As I enter what will now be my 100th post to this blog, I seem to be back right back where I started when I launched NDTex.com. My first real post of substance followed the debacle that was last year’s ND/BC game in which the Irish were blanked by the Eagles. I tried to take a step back and figure out just what direction this program was taking. Of course that also meant taking a hard look at Weis, which followed soon after my initial post.
Now here I am once again, on the heels of yet another embarrassing loss, this time to Navy, and wondering once again just what to do with Weis.
It isn’t hard to figure out why the Irish dropped this game at all. Notre Dame turned the ball over constantly, with three of them coming in the red zone. We missed two field goals, and our defense at times looked as if they have never seen the triple option offense. You cannot win games playing in such a sloppy manner and that is exactly how upsets happen.
We left 6 points on the field without a doubt with the missed field goals. If you can assume at least a field goal on our three red zone turnovers, that is another 9 points, meaning a total of at least 15 points. Now let’s go on the other end of the spectrum and say we kick a FG instead of going for it 4th and goal, Clausen doesn’t fumble, and we don’t have an INT off Floyd’s back. Let’s give the Irish 2 TDs and the FG there, add on the two missed FG and you have 23 points left on the board.
Put those points on the board and you have something between either a scary win or a near blowout.
So now I’m left trying to play the blame game and needing to figure out where exactly I should be pointing the finger. Weis has definitely provided more than enough ammo to justify his removal and there is simply no doubt about it:
- 2 losses to Navy
- Loss to Air Force
- Loss to Syracuse
- All said embarrassing losses were at home
- 0-5 against USC
- 2007, the 3-9 season
- 2008 season
- Current defensive woes
- No true “signature” win
The evidence has become overwhelming, especially when Navy’s head coach and one of Weis’ own players both took his “decided schematic advantage” and said this about it:
“I really hope this doesn’t come across wrong,” Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo said, “but I think the thing that helped us this year was last year, because we knew they’d line up the same way.”
Translation: Notre Dame employed the same type of defense it did in last year’s 27-21 victory, and Navy was expecting it.
“They out-schemed us,” Irish nose tackle Ian Williams said, “and I think they just played harder.”
Yeah, that’s not good no matter how you slice it. I couldn’t spin that in a positive light for Weis even if I wanted to.
But even with the defensive miscues, as I pointed out above, ND simply threw away tons of points. Even with the subpar defensive play, those points could’ve meant a victory. And even without those points, we still had a chance to pull out another last minute victory.
So the question becomes: was this just simply a bad game or is this all just a further indictment of Weis’ current failures? And if ND doesn’t fall on their face, are we even really talking about Weis’ job security in the earnest that the majority of ND nation is right now?
The problem is, I’m not even sure how to answer that question. If we win out, you can look back at the season and say we lost three games because of one bad drive against Michigan, a slip against USC, and a complete brain fart against Navy. In this scenario, how bad does a 10-4 season with a Gator Bowl win against a solid ACC team really look? It’s far from ideal for sure, but it would be far easier to make an argument in that case that our last two seasons have built off of each other and ND is on the right track.
However, on the other end of that spectrum, if we drop one or two of our remaining games, a 8-4 or 7-5 regular season record doesn’t look so hot, regardless of the bowl result. The reason is, you look back on the season in that case and you go the other direction, looking at all the games we won and seeing just how close we were to not even being bowl eligible. In this scenario, ND looks like nothing more than a stagnant and mediocre program.
And now you have a wrinkle that no one was initially thinking about: Clausen and Tate possibly leaving early. There is no doubt in my mind, a Weis firing means they are gone. Clausen is already likely going to be hard to convince to come back as it is, and Tate’s stock seems to be rising every week. It’s going to be near impossible to keep them around on a coaching change.
Then you have to worry about the state of the current recruiting class. Chris Martin, the key defensive centerpiece in the class has already said he is keeping his options open should a coaching change hit ND. Should Martin leave, who follows after?
With the likely combination of Clausen and Tate leaving early, and with recruiting likely getting shot right in the foot, there is no doubt: firing Weis is a complete reset button to this program.
We now end up in a catch 22 situation that is our worst nightmare. Do we give Weis yet another chance and hope that we are indeed going the right direction or do we blow it all up, risk possible repeats of 2007/2008 or another horrid coaching era ala Willingham? In other words, should we deal with the devil we know, or some unknown devil we don’t?
Every time I think of this, I can’t help but think of Auburn who was in a similar situation to us. Tubberville was doing decent, but he wasn’t producing the results that everyone was hoping for. The result: fire Tommy, hire a coach that could barely win at Iowa State, and now Auburn is struggling to find their identity. They have an offense that can’t make up it’s mind on whether it is the best thing since sliced bread or the biggest comedy of errors and their defense, once always feared and constant, is now a joke. There is absolutely no telling where Auburn is going from here because of their coaching change.
That is the same grim reality that faces Notre Dame.
I look at the usual suspects of supposed replacements for Weis and on each name I come to same conclusion each time: there is no logical hire that would be an improvement over Weis. For some, I can’t see them leaving their current jobs to the pressure cooker that is ND. Take Brian Kelly. Why leave Cinnci when it looks like you can dominate a week Big East and are toast of the town? There is no guarantee Kelly can repeat the same results for the Irish in the least, so why would he take a risk when he has no ND ties. John Gruden won’t be coming because ND is a step down, and I can’t see him not going for a NFL job. How is trying to fix the ND situation more appealing than another shot at NFL glory (especially when many heads will be rolling this year in the NFL)? We could hire another Holtz, but I’m not sure that name will travel that well from East Carolina. Tubberville is available, but I’m not even sure if he’s seeking coaching jobs, much less one like ND.
Simply put, firing Weis will open up a hole that I do not believe we can adequately fill. Despite all he has done to justify his removal, I still believe it would cause more harm than good for ND’s future. I don’t want to see ND try to recover from a gigantic recruiting gap after we have worked so hard to fill it. Fortunately for Weis, and unfortunately the rest of our sanity, the recruiting and talent angle is still too much to ignore. I’m not sure how he is doing it, but Weis is still stocking ND full of talent all across the roster and this must continue no matter who is coaching at ND.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Weis is definitely the man for the job; however, I don’t think a better man for the job is available for us right now. Just because firing Weis would be justified, doesn’t mean it is what is best for the program. What good does it do to fire Weis and hire in some sub-par replacement that makes us wish we had Weis back? Answer: None.
So until Brian Kelly starts mentioning that ND is his dream job or Gruden starts dropping constant ND references on Monday Night Football, I’m going to stick with the devil I know patrolling the ND sidelines.
Even if it drives me insane.