So what was amounting to be the most publicized "Will-he-or-won't-he-stay" of the offseason has been put to rest. Yesterday, Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick ended all speculation of firing Charlie Weis during a press conference. He was quoted, "Though this past season fell short of the expectations that all of us have for our football program, I am confident that Charlie has a strong foundation in place for future success and that the best course of action is to move forward under his leadership." Was this the right move for Notre Dame?
Contrary to popular ongoing opinion, I think it was. Let me preface, I am NOT sold on Charlie Weis. While obviously a very solid recruiter, I am not yet convinced that he has the head coaching skills to run a program as prestigious as Notre Dame. Don't tell him that of course, in his world, he was every bit as important to those New England Patriots' titles as Bill Belichick or Tom Brady. But I digress.
Nobody really seems to know what the deal with his supposed buyout is. I have heard conflicting reports ranging from it being only a couple million (which I am sure the donors would be willing to pony up in a second), all the way to the entire contract being guaranteed. While it is unfortunate, the amount of money being paid to a guy watching the game from the comforts of his home has to be a consideration and I do factor that into my thinking of keeping Weis under contract for another year. If you are going to pay the guy anyway, just be absolutely SURE that he is not the right guy. In my eyes, 2009 is do or die for Weis. Having a .500 record will not suffice, he is going to have to show on the field that he has what it takes to coach at this level. Barely squeaking out victories against Navy is not going to get it done anymore.
Weis is going to have to get his signature win next year to prove to the rest of the world that he can beat legit competition. It was Charlie Weis himself who pleaded that he was not rebuilding at Notre Dame, "May God strike me dead if I use that word," well then what exactly is going on Charlie? One thing that Weis apparently has done really well according to all the recruiting experts (sic) is bring talented youth into the Notre Dame program. Weis supporters continue to point as his recruiting rankings since he took over as proof that the Golden Domers are on the right path. Well, his recruits are now upper classmen. Weis supporters can't keep using Ty Willingham as the scape goat.
Bringing talented recruits in is only half the battle, the other half is to develop that talent into production on the football field. No longer will he be able to tout his work with Brady Quinn if his current QB prodigy Jimmy Clausen continues to regress and take steps back. Clausen was one of the most highly touted recruits in recent memory but has made very little progress into developing into the slam dunk pro which was all but assured of a few years back. Up until now, Charlie Weis has been incapable of doing that. 2009 should be his last chance.