoint. My only question is if Watson doesn’t play with one leg tied behind his back in the coming years, how do y’all see things shaking out?

  31. Tbone says:

    I’ve sat on the sidelines for this comment war up to this point. But the reaction to Gman’s original premise (that Dabo is just like most other big-time college coaches) seems lost in the vitriolic back and forth.
    I’ve seen this dynamic time and time again, but it still surprises me how most Clemson fans cannot stomach ANY criticism of their school. Any wise-crack is an affront to human decency. Any display of emotion from across the field is considered ‘classless.’ Any rubric of the relative strengths and weaknesses of its athletic program is an irrelevant metric. They will not – perhaps cannot – perceive any shortcoming whatsoever. The defensiveness is pervasive.

    I’ve got news for you folks: the Clemson Tiger University is made up of selfish, broken human beings just like every other school out there (including ours). If you think any differently, then you are delusional. Are you Solid Orange? Well, go See the Stripes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tl1cSgbnZTo) to experience just one example of how Clemson whitewashes itself.

    Dabo’s primary concern is Dabo. He wants to be popular, successful, and well paid. And that’s OK. He’s using his God-given talents (namely his motivational ability and a disarming, bumpkin charm) to be very successful thus far.

    But when Deshaun Watson is hobbling around on a bum knee at 40 years old, regaling his hopefully happy family with the tales of the one time in his career that he actually beat South Carolina, Dabo won’t be there to help him around the house or make the aches and pains go away.

    Dabo will still be taking care of Dabo.

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