Tonight’s National Championship is sure to go down in the history books. LSU and Clemson players are so evenly matched that the game is all but guaranteed to come down to the wire. Thus, the strategies and crunch time decisions of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and LSU coach Ed Orgeron will likely determine who comes out on top.
The two coaches have more in common than one might think. At first glance, both have received several awards and led their teams to various titles. But more than that, they both have transformed their school’s football programs by creating special cultures within them.
Shortly after getting the head coaching job at LSU, Coach O established a theme for each practice they had during the week: Tell the Truth Monday, Competition Tuesday, Turnover/No Turnover Wednesday, No-Repeat Thursday, and Focus Friday. Getting the idea from one of his mentors, Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll, Coach O uses these themes to have organized and effective practices.
Coach O and his LSU Tigers have also embraced the motto “One Team One Heartbeat.” They even sewed the motto to the back of their jerseys for the Peach Bowl a few weeks ago. The coach has made it clear that individual stats and awards do not mean as much as one ones the team gets together because football games are won as a team, not individually. With him receiving 2019 Allstate Sugar Bowl Eddie RobinsonCoach of the Year award and his quarterback, Joe Burrow, receiving the Heisman Trophy, their motto has been especially important this season. In a recent interview with ESPN, Coach O commented that his team “understands we’re a family, they’re committed to us, we’re committed to them, and it’s evident in the way we play.”
Making a team into a family is something that Coach Swinney has done as well. Swinney explained in a press conference this week that when he first got to Clemson “it was kind of a stepping-stone job” and “I wanted to make it a destination job, and that’s what it’s become.”Coach Swinney goes on to say that “This is very much a relationship-driven program. And most everybody on our staff either played for me or I have some type of relationship with them.”
Along with the family atmosphere, Coach Swinney also created the “All In” and “Best is the Standard” culture. Dabo tells his recruits “we’re going to go to class, we’re going to be great citizens, and we’re going to hold you accountable.” He also wants to make sure his players are having fun while working hard, so another one of their traditions is “we win, we dance” and playing intramural basketball in the off-season.
Although Coach O and Dabo have created similar cultures within their football programs, they have different coaching styles and their preparation for the National Championship has been different as a result. For example, both teams had the opportunity to practice inside the New Orleans Saints indoor practice facility because bad weather prevented them from practicing outside. Coach O decided to alter LSU’s schedule to take up the opportunity while Coach Swinney decided against it. Instead, Dabo held practice in their hotel’s ballroom because he did not want to change their planned schedule. He later said in a press conference that it was actually one of their best practices of the season and that Clemson was already prepared to face LSU.
Another difference between the coaches is how they are presenting this Championship to their team. Coach O has been saying that it is just like any other game while Dabo is saying that this is a big opportunity for Clemson to make history.
Being the No. 1 seed, LSU is favored to come out on top tonight. However, make no mistake that Clemson will use their doubters to their advantage by playing like they have something to prove even though they are the defending National Champions. Coach O may be the Coach of the Year, but he has never coached a team in the National Championship before.
Tune in tonight for what is sure to be a hard fought game between the two best teams in college football and see which Coach will call the best game.