TAMPA, Fla. -- For the past two seasons, the biggest question surrounding the potential success or failure of Clemson football has been simple: Can Deshaun Watson stay healthy? Thankfully for Tiger Nation, he has, and the results have been all that anyone could have hoped for.
But what if Monday afternoon, en route to the national championship game against Alabama, the Heisman Trophy runner-up QB were to trip over an equipment bag as he stepped off the team bus? What if, while entering Raymond James Stadium, his cleats were to slip on a tiger paw-stamped $2 bill? What if the pregame boxed lunch waiting in his locker contained a turkey sandwich, a bag of chips and a strain of salmonella?
Then the Tigers might be forced to look past backups Nick Schuessler, Kelly Bryant, Tucker Israel and even James Barnes, the fearsome foursome that has combined for a total of 47 passes all season, and look even further down the bench. Dare we say, they might look further down into their collective orange souls.
They might just call on Jimmy Greenbeans, the grassroots scout team quarterback who has electrified and mystified his teammates in practice. But that call will come only if head coach Dabo Swinney and his staff are really, really, really ... really desperate. Or if they really, really, really ... really share a complete and total disregard for any and all eligibility rules.
"Jimmy Greenbeans lives a double life," said linebacker Judah Davis, who has frequently been tasked with defending Greenbeans during Clemson practices. "He's a coordinator one day, scout-team QB the next. Arm strength? Not the best, but he will surprise you with some of the throws he can make."
Well, that's big, right? Everyone says the key to beating Alabama is to go deep.
"He'll fire a 30-yard rope," Davis clarified. "But I mean, it's one 30-yard rope per game because then the shoulder's gone."
The Legend of Mr. Greenbeans was brought to the national spotlight by sportswriter David Hale on this very website. But even a reporter of Hale's ilk struggled to uncover many details about his background. Beans' story feels very much like that of baseball legend Roy Hobbs, the way-too-old rookie who seemingly appeared out of nowhere to lead the New York Knights to the 1939 World Series.
We have learned that Greenbeans is not in a relationship. "He only dates his playbook," linebacker J.D. Davis verified.
"I don't think I need to get into a lot of details about Jimmy's game play. I think Jimmy's scouting report speaks for itself." Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables on Jimmy Greenbeans
When the Clemson sports information department was asked for a hometown, ESPN.com was told "Parts Unknown," also the hometown of many professional wrestlers. That is likely not a coincidence. Greenbeans shares their flair for, well, flair.
"Sometimes we'll get going and we'll take a shot at him, touch him up a little bit," defensive end Austin Bryant said. "We'll give him a full body bump. Nobody's put him completely down, but we've come real, real close. Nobody's brave enough to really take him out. I think those hits only make Jimmy Greenbeans stronger."
In November, Greenbeans was hit in the face by D-lineman Christian Wilkins with such force that he appeared with a bandage across his nose later that week on the sideline at Wake Forest, but he was still jumping up and down and cursing with his trademark fervor.
"He's kind of happy when he gets lit up in practice," Judah Davis said. "He embraces contact."
"Jimmy does a tremendous job of running the upcoming team's offense in practice," Swinney said. "He's smart. But he's old. And I'm afraid he scares people. He scares me."
Oh, and he looks an awful lot like Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
"Jimmy had a great week at practice," Venables said during Saturday's media day. "I don't think I need to get into a lot of details about Jimmy's game play. I think Jimmy's scouting report speaks for itself."
But honestly, Coach, does it? It feels a little conflicted, like a cross between Shane Falco and Chuck Norris.
"I think he was probably a terror as a kid," Davis surmised. "He was probably the kind of kid who spanked his parents, rather than the other way around. He was a good-hearted kid, though, I'm sure. A Robin Hood-type guy who'd steal from the rich to feed the poor. I bet he got good grades in school, but mostly in gym classes. Greenbeans is definitely a bit of a meathead."
"He's obviously not near as talented as Tajh Boyd," linebacker Ben Boulware said as he compared Greenbeens to the school's former record-writing QB who was brought in this week to simulate Bama wunderkind Jalen Hurts. "But he brings focus and discipline. He's locked in on every snap."
Then naturally, he has become a team hero, right? At the very least, he's a team mascot-turned-locker room favorite, you know, like Rudy at Notre Dame, right? The superstars of the would-be national champs surely love hanging out with Greenbeans at Clemson hotspots such as the Esso Club and the '55 Exchange, right?
"No, he's a little bit of a weirdo," linebacker Chad Smith said.
"He's a tool," Davis interjected more quickly than Greenbeans utters swear words.
Smith continued: "That intensity, mixed with a little weirdo and tool, doesn't correlate well with players."
But Jimmy Greenbeans is a player. And in the right situation -- more accurately, a very wrong situation -- he might also be a tool, but a good tool, the very tool that could be the key to Clemson's finally toppling college football's greatest superpower.
"No, that isn't happening," Swinney said. "I don't care how bad the score gets Monday night or ever. Jimmy Greenbeans has heart, and he has guts. But if heart and guts were all you needed to win football games, then I would have been an All-American wide receiver at Alabama and not a walk-on sharing an apartment with his mom. You have to have the talent too. Jimmy lacks talent."
Brent, er, Jimmy, takes exception to such claims.
"I've been coaching a long time, and I know a gamer when I see one," Venables said, bristling. "Jimmy Greenbeans is a gamer."
As the coach said it, he descended from the podium, where his defensive players were lining up to board the bus for practice. As they saw him coming, they instinctively clammed up. Why? Ask linebacker J.D. Davis.
"You can only make jokes about Jimmy Greenbeans when he's not around."