Defense Wins Championships

Over the course of the last 3 seasons, Tommy Bowden has changed the mentality of the Clemson football faithful, thanks in part to his high scoring, quick-strike offense. And while all that is great, and the Tigers have broken nearly every offensive record known to man in Death Valley, there is still that missing piece to the championship puzzle. Its called defense.

Defense wins championships- there is no way around it. Even if you are the St. Louis Rams or the Florida Gators, you need a defense that can step up and shut down the opposing team when it counts.

Growing up, I often thought of becoming a football coach, designing complex passing plays in my head that would make any run-and-shoot offensive coordinator grin with delight. I was thoroughly convinced that I could design a playbook that could handle almost any sort defensive scheme.

But in looking back, I should have been focusing on how to stop a powerful offense, not how to build one.

Because the fact is, 9 times out of 10, a good defense beats a good offense on any level.

The Oklahoma Sooners
The 2000 and 2001 versions of the Oklahoma Sooners illustrate this point better than any other team in recent memory. Led by an incredible defense and a suspect offense, the Sooners have captured a national championship and won over 20 games over the course of the last two seasons.

Their offense is built around swing passes and the draw play, but the defense is built around two studs in S Roy Williams and LB Rocky Calmus (among others) and a blitzing scheme that often leaves opposing quarterbacks on their back and confused. The Sooners' defense intimidates opponents with regularity and suffocates wide recievers in the secondary.

In one of the most unbelievable defensive performances I've ever seen, Oklahoma held Florida State to 2 points in the 2000 BCS Championship game.

Thats no touchdowns and no field goals.

All the Sooners did was win a national title by scoring a mere 13 points against one of the most vaunted offenses in all the land.

Bob Stoops resurrected a program in Norman that had been dormant for over a decade with a defense that utilized talented players to their full potential. He did it with defense, and he'll continue to do it with defense.

The St. Louis Rams
Take the 2000 St. Louis Rams. Fresh off a world championship, the Rams entered the playoffs that year as Super Bowl favorites. But, "The Greatest Show on Earth" was grounded in the playoffs by a New Orleans team that was no where near as talented as QB Kurt Warner, RB Marshall Faulk and the rest of the speedsters that generally run wild on the NFL.

The Saints used a tenacious defense to embarrass and intimdiate the Rams and their speedy receivers. And if you think about it, the Rams have always struggled against the better defensive teams in the NFL. Teams like the Giants and Bucs have the talent and the schemes in place to shut the Rams down.

St. Louis will only make it back to the Super Bowl this year because they spent the offseason upgrading their defense from a year ago. Combine that great offense with a great defense, and you have a devasting combination. (And most likely a second world championship in 3 years.)

And that brings us to the Tigers.

Certainly, Tommy Bowden had the opportunity to learn from his father over the years, and his offensive genius is apparent in how the Tigers attack their opponents. And without question, the Clemson offense will continue to improve as the influx of talent pours into the program.

The defense on the other hand, is still a big question mark.

Running an offense that can drive the length of the field in less than 2 minutes is great, but what happens when you consistently leave your defense out there with all of that remaining time on the clock?

My point is really two fold.

Bowden is doing the job on the recruiting trail, even with the latest defections from Randy Jackson and Fred Bennett. The talent is starting to come, and its coming on both sides of the ball. Our offense is seemingly in good hands, but defense is not, at least not yet.

The old defensive coordinator left because, quite frankly, he wasn't getting the job done. Whether it was his schemes or the talent on the field is a completely different story.

The bottomline is that the new defensive coordinator steps into a unique, and pressure packed situation at Clemson University.

He'll inherit a defense that will be young, athletic, and talented. He'll also be expected to show consistent improvement as soon as he steps onto the field. And just as important, he'll have to adjust his scheme to complement the fast paced Clemson offense.

Otherwise, all the offensive firepower in the world won't mean a thing in terms of wins and losses. And most certainly, the Tigers won't win a national championship, much less a conference championship, until that defense is ranked as one of the top 15 in the country. Defense wins championships, there's no way around it.

So Tommy, find us a good defensive coordinator! If its Steve Dunlap, so be it. If its Woody Widenhofer, thats great. Whoever it is, rest assured, they'll have the opportunity to help bring a championship back to Death Valley. Top Stories