Just think what Dabo could do at Bama.
Mama called, baby.
My skepticism regarding Dabo isn't rooted in what most others here is (be it the religion, his defiant and public uncompromising "stands" or just what some folks know/suspect from his days here on the Dubious staff.
Dabo got hired as an interim for Tommy Bowden and then took over prior to the 2009 season, so let's spot him until 2012, when his very first DABO recruits would have been seniors. Is that a fair way to evaluate him? I think it's reasonable.
- Clemson goes 11-2 and ends the year at #9. His conference non-conference schedules are so awful that the only other ranked team in his conference is Jimbo's FSU team. Naturally, in a schedule loaded with teams from the Athletically Challenged Conference (ACC) and the likes of Ball State and Furman, he reels off a 10-2 record and loses to the only two good teams he faces, FSU (49-37) and South Carolina (27-17). He edges LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (25-24) led by a coach whose teams made a regular habit of half or not showing up for bowl games (including the 2012 BCSNCG). He faces three ranked teams and has two double digit losses and a one-point win. Yeah, he did beat another team ranked at the time - he beat Auburn by 7 the year that team went 3-9 and threw Chizik overboard.
- what's truly amazing is how this year is EXACTLY like 2012. He beats a highly ranked SEC team in the opener who turns out to be a colossal failure, 8-5 Georgia. He loses to the only two ACTUAL ranked teams he plays in the regular season, 51-14 to FSU and 31-17 to Spurrier. He again edges a highly ranked team in a bowl game, Meyer's first bowl team at Ohio St by five points. YES, he does deserve credit, but one could reasonably argue the Apathy theory (if OSU had beaten Sparty in the B1G title game, they'd have played for the national title so isn't it reasonable they showed up with other things on their mind just as Alabama did with OU that year?)
At this point, he's faced 6 ranked teams, and he's 0-4 in the regular seasond (all double digit losses) but 2-0 in the post-season, both wins against teams with coaches who sometimes seem to pick up a copy of the yellow pages and think it's a playbook. And he's 20-0 against the riff-raff of CFB.
- he plays 3 ranked teams (UGA, FSU, and Ga Tech) and goes 0-3, with a 24-point loss to UGA, a 22-point loss to Tech, and an overtime loss to FSU. So you say, "Wow, they played it close with FSU!" Yes - because Jameis Winston was suspended for that game...and yet FSU STILL won. They throttle 8-5 OU, who ends the year unranked and ALSO has a history of packing it in for the bowl game, so at this point Dabo is 0-7 in the regular season against decent teams.
That brings us to the Deshaun Watson era.
- Clemson runs the table. This year, they DO beat all 3 ranked teams they play pre-playoff by margins of 2, 10, and 8. They smash Oklahoma in the semis and lose to Alabama. This was the year Spurrier resigned six games into the season...and Jameis Winston is already gone to the NFL. Dabo DOES deserve credit for this year. Sure, outside circumstances were favorable - but he still had to capitalize on it. Plus, you have to give him (or whomever) credit for getting Watson to come to Clemson. Clemson finishes 4-1 against ranked teams.
- This was the year that Clemson won the national championship. They go 5-0 against ranked teams. Of course, they trailed that last one by 14 points in the fourth quarter - but once that team lost its only offensive threat to a broken leg, it's a miracle it took Clemson down to the final snap to win the game. The back-to-back games of beating Urban and Saban, this is what gave rise to "wow, Dabo is a great coach!" And again, he DID deserve the credit he got - of course, he also lost to unranked Pitt, too.
2012-14: 2-7 vs ranked teams
2015-16: 9-1 vs ranked teams
- they beat four teams ranked at the end of the year and then lose as the #1 seed in the playoff to Alabama, who wins it all. And they lose to yet ANOTHER unranked team in Syracuse.
- they beat one team ranked at the end of the year, Syracuse. Then they smash Notre Dame and Alabama and all of a sudden Dabo is a legend.
- they beat not a single ranked team (at the end of the year), beat Ohio St largely due to an assistance from incompetent officiating - and then got humiliated by......checks notes......Ed Orgeron......
- they beat two ranked teams, lose to one (N Dame with players out due to Covid), and get blasted by Ohio St
- they play four EOY ranked teams and go 1-3. Two games could have gone their way.
2012-14: 2-7 vs ranked teams
2015-18: 16-2 vs ranked teams
2019-21: 4-7 vs ranked teams
What this basically suggests is that the Watson/Sunshine years were REALLY good teams...but his career trajectory at this point is basically Tom Osborne. Run up huge numbers of wins against nobodies (but lose just enough to remind folks you can be beaten), have a four-year peak that coincides with the other generally good team in your conference going through the valley of the shadow of Orgeron (OU in the 90s, FSU in the teens), hover around the periphery of "almost as good as we used to be" for a few years and then......????
IMHO to prove his bona fides, Dabo has to at least get to a final game again at Clemson and be competitive in the next 3 years. If not, his success can largely be seen coinciding with a few whopper recruiting classes (which SHOULD make sustaining the run easier) and the hirings of Tony Elliott and Brent Venables.
I would rank Kirby Smart ahead of Dabo right now as far as being the better head coach. He's had nearly the same level of success while playing in a much tougher conference during the heyday of Saban, and he took over a program in worse shape than Dabo inherited, too.
And no, I can't see Kirby ever leaving Georgia unless it's for the NFL, which I doubt would ever happen.