We had several strong candidates for the Coaches Hot Seat “Goat Coach” of Week 1 including: Dave Wannstedt, Mike Sherman, Chuck Long, Steve Kragthorpe, Phil Fulmer, Al Groh, but without a doubt when we started hearing that Tommy Bowden had called around to other coaches on Tuesday to get advice on what he could do to get his football team back on track, we knew we had our “Goat Coach” Award Winner for Week 1: Tommy Bowden! To us, the most surprising phone call of all was the one that Bowden made to Nick Saban, the man who’s Alabama team destroyed Bowden’s Clemson team on Saturday night, which is a stunning call in so many ways, mostly because we doubt that Nick Saban is going to waste his time really telling Tommy Bowden how he whipped his ass. Of course, there was another beatdown in the city Atlanta that is comparable to the way that Alabama steamrolled Clemson and that occurred on July 22, 1864. On that date, Union forces led by General William Tecumseh Sherman were up against Confederate forces led by General Joseph E. Johnston, who were on the retreat into Atlanta from Chattanooga when the battle finally commenced near Kennesaw Mountain and Peachtree Creek just outside of the city (This is already reminding us of the Alabama – Clemson game!). After Confederate General Johnston was unable to stop the advance of Sherman’s forces, he was surprise, surprise, relieved of command and replaced with Lt. General John Hood (Is that relieving of command an omen for a certain Clemson football coach?). The details of the Battle of Atlanta are a fascinating read, but we would like to draw a parallel between that battle and the football game between Alabama and Clemson last Saturday night.
Let your mind drift off into another time, the antebellum South (see Gone with the Wind! At least Rhett Butler would fight, which is more than we can say for Clemson!) is under siege by General William Tecumseh Sherman’s (Nick Saban is Sherman) Union forces and Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston (Tommy Bowden is Johnston) has just had his ass handed to him at the Battle of Atlanta. In this alternative reality, General Bowden’s forces quit on him during the battle and Bowden is now pacing restlessly at his headquarters as Atlanta is burning all around him. “What did I do wrong, please, someone tell me what I did wrong?” General Bowden says to no on in particular. All of the sudden General Bowden has an idea! Bowden races over to the Confederate telegraph office, that is still smoldering from the battle and bursts into the building to find the telegraph clerk still bravely at his post. Here is how that conversation went between General Bowden and the Confederate telegraph clerk:
General Bowden: “Be alert soldier, I need to get an immediate message out.”
Telegraph Clerk: “Yes, sir General! Who would you like to send this message to?”
General Bowden: “There are five people that I need this message to go to: Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, Union General US Grant, Union General James B. Macpherson, Union General John A. Logan, and lastly, President Abraham Lincoln.”
Telegraph Clerk: “Sir…..,all of those men are the enemy. What do you want the message to say?”
General Bowden: “I want to ask each of those men how they went about kicking my ass.”
Telegraph Clerk: “Sir…..Sherman and the rest of those Union generals have been kicking our ass for about 10 weeks now, and I am pretty sure that if we could get a message to Abraham Lincoln, the response would not be very forthcoming.
General Bowden: “I know we have been getting our ass kicked for awhile now, but I need to know WHY we are getting our ass kicked.”
Telegraph Clerk: “Sir….we are getting ass kicked, because we have a lot quitters that gave up on you in the critical Battle of Atlanta.”
General Bowden: “Yes, I know that, but I need to know WHY they quit.”
Telegraph Clerk: “Sir…..your men quit, because they did not believe in you.”
General Bowden: “Yes, I know that, but I need to WHY they don’t believe in me.”
Telegraph Clerk: “Sir…..the men don’t……Oh, the hell with it. Now what did you want to say in this message.”
General Bowden: “I am glad you are starting to see things my way. Now, I want to say the following in this message: “Wondering how you kicked my ass so effectively?” STOP “Why do my soldiers quit, and yours don’t?” STOP “Is there anything I can do so that I do not get my ass kicked in the future?” STOP “How can I beat you in a future battle?” STOP “I will be waiting patiently for your reply.” STOP “Yours affectionately, General Tommy Bowden. STOP Oh yes, on the message to General Sherman also add: “In one of the houses that you burned down one of your Union soldiers mistakenly dropped some butter cookies. I was wondering if you had the recipe for those butter cookies and if you could send it along when you tell me how you kicked my ass? Thanks. TB” STOP Now, get that message out quick to all the people I mentioned before, and send a runner to my tent when you their responses. Now let’s see, judging by how fast Sherman and his forces blew through Atlanta, you can probably reach him in Macon or in another city to the southeast of here. Got it?”
Telegraph Clerk: (Looks up at General Bowden and can only nod his head up and down. General Bowden leaves telegraph office.) Telegraph Clerk says under his breath: “That is the stupidest….”
Now, we are not saying that Tommy Bowden is stupid, just terribly misguided if he thinks that by calling other coaches he is going to find out what is wrong with HIS football team. Clemson did not get “whipped” by Alabama by out-scheming them or implementing some grand gameplan that the Clemson players could not understand. Clemson got “whipped” because they got smashed in the mouth by Alabama early in the game and then the Tiger players QUIT on their head football coach Tommy Bowden. Period. What Tommy Bowden needs is a large mirror, and he needs to look straight into that mirror, and there he will find the problem with his football team. When almost an entire football team quits, the problem is always with the head football coach and the way he has prepared his team to play the game of football and to meet the challenges of life. Right now, Clemson has a bunch of quitters on their football team, and instead of Tommy Bowden trying to figure out on Tuesday by calling other coaches and asking what is wrong with his football team, he should have figured that out immediately after the game with Alabama. If Coaches Hot Seathad been coaching that Clemson team on Saturday night and OUR players had QUIT on us in the way they QUIT on Tommy Bowden, here is what we here at Coaches Hot Seat would have done.
Setting: Clemson Locker Room just after the game with Alabama
The head coach tells a staff member to instruct the Clemson players to not take off their uniforms, but to just sit in the locker room until the head coach comes to address them. The head coach waits 45 minutes before he addresses the team.
Head Coach: “I hope everyone in here is proud of themselves, because with your play tonight you have embarrassed your university, your families, our great fans, yourselves, and most troubling now for everyone football player in this room, you embarrassed me and this coaching staff. This Clemson team, your team, looked like it didn’t even care that they were getting whipped by Alabama, and that you didn’t show up to play this game tonight means that I did a terrible job of getting you prepared to play this game. Yes, that is my fault, because I failed somewhere along the way in identifying the players in this room that really wanted to play football at Clemson. In a few minutes, yes, I said in a few minutes, we are going to find out who does and who does not want to play football for this team and represent Clemson University. I have spoken with the management folks here at the Georgia Dome, and they have allowed us to use their field for a little while longer tonight. Don’t worry about taking a shower, and go ahead and change into the PT gear and tennis shoes that the managers are now handing out (A good coach always carries PT gear and tennis shoes for every player on road trips). Once everyone gets changed, we are going back out on that field, and we are going to find out who are the winners and who are the losers on this football team. You see, after watching this team play against Alabama tonight, I am convinced that we have a lot of losers on this team that will just lay down and QUIT when they are challenged. OK, you are really about to get challenged, so go ahead and get changed and let’s get back out on the field.”
The head coach and coaching staff take the Clemson team back onto the field in PT Gear and the head coach tells them the following with a bullhorn:
“OK, I want everyone in this endzone and I want as many players as we can get onto the endzone line at one time, and then another group waiting behind them, and then another group of players behind them. We are going to do some 100 yard sprints, and a good place to start for number of sprints that we are going to do, is the number of points that Alabama scored on us tonight. 34 points, so that is at least 34 100 yard sprints that we are going to do, that is if everyone runs hard on every sprint. You will notice that I have the assistant coaches spread out down the sidelines and if they see any player loafing they are going to call out that player’s name, and if a player’s name is called out three times, that player is off this team for the 2008 season. The managers will note what player’s names are called by the coaches. OK, get on the line, let’s go.
The head coach blows the whistle and the Clemson players run at a minimum of 34 100 yard sprints, and preferably many more so that the coaching staff can find out who really wants to play football at Clemson, and who doesn’t.
After the sprints the head coach calls the team together and says:
“Nice job, but if everyone had made that kind of effort earlier tonight, we may have had an opportunity to beat Alabama. Probably not, because I did not have you prepared to play this game, but at least we may have given Alabama a fight. OK, we have the Citadel next Saturday, and the coaches and I have decided we are going to use this week’s practices to find out who has the desire and the passion to play football at Clemson, and which players we can really count on among this group. In the first practice this week we are going to have a full-own scrimmage, first-team offense vs. first-team defense to start out and we will work the backup players in after we see the kind of effort that each of you are making. I would recommend that if you want to play football at Clemson that you come to our first practice with your chin-strap buckled and ready to hit people and to get hit. OK men, you have 1-hour to get showered and get onto the buses for the ride back to Clemson. I am going to a late dinner with my wife and you’d better believe that she is going to challenge me for the way that you played tonight and why I didn’t have this team ready to play against Alabama. You think running these sprints was bad? You have no idea. OK, hit the showers. Managers, I want this field to look better than it looked when we got here this afternoon. Good night.
Now that is how Coaches Hot Seat would have handled a team that QUIT on us, and in fact that is a very close description of what happened to a few of us while playing football years ago. If we were able to handle it, then these supposedly well-conditioned athletes at Clemson could have handled it as well, after they flat-out laid down on the field and QUIT on Tommy Bowden. We haven’t a clue to what Bowden actually asks of his football team, but if he did not run the hell out of his players and demand accountability for the way they performed against Alabama, then Tommy Bowden’s career is doomed. From where we sat in the Georgia Dome, not that far from the Clemson bench, it was clear that not only did the Clemson football team QUIT on Tommy Bowden and the Clemson coaching staff, many of the players didn’t give a rip that Alabama was beating the hell out of their football team. Yes, many Clemson players seemed to not even care about the score of the game or the play of their teammates and that reaction by the Clemson players is the ultimate indictment of Tommy Bowden.
Our recommendation after watching the Clemson sideline while Alabama was taking apart the Tigers: Tommy Bowden better find out in a hurry who on his team really wants to play football for Clemson University, or he is going to find himself out of a job come December. Tommy Bowden can laugh at that notion if he wishes, but Bowden is so disconnected from the Clemson fan base and from what they are feeling about him and the Clemson football team (the Clemson fans after all, are paying every dime of Tommy Bowden’s salary), that if he laughs at the idea that he could lose his job, he does it at his own peril. Maybe instead of calling Nick Saban and Mark Richt, Tommy Bowden should call his brother Terry and be reminded of how quickly things can change when you begin to lose control of a football team. Yes, that is a call Tommy Bowden should really make.
The Coaches Hot Seat “Goat Coach” for Week 1 is Tommy Bowden.