Sunday, November 09, 2008

What now?

Here we are, late in yet another Notre Dame season, and suddenly we're staring down the barrel of yet another disappointing season. All year, I've been predicting that this team will be 9-3 or 8-4, with a loss to USC, and 2 or 3 losses from the likes of Pitt, BC, MSU, and UNC. Instead, we went 0-4 against the decent teams on our schedule so far, with the USC game looming large at the end of the season. Heck, we could lose two straight to Navy.

So the obvious question is, where do we go from here?

A lot of grumblers are talking about parting ways with Weis at the end of the season. While I am no longer as convinced of Weis' coaching ability as I once was, there are a lot of drawbacks to that move.

Consider, for example, what that move would do to recruiting.

We have a top receiver and top running back signed to this year's class. Do they stay on board?

Heck, does Jimmy Clausen stick around, if the mentor he signed on to play for is gone? Who else jumps ship?

Worse yet, who would take this job?

Sure, the talent is there, something that couldn't be said when Weis took the reins of the program. Indeed, I'd argue that the program was in a coma and on life support when Weis took over the program. Now, the program is out of bed and on crutches, but we aren't improving quickly enough.

Look at what Alabama did with Saban, and what Florida did with Urban Meyer. Everyone knew that Notre Dame's reclamation project was going to take longer than those programs - recruiting restrictions alone assured it would take time.

But it's taking too long.

We were supposed to turn the corner this year, get a decent bowl, a bowl win, finish ranked and get set for a run at a championship next year.

I'm not so sure that our program is there right now.

Weis can save his job by winning out, and I would sign on to a zero tolerance policy at this point. If Weis wants to prove his mettle as coach, he needs to take responsibility and accountability.

Weis' own words are going to come back to haunt him.

No excuses.

9-3 isn't good enough.

Which leaves us back to floating names for a replacement.

Top coaches in the country:

Nick Saban, head coach at Alabama. We have 0 shot here. Why would Saban, for any amount of money, leave the #1 team in the country with the largest contract in college football, where he is given plenty of free reign over the program without all of Notre Dame's challenges?

Mike Leach, head coach at Texas Tech.
Mike Gundy, head coach of Oklahoma State.
Gary Pinkel, head coach of Missouri.
This is a possibility, and one I could get on board with. Much was made of Urban Meyer being a "system" coach when he was hired at Florida, and that worked out well for them. All of these teams are clearly explosive on offense, but I'd be concerned about this being too much of a culture shock for the Notre Dame program. And where do we get our defense?

JoePa, head coach at Penn State. Umm, no. I want someone who will be alive when he takes the reins of the program.

Mack Brown, head coach at Texas.
Bob Stoops, head coach at Oklahoma.
Pete Carrol, head coach of Southern Cal.
Jim Tressel, head coach of Ohio State.
Mark Richt, head coach of Georgia.
Les Miles, head coach of LSU.
This group of coaches are excellent caoches that are completely untouchable - they are coaches with huge contracts, a national championship under their belt in this decade(excepting Richt, of course), and their team is in or near the top 10, even after losses.

Chris Pederson, head coach of Boise State.
Kyle Whittingham, head coach of Utah.
Bronco Mendenhall, head coach of BYU.
Gary Patterson, head coach of TCU.
Brady Hoke, head coach of Ball State.
All of these coaches are big risk/reward options. For every Urban Meyer that comes out of a BCS-busting team, you get several Dan Hawkinses. Too risky for the Irish.

Okay, so there are a total of three coaches in the college head coaching ranks that I might be okay with hiring - Gundy, Leach, and Pinkel.

Let's look at college assistants:

Jon Tenuta, defensive assistant at Notre Dame.
Now, here's an interesting choice. He took a demotion to come to Notre Dame, and he has a very long history as a successful defensive coordinator. And the defense, while it has it's flaws, has improved drastically under his watch.

Norm Chow, offensive coordinator at UCLA.
This guy has been around a long time, and has won titles at BYU and USC as an offensive assistant. He's an offensive guy that has developed several top flight QB's. He could walk in here with as much cache as Weis has in developing QBs, possibly allowing us to hold on to Clausen and Crist. Not sure why this guy hasn't been hired as a head coach yet.

Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator for Texas.
Good coach, with a strong background. One of the hottest commodities in college football. And probably completely uninterested in living in cold South Bend, IN.

And in the "Wouldn't this be too perfect?" section:

Skip Holtz, head coach of East Carolina.
Too risky for my book, but would all but guarantee the elder Holtz being plugged back into the program on some level.

So, with those as our options, are we maybe better off waiting to see what happens next year?


tednict said...

like so many, I am disappointed in the direction we are watching our Irish fall.

However, at the same time I question whether ND can really replace CW at this point. My concern, like you mentioned, is the effect a change would have on recruiting. Some will say that would just be a cost we have to endure, but when you are talking about another excellent class, the cost would be too great. Perhaps we were too optimistic about a 9-3 or 8-4 season.

When the AD was hired, he said he would evaluate each coach on what has happened this year and where the coach sees their program going. He specifically said he would not take into account what happened before he came on board.

I believe we wait to see what takes place next year. CW knows he will be on the "hot" seat.

Hoss said...

Tednict is right man. Look at the bigger picture. The direction of this team in recruiting, is way above Willingham and Davie, the last 2 coaches. Also I have heard you say players make biggest jump from soph to juniors. With that said CW should be on hot seat next year at this time if we are 5-4 again. But if we are 8-1, 9-0 this time next year thats a big improvement from this year and a HUGE jump fom last year.

Both of you though sound as if the season is over already. We can still add 2 wins this season. And again lets not forget 7-5 is a lot better than 3-9. And maybe just mabe a mid level bowl against a mid major or a middle of the road major conference team is just what this team needs. If we go to some po-dunk bowl game get a victory in rolls into momentum for next year.

John said...

Steve Sarkisian would be another candidate who's not yet a HC; having him work with Clausen would be pretty sweet.

But I think it would be a risk to go with someone who hasn't yet shown himself to be a capable HC - Sarkisian and Muschamp have worked on the sidelines for great ones and seem to have the personality, but Tenuta and especially Chow would be too similar to CW, I think.

LeftCoast ND alum said...

ND was EXPOSED yesterday, plain and simple.

yesterday showed that there are serious problems in the program that need to be addressed.

why in gd's name can we not run the ball?? everyone says the o-line stinks - if that's really true, why is it that MULTIPLE of our o-linemen will play at the next level? i'd bet we have 2-3 guys that will do just fine on Sundays.

hmm, what else could it be - could it be COACHING?

i don't know if it should be the O-line coach, the HC, or the OC (what a subpar offense, subpar RB development - what, all THREE backs are busts who didnt deserve their 4 and 5 star HS ratings??), but something has to change!

i'm disgusted as an alum!

El Kona said...

While CW hasn't lived up to expectations, and has made plenty of mistakes along the way, it's a bad time to go looking for a new HC. First and foremost, it's buyer's market out there. You gotta buy out CW and then pay something like $3M to $5M to someone like Leach -- and there is no guarantee that someone like Leach can live with ND's recruiting standards. I'm dubious that many of the "student-athletes" at Texas Tech and Oklahoma could make it over the academic fence at ND.

So... here is what's gonna happen, from my POV: Weis will resume play calling duties next year if not sooner, because the calling has been atrocious. The OL and run game will be a major focus over the off season. I wouldn't be surprised if ND runs A LOT during the Syracuse game, just to give the guys more real-time practice. This team has to find a RB who can contribute. The fact that BC's two freshmen backs (one was going to Duke before BC lured him away... Duke!) did well against ND yesterday speaks to how badly ND has either misjudged RB talent or recruited guys who are more like 2 star recruits and not 3 or 4 stars.

7-5 is our destiny. It's going to be a long road back to real success. Longer than we thought.

Anonymous said...

Consider this, ND fired Willingham because he wasn't fulfilling his obligations as coach (poor recruiting). I for one do not believe it was racially motivated. However, if we keep CW despite the fact that he isn't fulfilling his coaching obligations, doesn't that make Willinghams release racial fodder?

Anonymous said...

The last 4 games has been a very dificult time for ND Football...

With everything that is involved, I believe that we are stuck with CW through next year...This is totally based on his perceived success with recruiting along with his contract..However, I do believe he will make some significant changes in his staff..

I am skeptical whether CW will ever be able to make us a top 10 or even a top 20 program again but I think we should him at least 1 more year before we pull the plug..

tednict said...

I have thought 7-5 with a winnable bowl would be a good year. Would I have liked 8-4 or 9-3? Absolutely! But let us remember we are coming from 3-9, so what is realistic?

While no one can guarantee the next two games will be in the win column, they are definitely possibilities.

That would set us up for the type of bowl game that we need. One that will allow the Irish to stop another losing streak we need to put behind us.

Please be reasonable, and let us look to the long-term future of Notre Dame Football.


Anonymous said...

Weis is here for the long hall like it or not. I like it. This program is on the rise, and of course there are going to be some setbacks in a year like this with so many underclassmen playing on both sides of the ball. Meyer and Saban both came into their current programs with upperclassmen QB's with tons more expirience than Clausen. Yah, Tebow helped, but by no means would they have won the NC with him being the starter.

You have to climb the whole ladder to get to the top. Last year the Irish were on the ground, this year they are continuing to climb, and next year they will almost certainly make it to the top of that ladder. This team has talent, give them a chance, I'm tired of hearing that Weis is on the "hot seat." Be patient, the good years are right around the corner.

I would rather go through two seasons like this and win a championship in the next two, than win 9-10 games every year and not win a national championship.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps we were too optimistic about a 9-3 or 8-4 season."

You'll be saying that for the next 10 years if they let you. That looked like last year's team again. so many problems. I'm done with the fat man

Anonymous said...

"Weis is here for the long hall like it or not."
Oh really? You've been reading tea leaves or something. You think he goes and loses to navy again with another 6 win season and his job is secure? I don't think so. I do think you assume things will improve and that is just that: an assumption!

Anonymous said...

Anon at 1:10 AM and 1:16 AM, you may think that Weis will be fired at the end of this season, but it will not happen.

To suggest this team looks like the team of '07 demonstrates how little you really know.

It is amazing how you can already predict a loss to Navy this coming Saturday.

Your bias against overweight people truly shows. You do not measure up to what Notre Dame stands for.

Anonymous said...

anon 10:07 AM:
i was talking about the possibility of losing to navy, now a very real one unless you're freaking blind, and having another 6 winer next season, in response to the poster saying fat man is here for the 'long haul.' and to not be able to see that the last game looked like last season's team shows that you are not only blind but absolutely stupid. go check last year's score v bc, we did better. you are the poison that permeates, the poison of excuses and mediocrity!