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Football: Don’t blame the coaches for losses

Chris Hine | Friday, November 7, 2008

Every time Notre Dame loses a football game, Irish fans love to engage in another kind of game that lasts until the following Saturday – the blame game.

And there’s nobody fans like to blame more than the coach. That’s not just true of Notre Dame, where fans and pundits have critiqued Charlie Weis all week – that’s pretty much standard procedure for any sports team at any level.

Team’s not doing well? Blame the coach.

Blaming the coach can feel good – it’s cathartic because it’s an easy way to vent frustration and assign responsibility for something that went wrong.

Blaming the coach can be pretty easy – anyone can sit and say the team sh ould’ve done this or that after a tough loss.

But blaming the coach, at least in Notre Dame’s case, isn’t entirely correct.

Last time I checked, Charlie Weis isn’t out there blocking on the offensive line.

He isn’t throwing or carrying the ball and he isn’t out there trying to tackle somebody.

The responsibility for Notre Dame’s loss to Pittsburgh does not rest solely with Weis. The players share the brunt of the blame.

Notre Dame was up 17-3 going into the second half and Irish wide receiver Golden Tate suggested that the offense became complacent in the second half. Sure enough, the Panthers clawed their way back into the game.

Who taught the Irish that a 14-point lead was safe? I doubt Weis did. The players should know better than to take their foot off the gas pedal until late in the fourth quarter when Notre Dame has a comfortable lead. Weis shouldn’t have to remind them.

This week, Weis decided to shake things up a little bit so his players got that message. On Monday, the team had 6 a.m. workouts, and I’m sure they received some words of encouragement from Weis.

“The first thing they’re going to do is go in and lift and run. Usually that’s the area where the camaraderie comes out the best, when they’re all pumping iron and running,” Weis said Sunday. “It kind of gets things out of their system and gets them moving forward.”

And how did that session go?

“It might not have been very pleasant,” Weis said Tuesday. “I think that [Monday] morning probably didn’t start off too well for the fellas, OK? But by [Monday] afternoon I think things were on track. It wasn’t a good start of the day.”

But Weis should not have had to do this in the first place.

His players should already have that killer, competitive instinct. They shouldn’t have to develop it now that they’re in college.

There’s only so much that Weis can do. Once the ball is snapped, the game is out of his hands and it’s all up to the players.

Yes, the players have to be well-coached to know what to do what the ball is snapped, but that motivation for the defense to tackle the guy in front of them, for the offensive line to out-muscle their man, for the wide receivers to beat their coverage, the running backs to find their holes, and Clausen to hit the open man, that motivation has to come from within. And it needs to start this week.

If that doesn’t happen, it won’t be long before the players are playing the blame game with each other.

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

Contact Chris Hine at chine@nd.edu.