Dabo Swinney owes Kelly Bryant at least part of a championship ring.
The Clemson football coach stirred up controversy when he said his former starting quarterback was not getting a ring with his 2018 teammates, whom Bryant left four games into the season after being replaced by sensational freshman Trevor Lawrence.
The long-haired Lawrence, of course, led the Tigers to their second College Football Playoff title in three years, culminated by a dominating performance against Alabama, when he threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the 44-16 blowout of the Tide.
I guess Swinney expected Bryant to stay on the team, when the only reason he benched him was they couldn’t have beaten the defending national champion with him at quarterback. Bryant could have led Clemson to another Atlantic Division and ACC title, but he did not have the arm to beat Alabama, and his coach knew that.
For that reason, Swinney should have not only allowed Bryant to have a ring, he should have delivered it to him personally. Bryant remaining in Death Valley for the rest of the season would have only hurt himself; staying and playing in one more game would have ended his college career. Choosing to transfer preserved his one last season of eligibility.
Why stay and hope for the same situation as Jalen Hurts when the former Alabama starter went in to a losing SEC championship game against Georgia and bailed out the Tide? Bryant would have played only if Lawrence got hurt, and that was a no-win proposition for him against Alabama after being beaten out by Lawrence despite going 4-0 as the Clemson starter?
Bryant leaving the program was the best decision for himself, just as his coach made the best decision for his team. And for that, Bryant and the Tigers both got what they wanted.
Had this been professional football, and Bryant got traded or injured midway through a championship season, the rest of the players would have voted to give him some part of the playoff money. Maybe not a full share, maybe a partial share, but certainly something for his time with his teammates.
Cutting up the ring and giving Bryant part of it may sound stupid, but Dabo’s done sillier stuff. Maybe four diamonds for his four wins as a starter.