November 11, 2008

Brian Kelly..... clap.....clap........clapclapclap

Some thoughts from yet another devastating ND loss.

12. While I am with Matt in that I am not going to jump up and down over and over demanding that Charlie Weis is fired after this year, I do think it’s time for ND to seriously start contemplating the possibility of replacing Charlie Weis and also start evaluating/contemplating some names as possible replacements. Charlie Weis is an ND alum who has tried to rebuild this program, but he’s not getting it done. His teams are getting steadily worse, and now we are looking at a second straight season without even one half-decent win to hang our hat on. A sign of a well-coached team is that the team continues to get better as the season goes along, but the reality for Charlie Weis is that we’ve been blown out by Air Force and Boston College in back to back seasons in November. A blowout loss to a mediocre BC team can't happen. It just can't. It wasn't acceptable when Ty lost at home to BC in 2004, and the same applies now.

I don’t think keeping Charlie for 2009 causes great damage to the ND program (like it would have if we had brought Ty Willingham back in 2005), but I do think that there are many other coaches who would do a better job with this roster in 2009 than Charlie Weis. I can certainly understand why there are ND fans who want to give him a 5th year to have one last chance to win with his guys, but I personally think we’ve seen enough to know what to expect in 2009 out of a Charlie Weis-coached team. Inconsistent line play, a soft mentality, no identity on offense other than the “Chaos Mode” when our backs are against the wall, mediocre defense and special teams, and a tendency to come out flat at the worst possible times. A good head coach with a reputation for rebuilding programs could come in here, toughen us up, and build a core identity that fits with our young talent.

I really wanted to see Charlie succeed at ND, but Saturday was a death blow to his credibility as the leader of this program. I’m assuming that he will probably be back in 2009, but I think I’ve reached the point where I’d rather pull the plug.

11. Whether or not you think Charlie Weis is the man for the ND job, the “we need to fire all of the assistants” is a bunch of nonsense. Cmon, does anyone really think that the assistants are the primary problem with this program?? In football, everything starts from the top down. The head coach sets the tone for the program and his philosophy for how he wants to play football and win games. If the head coach is determined to have a physical team, those orders are going to feed down to the o-line coach. O-line coaches are just taking orders from up top. The reason Alabama’s o-line is so good this year isn’t because of their o-line coach. It’s because of Nick Saban’s philosophy for how to build your team up front.

This notion that we can fire Latina and bring in some o-line guru to right the ship is laughable. Latina is just taking orders from Weis. We will never have a good offensive line if Charlie Weis spends his 20 hours a week of practice working on installing 14 new offenses and packages. Our lineman should be spending that time pounding each other into the ground.

Plus, what does it say about Weis when he PICKED those guys to be on his staff?? If Latina and Powlus and Haywood are so incompetent, then why have those guys been on the staff the last few years in the first place??

Finally, does anyone really believe that the top assistants out there (special teams, o-line, d-line, Rbs, etc) are going to be clamoring to sign up for the sinking ship of Notre Dame football that is the Charlie Weis era?? Why would the Alabama o-line coach leave Bama to take the ND job when Charlie might not even be around in a year?? Unless Charlie Weis is planning to go completely hands-off and turn over his offense to a coach who knows how to develop a physical team, why would any great offensive coach sign up for this job knowing that they will probably be a lackey for Weis??

Blaming the assistants is bush league. The problems with ND start and end with Charlie Weis. Weis has already started throwing his assistants under the bus with this stunt to take over playcalling for Navy. Wow, bold move. Taking over the playcalling for Navy. That’s gutsy.

Mike Haywood is just as much of an ND alum as Charlie Weis. He deserves better than this nonsense. He never even had a chance to create an offense in his vision. Everything we do is still the Charlie Weis offense.

10. Now that there is some talk of a new coach at ND, the first thing I wanted to address was this absolutely hilarious notion that our coaching search should start with the following names.

1) Nick Saban
2) Bob Stoops
3) Jon Gruden
4) Mark Richt

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH. That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read. Are we really doing this again?? Does anyone really believe that any of those guys are realistic candidates for the ND job?? Seriously? Did ND fans not learn ANYTHING from the 2001 and 2004 coaching searches?

Why would Bob Stoops leave Oklahoma?? Oklahoma is already a better job than the ND job. He makes a ton of money, he has lifetime job security, he has already reached the pinnacle, and he knows he can win 10+ games every year at OU and have a realistic chance to win a national title.

Nick Saban is not leaving Alabama for god sakes. The only reason he left LSU is because he got the itch for the NFL. It took him less than two years to realize that the NFL wasn’t for him. Now that he has landed back on his feet at one of the elite jobs in college football, I think he’ll be there for the rest of his career. Why would he leave?? He is making $4 million a year at Alabama and is just getting started there. Going to ND would be a step down for him.

Do ND fans realize that those guys are rumored for EVERY college job that opens and yet there is a 0.0% chance that any of them are leaving?? Bob Stoops is a freaking pipe dream. He’s not leaving, and every minute that we daydream about him is a minute wasted as we try to identify the best candidate for the ND job. Spending all our time pining for Bob Stoops is how you end up with Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis as your head coach.

We shouldn’t be looking for Bob Stoops or Nick Saban or Mark Richt. We should be looking for the NEXT Bob Stoops and Nick Saban and Mark Richt. Bob Stoops was an assistant at Florida before taking that OU job. Mark Richt was an assistant at Florida State before taking the Georgia job. Nick Saban was the head coach at Toledo before moving up the ladder to Michigan State. The athletic directors at those schools discovered those guys before they became big name coaches, did their homework, evaluated them properly, and came to the conclusion that they would be great head coaches. That is what ND should be doing. Going around and getting rejected by Bob Stoops and Nick Saban is not conducting a head coaching search. Those guys are not candidates for the job, and they never will be.

9. So who should we looking at??

As far as I’m concerned, the guy who should be at the top of the list is one name and one name only:

BRIAN KELLY.

Maybe there are other potentially great coaches out there and I would want ND to look into everyone, but my list would start with Brian Kelly. We should be researching him, interviewing everyone he coached at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati, interviewing all his assistants to find out about him, watching film of his teams, and learning everything there is to know about him.

What I can promise to you ND fans that we will find out is that Brian Kelly is one of the very best head coaches in all of college football. The elite of the elite. I’ll start with his record. Kelly started as the head coach of Grand Valley State at the age of 30 and won 6 conference titles and 2 Division II national championships in thirteen years. Then he lands at Central Michigan where CMU had posted the following records in the 5 years before:

3-9
4-8
3-8
3-9
4-7

Three years into the job, Brian Kelly wins the MAC. Not surprisingly, he gets some interest from larger schools and ends up at Cincinnati. I am telling you from firsthand knowledge that Brian Kelly has done an absolutely remarkable job at UC. He literally went EVERYWHERE in that first offseason to drum up interest in the program – radio shows, tv interviews, pep rallies, local events. He hadn’t even coached a game, and he was already a borderline legend at UC. The guy is enthusiastic, he’s intense, he’s passionate, and players absolutely love playing for him. And the results on the field have been even better than anyone could have anticipated. 10-3 in his first year, and now he has UC in position to win the Big East in his second year. And he’s doing it with a 4th string quarterback and a roster put together by bubble gum and shoestring.

The thought of UC football in a BCS bowl was completely unfathomable to me until this year. This is a UC program that would be lucky to draw 15,000 fans to a game and regularly lost to MAC teams. They are LUCKY to get 2 star recruits. The goal for UC football for most of the last 20 years was to eventually become as good as Miami (Ohio). Now they are going to places like West Virginia and winning.

While Mark Dantonio deserves credit for stabilizing the UC program after the Rick Minter era, Brian Kelly has taken the program to an entirely different level. I like Mark Dantonio a lot. He is doing a great job at MSU and I’ve been a fan of his going all the way back to his days as the Ohio State defensive coordinator under Tressel when they won the national title. I was in law school at UC when Dantonio was there, and he did a nice job building a foundation. Dantonio is a good coach no doubt about it, and he’d be an upgrade over Charlie Weis. But if you go and ask ANY UC fan to make a comparison between Dantonio and Brian Kelly, I can guarantee what answer you are getting. Dantonio was good, but Kelly is spectacular. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard a caller on a Cincy sports radio show asking for Brian Kelly to take the Bengals job. The same goes for UC players. There were a ton of quotes in Kelly’s first season from players on the team directly comparing Dantonio and Kelly, and every one of them basically went on the record and said UC was better-coached under Kelly.

Maybe I’ll be completely wrong about Brian Kelly and he’ll fall flat on his face at Tennessee or Clemson or wherever he ends up. But I personally think he has an Urban Meyer type ceiling, and his track record for building programs and taking them to heights not previously experienced is very Meyer-esque. Kelly’s teams play in one speed: FAST. Everyone is flying to the ball, they are going hard for 60 minutes, and they are always attacking. His offenses are exciting, and his defenses really get after it. It is a blast to watch, and I think he would do incredible things if he had an offseason to work with Clausen and Floyd and all our young talent. Brian Kelly would win with this ND roster. BIG. Mark that down.

And trust me when I say that ND fans will absolutely LOVE Brian Kelly. I know ND fans, and ND would love this guy. He’s fiery, but he’s also very positive. He’s a Catholic who would probably crawl through glass to take the ND job. And it would be a nice change to get a classy guy as head coach instead of the arrogant, “I'm going to motivate through my press conferences” crap that we’ve had with Weis.

People talk about Kelly being inexperienced, which is complete nonsense. He’s been a head coach for like 18 years. Yes, most of that was at GVSU, but it’s not like other D-IAA coaches haven’t had success. He’s still only 47 years old, but he’s not inexperienced as a head coach at all. The inexperience card is a complete myth that needed to be debunked.

If ND wants to keep Weis, that’s their call. But I think they should at least be doing their homework on prospective head coaches who have the potential to be great. And I think Brian Kelly could be that guy. If we putz around and decide to make a move in a year or two, Brian Kelly might already be doing big things at Clemson or somewhere. By then, it will be too late to get him to South Bend.

8. The other guy who I have to say I am intrigued by is Will Muschamp. I know this thought might cause ND fans to temporarily pass out before shouting me down with the “ND better not hire a head coach who has no head coaching experience” mantra that you see on the message boards, but I don’t agree with that policy as a hard rule. What if Oklahoma had that same policy when they were looking for a replacement for John Blake?? What if Georgia had not bothered to interview Mark Richt to replace Jim Donnan because he had never been a head coach before?? Is it really a smart policy to rule out promising head coaches?? How do we know Will Muschamp isn’t going to be a phenomenal head coach?? The guy learned at the knee of Nicholas Saban. He is widely considered to be the best young d-coordinator in the game. He’s young, intense, passionate about the game, and players love playing for him. And that’s a guy that we don’t want to interview?? Seriously?? Just because we happened to make two bad hires in Charlie Weis and Bob Davie, two guys who wouldn’t have succeeded as head coaches at any major college school??

I’m of the belief that you either have it or you don’t. Experience is overrated. Hiring a guy because he’s experienced is how you end up with Ty Willingham as your head coach. If a guy learned at the knee of a great coach and has the qualities that make a great coach (leadership ability, philosophy for how he wants to build teams and a program, and ability to motivate college players), he can be successful. While I would prefer a coach who has been a head coach SOMEWHERE even if it’s a MAC school or Mountain West or whatever, I’m more interested in his personal qualities than his experience level. Urban Meyer isn’t winning big at Florida because of his experience at Bowling Green and Utah. He’s winning at Florida because he’s Urban freaking Meyer. He knows how to motivate players and get his teams to play with relentless football, and he’s had those abilities since he was an assistant under Lou Holtz at Notre Dame.

Maybe ND would make a determination that Muschamp wasn't a good fit or that he wasn't going to be a great head coach, but I think we should at least we be talking to him and finding out what he's all about. If he ends up at Clemson and wins, he'll be the Mark Richt type guy who will be turning us down in five years.

7. One idea that has been thrown out there that I actually think might be a decent idea is to hire Lou Holtz as an interim coach for the month of December and the bowl game while we sort through coaches and try to identify the best candidate. I actually love that idea, and I think Lou would be a great transition person for ND to right the ship and create a tougher mentality with this team. You’re telling me that Lou wouldn’t have this team running for 200 yards a game and getting the most out of the talent on this roster?? Of course he would. Lou Holtz knows tough football, and that is what this team needs. He could come in here and light a fire under some guys until the next coach was in place. And if Swarbrick isn’t ready for a coaching search, then a year of Lou Holtz would be just fine with me. He’s 71 years old, but Lou Holtz knows football. He would put his heart and soul into that one year of ND football, and ND’s team and program would be better for it.

6. One of the interesting things that Mike pointed out that I completely agree with is that Weis has proven that top recruits are still interested in playing at ND. While I think Weis has had a lot to do with it, I think his role in the process of getting these kids to ND is a bit exaggerated. I’ll be the first to admit that the Willingham era made me question whether ND could still recruit great talent, but it’s easy to forget that Bob Davie was regularly bringing in top 10 classes to ND before Willingham. ND is still ND. We don’t have quite the overwhelming edge that we used to in recruiting, but we still have a lot of advantages. National tv, national exposure, a promise that you will get a degree from a good school, and a chance to play in big games and big bowl games. If ND comes calling, people will listen. Heck, even Ty was able to get good players when he actually put out the effort. Recruiting to ND is not as hard as it has been made out to be.

Believe me, I am grateful that Weis has restored ND’s recruiting reputation, but I think there are a lot of coaches out there who could recruit to ND. Recruiting alone is not the only requirement for this job. Great coaches can recruit and win.

The quote from Jeff Jagodzinski about his pregame speech to his players and not one of them raised their hands when he asked them if they had been recruited by ND was absolutely SHOCKING to me. I did not know that, but it isn’t surprising. ND has significant talent advantages over schools like BC.

5. Speaking of BC, I wanted to chime in with a few thoughts about my trip to BC for the game on Saturday. While the trip overall to Boston was a great time (Boston has to be right up there among the best cities to visit in the country), I don’t really have a whole lot of great things to say about the Boston College game experience. The campus itself is very nice in a really nice part of Boston, but the football scene is an abomination. The tailgating scene is comically bad with the time restrictions and police hassling you everywhere you go. We had a great time at the tailgate we were at, but BC goes out of their way to put a damper on the potential fun before a great football Saturday.

The stadium itself and the stadium atmosphere is the bigger problem though. Everything about Alumni Stadium screams mid-major. It’s tiny, it has no character or interesting features, and it’s probably the least intimidating stadium structure I’ve ever been in. There are better high school football stadiums in Ohio than Alumni Stadium. Not all small stadiums are a joke either. Nippert Stadium on Cincinnati’s campus is about the same size but is a great place to watch a game. While there isn’t a bad seat in the house at Alumni Stadium, the house itself is so third rate that it really takes away from the experience. The place is absolutely lifeless.

The other problem is the stadium atmosphere is just awful. The student section gets into the game, but the rest of the stadium was practically silent. Very little noise outside of the student section. As an ND fan, it’s hard to get into a game on the road when the home crowd isn’t even into the game. And to make matters worse, the band is piped in through the loudspeakers the entire game. Why are they piping in their band’s music through the speakers?? What is the point of that?? To make the stadium more loud?? If anything, it makes the atmosphere worse because the band drowns everyone out. It’s hard to get into the game when the speakers are blaring BC’s rendition of “He Hate Me” right into your ear the entire game. Not good.

And I don’t want this post to come off as sour grapes. It doesn’t have anything to do with the result of the game or our losing streak to BC. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the venues at Michigan State and UNC this year even though the Irish lost, so the loss has nothing to do with it. I respect BC’s program, and I wish we had half the heart and discipline that they do. They’ve beaten us 6 times in a row, and they currently have a better football program than we do. I just think their atmosphere is small time, and that made Saturday’s loss even worse.

Will I go back to an ND-BC game at BC?? Absolutely. Any chance to hang out in Boston and see the Irish play that same weekend is a great trip if you ask me, but it’s certainly not because I want to get back inside that stadium again.

4. As we have noted multiple times on this blog, the biggest problem with a potential coaching search is that we have an athletic director and an administration that don’t know what they are doing. None of these guys have the first clue how to identify a great football coach, and it has been proven at this point. The people in charge of the last few coaching searches have gotten caught up in “magic” and “he gets it” and image, even though none of those things have anything to do with football.

I want the next coaching search to be about one thing and one thing only: FOOTBALL. The questions I want the people in charge to be asking include the following:

Is the guy a leader?
Do his players love playing for him?
Is he a motivator?
What is his philosophy for how to build a championship football team?
Does he want to win championships or just coach football?
Does he hate losing to the point of obsession (something that would have eliminated Ty Willingham immediately)?

I would start with those and then start looking at his record and references and all that. The next coach at ND better be a football leader. Weis is not a leader. He knows football without a doubt, but he’s not a leader. Weis talks to the media like he’s a leader, but that act has worn thin and players are tuning him out. Willingham’s problem was that he didn’t care. Davie’s problem was poor leadership and that he didn’t have a philosophy or a plan of action to make ND into a consistent top notch team. He could never figure out an offense or get his players to buy into what he wanted to do, and players didn't buy into his act.

In many ways, the ND situation reminds me of the Bengals’ front office. The administration may want to win, but they want to do it on their terms and remain in control of the big decisions instead of turning it over to professionals. Priests and academic types can’t be selecting the next head football coach at Notre Dame. They don’t know football. They don’t know the coaches and football people who can tell them the real info that they need to make a hire. By all accounts, Swarbrick is just a lackey who is going to follow along with whatever the top dogs in the administration want him to do. If ND was really committed to build a championship football program, they would be bringing in a big time AD who knows sports up and down and has the contacts and knowledge to make the next great hire. Somebody like the AD at Oklahoma or even the AD at a school like Xavier. We don’t have that type of AD in place right now.

ND should start researching the top young coaches in the country NOW and make a decision on who the best coach would be at ND. I don’t care who it is. Tedford, Kelly, whoever. We need to find that guy and go after him. Forget Saban and Stoops. Go get the NEXT Stoops and the NEXT Saban. Those guys started from nowhere too.

3. I don’t want this post to be construed as me giving up all hope for Notre Dame football even if Charlie Weis comes back and serves out his contract. I want nothing more than for Charlie to win the next two games decisively, play tough at USC, and win a bowl game. If we do that and finish 8-5 and he comes back for 2009, I’ll gladly put aside my differences with how he’s running this program and hope that he has a great year in 2009. I don’t see it happening, but I still want to see Charlie turn it around and make this program great. He has worked hard to bring some stability to the program, and I am appreciative of that. I don’t think it does any damage to the program if he comes back for another year, so I’m not going to be devastated if he is back next year. I will still go to as many games (including bowl games) as I can and cheer like crazy and hope that the Irish pull through and become great again under Charlie Weis. However, I think ND deserves a top 10 coach, and there is no way Charlie Weis is one of the 10 best coaches in America. I don’t even think he’s one of the top 50 coaches in the country.

And if the Irish lose to Navy next week (and although unlikely, I don’t think it can be ruled out at this point), I’d like to hear the following out of the ND student section when we take the field against Syracuse:

Brian Kelly.........clap clap clapclapclap.........Brian Kelly..........clap clap clapclapclap

2. Finally, this post would be remiss if I didn't mention the man who orchestrated this entire mess: Kevin White. In retrospect, I can't even get over that we actually did this. We gave a 10 year extension with a $14 million buyout to a guy who had coached half of one season in college football. Absolutely incredible. Was Kevin White just so caught up in the hype that he couldn't control himself?? Where is the leadership??? Where is the common sense to take a step back and evalute the potential consequences of what he was proposing??? He just handed Weis a lottery ticket with no strings attached. I don't even know what to say. Of all of White's disastrous moves at ND (and the list is too long to go through at this point), this one might actually take the cake.

Now, even if we actually wanted to get rid of Weis, it has become so financially punitive that it's almost impossible to do. We have no leverage with Weis. He's in year two of a 10 year deal. We'd be paying him off for a decade if we fired him now.

1. WEISND week 11 poll

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

Can’t believe I’m saying this, but the BCS is actually working this year. We are poised to have a championship game with the SEC champion and the Big 12 champion squaring off. The two strongest conferences in football. Never thought it would work out that way, but Penn State’s elimination has set up a path for a great championship game. The Florida-Alabama winner is a lock, and the Big 12 is a little messy. Obviously Texas Tech is in if they go undefeated. But if OU beats Texas Tech, we’d have a bit of a log jam. How would I resolve that?? Give me Texas out of the Big 12. They barely lost to Texas Tech on the road but decisively beat OU on a neutral field. Assuming that Texas Tech loses, I’d go with Texas as my Big 12 representative for being the best and most consistent team.

5 comments:

Adam said...

Awesome. This is what I've been saying all year. If Charlie wins 2 out of the next 3, and doesn't get embarrassed then he'll be back. But if he doesn't win 9 next year, I say fire him. I live in Cincy and Brian Kelly is great. His teams are exciting and he is an adrenaline boost to football programs. Start the chant for Kelly as ND coach.

Stan said...

This Syracuse game is going to be pretty exciting with chants for a new coach and the crowd rushing the field. I might have to set my DVR.

k said...

DR. LOU!!! Put me in that camp immediately. I'm buyin whatever the good doctor prescribes.

Reena said...

Brian Kelly belongs at Cincinnati, and we love him dearly. He belongs with the Bearcats, not the Irish.

Anonymous said...

Man...very prescient of you...you were calling this LAST year...and it's looking like Kelly is going to be the guy...hats off!