November 17, 2008

Around the Nation: Get Off Charlie's Back

Some thoughts from the weekend.

13. Before we get to any of the other major college football stories out there, I wanted to address the reaction to the final minutes of the ND-Navy. After scanning the ND message boards, I have to say that I am stunned at the meltdown from ND fans to this game. People are acting like the Navy game was the final straw for them as supporters of Charlie Weis. Really???

I'll be the first to say that there are good reasons to question Charlie Weis and whether he is the right fit to lead this program back to an elite level. If you are tired of seeing a kick return unit that can't get past the 20 yard line, I can understand why you would question Charlie Weis. If you are wondering why our running game only comes alive when we are playing teams like Navy and Purdue and the 2008 version of Washington, I get that. If you are worried that USC is going to shove us around for 60 minutes and make us look like schoolgirls even though Weis has had four offseasons to develop a physically tough football team, I'm right there with you.

But if you came to some sort of major conclusion about Weis because of some fluky things that happened in the last couple minutes of a game that the Irish were winning handily, I think that's an unfair evaluation. Give Charlie a break on that stuff. I was as frazzled as anyone about the last couple minutes of the game, but it doesn't take away from the fact that we completely dominated Navy for most of the game, that our defense played disciplined and pretty much shut down Navy's attack, and that we imposed our will in the running game. Charlie had our team ready to play, and we had a good gameplan on offense and defense. He deserves credit for putting us in position to win that game.

The stuff at the end of the game was a complete wildcard. It was the equivalent of a college basketball team down by 20 with 3 minutes to go hitting a bunch of threes to make the game interesting. It happens. Navy had several miraculous plays and some major help from the referees to make the game interesting, but it still doesn't take away from the fact that the Irish played well on Saturday.

Personally, I didn't have a problem with the decision to put in the backups when the monsoon rolled in. Our players had been dropping like flies, and Charlie made the call to get the backups in there to protect the starters and to get the backups some playing time. I have no beef with that decision at all. The only adjustment I would like to see in that scenario is that we keep running our normal offense with the backups. Do what we were doing in the fourth quarter. If we score some extra touchdowns, fine by me. You don't need to feel bad about running up the score if you have your backups in. Let the guys go out and do their thing. It is good for team morale. I think Charlie will learn from this game and make some adjustments. No reason to get all bent out of shape about it.

In the big picture, a win over Navy, no matter what the final score is, is meaningless for making a call on the Charlie Weis era. Beating a team with zero major college players on the roster is not a game that we can take much away from in terms of how good of a football team we are. However, Charlie should not be getting this much heat for the result of the Navy game. He put us in position to win, and that's all that I expect out of him on a week to week basis. I don't really care what happened in the final few minutes. We played well for 58 minutes, and that's all that matters to me.

Get off Charlie's back about this game. He has a great chance to keep it going with the running game next week against Syracuse, and then we'll really find out about this team when we head to the LA Colisseum. I have my doubts about how competitive we can be at USC, but I'm not going to get all hot and bothered about Charlie because of the Navy game. He did what he needed to do. I hope the team builds on this and continues to get better.

12. Of all the troubled programs in college football, the one that stands out for me as the worst of the worst is the Florida State Seminoles. I am not normally one to pass judgment on other programs for being "renegades" since all NCAA programs are at least somewhat corrupt (and I have very little high ground as a UC hoops fan and Bob Huggins supporter), but the FSU program is completely out of control. What a bunch of nugs. They look like a freaking prison team out there. Constant suspensions and player misconduct, no discipline, players getting injured celebrating, fights breaking out left and right, and then a postgame meltdown from Parker Posey that was one of the worst displays of sportsmanship I've ever seen in a game. FSU's program has become an abomination. I honestly would be embarrassed to be an FSU fan these days. They are the most classless and undisciplined team in the country.

I think the NCAA needs to step in and deliver some sanctions to FSU or threaten to shut down their program for awhile. There is absolutely no place for their antics in college football. If FSU doesn't get their act together, I really think it's time for them for them to banned from the sport for a year or two.

11. Here is a name I don't want to see on any future Notre Dame coaching searches:

Jeff Tedford

Why is everyone so in love with this guy?? Here is his record year by year at Cal:

2002: 7-5 (4-4)
2003: 8-6 (5-3)
2004: 10-2 (7-1)
2005: 8-4 (4-4)
2006: 10-3 (7-2)
2007: 7-6 (3-6)
2008: 6-3 (4-2)
Overall: 55-29 (33-21)

That's a pretty nice record, but people talk about this guy like he's some sort of miracle worker. He's coaching at Cal. It's a state school in one of the three best talent states in the country. I've watched Cal. They have talent. Marshawn Lynch went there. Desean Jackson was a top 5 recruit. Tedford has done a nice job recruiting, but it's not like he's selecting from a pool of Ivy Leaguers or something. He's winning about 8 games a year with pretty good talent and has a good reputation for developing quarterbacks. Sound familiar?? How is that any different than Charlie Weis?? Don't we already have that same guy on our sideline right now?? If I had a choice between Tedford or an alum like Weis who is familiar with ND and has built recruting ties around the country, I'll take Weis all day.

Plus, I don't want any coaches from the Pac 10 next time around. The next head coach at ND should be from the Midwest, preferably with some ties to Indiana/Illinois/Ohio. Think about all the coaches who have ties to Ohio. Urban Meyer is from Ohio and coached under Earle Bruce at Ohio Staet. Bob Stoops is a product of Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio (the home of the McCarthy brothers). Pete Carroll was an assistant at Ohio State. Nick Saban grew up in Ohio and was the head coach at Toledo. Dantonio is from Ohio. Tressel is from Ohio. Bo Pelini is from Ohio. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

And if you go back at look at ND's history with coaches, two of our greatest coaches ever were Midwestern guys with significant Ohio ties. Lou Holtz - played college ball at Kent State and grew up at the knee of Woody Hayes at Ohio State. And Ara Parseghian grew up in Ohio, went to Miami(Ohio) under Woody, and later had a great tenure as the head coach at Miami.

I know there are some good coaches from the South (Bowden, Mack Brown, Richt, Butch Davis) and that there are coaching trees that have stemmed from places besides the Midwest, but I still think we are better off with a Midwestern guy. ND is in the Midwest. I want the next coach of Notre Dame to be a guy who learned football in this area.

10. Luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke. Watch out America. The Luke Harangody train has picked up even more steam from last year. Can we settle on a nickname for him besides Gody?? The "Mongoose" moniker has been floating out there for awhile. I'm all for it.

Too early to get excited about Luke Zeller?? I feel like he teases us in the nonconference every year. I'd like to see that type of production in conference play.

Gotta love Carl Scott. He is going to be a very good player for us someday.

I am salivating for an ND-UNC final in Maui with Harangody and Hansborough squaring off against each other.

9. This "Sabathia to the Yankees" thing is too good to be true. I like CC and no doubt think he's a great pitcher in his prime, but I would be scared to death to throw $140 million at him. With the mileage on his arm and the stretch drive from last year in Milwaukee, there is substantial risk to signing him. Plus, CC doesn't strike me as a New York guy, and he may decide to put on 50 pounds after signing a long term deal. It may work out for a couple years, but are the Yankees really going to be anywhere close to competing in the next couple years??

Look at that roster. It suddenly got really weak in a very short period of time. Who are the stars in that lineup other than ARod and Jeter (who is declining)?? And their rotation can't carry them either. CC would be a legit ace for them and Joba can be great if healthy, but they aren't beating the Red Sox or the Rays in the next couple years with that team. I don't see CC taking them to the next level, and there is a lot of potential downside to that signing.

I really think the Yankees are headed for a late 80s/early 90s type malaise. For all the fuss about Brian Cashman, how many great young players has he produced since he has been with the Yankees?? Joba, maybe Cano. I can't think of too many other guys. I have never understood why Cashman gets as much hype as he does. Their farm system is nothing special and hasn't been for many years. The quickest way for the Yankees to become great again is to start producing elite young players who can either come up to the big leagues or be traded for young stars (ie- Red Sox trading Hanley for Beckett).

8. The only thing I really could definitively tell from the ND-Navy game is that Armando Allen should be getting the large bulk of the carries. While Robert Hughes came on in the second half when Navy was out of gas, he was lousy in the first half and took us out of a drive with a poor run on a sweep. I like Allen. He fights for yards, he catches the ball, he's got vision, and he hits the hole. It seems like our offense has issues when he's not in the game. If I was Charlie, I would be giving him the ball 75% of the time and then giving the leftovers to Hughes and Aldridge. And it sounds like Cierre Wood is a rich man's Armando Allen. He should be a good fit in our one back offense.

The Floyd and Brian Smith injuries are not going to help for the USC game, so it's time for some other guys to step up. The mark of a quality program is that we have the depth to put in quality players when guys go down. Duval Kamara and Toryan Smith...come on down.

7. Can you imagine how much heat Billy Gillespie must be under in Lexington for losing that game at home to VMI on Friday night?? Yikes. I like Gillespie a lot and think he has the ability to make UK great again based on his history at lesser schools and what he is doing on the recruiting trail, but fans down there are not exactly the most patient folks. If he has another middling year this year and Travis Ford lights a spark into the Oklahoma State Cowboys, there could be quite a bit of clamoring for Travis Ford to come home to Lexington.

6. Now that ND is bowl eligible, where are we going for the bowl game?? It seems like most projections have us in the Gator Bowl, but there is some talk of ND in the Sun Bowl or the Insight Bowl. I would love to get a better read on where we are going because it's getting to be about that time to start making plans for bowl game trips. I am hoping that we end up down in the Gator Bowl. Jacksonville isn't my favorite city, but any chance to get down to Florida during the holiday season to see the Irish is fine by me.

Should be interesting to see who we get matched up against. It is looking more and more likely that Miami (Fl) is going to win the ACC this year. Color me impressed with the Canes this year. I was a doubter, but their defense is really coming alive. The future may actually be bright down in Coral Gables. That upcoming Ohio State-Miami(FL) home and home in 2010-2011 is starting to look VERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRY interesting.

The rest of the ACC pecking order seems to change on a weekly basis. ND would be slated to face the #3 team in the ACC, but I can't get a grip on who that team is likely going to be. FSU?? Maryland? BC? Virginia Tech? North Carolina??

While a win over any of those teams is hardly a foregone conclusion (far from it), I would take my chances with any of them. If the Irish get better during the bowl prep and show up ready to play, we would have a chance to win a bowl game.

5. The WEISND week 12 Heisman poll:

5. Tim Tebow
4. Colt McCoy
3. Graham Harrell
2. Sam Bradford
1. Michael Crabtree

I thought about who the best player in the country is right now, and I kept coming back to Michael Crabtree. The guy has 18 touchdown catches. And he's the best player on a top 5 team. If they beat OU and go undefeated, Harrell or Crabtree has to win this award.

4. The scary part of what Florida is doing is that they are incredibly young. Look at their depth chart.

Every player on their defense is an underclassmen. Now THAT is a young defense. And most of their offensive personnel is young too. It sounds like some of their guys are going to declare early for the NFL draft, but Florida is absolutely loaded and probably only going to get better as long as Urban Meyer is there. They are a scary football program right now.

Speaking of Florida, how could Tim Tebow even entertain the idea of leaving early to go to the pros?? What position is he planning to play?? Quarterback?? Please. He's not playing quarterback in the NFL. He MIGHT have a shot at safety or fullback or something like that, but he isn't going to be an NFL qb. He certainly isn't going to be drafted as a qb in the early rounds if he goes pro after this year. I expect to see him back in Gainesville next year much to the chagrin of Archie Griffin. He will be right there again for the Heisman trophy.

3. I'll say this about President-elect Barack Obama. Whether or not you agree with his policies, I do agree with him on one thing. As a college football fan, I was thrilled to see him taking a stance on the college football playoff. I couldn't agree more with him. Much like George Bush, Obama is a legit sports fan. That's a good thing for the country, especially when we've had past candidates...cough cough...John Kerry....declaring their love for baseball and then proclaiming a favorite player to be "Manny Ortiz" followed by one of the most pathetic first pitches I've ever seen in my life.

2. Of all the things that have been said about Notre Dame football in the last few years, I think Kirk Herbstreit may have had the most salient point during College Gameday on Saturday. In essence, he stated the truth of where we are as a program. We have AVERAGED 7 wins a year since 1994. That's a 15 year time frame. A very sobering reality of where we stand in the college football world. We have been no different than the BCs, MSUs, and Pitts of the world for a decade and a half. Herbstreit nailed it home when he asked "What did you expect?"

Have our expectations gotten ahead of themselves?? While it's easy to get hot and bothered about Charlie underachieving, the reality is that our program has been mediocre for a long time. The notion that Charlie would be able to produce consistently excellent teams by year four after that long malaise may have been a reach.

What are your expectations for Notre Dame football in the next decade?? Is it national championships?? Do you have the expectation that we should be right there with teams like Florida and Oklahoma?? I've always said that I did have those expectations, but Herbstreit's commentary made me think about it for a bit. Maybe the definition of a successful Notre Dame program has changed. Maybe my standards have become out of line with the reality of where our program is. Maybe a successful Notre Dame program is one that can regularly beat the other regional teams like Michigan/MSU/Purdue/Pitt/BC but doesn't rise to the level of the true "heavyweights" in the South.

Then again, people said these same things about programs like Alabama and Oklahoma once upon a time. Questions like "What did you expect?" when Alabama fans were grumbling about Mike Shula. Bama went through an equally long malaise as Notre Dame has gone through. Oklahoma was down for a long time. The right hire changed those programs almost overnight, and now you don't hear people saying things like "Mike Shula deserved more time."

It's a tough call. I will say that I would be interested to see where our program would be with a guy like Urban Meyer running our program.

1. WEISND power poll -

6. Oklahoma
5. USC
4. Texas
3. Texas Tech
2. Alabama
1. Florida

If the pollsters had any guts, they would vote Florida #1 this week. They are the best team in the country. Period. If the SEC Championship game was next week, Florida would probably be around an 8.5 point favorite or something like that. If they are favored by over a touchdown over the #1 team in the country, why is Florida not #1??

The good news for SEC fans is that the winner of that Florida-Bama game is in, so the polls don't matter at this point.

The real intrigue is going to be between the Big 12. This whole "BCS standings will determine the conference champion" just sounds like an absolute disaster.

What about USC?? Does anyone really think they couldn't beat the other top teams?? With that defense and Pete Carroll and their overall talent, they can beat anyone. Where do they fit in?


Matt said...

Doug - I agree with most of your premise. Charlie did what he was supposed to do in devising a gameplan to beat a vastly inferior Navy team. However, I still don't agree with taking your starters out with 9 minutes left in the game. I know it was raining and we had injury problems, but Weis has this annoying habit of pulling his starters a series too soon. He did it against Stanford earlier in the year too. Also, while it was a perfect storm for Navy to get back in it, one can legitimately question whose fault it is that our 'hands' team looked so absolutely clueless on two straight kicks. They literally had no idea what they were supposed to be doing.

All in all, a necessary win for the program. Let's keep the momentum going against Syracuse.

NdNation is practically unreadable at this point. I didn't watch Gameday, but heard about what Herbstreit said. It's shocking. We are Michigan State and Boston College and Cal and Oklahoma State. ND is not Ohio State or Florida or USC or Texas any more. I don't think competing for a national championship at ND is out of the question, but I have to admit that 15 years is a long time frame of mediocrity. Yet somehow people on NDNation still think that Stoops or Mack Brown or Saban are going to just walk away and come to ND. It's laughable.

Lastly, I couldn't be more excited about this ND hoops season. Living in ACC country, the Big East gets NO respect down here. And I practically get laughed out of the room when I tell people that ND is ranked 9th in the country. Harangody looks better than ever and I can not wait to see him in action against Maui.

Jimmy said...

I haven't read anything on the NDNation boards, so I'm not grinding any axes that have been sharpened there. I just know what I saw at the end of the game.

The excuse that Charlie will learn from these games has been used too much. That's a load of BS. He's been involved with football for too long to still be "learning" as a head coach when it comes to how momentum works in a game.

When you put the 2nd string in, the negatives outweigh the positives, especially against an opponent like Navy - who will never show an ounce of quit. The good thing is your backups get some valuable reps. The negative impact I see in two parts. First, there's an unconscious letdown on your team knowing the "scrubs" are in. Charlie needs to keep the edge alive with the 2nd string and stick to the same offensive gameplan as the rest of the game. 20 points is hardly too much to get conservative. Hell, look at what Florida, USC, Texas, Oklahoma, and Penn State do week in and week out. 40 is cause to call off the dogs, not 20. An inexcusable error in judgment on Charlie's part that he shouldn't have to "learn the hard way."

The second ill effect is it motivates your opponent, especially a team like Navy, to make you pay for putting in the 2nd unit. Navy's still trying to score and win, as right they should - they were only down 3 scores with plenty of time. Charlie thinks he's doing the noble thing by not rubbing the victory in on Navy. I think it does the opposite. If we win by 20 or by 40, the Navy players will be upset, but know that they lost to a superior team. When you say that we don't need to prove anything more when there's half of a quarter to play, it insults the players and what they're working towards.

Looking at that game in a microscope and not taking the other factors and influences into consideration, it is a fundamental flaw as a coach to put your team in the position to lose in the waning seconds of the game. These instances have been multiplying for Weis, which is why the writing is on the wall for the potential success of the program. Nothing is happening under Weis' watch. Charles is NOT in Charge.

Mike said...

I vehemently disagree with even the slightest notion that Notre Dame should strive for anything less than national championships. As acknowledged in the original post, every traditional power goes through an extended down cycle before reaching the top again: Alabama (1993-2007), USC (1989-2002), Oklahoma (1988-99).

While I don't agree with some of the unrealistic coaching suggestions that are being posted on NDNation, I do believe that Notre Dame alums should never accept anything less than absolute greatness. I also agree that the current administration thrives upon "stripmining" Notre Dame's tradition into a means of generating revenue to support other aims of the University.

Notre Dame is defined by football and the alumni are right to expect greatness on an annual basis. While we may not always reach that standard, it is important to keep that benchmark as a goal. Nothing less than the best should be tolerated and, although the administration is probably sick of reading my letters, I will not stop writing them until Notre Dame is restored to its rightful place atop college football.