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Football: Despite struggles, not all blame falls on Weis

Dan Murphy | Thursday, December 4, 2008

He’s staying.

You may now resume the conversations that you most likely dropped mid-sentence 12 days ago. Even before Notre Dame’s embarrassing 24-23 loss to Syracuse on Nov. 22, there were calls for Charlie Weis’ headset. After the loss, there were calls for his head.

The Notre Dame Crisis Alarm went off somewhere in the bowels of the sporting world and we all dug our claws in and hung on for dear life. After nearly two weeks of unabridged Weis Watch, we are finally right back where we started. Some people are happy, some are sad, and Charlie Weis is the head football coach at Notre Dame.

If you thought the attention and public outcry was bad when his job was in jeopardy, imagine what it will be like now that it is secure again. Before the thousands of screaming parrots break out of their cages once again, threatening to throw themselves into a wood chipper at the thought of another season with Charlie at the helm, let’s take a deeper look.

Anyone who knows who Rudy is can tell you that the past two seasons have been the worst stretch in the program’s history. They’ll tell you about his inability to make adjustments or motivate his team. Some even complain about his arrogance. Would you really want a coach to tell you he stinks and his players don’t stand a chance? Show me any person in sports who doesn’t think he’s the best, and I’ll show you someone who never will be.

The Irish have fallen on tough times, but it didn’t come out of nowhere. Last year after Notre Dame’s 38-0 drubbing against USC, Pete Carroll told the press that he saw this down year coming three years ago – while Weis was still busy collecting jewelry in New England.

The nay-sayers say Weis can’t develop talent. Every facet of the 2008 team was stronger and better prepared than in 2007. The defense gave up an average of one less touchdown per game this season, and the offense averaged one more touchdown per game.

If they make the same improvements next season, and there is no reason to think they wouldn’t, the Irish would win three of the games they lost this year. 9-3 ain’t too shabby.

Actually, the Irish were less than a handful of plays away from 9-3 this season. A pick six on the first throw of the second half against North Carolina can’t be blamed on Weis. With a bum knee, he couldn’t have thrown an interception even if he tried to. Neither can a blown coverage on the goal line against Syracuse or an overthrow in overtime against Pittsburgh. If the guys on the field make those plays, we would all be whistling a very different tune.

A head coach is a lot like a president. People are going to criticize him anytime anything goes wrong. Just look at Mr. Bush: At first glance it would seem that the man probably still wears Velcro shoes. He does have a degree from Yale and somehow managed to take residence on Pennsylvania Ave., he probably knows a thing or two that you and I don’t.

The same goes for Charlie. So, as you spend the next few weeks ranting in your dorm rooms, at the dinner table or in your classrooms, remember he too probably knows a thing or two that you and I don’t.

Take for example the end of regulation against Pittsburgh. With just over a minute to go and the ball near midfield Weis was faced with a fourth-and-1. Instead of safely punting the ball away or sneaking up the middle, the Irish called a play action fade route to Golden Tate. The pass was incomplete and suddenly your four years of play-calling on Madden Football greatly outweighed his expertise. However, if Tate had hauled that pass in, something he’s been known to do, Notre Dame would be in good position to at least drive into field goal range and win the game. Then it would have been good ol’ Charlie – our favorite offensive genius.

To gauge real improvement, judgments can’t be based on a few missed plays or bounces that didn’t go the right way. Perspective is key. This year Weis took a dismal 3-9 team and a strong recruiting class to 6-6. With a mediocre 6-6 team and another outstanding recruiting class on the way, who knows what 2009 will bring. I’m willing to find out; luckily, so is Notre Dame.