So, here we are, 10 games into Weis' 5th season as head coach of Notre Dame, and we're sitting at 6-4. I don't care what other factors go into the post-season review of Coach Weis, but this team has clearly underachieved. The talent is there, but these kids have shown no significant progress in fundamentals, and that falls squarely on the coaching.
I like Coach Weis. I'm grateful for so many of the great things he has done since he arrived in South Bend. He's rebuilt the foundations of the program and invested him and his family in the South Bend community. He's a good man, and he clearly has a great offensive mind. However, he has not managed to become a complete head football coach. He works tirelessly, but sitting at 6-4 in year 5 is just not good enough. I desperately wanted him to succeed, but at this point, I think it is time to accept that he will not be the head football coach of Notre Dame next year, barring three straight impressive looking wins over UConn, Stanford, and the bowl opponent. And even that may be too little, too late.
So, let's take this opportunity to look at the not-so-short list of potential candidates to replace Coach Weis, in no particular order.
Brian Kelly, Head Coach, University of Cincinnati
I was not a big fan of Kelly's when his name was being bandied about last year. But, he's shown at every stop that he's capable of building a winner in short order. There are some question marks, including his ability to handle national recruiting, admissions standards, etc. But, he reminds me very much of Jim Tressel in his background. I think he's the safest hire on the board.
Urban Meyer, Head Coach, University of Florida
I just don't think this is going to happen. Sue, he's clearly the best candidate out there. And yes, he's repeatedly stated that Notre Dame is his dream job. He has connections to the University, having coached here as an assistant. He's a Catholic named after a pope. But ultimately, he's won multiple titles at a top tier program, and pulling that kind of coup I think is beyond our ability.
Bob Stoops, Head Coach, University of Oklahoma
Stoops is clearly a top tier coach, having taken Oklahoma to a championship, multiple conference championships and BCS bowls. Again, I think luring a coach from a Tier 1 program is not going to happen. And, he does have a bit of history of losing big games. But, if it came to fruition, I'd definitely be excited. Of course, he has no experience with academic standards, and he has had some brushes with the NCAA.
Jon Gruden, Monday Night Football Analyst, former Superbowl winning head coach
Gruden is one of the names that pops up every time we start talking about a potential replacement. He graduated from South Bend Clay while his father was an assistant here. He's won on the biggest stage of them all. He's young, fiery and passionate. He also has no experience coaching in college, and I'd be very wary of bringing in another NFL guy. This team needs someone to coach up these kids on fundamentals.
Paul Johnson, Head Coach, Georgia Institute of Technology
Johnson is one of my personal favorite candidates. He's shown an ability to drill fundamentals into his players, and uses the triple option to great effect at each of his stops. Of course, transitioning back to an option offense may not be the best fit for our current personnel, but he did it at Georgia Tech in no time flat. Not many downsides here.
Mike Shanahan, not currently employed, former 2-time Superbowl winning head coach
Shanahan is my personal favorite darkhorse in this race, even though he is an NFL guy. He has some high-level experience in college coaching before transitioning to the NFL. His system at Denver was extremely consistent, and his ability to generate a running game regardless of running back is very attractive. He's current available, so we could work out a seamless transition. I really like this option, but nobody seems to be talking much about the possibility.
Gary Patterson Head Coach, Texas Christian University
A defensive guy that coaches a team with a very explosive offense, and has built TCU into a national power. He doesn't recruit nationally (he's in Texas, he doesn't have to), but his Texas connections could add to a well-built recruiting machine that's already in place.
Nick Saban, Head Coach, University of Alabama
I'm not sure why Saban's name even comes up, but I've heard it enough times that I feel I should mention it. He's a perfect fit for Alabama - shady coach for a shady program that will do ANYTHING to win and win now. Alabama is still one of the top tier programs, and there is no chance he leaves such a cush job. And I don't want him, I don't care how good he is at coaching. Same reasons I want nothing to do with Pete Carroll.
Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, Stanford University
Okay, so Harbaugh is a Michigan guy who reportedly does not like Notre Dame at all. But, if you ignore those intangibles, he's the best option on paper. He's quickly rebuilt a Stanford program that has to deal with admissions standards into an impressive team that just beat Pete Carrol's USC team 55-21. And, this wasn't his first time beating the Poodle either. He has a strong running game that sets up the play-action pass. He may be playing his way into an interview at the end of the season.
I'm sure there are others out there that I've missed. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment, and I'll post an addendum.