Monday, November 05, 2007


I needed a bit of perspective to get myself moving this morning, and an e-mail from an old friend provided that this morning. I thought I'd share the bit that cheered me up:

"It took the catastrophic, systemic, once in a generation (and possibly, and God willing, once in a lifetime) IMPLOSION of Notre Dame for Navy to manage to snap that 43 game losing streak--in 3 overtimes."

The world still feels... wrong... but at least the room has stopped spinning.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

History Lesson

I just posted this over on NDNation (my first post there in months - I hate their new elitist board system, where you have to become one of the "cool" kids to post on Rock's House). It was in response to someone's question about how past ND coaches who won champonships had fared in their worst seasons. I didn't do an exhaustive research job, but I think I pretty much covered all the bases:


These are the worst records that National Championship coaches have posted at Notre Dame during their tenures, as well as the worst records they posted in their careers:

Rockne: 5-4 (.556)
Leahy: 4-4-1 (.500)
Parseghian: 8-3 (.727) at Notre Dame, 0-9 at Northwestern (1957)
Devine: 7-4 (.636) at Notre Dame, 5-6 at Missouri
Holtz: 5-6 (.454) at Notre Dame, 4-7 at Minnesota (before ND), 0-11 at South Carolina (post-ND)

With Weis staring down the barrel of (at best) a 4-8 (.333) season, there is no historical precedence at Notre Dame of this level of failure prior to winning a National Championship. Only Parseghian has a worse record in his coaching career before ND, during his time at Northwestern.

It took Parseghian almost a decade to go from 0-9 at Northwestern to a NC at Notre Dame.

However, I still hear a lot of folks whispering about 2008 and 2009 like they are some sort of magical talismam that will "return us to glory."

I like Coach Weis, and am willing to give him more time, but I'm not sure if this ship can be turned around that quickly.

For perspective, other turnarounds (by the same coach) from loser to champion include:
Bobby Ross: First year 2-8, then 3-9, then two years later 11-0-1 (1990 Georgia Tech)
Paul Dietzel: 3-7 to 11-0 in two years (1957 LSU)
John McKay: 4-6 to 11-0 in first three years (USC)
Howard Schnellenberger: 5-6 to 11-1 in 4 years (Miami)
Woody Hayes: 4-5 to 10-0 in 2 years, 4-3-2 to 10-0 in 3 years (Ohio State)
Don James: 5-6 to 12-0 in 15 years (Washington)
Bobby Bowden: 4-7 to 12-1 in 19 years (Florida State)

Only Bobby Ross seems to have pulled off a turnaround of this magnitude, and he had his losing seasons in his first two years at the school. Going from winner, to loser, and back to winner has only been done by Woody Hayes.

Sure, there's a first time for everything, but if history teaches us anything, the type of turnaround we are hoping for would be unprecedented in college football (modern era - I was too lazy to go through every single championship...)


So, with that information in hand, do you all think, as I still do (although my confidence is fading fast), that Coach Weis is the right coach for the Notre Dame football program?

Dumbest. Call. Ever.

In the history of Notre Dame football, there has never been a more egregious mistake on the part of the coaches than not kicking the 41-yard field goal with 45 seconds left to attempt to ice the game for the Irish. Nothing Davie, or Faust, or even the Coach Who Shall Not Be Named-ingham has ever approached the hubris and utter ignorance of the decision not to kick a field goal in yesterday's game.

And when asked why he didn't even attempt the kick, Coach Weis said that they needed four more yards to have confidence in the kick. Four yards. Twelve feet. That's 111 feet instead of 123 feet, not even a 10% difference between a 41-yarder and a 37-yarder. And he had a kicker that made a 48-yarder just scant weeks ago against UCLA. Then Coach Weis talked about the wind factoring in. Bullshit, I say. I was at the game, and the wind was negligible. Hell, if the wind was so damn important to his decision making, why not defer and choose to kick with the wind in the fourth quarter when he won the toss at the beginning of the game?

I love Coach Weis' resume, his recruiting ability, and think he is one of the best Notre Dame men around off the field. Paraphrasing Dr. White, he is the perfect Notre Dame football coach from Sunday to Friday. And he showed that again this week with the way he handled the tragedy in Robert Hughes' family.

But on the football field Saturday, he really stunk up the joint.

And, having listened to Coach Weis' press conferences for so long, I think I realized why he struggles sometimes with making the right call on the field.

He overanalyzes and micromanages the game.

I'm amazed he doesn't sit up n the press box with practice and game film, a calculator, slide rule, and the statistics from every college football game in the history of the world and call plays from there.

"We go by what we see." He says. In practice. On tape. By the numbers.

In the pros, this is the only way to call a game, where the margin for error is so small and the players on both sides execute everything at such a high level.

But in the college game (DRINK! Thank you, BGS) the odds and practice tape and schemes only get you so far. At some time, in the words of Coach Holtz, YOU GOTTA BELIEVE. Believe, not because the down and distance and game situation call for this specific play in your telephone book sized playbook. Believe, not because your starting kicker has made only 7.435% of the field goals from this hashmark at this specific yard line in this stadium at this temperature and wind speed in practice situations. Believe in your players. Believe in your coaches. Believe in the Notre Dame family 80,000 strong sitting in the stands.

Most importantly, Coach Weis needs to believe in a little thing we call the luck of the Irish.

In Notre Dame football, I don't care how bad the kicker is, when they line up for that 41 yard field goal attempt, and a hush falls over the crowd as 80,000 Notre Dame students, alums, and subway alums silently pray a Hal Mary, special things happen.

Like in 1993, when Shawn Wooden believed that the Seminole's desperation heave would come his way to seal the victory.

Like in 1992, when Rick Mirer refused to stop believing as he scrambled through the snow and found Reggie Brooks in the back of the endzone.

Like in 1988, when a haughty Miami team entered Notre Dame Stadium with the swagger of champions and left with a black eye and a 31-30 loss because Pat Terrell believed he would knock down that pass.

Believing like those young kids from a small midwestern Catholic school who rolled into West Point in 1913 and stunned the vaunted Black Knights with their untested aerial attack.

Notre Dame's football success is built, like other football powerhouses, on recruiting and training the best players in the country. But what separates Notre Dame's 11 national championships from the rest of the pack is a willingness to believe in triumph against all odds, believing in the players who represent Our Lady, believing in divine intervention, and believing in the luck of the Irish.

But I don't think Coach Weis puts much stock into such things. He breaks every play down to its minutiae, ignoring the greater glory of Notre Dame football.

We didn't beat Navy 43 straight times by playing it safe.

And you know what? I saw a two teams on that field yesterday that had that belief in something special. But I only saw one head coach who believed it.

Those Midshipmen of Navy struggled mightily as the game wore on, believing as they do every single year that this year, THIS would be the year that they finally beat the Fighting Irish. But as the game clock wore down to :45 seconds, the Navy players and fans had a moment's pause, remembering all to well the numerous last minute feld goals that had iced the game for the Irish.

And when Coach Weis opted to go for it on 4th and 8, the Navy faithful KNEW they would emerge victorious. You could feel it in that stadium, that this WAS gong to be the year that Navy beat Notre Dame. And then Navy's Ram Vela pulled a Waterboy-esque flying sack of Evan Sharpley to kill Notre Dame's chances at victory and drain the belief from the Irish faithful who were stunned that we didn't kick the ball.

The players gamed on, forcing three overtimes before finally being unable to match Navy's clockwork offense on a short field. But Weis had not believed.

Kudos to the Naval Academy, and all of their players, students, alumni, and all Naval officers and seamen across the world. Like every Navy game, they fight to the end of every game, just like they fight to the end of every battle. I did my best to congratulate the Naval officers I saw yesterday after the game. They believed in their guys, and earned a long-awaited victory.

But shame on Coach Weis, who let a golden opportunity pass him by.

[Note: I'm still on the Weis bandwagon, and think the program will be fine long-term, but I can't stomach his playcalling. I believe, as I've stated before, that he needs to hand off the reins of the offense to someone else, and focus on his head coaching duties ONLY.]