November 22, 2009

Charlie Weis Must Go - Now!

"You are what you are, folks, and right now you're a 6-5 football team. And guess what? That's just not good enough. That's not good enough for you, and it's certainly not going to be good enough for me." -- Charlie Weis, five years ago, upon being hired as the new Head Football Coach at Notre Dame

"If they decide to make a change, I'd have to say I'd have a tough time arguing with that. If they decide to make a change, I'd have a tough time arguing that because 6-5 is not good enough, especially when you've lost five games by a touchdown or less and several three-point games that went right down to the wire. My intent is to be here. But if that were the rationale, I mean it would be tough for me to argue with that point." -- Charlie Weis on Sunday, after an overtime loss to UConn dropped the Irish to 6 - 5.

NBC, sensing (and adding to) the writing on the wall, ran the clip from Weis's introductory press conference toward the end of the UConn debacle. It was a nice move on NBC's part, hoisting Weis on his own petard, as it were.

That's at the core of the whole Weis problem: his Parcells/Belichick - bred arrogance cast him as a make-or-break proposition. And Weis broke. Now, it's time for him to go. What's more, Weis needs to be the one to resign. He can't wait for Swarbrick to fire him. He needs to announce his resignation effective at the end of the season, and he needs to do it before the Stanford game. It's the only way to put any kind of positive spin on his lackluster tenure at his alma mater.

Under different circumstances, he might have one more year. He has great people going into their senior years at his offensive skill positions, including the nation's best quarterback (Jimmy Clausen), one of the best all-purpose ballhandlers in the nation (receiver/returner/wildcat back Golden Tate), and a very solid running back (Armando Allen). They also have potentially the best tight end in the nation (a freaky talented Kyle Rudolph), and one of the best new-school wide receivers (Michael Floyd). The O-line is a bit more problematic, but there seems to be enough underclassmen in rotation to get the job done as well as it was this year (frankly, the O-line was good this year, but they should have been dominant). And the defense? Well, the defense sucks anyway, so you have to figure that they can assemble something better, no matter what they have to start with. If there can be an arguement made for retaining Weis, there is no reason that co-Defensive Coordinators Corwin Brown and John Tenuta get one more year in South Bend.

I know that, last year, I said Weis should have only one more year. However, if I'm the AD, I'm looking at a team which should have been a top-ten team that is returning some absolutely ridiculous talent. A new head coach virtually assures that a senior-heavy lineup will be wasted, even if they actually hung around . . . and if my name is Clausen, Tate, Floyd, or Rudolph, I'm gone. So that, at least, is an argument for retaining Weis.

On the other hand, there is the dick-swinging that Weis has done since day one. That introductory press conference pretty much seals his fate. Sure, 6 - 5 sucks, but maybe you get forgiven for 6 -5 if you don't set that as the mountain you die on.

So Swarbrick is essentially in an untenable position. The best option for next year is to keep Weis, since that represents the best possible outcome for the next season. And the payoff could be substantial: the talent is top ten, even if the coaching hasn't been even close to that level. On top of that, a coaching change virtually guarantees another mediocre season. But it was Weis himself who set the bar, and he has failed. Swarbrick will be hung out to dry if he dares retain Weis. He has to fire Weis. He has no choice.

This whole thing goes back to the firing of Ty Willingham. If that fiasco had been handled properly, then Swarbrick would have room to operate. But, Willingham was fired prematurely, so there is a heightened situation for Swarbrick and Weis to deal with. And, of course, Weis himself added to the problem with his aforementioned dick-swinging. It is completely fair to point out that Weis's .573 winning percentage is worse than Willingham's (and Davie's) .583. And given Weis's arrogance, he has to be held accountable.

There are a lot of things that Weis has done right at Notre Dame, and they are important things: Notre Dame's graduation rate is even better now than the high standards set previously. His recruiting classes have been the best Notre Dame has seen since the '80's, and he hasn't had the same "character questions" that floated around the Holtz teams. The Weis teams have all represented Notre Dame in the best possible manner off the field.

And yet, that isn't enough. Why? Because of the arrogance of Weis himself. The only way this will end acceptably is if Weis announces his resignation this week.


Matt said...

The drag is at the time Weis seemed like such a great choice.

brandon knight said...

Charlie Weiss saw this coming weeks ago, and already has feelers out there with NFL teams for the offensive coordinator position. You just cant win 6 games a year at Notre Dame and expect to keep your job. I think Gruden or Stoops would fit ND quite well.

Bill Zink said...

I don't think we'll see Stoops or my first choice, Tony Dungy. As far as the Cincinnati guy, Kelly, I really want a defense, and he hasn't really demonstrated a lot on that side of the ball. Notre Dame will never become relevant again until they have a defense capable of shutting down everyone on their schedule. I could live through a couple more losing seasons if I could see tangible improvement on defense.

Bill Zink said...

As far as Gruden is concerned, I'm not sold on him. He won a Super Bowl with Dungy's team (to be fair, it's not like Tubby Smith following Rick Pitino at KY, since Dungy never won with those teams), and he doesn't seem like a football intellect when he does the Monday night games. Perhaps that's not fair, but did you ever watch a college basketball game with Bob Knight doing color? Terrible TV personality, but, my god, you learn something about the game almost every time he opens his mouth. You just know that guy's a good coach.

Like I say, that's probably not fair to Gruden, and he did do a good job in Oakland. And I'm pretty sure that he would be better than anyone ND has had since Holtz. But there are better people around, if you can get them.

josh said...

I agree with you on Gruden. He did upgrade Tampa's offense a little, but it was Dungy's defense that won them the championship. It also didn't hurt that he was matched up in the Super Bowl against the team he was coaching the year before. Like Weis, he'd be a sexy pick and probably have booster support, though. Aside from Dungy, who do you like for the job?

Bill Zink said...

Three names really intrigue me: Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Brian Kelly, and Jim Harbaugh. Kelly, as I've already said, needs to come in with some big defensive guns to win my trust, but anybody who can build a football program so quickly at a non-football school like Cincinnati deserves a long look. Same for Fitzgerald, with the added bonus that his experience comes from the defensive side of the ball, and he is used to dealing with the academic standards that Notre Dame has in place. His problem is that he has never fielded a really good football team, though only Gary Barnett has fielded any NW teams that were any better. It is worth noting that one of Notre Dame's canonized coaches, Ara Parseghian, posted a 36-35-1 record at Northwestern before his Notre Dame stint. Compare that to Fitzgerald's 27-22 record. I think Fitgerald would be a good choice.

The name I keep coming back to is Harbaugh. He comes from a coaching family, and he has been a miracle worker in his short Stanford stint. But, more than that, I will always remember him as the quarterback who took the Colts to the playoffs in '95 through the sheer force of his will. He has an edge to him - which, sometimes, can lead to unfortunate things like him screaming "m-f-ing faggot" from the sidelines, but generally speaking would be great for Notre Dame. I don't like the usual sports cliches, but Harbaugh impresses me as a winner, and he always has. Swarbrick will have to get the equivalent of a "swear jar" so that every time Harbaugh uses a slur or says something stupid, he'll have to contribute to the favored charity of the offended party, but other than that . . . driven, individualistic, unpredictable, successful, and with a top notch pedigree (his brother is doing great with the Ravens, and I've heard they're pretty similar), I think he would be my first choice.

Having said all that, I think any one of the choices I've named is essentially taking a flier. Swarbrick is almost universally thought to be in no position to take a flier, so we'll probably see a big name, with Gruden and Billick being the most common names bandied about at this point. That would be a shame . . . But who knows? Swarbrick seems to have a lot more going on than the sports administrations that preceded him, so maybe he will make the bold choice.

josh said...

Harbaugh probably won't be the defensive coach you want. Stanford played in a lot of shootouts this year. But, I think he'd be a great pick. He obviously knows how to win while recruiting genuine student-athletes. Personally, I hope he stays at Stanford. Right now, the Pac-10 is wide open and a lot of fun to watch. There's a chance we'll see a 5-way tie for second in the conference this year. I don't remember it being that competitive during any season in the last 25 years.

I'm not sure ND has to hire a big name especially if Gruden and Billick are the "big names" in consideration. Both won Super Bowls with someone else's players and neither could maintain that level of success. IMO, Gruden and Billick (like Weis) are better suited to being offensive coordinators than head coaches.

Bill Zink said...

If I'm Harbaugh, I'm staying put. Recent football teams aside, Stanford is the top athletic university in the nation, year in and year out (Notre Dame is too, but in spite of the football team, not because of it - the women's programs put Notre Dame near the top). The Pac-10 is a fascinating conference right now, second only to the SEC when it comes to football. There are signs that USC's unquestioned dominance of the football season may be coming to an end at long last. I'd love to have him, but he'd be crazy to leave.

I trust Swarbrick a lot more than I trusted most of the ADs who preceded him. Then again, it should be pointed out that I thought Weis was the guy when he was hired. And, except for won/loss record and alumni relations, he pretty much did what I expect out of any ND coach.

josh said...

Yeah, I'd love to see the PAC-10 get back to being a legitimate rival to the SEC in football. Other than Dennis Erickson (who looks like he's washed up) and Steve Wulff (young and at Wazzu) the coaches in the PAC are as good as any conference in the country. I've been skeptical of Stoops but beating USC yesterday was a big deal. Sure, 'SC didn't finish strong but they have the same talent they always do and they were ranked #5 only a month ago. To beat them at home is a major victory for UA. Right now, I'm trying to figure out a way to pay for Holiday Bowl tix and a trip to San Diego.

I never thought Weis was the guy for ND. "except for won/loss record and alumni relations..." Bill, that's 2 of the 3 legs (recruiting is the other) of the college football stool. Weis was a desperation hire. ND blew its wad on a guy who should have been allowed to be just another failed Belichick-ite NFL head coach.

If I were Swarbrick, I'd be talking to Muschamp of Texas. UT isn't an academic slouch and frankly, football smarts are more important than being able to recruit intellectuals (even at ND). I also like Edsall of UConn. He's a Tom Coughlin protege who obviously knows hard-nosed football and he's done an amazing job building a football program at a basketball school. ND should go for a college guy who's hungry and has something to prove rather than a flashy pro guy who will expect everyone to genuflect and kiss his Super Bowl ring.

Bill Zink said...

At Notre Dame, you have to add academics and general conduct of the program to won/loss, alumni relations, and recruiting as things a coach has to account for. ND is not exclusive in this respect (Stanford, once again, is a good paralell), and every coach has to deal with it to some degree. But the bar is much lower at most schools - keep your players out of jail, and you're OK on the conduct part - and ND people, especially the ones on campus, take those two extra parts very seriously.

Not that you have to be an Einstien to play football at ND. You don't have to be anywhere close to the average grades or test scores of the average ND freshman, but you do have to demonstrate the ability to pass classes at Notre Dame. More football players are eligible to play at Notre Dame than some people think. But they do have to abide by a behavior standard that is much higher than most other big-time athletic institutions. Admitedly, my first-hand experience is limited to IU (very much like ND when Bob Knight was around) and U of L (the other end of the spectrum, along with a lot of the SEC teams), but I think I can safely extrapolate from that example.

By the way, when Washington played Notre Dame earlier this year, I e-mailed my brother that if the coaches were on opposite sidelines, Notre Dame would have blown out Washington instead of having to go to OT to beat them. I like Wulff a lot. And, while we're on the topic, what the hell happened to Cal this year? All in all, I think the PAC-10 is going to be great fun for the next ten years or so.

josh said...

Wulff is at Wash St. It's Sarkisian (Carroll protege) at Washington. Sarkisian is a good coach. Washington was a football school in need of a football coach. They found him in Sarkisian. He's every bit as good as Kiffin without the slapstick.

I hear ya about academics/character being the 4th-leg at ND. But, Holtz left half his schools (including ND) in the lurch for "transgressions."

Cal (like most PAC teams) decided to ignore defense, this year. Offensive-oriented teams are always more apt to fail in any given game than defensive teams.

josh said...

Wulff is the coach at Wash St. Sarkisian is the guy at Washington. And I agree, he's a good coach. He's another of Pete Carroll's wunderkinder.

I'm not sure what you mean about Cal. They were like everyone else in the PAC: good team, but took their lumps in conference play. All of their losses were in-conference. I was surprised they got blown out by Washington to end the season, but not surprised they lost.

In other news, sounds like Kelly is the front-runner at ND. If I were an ND fan I'd be concerned that Swarbrick seems to have fixated on one guy without seriously considering anyone else. From what I've read, ND's interest in Harbaugh was superficial. Kelly certainly is no slouch, but ND is the only major program looking for a coach. Why not take your time, interview 4-5 guys, and make sure you get the right one?

Bill Zink said...

I'm with you . . . no problem at all with Kelly, but what's the rush?

Bill Zink said...

Well, it looks like Kelly was the only guy all along.