WEIS GUYS FINISH LAST
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (Sept. 25,
2007) — When Charlie Weis showed up on the Notre Dame campus in 2005,
one of the first things he told his new charges was that they would
have "a schematic advantage" over every opponent, no matter the talent
Three years hence, that
schematic advantage seems as elusive as offensive touchdowns by the
After the latest Notre Dame
beatdown, this time at the hands of Michigan State, Weis insisted that
he "didn’t become a crummy coach overnight."
Well, it took about three
years. Or more accurately, the other guys are just Weising up.
At 0-4, and fast going on 0-8,
Notre Dame is at a crossroads. Some of the
Irish Kool-Aid drinkers insist that the worst is behind them and
that 2008 will surely return Notre Dame to glory. That 2007 was truly
a rebuilding year, even if Weis himself didn’t want to use the "R"
word. That this is really all Tyrone Willingham’s fault.
But is it?
After going 19-10 in his first
two-plus seasons, it’s time to take a hard look at what Weis has done.
And upon further review, you really have to wonder how the Notre Dame
brass feels about that 10-year contract it gave to Weis after he went
5-2 in his first seven games.
Weis went 9-3 in 2005, with
two good wins (over Michigan in Ann Arbor and over Tennessee at home),
a memorable loss (to No. 1 USC in South Bend with the Trojans pulling
out a thriller in the final minute), a bad loss (to Michigan State)
and a bowl blowout (to Ohio State in the Fiesta). After going 6-6 in
Willingham’s final season, this was an improvement, but hardly
monumental since ND still couldn’t beat SC or win a bowl game.
In 2006, it was more of the
same in a 10-3 season. The Irish had one good win (over Penn State),
two comeback wins over underdogs (Michigan State and UCLA) and three
blowout losses (to Michigan, USC and LSU in the Sugar), that extended
their losing streaks to USC (five games) and in bowl games (nine).
This year, Notre Dame has been
blown out in four straight games, by teams with an overall record of
11-5 (or 7-5 after removing games against ND). Its next four games
will be, at Purdue, at UCLA, at home to Boston College and USC, four
teams with a combined record of 15-1. For good measure, the final
quartet on Notre Dame’s schedule might not be as much a pushover as
first thought, as it’s possible for the Irish to go 2-2 against Navy,
Air Force, Duke and Stanford.
Dare we say it, 2-10?
Whatever happened to the
Well, as Bear Bryant once
said, it’s still up to the players to play the games. You can blame
Willingham’s weak recruiting all you want, but Weis a) hasn’t "coached
them up" to be better than they are; b) hasn’t shown that he’s made
much hay with his own recruits. And as far as the X’s and O’s stuff,
college coaches might not be the rubes that Weis thought they were.
Michigan’s Lloyd Carr, for example, couldn’t beat Appalachian State
but has "out-coached" Weis to the tune of 85-21 over the last two
And it simply may be that Weis
is ill-suited for the college game. He’s no longer dealing with
seasoned pros like when he was with the New England Patriots.
Motivation at the college level, when paychecks are not part of the
equation, is a very different thing. In his two-plus seasons with
Notre Dame, Weis’ best game as a coach was a near win, the 34-31 loss
to USC in ’05. He didn’t beat a Top 10 team and lost big to those in
the Top 10.
In other words, he won the
games he’s supposed to win. That might be an improvement over
Willingham. But that isn’t good enough — not at a program with its
own TV network.
Notre Dame will improve next
year. One, there’s no place to go but up after this season. Two, the
schedule is considerably softer, with Pittsburgh, Syracuse and San
Diego State replacing Penn State, Georgia Tech and Air Force. Three,
Weis and his staff can really concentrate on recruiting this winter,
without worrying about another annoying bowl blowout.
For the rest of the college
football universe, it’s time to rejoice. No BCS berth will go to the
undeserving Irish this year. Baseless rumors of Weis going to the NFL
will not clutter up the sports pages. Best of all, that "Clausen for
Heisman" campaign will have to wait another year.
Let’s not wake up the echoes
for awhile longer.
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