Every website, large and small, has given their two cents on the Notre Dame-Charlie Weis-job security situation. Plenty of speculation has been made about the future of the portly offensive minded man and most people see the writing on the wall. The has been no reassurance of job security, no "we're 100% behind our coach" as there have been at Notre Dame for the embattled head coach in the past.
Is Charlie really the Irish's problem?
Sure he's smug, arrogant and he dropped these gems:
"Let them try to stop a pro-style offense, which has multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. Let’s see how they are going to do. They’ve had their advantage because I’ve come into recruiting late. Well, now it’s X’s and O’s time. Let’s see who has the advantage now.”
“Every game, you will have a decided schematic advantage.”
and possibly the best quote came during 2007's 3-9 campaign:
“No one will want a piece of us in 2009.”
That's reason enough to not root for the guy who came across as about as personable as a porcupine. However, when you leave out his off the field quotes, the arrogance and the bombastic grandstanding that appears to be more of a self assuring security blanket than true swagger is Charlie really the one to blame?
Bear in mind folks that I'm no Notre Dame enthusiast. I'm not a Notre Dame supporter and I most certainly am not a Notre Dame apologist. I, like most people born after 1984 and just about everyone from the South, truly have no real use for the Irish. Outside of my younger days watching guys like Montana, the Rocket, the Bus and a few others barely remember much "greatness" about the Irish. Of course growing up in Charlotte there is the Steve Beuerlein angle but again, from the 90's until now there isn't much Notre Dame history to write home about.
In short this isn't the standard, Golden Domer assessment of their situation, rather this is an observation from an outsider. An outsider who admittedly has laughed with the masses as Charlie stumbled; especially in Chapel Hill. With that said I decided to take a look at the Irish situation with an unjaundiced eye. Take out the auxiliary complaints and look at the facts; is Charlie Weis getting it done at Notre Dame?
Read more for the answers to the Weis situation...
The answer is yes and no. First let's look at the yeses of this fifth season, the pivotal campaign in his possible departure.
That is a pretty strong showing for a guy who took the job and was renowned for his offensive prowess. He appears to be holding up his end of the bargain and giving Notre Dame fans exactly what they expected when he was hired; offensive production.
So where is the Irish's problem? It lies in the rushing attack and the defense. Two areas that Weis has never exhibited expertise of true knowledge. While his passing attack helped make guys like Troy Brown and Deion Branch look like world beaters his rushing attack was always mediocre at best. His defensive dealings were even less ambitious as his experience centers on carving up schemes not stopping people. Here are the Irish's problem areas:
Embarrassing when they're all laid out for folks. They're in the bottom half in every major defensive category except for scoring defense. The 84th ranked rushing offense is not as pathetic given their domination in the passing game but it is in no way admirable. Looking at these numbers, the problem for the Irish seems pretty obvious.
Its not necessarily Weis' offense that is stinking up the joint, rather it is his hiring decisions on the defensive side of the football that have done him in at Notre Dame. While the big man is a calculated technician that seems to be calm in executing his gameplan, he doesn't have that cocksure bravado that creates an identity for the defense. The most notable comparisons in the recent era are both Florida State related.
First Bobby Bowden, the "aw shucks" guy with the great demeanor had his own defensive foil; Mickey Andrews. Andrews was a nasty SOB that bred killing machines on defense and was tough as nails. Later when Mark Richt left FSU to take the Georgia job he signed on Brian VanGorder to run the defense. VanGorder was as tough as they come and while Richt is easily regarded as the nicest man in college football VanGorder's defenses adopted the d-coordinators personality and played with a fire that was their own. Take away VanGorder and the defense of the Dawgs plays with as kind a heart as Richt has off the field.
Weis' biggest mistake as a head coach hasn't been his gaffes on the podium or his offensive production. No the biggest mistakes have been his hires on the defensive side of the football. Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta have been the Willie Martinez's of the midwest. While Weis is taking all the heat the defensive coordinators are at least equally to blame for the Irish's inability to muster the BCS Bowl season that should have materialized with this season's soft schedule.
While offense may be about X's and O's defense is equal parts scheme and attitude. Tackling is a "want to" that teams either have or don't. The Irish lack that defense gusto that teams like Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU or Ohio State have possessed for years. Even teams like Arizona State, UNC, Rutgers and South Carolina have recently seen a shift in their defensively philosophies that have given itself to playing hard nosed, hand in the dirt, slobber knocking defense.
Keeping those statistics in mind and looking at what Notre Dame is right now in the world of college football I think they would be remiss to overlook the clear deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. The team needs a hard nosed tough as nails attitude. Scoring points is easy, Hawaii, Houston, Oklahoma State, Tulsa and even Purdue score points. Stopping people is the hard part and from where I sit that is the part that Weis has failed at albeit somewhat indirectly.
His hires had good resumes. Tenuta is widely viewed as one of the nation's premier defensive coordinators. He's revered the world over for his aggressive play calling and suffocating run defense. Corwin Brown is a guy that came from a 3-4 background under Al Groh and had some NFL experience. He's a good recruiter but hasn't yet made his bones in the coaching world on defense.
Going forward there are clearly two courses of action; first the administration can fire Weis as it appears they are leaning toward OR they can fire the defensive coordinators. Either way the team needs a leader on defense that will instill toughness on the men's side of the football. That toughness will come through practice and through recruiting. Looking at the roster there are a few guys who, with the right nurturing grow into a stars.
For the Irish fans sake let's hope they don't neglect the defense, for the Golden Dome haters out there let's hope they ignore that massive hole and keep trying to fill it with more points.