Monday, November 30, 2009

Notre Dame Has It All Wrong

First things first.

Charlie Weis wasn't likely to ever truly fit at Notre Dame. He showed up with a deserved and warranted swagger that quickly morphed into overconfidence and cockiness. By carrying this attitude into the first couple years of his tenure, Weis built more expectations on top of what the two BCS berths did on their own.

He built them to a point that they were unattainable.

While those expectations were no one's fault but Weis', it was the players who bore the brunt of the pressure to perform. Weis knew he had to win games to keep his job, no matter how big his buyout was. In order to accomplish this, Weis prepared like a madman for games, but he never found a way to get his team to play physical enough at the line of scrimmage to be a constant factor.

It got to the point where even Navy was able to handle the Irish up front and exert their will on games.

Yes, Navy.

No offense to Navy, but this should never happen, much less twice in three years.

What sealed Weis' fate, however, was a consistent and maddening inability to win big games, especially on the road.

His defense couldn't make any of the necessary stops against teams like Michigan, Michigan State, USC, or even Navy in recent years. A third straight six-loss season was the straw the broke the camel's back, and Weis is gone.

Blame it on the institution that is Notre Dame football if you want, but this one is on Weis. His ego was out of control when he walked in the door, and he couldn't bring the program back after he got humbled in 2007.

The defense was terrible. They got gashed by Navy. They got torched by Connecticut. Toby Gerhart just ran for another touchdown, trucking two safeties on the way.

While Weis is to blame for what happened Monday, Notre Dame needs to figure some things out.

Loyalist Bob Davie got fired.

Tyrone Willingham was the transcendent hire who had experience winning at a place with tough academic standards (Stanford). He got fired.

Charlie Weis was the genius. He had the NFL pedigree, and he was going to recruit athletes all over the field. He's now fired.

Where do you go from here? You've pretty much tried every kind of hire except one. It's one that will never work in the current culture of Notre Dame football.

The long-term hire.

Instead of reaching for a Bob Stoops or an Urban Meyer who doesn't really want to be there, go after someone who will tackle the duties with the kind of passion the alumni will have no choice but to appreciate.

(Yes, the point here is that a guy like Stoops or Meyer doesn't really want that job. If either of them did, it wouldn't cost Notre Dame an arm and a leg to hire them. Argue all you want that this is how the business works now, but the money wouldn't matter one bit -- outside of taking care of any buyout at their current school -- if there was any sincere desire to take on this job.)

This won't be the popular hire by Jack Swarbrick. He's going to have to absorb some criticism, and there may be another 7-5 season or two in the near future. However, finding someone who will be passionate about Notre Dame football is the first part of the battle. Stop paying big-name coaches who are only in it for the money. Hire someone who will treat the job with the reverence it deserves, and everything will start looking up.

(Yes, I get that this will never happen. Doesn't mean that what happens is the right thing.)

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