Winning the national championship is not Clemson’s goal
There is a good chance the Clemson football team will open the 2019 regular season as the No. 1 team in the country. If that happens it will mark the first time in the program’s history, it will open a season as the top-ranked team.
With that said, it would be easy for Clemson to put winning the national championship as its main goal. Why not, right? The Tigers have won two of the last three national titles and they enter this coming year as the defending national champions.
Isn’t that always the goal at Alabama?
But that is not Clemson’s goal.
“That is not in our conversation. We never talk about winning a national championship,” head coach Dabo Swinney said. “It never comes up in our conversations. It just doesn’t. I just want us to be the best version of this team. That’s how I evaluate every team.”
Clemson’s team goals are simple.
- Win the opener
- Win the ACC opener
- Win the ACC Atlantic
- Win the state championship
- Win the last game
Those goals can be found in the team’s meeting room for everyone of the players to see.
“I just evaluate them on their commitment, their focus, their genuine selflessness for the team, accountability, those things. That’s what matters to me,” Swinney said. “Then our goals, our goals are what they are. They don’t change. Nothing up their says go win the national championship.
“Sometimes, those are things we don’t control. We can go undefeated and maybe they don’t vote us into the playoff or something. Does that mean we had a bad season? No. So, I just don’t ever go into it that way.”
Swinney used his 2014 team as a perfect example. Those Tigers did not capture all of their goals, but they still won 10 games and ended the season with a 40-6 win over Oklahoma in the Blockbuster Bowl. They finished the season ranked No. 15 in the final Associated Press Poll.
“That 2014 team is still one of my favorite teams ever. They did not win a national championship, but golly they were a fun group to coach,” the Clemson coach said. “That defense was number one in the country and I don’t think any less of them than the team we had last year. It was just some different dynamics. We had some injuries. We had some things.”
Swinney admits the players always have bigger goals. They can get caught in the moment at times and think about winning the national championship, which he does not mind. That’s where he and the rest of the coaching staff comes into play.
It’s their jobs to ground the players and keep them focused on the task at hand.
“Our players, they dream big and all of that, and that is great,” Swinney said. “Last year’s team, they had big goals, but it is my job to create a daily focus. I make sure that our daily commitment is greater than any goal we have. That is really what I look for. If I see that daily commitment, then I can live with whatever result we get.”
The 2019 Tigers will have their own challenges and journey, and if they get another opportunity to win another national championship that is just part of the journey, but it is not the goal.
“Every team has it is own challenges and journey, but not everybody is going to win a national championship,” Swinney said. “But hey, we got great dreams and aspirations for this team and it starts by just winning the opener. That is what it starts with. Having a great summer and go win the opener.”
Clemson opens the season on Aug. 29 at home against ACC rival Georgia Tech.