Jones: Clemson's 2018 Team Best I've Ever Seen

It may be difficult for Nick Saban to admit, but Clemson has equaled, if not surpassed, Alabama

The DA Show
July 18, 2019 - 11:20 am

Nick Saban is great at many things, including his ability to rationalize or explain away losses. 

Such was the case at SEC Media Days, when he blamed his coaching staff and looming NFL careers for Alabama’s humbling 44-16 loss to Clemson in the national championship.

Is it surprising that Saban said what he said?

“Yeah, it is a little bit surprising,” ACC Network analyst Roddy Jones said on The DA Show. “It’s surprising that we’re going into the next year, and it seems like the narrative throughout the offseason in other leagues has been about Clemson – with good reason. All of the things that Nick Saban is saying about Alabama, those all may be true. But it also goes to show you how good a job Clemson is doing at least pushing all of those things to the side for that common goal.”

Every “problem” – real or perceived – that Alabama faced late last season, so did Clemson.

"Clemson had first-rounders on that team that were ready to go to the NFL, and they were focused,” Jones said. “Clemson had coaches that were getting sniffs from other places to potentially get head-coaching jobs, and they were focused. It just shows you how good of a job Dabo Swinney is doing because all of the issues that have been detailed – or excuses, if you will – Clemson has to deal with all of those as well. And yet they’re still able to win.”

Clemson has finished 14-1 or better in three of the last four seasons. Record during that stretch: 55-4.

The 2018 squad, however, may have been the best of the bunch.

“This Clemson team this past year was the greatest football team I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “Since Trevor Lawrence took over in September, they didn’t win a game by less than 20 points. That’s incredible. That run is one that we’ll never see again. You can talk about the strength of the league and the fact that everybody wasn’t focused, but if you go by that excuse, nobody on Clemson’s schedule was focused to play the best team in college football, so I don’t buy that. That Clemson team was just incredible, so can’t we just appreciate what they did and the fact that they were so dominant down the stretch?”

Is it possible that Saban is spooked that another program has equaled, if not surpassed, Alabama?

“I think they’re definitely concerned about it,” Jones said. “What Nick Saban said about his assistants leaving and guys not being focused, that’s legitimate. Nick Saban has had an incredible amount of turnover on that staff. He’s had an incredible amount of turnover amongst the players, but that’s always been the case. Since Kirby Smart left to go to Georgia, the defensive coordinator job has been a revolving door. Same with the offensive coordinator. How do you expect these 18-to-22-year-old kids to be able to have any sort of connection, of feeling, when it’s a rotating revolving door amongst the assistant coaches? 

“That’s a legitimate problem that Nick Saban feels,” Jones continued. “It’s a problem that he built by hiring these guys that are incredibly ambitious, but those guys being at Alabama are going to have opportunities to move elsewhere. When you have a guy whose ambition exceeds the overall dedication to the program, then you’re going to have that revolving door. It’s tough for guys to have that continuity. 

“So yeah, I do think it concerns him that there is now an equal looking him in the eye and, in many ways, a team that looks like it is better-suited for the long haul – at least more stable for the long haul – than his own program.”