Coaching football at any level is not easy, and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney is viewed as one of the best in the business. For him to remain as successful as he has been while under the constant scrutiny of the media, fans, and alumni—well, it’s enough to make someone blow up from time to time.
“Blow up” is what he did at his kicker, B.T. Potter, after Potter missed what should have been an easy 24-yard kick at the end of the first half Saturday against Florida State.
Clemson misses short field goal. Dabo Swinney rips into his kicker on sideline https://t.co/oDy0Mj6dWC
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) October 12, 2019
Was Dabo Swinney Being a Bully or Just Doing His Job?
As much as some of us may hate to admit it—the world is now a kinder, gentler place then it was just ten years ago. Meanness is frowned upon, and if you call a “cupcake” or “snowflake” out for being too sensitive, then you’re a bully.
For a 49-year old man to verbally dress down a 19-year-old college sophomore so publicly, it could be looked upon as a case of bullying.
Some have been critical of Swinney for being so harsh. His team was already up by 28 points before the half. Does being up by 31 at the break mean that much? No, of course not.
One former South Carolina kicker, Elliot Fry, shared his displeasure with Swinney on Twitter, as did many college football fans:
Really bold move to try and ruin your young kickers confidence in a cupcake game… https://t.co/Ylw7WSYgHp
— Elliott Fry (@elliott_fry22) October 12, 2019
I wonder if he stopped to think what Jesus would say. Isn't that the benchmark of his program?
— Tommy H (@thbigdad) October 13, 2019
He embarrassed himself on national TV today. Not the first time he has gone after his kicker instead of his stars too. Sad.
— Phillip Malphrus Jr (@pmaljr) October 13, 2019
Chewing out kickers on national TV is never a good idea. Kickers are like golfers, the less emotion the better. Dabo needs to lay off the kicker and let the kicking coach use some “Zen talk” to help BT, he obviously has the physical talent. We’ll need his head right.
— Jay Montgomery MD (@sjacobm321) October 13, 2019
It was a meaningless kick in a meaningless game that was already won, so why make such a big deal over it?
Clemson’s Coach Did Nothing Wrong
Maybe because Potter had missed his last kick the week before and was now only 5-of-9 on the season. While the outcome of the game at hand was not in question, Swinney has to think of the future.
If he can’t rely on his kicker to make a short, 24-yard field goal against Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, or LSU, Clemson could be in trouble. A field goal against one of those teams in the College Football Playoff could be what sends them home – or to the national championship game.
Swinney’s job isn’t just to beat Florida State; it is to win a national championship. To do that requires getting every last detail right—including meaningless 24-yard field goals in “cupcake” games.
Did Swinney do anything wrong? Absolutely not. It might have been better had he not done it on national television, but he was just doing his job.
Benching a Lesson for B.T. Potter
Potter did not kick again after the miss; Swinney decided to go with senior Stephen Sawicki instead. On Monday, he announced that the job was Sawicki’s going forward, via TheState.com:
“Was disappointed with B.T. That’s two really easy field goals in a row he’s missed. So just felt like we needed to give somebody else a chance. He’s easily the most talented guy. He’s a great kicker. But sometimes you’ve just got to stand on the sideline.”
But fans shouldn’t worry about Potter. If he doesn’t end up kicking again this season, there is always next year. He was once heralded as the best high school kicker in South Carolina, so he has the potential to become a special player.
He just might need a little more time to work on his craft and his mental game.