Let’s be honest, Kevin Steele was fired

The last two weeks for Clemson football has been a tumultuous time at best. In the 2nd quarter of the Orange Bowl, the Tigers were trailing West Virginia 21-17 but were driving down the field and were at the one yard line, poised to take a lead. Then it happened.

Andre Ellington fumbled the ball and the goal line on what was a questionable call, the Mountaineers returned that fumble for a 99 yard touchdown, and the wheels came off. From there, the Tigers curled up in to the fetal position and never recovered. By the game’s end, West Virginia had put 70 points on the board, which now stands as a bowl game record for points given up. Not a BCS record, a bowl game record, ever, as in the history of all bowl games.

Someone was going to be made the scapegoat for that poor performance, and it was announced Wednesday that Kevin Steele would not be returning as Clemson’s Defensive Coordinator. The move has been questioned by some, and celebrated by many. I understand the move, but as someone that covers every Clemson game, those that place the entire blame on Kevin Steele are in the wrong. Steele’s first two defensive units in Clemson finished 27th and 11th in the country, so the man did not forget how to coach in a single season.

Dabo Swinney’s press conference on Thursday only served to make the issue less clear. We were told that the he and Coach Steele had met and realized there were “philosophical” differences, so the two came to an agreement that Steele would not return so he could pursue other coaching opportunities. Then Coach Swinney announced Clemson would honor his contract. So after going round and round, let’s be honest, Kevin Steele was fired. If that’s the case, just be honest about it.

So what is next for the Clemson defense? Dave Slitter, a columnist for the Tulsa World, reports today that Oklahoma Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables is currently in Clemson looking over the facilities and the job is his to turn down. Venable would be a great hire that would match Coach Swinney’s hiring of Chad Morris last offseason. Venable’s is young and intense, and in the Big 12 has faced the spread offense so often used today in college football, as that has become an offensive league in every way imaginable.

Brent Venables also matches Coach Swinney’s personality, one thing Kevin Steele would never be able to do simply because of the age difference. Coach Steele is not an excitable kind of guy, and that was something that was evident every time I interviewed him. We saw this in the aftermath of Clemson’s ACC Championship Game win over Virginia Tech in Charlotte. Coach Steele sat there on the bench by himself and watched the celebration with a smile on his face, but very subdued.

I wish Coach Steele the best; he is a good coach, and a good man, and will land on his feet, because that is what good coaches do.

Mark Sturgis is a Sports Talk Radio Host for WCCP, 104.9 FM, the flagship station of Clemson Athletics.

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