TAMPA – If things go his way on Monday night around 8 PM Eastern Time, Dabo Swinney’s team will certainly be giving their best effort to prevent playing well below average.
Translation: Clemson will “Try Not to Suck” in their National Championship game against Alabama.
Heard that motivational phrase before?
If you live in Chicago its hard not to be familiar with one of the most famous saying of Cubs manager Joe Maddon during the team’s run to the 2016 World Series championship.
As that motto was passed on from the Cubs team to their fans, it was the same from the manager to the coach of Clemson football.
“Joe Maddon says, hey, if we just don’t suck, we’ve got a chance to win. So that kind of resonated with our guys, and pretty cool experience to see those Cubs win,” said Swinney, who leads his Tigers into Raymond James Stadium to face the Crimson Tide for the championship on Monday. “My father-in-law is a huge Cubs fan, and to see them do something that hasn’t been done in, whatever, 100 years or whatever, was pretty amazing.
How Swinney got to hear that motto first hand is pretty incredible too. Especially considering that the coach somehow never heard of Maddon until the NFL Draft in late April and early May of this past year.
No, seriously, Dabo didn’t know of Joe.
“I called my agent and I said, hey, man, we’re going up to the draft, and I said, would you happen to know anybody that could maybe get me and Venables and Hobby some tickets to the Cubs game?,” said Swinney, telling the story to media at the National Championship media day on Saturday in Tampa. “He goes, well, I know Joe Maddon, and I go, who’s Joe Maddon? He went, he’s the manager. I go, that’s a pretty good guy to know.”
The afternoon at Wrigley Field proved that as Swinney got the opportunity to meet some members of the team on a trip to the newly remodeled clubhouse.
“Jon Lester comes right up to me, and they’re all like, hey coach, how you are you doing? And Jon Lester’s wife is a Clemson grad, and he’s from Georgia,” said Swinney. “Just kind of sat around and talked to all those guys. It was really neat to meet him.”
Meeting Maddon was the best – especially when he got a look at the “Try Not to Suck” shirt for the first time.
“I walk in his office and he’s got his baseball pants on and he’s got this shirt on that says ‘Try Not to Suck’,” said Swinney. “So we talked for a minute, and he’s like, hey man, I watched your team and watched you guys last year and we kind of have an instant connection.
“It was really neat. I told him, you need to know this, because I had met his players and been around, you guys have a great culture.”
Swinney has built the same at Clemson, where he’s won three ACC championship while compiling an 88-28 record since taking over midway through the 2008 season. The only thing left to put on his resume is a National Championship – which the Tigers played for last year but lost to Alabama.
With another shot at the Crimson Tide this year for a championship, Swinney is hoping to channel his inner Maddon one more time.
“I told the guys day one, listen, everybody has been telling us we’re this target, well, we are the target, but let’s embrace that, but for us at Clemson, best is the standard,” said Swinney. “So if Clemson is the target, best is the standard. So let’s focus on being the best we can be.
“Let’s be committed to that and let’s embrace that. Let’s run right to it.”
Just like the coach jumped at the chance to meet a peer he’d never heard of eight months ago.