Monday, November 09, 2009

Reply Hazy, Try Again

What a weekend. It's Monday morning, and even after a relaxing Sunday and a good night's sleep both Saturday and Sunday night, I'm emotionally spent. To be fair, this doesn't all fall on the Irish - there are personal and work issues that decided to rear their ugly heads this week as well.

But, the fact remains that for the first time since I was a child, I shed a tear after the game. It was right during Navy's alma mater, and I was honestly surprised at how emotional I felt.

All of the past 20 years of frustrations and disappointments welled themselves into one perfectly formed teardrop, which slowly wend it's way down my face as the Navy players sang jubilantly after their 2nd straight win at Notre Dame Stadium. Part of what I was feeling was pride - I've watched far more Navy games than any other opponent in my lifetime, as they were always the left-over tickets once everyone else in the family had the opportunity to pick which games they would attend with my grandmother. Personally, I was just happy to go regardless of opponent. And after watching so many times the Navy players lay everything on the field for a full 60 minutes, to see them earn a victory is special to me, even though it does come at the hands of my Irish.

But I was at the 2007 game, too. And there were no tears, despite it being the worst season in Notre Dame history.

This week was different.

This week, I ended the game with my eternal optimism for Notre Dame football shaken.

I don't know where we go from here.

Our BCS hopes were coughed up with Jimmy's fumble inside the 2 yard line. Jimmy's Heisman campaign bounced right between Michael Floyd's shoulder blades and then disappeared. Coach Weis' career may have just sailed off course like Nick Tausch's 2 field goal attempts.

And that's what hurts the most. Last year, after the Syracuse loss, I had the knee jerk reaction of wanting him fired. I spoke and wrote out of anger and frustration, but inside I knew he'd get another chance. This team was too close to try and shift gears.

And even now, I'm hesitant to call for Weis' termination. The pieces to the puzzle are all here, and this team clearly has the talent and ability to beat anyone in the country. Indeed, the only people beating the Irish this year are the Irish themselves.

Now, this isn't meant to be any disrespect to the men of the Naval Academy. They have busted their ass for the past decade and a half and in the process have built themselves not just a good team, but a solid program that the rest of the nation needs to start respecting.

But even they know, inside, that they couldn't beat this Irish team if they were hitting on all cylinders.

And that's why I can't quite bring myself to pull the plug.

I agree with everything Brawling Hibernian and OC Domer have to say. While talking to Sarah from Bad Trade over brunch on Sunday, I admit to having the knee jerk reaction of wanting to fire him.

But now, sitting at my desk Monday morning, doubt and uncertainty have clouded this entire program, to the point that I don't even know for sure whether or not we should can Charlie.

Certainly, the next three game will have some bearing on this discussion. Lose another, and it's clear Charlie should go. Lose two, and it's clear he will.

But, if we win out, should he stay or should he go?

This team will then be 9-3, with close losses to a top 5 USC team, a solid program in Navy, and a Michigan team that started with a lot of bluster before faltering down the stretch. We'll play in the Gator Bowl or Cotton Bowl against the likes of Oklahoma or Miami.

Win or lose in that game, it's too late to be making a decision on Weis' future as the result of a bowl game.

If we win out, I think Weis keeps his job. He broke the bowl streak, and the streaks against BC and MSU. He almost beat USC, and he beat Boston College - the first win over an opponent with a winning record. The win over Pittsburgh - Weis' first since 2006 - would be the difference, as well as a win over what should be a ranked Stanford team as well.

But drop even one of the next three, and the picture becomes a lot murkier.

We lose to Pitt, and once again the charge arises that we beat up and bad to mediocre teams, but can't beat good teams. Lose to UConn, and we have yet another loss to an average team that we should beat. Lose to Stanford, and we get both charges, as inconsistent as that may be. Also, another loss would bring up the fact that Weis' teams start out strong and fade down the stretch.

More converning to me, however, regardless of whether we win out and retain Weis, is that I feel like the entire program is on shaky footing right now regardless.

Fire Weis, and we have to bring in yet another coach with, at best, decent credentials. Forget the pipe dreams about Meyer or Stoops. That's just not going to happen. And I have no idea why everyone is so high on Gruden. He was a mediocre NFL head coach, and other than graduating high school from South Bend Clay, I'm not sure why people seem to want him so bad. Brian Kelly and Gary Patterson are probably the front-runners, and neither of them are particularly exciting for me, except that they are having unprecedented success at their current schools right now. And that's without the recruiting restrictions and academic requirements of Notre Dame.

Not that I don't think that those coaches could succeed here. In fact, whoever takes this job if Weis leaves will have a great foundation upon which to build their legacy. Even if both Jimmy and Tate leave, you still have Rudolph, Allen, Hughes, Floyd, Kamara, Goodman, Parris, Ragone, Toma, Evans, and Walker at the skill positions. Ninety-five percent of the coaches in the country would trade their talent at the skill positions for that in a heartbeat. And the defense, which still sucks, is loaded with talent that is lacking only proper coaching.

But, we'd be back at square one going into a season where we should be easily the favorite to win it all. Clausen, Floyd, Tate, and Rudolph could all claim to be the best in the country at their respective positions. I can't remember a team with that much star power at the offensive skill positions. And yet we're sitting at 6-3, staring at uncertainty headed into next year.

I'm not sure where we go from here. Indeed, the image that keeps running through my head is from Chris Van Allsburg's Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I don't know why, but here it is for your viewing pleasure:


Jim said...

Well written.

I have built winning business teams around the globe That took time and effort.In addition, I have played collegiate football. My development in the position also took time. What I have learned is that there were 2 key ingredients that stood out in both endeavors. First, get top talent. Second, continuity in management is crucial. If you constantly change management, you will not grow.

I want to see the course sustained. We can not call for Weis's head every time we have a loss. It is naive and comes from people who have never played the game and never built a successful program at any level in any discipline.

roland said...

Jim, I believe you've missed an important ingredient: team work. What we saw Saturday was a great example of why Weis under performs.
I saw a group of individuals try a beat a team. Charlie has amassed a great collection of talent and coaching. Watch the body language and listen to the's me playing we. The difference with USC they play like a team. Charlie feels his individual effort can out scheme his opponent. Not so without a team effort.

domerbill said...

Yes today a lot of people are calling for Charlie’s job . It’s a knee jerk reaction
“I didn’t get what I wanted fire him” Here is another point of view. When Notre Dame fired coach Willingham the answer I received to the question why? from most parts was that Willingham failed to recruit well and the program failed to progress. Well then let’s use that formula in evaluating Charlie Weis First has he recruited well Yes he has and anybody that does not think so please leave the room. Then has the program progressed …. That will depend on the next three games. Coach Weis took over a program with a hole in it. For two years coach Willingham recruited poorly and that created a team with seniors and juniors but no or more correctly very few sophomores and when Charlie finally got here the class that was recruited was weak. He had good to decent player and won then came the expected hole 2007 was a disaster yes it was but how much can you blame Charlie
every body knew this was coming all of the athletic dept. knew. Last year coming out of a disastrous year before Charlie won seven not great but a hell of an improvement over the 2007 season. Now Charlie’s team set at six and three with three games and a bowl game to go but what he need to improve well last year was seven so eight will be an improvement but nine or ten would be better but eight should give him at least one more
try. That’s my view I know the boys at the Notre Dame sites will be calling for his head
but Mr. Jack Swarbrick has to make this call not us and the only standard is what is best for Notre Dame.

Dekom said...

There once was a comic who joked about standing up to a bully. At a party he told a tough guy, "You punch my girlfriend in the face one more time..."

We lost to Navy, twice. At home. A new record.

All the pieces to the puzzle are NOT there. We have all the talent in the world but still can't beat an elite program, and occasionally lose to decent ones. Our defense is shit and the offense is painfully predictable. Our special teams are inconsistent at best, having allowed two blocked kicks and a return. Where is this silver lining you seem to see? Where are the wins which justify his existence on campus? What empirical data do you have which suggests he is secretly championship material? it just emotion.

The top stock traders all have different methods, but universally they agree on one thing: you have to have a specific point where you cut your losses. You cannot let emotion factor into it; it is a rule. Losing to a weak USC team and a weaker Michigan team, squeaking it out against mid-level programs...and Navy. Twice. Seriously, when do you cut your losses? If not now, when?

But exactly like the last time we had this discussion, here it is: Unfortunately, I fear CW will prove me right.

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