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Calls for Charlies’ firing not needed

Bill Brink | Friday, November 14, 2008

Poor Charlie Weis.

Never thought I’d speak those words, but there they are. Never thought I would pity someone who coaches Notre Dame football for a living, who makes millions and who has more bling than Paul Wall’s grill.

First thing I see when I wake up Tuesday morning is a column calling for Weis’ dismissal. SportsCenter anchors wondered whether Weis might be through. Not hard to fathom, since the offense never got off the ground against Boston College and couldn’t reach the end zone in four overtime periods against Pittsburgh. But the assertions are unnecessary.

Weis’ abilities as coach should not be questioned for three reasons. One, look at his recruiting classes. He blessed this year’s team with Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, Trevor Robinson and Darius Fleming among others. Last year he brought in Golden Tate and Armando Allen. With the verbal commitments from Shaquelle Evans and Cierre Wood, he’s well on his way to signing another great class.

If he can recruit while Notre Dame swings through a low point in its history, he’s doing something right. Some of these recruits could go play for Urban Meyer or Pete Carroll, but they come to spend four years in South Bend, with its lovely weather and the litany of attractions surrounding campus.

He needs the time for the recruits to mature. He inherited Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzjia, Maurice Stovall and Darius Walker when they had matured. He reached two BCS bowls with them.

Two, he’s still adjusting to the head coaching role. His only previous collegiate experience was at South Carolina where, as a graduate assistant and volunteer coach, he coached defensive backs, linebackers and defensive ends. Those positions required him to focus all of his attention towards a limited number of players and delve into the minutiae of one position.

In the NFL, he coached wide receivers, running backs and quarterbacks before becoming the offensive coordinator of the Patriots. Again, smaller groups of people with a focused objective. Even as offensive coordinator, he worked with one side of the ball.

Now he’s in charge of nearly 100 young athletes who play all sorts of different positions. His first two seasons, he micromanaged Quinn and the offense to great effect. Last year, when Jimmy Clausen came up short of Quinn’s talent level, Weis had to rapidly adjust. At the beginning of this season, he took a broader role with the team, scaling back his involvement in the offense to oversee the team as a whole.

Thanks to offensive stagnation in the last two games, he’s revisiting his role with the offense. And rightly so. That’s his area of expertise. Corwin Brown, Jon Tenuta and Jappy Oliver can handle the defense. This balance may not work any better than the old system, but once he finds the balance that works best for him, his staff and his players, his coaching style will produce much better results. But this also takes time.

Finally, Weis isn’t throwing the picks, missing the blocks and tackles or committing the penalties. Critics point to the coach as the scapegoat for issues like this, but it’s a complete non sequitur. He can tie down the O-linemen and preach to them not to chop block until they beg for mercy, but in no way does that translate to play on the field.

Give the man time. He’s shown what he can do when the pieces were in place. Now, graduation and youth have upset the playing board and scattered the pieces every which way. Weis has spent the last two seasons picking them up, slowly but surely. Once he finds a home not only for the pieces of the team, but for himself, he’ll control a potent football team with a great deal of talent.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Bill Brink at

wbrink@nd.edu