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Dabo: “If I start running this program by listening to people outside, then I’ll probably be one of them pretty quick.”

The Clemson head coach resisted the idea of change as a solution following another abysmal offensive performance in a loss to Pitt.

Though it has traditionally competed with Alabama and Ohio State, Clemson has just as much in common with the likes of Stanford and Northwestern in the way Dabo Swinney manages his program.

Clemson does not pursue or accept transfers. It offers very few players, all of them high school recruits, and is usually the last among its competition to do so. And Swinney's staff is uncharacteristically stable. Five of his assistants have been on the on-the-field staff for seven seasons or longer, and even the relative newcomers (wide receivers coach Tyler Grisham, running backs coach CJ Spiller) are former Tigers who were promoted from within. 

When the sea is calm and the sailing is smooth, everything in the above paragraph is a positive. It's what differentiates Clemson from the competition. But when the waters get choppy, suddenly all those positives are spun into negatives. Dabo doesn't adapt. He's too loyal. The program has gotten stale.

Following Saturday's 27-17 loss to Clemson -- which dropped the Tigers to 4-3 and marked the sixth straight game against FBS competition where it failed to reach 20 points in regulation -- Swinney addressed the criticism. 

“Hopefully if I’ve done anything, I’ve demonstrated over 13 years as a head coach, I think we’ve been a model of consistency – on and off the field,” Swinney said, via The Clemson Insider. “So, hopefully, like I said, we’ve earned a little bit of trust. Again, you have every right to be disappointed. I’m disappointed. Everybody’s disappointed. I’m sick to my stomach. It’s been a long time since we’ve been in a situation like this.

“But I have been in situations like this, and I know what we’re made of. I know what I’m made of and I know what these kids are made of, and we will grow through it. We will. And we’ll get back to winning some ball games, and hopefully that’ll make us appreciate it even more when we get back to that time. Because it’s coming.”

Dabo even repeated a line often cited by coaches in turmoil: “If I start running this program by listening to people outside, then I’ll probably be one of them pretty quick.”

The problem is not necessarily that Clemson's offense it is pitiful (it is), it's that the unit is not improving. DJ Uiagaleilei did not rank among the nation's 100 most efficient passers heading into the weekend, and Saturday was his worst game of the season: 12-of-25 for 128 yards and two interception -- a 75.01 rating more than 10 points below his season-opening effort against Georgia. 

The defense, once elite, has fallen off amid a lack of support from the other side of the ball. The Tigers allowed season worsts in yards (566), yards per play (5.66) and points in regulation (27) to Pitt.

It's enough to invite the conversation of sweeping changes. Clemson needs to change its offensive approach, yes, but does it change the way and the type of player it recruits? 

Dabo Swinney's rise was Mack Brown-like. In the sport's Championship Era, those two are really the only two to build a championship team over time; Brown won his title in Year 8 at Texas, Swinney nabbed his first in Year 8 at Clemson. And now Clemson's fall to 4-3 more closely resembles Brown's 5-7 mark of 2010, the year after losing to Alabama in the BCS title game, than Nick Saban's 2010, when the Tide "slipped" to 10-3 after winning a title the year before. 

So, yes, one can understand why Clemson fans are a tad antsy at the moment.

Dabo built Clemson into a model of consistency in a sport of constant change, that is true, but he's also shown a willingness to make changes when change proves necessary. In fact, he wouldn't still be at Clemson if he hadn't.

He fired his original offensive coordinator, a man by the name of Billy Napier, after going 6-7 in 2010, and brought in Brent Venables after Kevin Steele surrendered 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl to conclude the 2012 season. The combination of Chad Morris and Brent Venables altered the course of Clemson football forever, beginning a climb to the national elite that continued unbroken until, well, now. 

Perhaps the people that can solve Clemson's issues are already in the building. Perhaps not. Either way, Dabo has a winter of tough choices ahead.