With the completion of the 2008 campaign, it's time for this program to turn their sights ahead to the new year, and focus our energies on a successful 2009.
With that in mind, here are some New Year's resolutions for the coaching staff, the players, and us, the fans.
1. Run the damn ball.
Under Weis, I am resigned to this being a pass-first offense, and if we are as effective through the air as we were against Hawaii, I have no problem with that approach.
That said, a strong running game is necessary to create a threat that opens up the passing game. Keeping the safeties near the line of scrimmage opens more opportunities for Tate, Floyd and Rudolph down the field.
Also, we need to have confidence in our ability to pick up first downs on the ground in 3rd and 4th and short.
With Haywood moving on to Miami (OH), we will need to find a new running backs coach, and this presents an opportunity to find a top-notch running backs coach that can really fire up our deep stable of backs.
2. Shut up the critics.
I've been very critical of Weis this year, as I felt that the team we saw against Hawaii should have been the team we saw all season long (or at least down the stretch, as the young players developed).
Weis has been given a vote of confidence for at least one more season on the Notre Dame sidelines, having survived an onslaught of criticism from all fronts.
Now is the time for him to bring back the swagger of his first season at the helm, where the Irish excited the fanbase and media.
Winning heals everything, and I hope that the coaching staff has found their groove and can translate this bowl win into the swageer that the Irish should have every time they take the field.
3. Have some fun.
I know that coaching at Notre Dame is a high-stress position, and that the constant barrage of criticisms can wear down a coach. You never get enough credit when you win, and take too much blame when you lose.
But Weis is a Notre Dame guy, and I know he takes great pride in the performance of our football team. While Weis may never be the buddy-buddy kind of coach that the Poodle over at U$C is, his players clearly perform better when they are loose and having fun.
So, I'd like to see the coaching staff have a positive and fun attitude throughout the offseason and into next year. The young talent on this team is like a group of sled dogs, just tearing at the reins. Keeping them in check and focused on business I think is smart for the development of discipline.
But now that they've shown what they can do, it's time to loosen the reins and let them run.
1. Play with swagger.
I felt several times over the past couple of seasons that the players were playing like they were just waiting for the bottom to drop out. Again.
In Hawaii, they came out and seemed ready to show everyone what they can do.
They need to build on that foundation and come out each and every game with the confidence that they know they can win the game.
In 2005, the Irish came out against USC and punched them in the mouth, refusing to back down. Everyone had faith in Brady's leadership and trusted their teammates, and were robbed of a truly great season by the infamous Bush Push.
The last two years, the players didn't seem sure if they could win when they walked out on the field.
With the show they put on for Christmas Eve, and nearly everyone coming back, I want to see them take the attitude that they can dominate anyone who steps on the field against them.
2. Work your ass off
Championship teams aren't built in recruiting or during training camp. They are built every single day in the offseason when the players come together and push each other to become more than they could ever be alone.
I'm reminded of the story of Knute Rockne and Gus Dorais, who during the offseason worked at Cedar Point in Ohio, and spent their free time practicing passing routes on the beach. The next season, all that practice resulted in the stunning upset of the Black Knights of Army.
I want to hear stories this offseason of these kids going above and beyond the required workout and organized team activities to develop the chemistry necessary to build a championship team. Live, breath, eat and sleep football.
The Notre Dame football program has been pronounced dead many times in the past.
They were supposed to just fade into the woodwork when they didn't get into the Big Ten. Then they barnstormed the country and won anyway.
They were supposed to fold during World War II. Than Leahy came back from the war and destroyed everyone.
Kuharich was the death knell of Irish football. The Irish would never win again. Then Parsegian came in and made us all believe in miracles. He could even stop the rain.
Then the program couldn't compete in the modern era, when Faust dragged them into the mud. And Holtz taught the team how to believe.
Now, the carousel of Davie, O'Leary, Willingham and Weis has supposedly relegated Irish football to mediocrity, where Irish fans were supposed to be content with the occasional decent bowl game. As Kirk Herbstreit said, we've averaged only 7 wins a season for the past 15 years. Why do we expect any more than that?
Because we're Notre Dame, and it's what we do.
"There has been a surrender at Notre Dame, but it is a surrender to excellence on all fronts, and in this we hope to rise above ourselves with the help of God."
-Fr. Theodore Hesburgh
Now is the time for this team to ignore all of the people that want so desperately for Notre Dame to finally fade away, and come together as one. Believe in the magic of Notre Dame, that with hard work, discipline and integrity, we can take on all comers and emerge victorious.
1. Wake up the echoes.
The time for cautious optimism is over. I have been one of the most critical of the Weis regime over the past few months, and I'm not even as bad as many of the Irish faithful. I have read so much pessimism on Irish message boards, and often the best I can find is cautious optimism.
It's time to throw caution to the wind and remember that We Are Notre Dame.
Army 1946. Oklahoma 1952. Michigan State 1966. Miami 1988. Penn State 1992. Florida State 1993. And yes, even USC 2005.
The magic is there, just waiting to be tapped. Each of those games I listed were not just magical moments, they were the culmination of an entire season of the Irish faithful collectively believing in the lads out there on the field.
And so, if we want next year to be something special, we can't sit idly by and wait for the evidence on the field. We need to go out there each week believing unequivocally that the Irish will win each game.
And then we can add USC 2009 to the list.
So there you have it, my New Year's Resolutions for 2009.
Notre Dame will be the national champions in 2009. You heard it here first.
And I will continue to believe as much until I am proven otherwise. Get on board.