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.
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?