- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Two ACC head coaches had to make offensive coordinator hires this offseason after their assistants left for new jobs.
Both ended up looking on their own staffs.
Dabo Swinney and Steve Addazio opted to promote from within in order to maintain continuity for their coaching staffs and players. Receivers coach Jeff Scott and running backs coach Tony Elliott will share coordinator duties at Clemson, replacing Chad Morris; Addazio moved receivers coach Todd Fitch to coordinator after Ryan Day left for the Eagles.
(Syracuse could also be included -- Tim Lester was kept on as offensive coordinator after being tabbed to fill the spot midway through last season).
The moves are interesting because they bucked what has been a growing trend among Power 5 conferences: throwing wads of cash at high-profile coordinators. Swinney has done that himself. Morris earned $1.3 million in his final year as Clemson offensive coordinator; Brent Venables is one of the highest paid defensive coordinators in the country as well at $1.35 million a year.
Given where the Clemson program stands right now, Swinney did not feel the need to find another high-profile coordinator. When he hired Morris in 2011, he needed somebody to get the offense headed in the right direction.
Though the Tigers are coming off their fourth straight double-digit win season, the biggest thing his offense needs is continuity -- especially with a young quarterback in Deshaun Watson ready to have a breakout year.
Scott and Elliott worked and learned under Morris. Their ascension was put into place years ago. That’s why it only took one day for Swinney to officially announce his decision last December.
"I’ve got two guys that are going to work great together. Both have the command of the offense and certainly leadership ability to lead the team," Swinney said. "I always think if you can promote from within when feasible, that’s the kind of culture I want to have. There was no thought at all. It was just a matter of when the time was going to be. These guys are both rock stars in this business.
"It gives us great chemistry and great continuity for years to come offensively."
BC is not necessarily in the business of doling out million dollar salaries to assistants, but Addazio also mentioned chemistry when he discussed why he decided to promote Fitch. "The chemistry level on the staff is as good as I’ve ever been around," Addazio said. "He’s just a great guy, a great coach and we’re all close. I wanted to make sure I had great chemistry on the staff."
His situation was different than the one Swinney faced, because Day left with just a few weeks to go before Signing Day. Plus, Addazio is heavily involved in the offensive meeting rooms and game-planning, so it was easier for him to put somebody in the coordinator spot who understands his scheme. Day worked with Addazio previously at Temple, so the two had a long working relationship.
Though the offensive scheme is not the same one that Fitch ran in previous stints as offensive coordinator at UConn, East Carolina, and USF, working with Addazio the past two years has him completely on the same page.
"Being here previously and learning the verbiage and how Coach wants things done, certainly I’m more comfortable than if he’d hired me off the street from another school," Fitch said. "It’s made the transition much simpler. It still is different -- some of the things I called or did are different. When you start calling plays, you’ve got to get your mind trained when you’re trying to get them out fast, but it’s been good.
"The players and I have been around each other for two years. We have a great staff, and those are the biggest transitions you have when you take a job."
This is actually the second time Fitch has been promoted from within for an offensive coordinator job. Skip Holtz hired him at UConn in 1994 as quarterbacks coach, then promoted him to offensive coordinator in 1996, a job he held for three seasons.
"Any head coach, not just Steve, when you hire an offensive or defensive coordinator -- especially on your side of the ball -- do you want to blow the thing up and start all over again with the way you call things and verbiage?" Fitch said. "So it makes it easier on everybody if you’re able to do what’s been done. Everybody has their own wrinkles, maybe some new runs or new passes, but as long as the players know how to communicate, everything is easier."
Coaches Dabo Swinney, Steve Addazio opt for staff continuity rather than big-name appeal.