December 03, 2008

Coach Stays

Some thoughts on the latest news from ND football:

7) While I personally would have preferred to part ways with Weis after this season, I can’t say that I am surprised at all that a decision was made to bring Weis back next year. What indication did Swarbrick give at any point that he planned to make a coaching change?? He publicly defended Weis during the Navy game after that horrific performance at Boston College, and he said heading into the USC game that he intended to sit down with Weis after the season. And yet somehow internet message board posters interpreted that to mean that the “silence is deafening” and a bunch of other nonsense. The people on NDNation seemed to believe that Swarbrick was conducting some sort of super secret coaching search prior to his scheduled meeting with Weis. Other than blind hope, where do people come up with this stuff?? If anything, the silence from Swarbrick immediately after the season was a strong indication that Weis was coming back next year. If he was going to get fired, why not announce it the day after the USC game?? What school has ever waited two weeks before announcing that their coach is fired??

Swarbrick has been the AD at Notre Dame for 5 months. When he got hired to be the AD at ND, he most likely assumed that his biggest tasks would be to oversee the renovation of the JACC, be the lead negotiator on the BCS deal and a possible new Notre Dame tv network, and figuring out ways to raise cash for the school. He's not a football guy at all. What credentials does Swarbrick have to identify a football coach?? He has zero football background. I would bet that everyone reading this blog knows more football than Swarbrick. He wasn't in any position to make a critical evaluation of the head football coach. ND could have gone out and found an AD who knows sports and has experience in making these types of coaching evaluations, but they went in a different direction and hired a guy who specializes in contract law and business negotiations. If there was ever any doubt about where the priorities of the priests running ND are, that is your answer.

6) This decision may also be a timing thing. Perhaps Swarbrick just thought that a change this year was bad timing, and he wanted to wait a year to see if some things fall into our lap. That actually makes sense to me. We've had bad luck on timing in past coaching searches, so maybe Swarbrick just needs another year to see how the team plays and to see if any big coaching moves open up a path for a big name to come to ND. What if Urban Meyer goes to the NFL or something, fails, and wants to come back to college?? Plus, maybe Brian Kelly goes 11-1 next year and wins a BCS bowl over a big time team and becomes an obvious "tier 1" candidate. A lot can change in the next year. Let's be honest, half the ND fanbase would have freaked out if we had announced Chris Peterson as the new ND head coach next week.

At the end of the day, one more year to see what Weis can do isn't going to kill the program. He's still recruiting well. If he stinks again, he's probably done. By then, we’ll have another whole year of data to judge the young coaches and see if any of the big names get restless. Guys like Brian Kelly and Chris Peterson will still be around next year for us to look at. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to see if Brian Kelly can continue to win at UC. If he wins big again next year, ND fans might feel like he is a safer bet than he is right now.

And if Weis is great next year, then it was worth it to keep him around.

5) Since it appears that the buyout was a prohibitive factor for firing Weis this year, isn’t the buyout going to be a potential problem again next year if we have another disappointing season?? If the buyout is $20 million this year, isn’t it still going to be $17 or so million next year?? At some point, we are going to be in the unfortunate position of ponying up some serious cash to dump Weis.

This buyout thing is remarkable to me. We handed Weis a GUARANTEED $30 million with no out clause after a half season of football. How is that even possible?? I swear, ND burns through money like no one else.

4) What is the over/under going to be on wins next year now that Weis is coming back?? I’d probably put it in the 7.5-8 range.

S12 @ Michigan
S26 @ Purdue
O31 Washington St. (SA)
N14 @ Pittsburgh
N28 @ Stanford

On paper, that schedule looks easy, but is there a lock win on there other than Navy and maybe Wazzou considering how poorly we played down the stretch??

Nevada – They were 7-5 this year, but they put up over 500 yards of offense a game. Sounds like most of their team will be back next year. Could be a scary game in the opener

Michigan – Tough to really say what they will look like next year, but I would hazard a guess that they will be better. Perhaps much better. Still have the QB issues going into next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a true freshmen QB (either Forcier or Beaver) is starting against us. Rich Rodriguez is a good coach though, so I expect them to be better. Nothing is ever easy in the Big House.

Michigan State – No Javon Ringer next year, but Dantonio is a good coach who has created a winning environment in East Lansing.

Purdue – No Painter or Sheets or Orton plus a new coach. Purdue will be one of the 2-3 worst teams in the Big 10 next year.

Washington – Another school that will be tough to get a read on. How long will it take for them to recover from the malaise of the Willingham era?? We’ll probably have to keep an eye on who they bring as a head coach for next year. If they hire a Mike Leach type coach, they could become a dangerous team overnight.

USC – I know it’s a home game, but we are light years away from USC as a football program. USC playing Notre Dame is not that much different than USC going to play teams like Arizona and Stanford these days.

BC – This game is coming after the USC game, BC is always fired up to play ND, and they have spanked us the last two years. Not a whole lot else that needs to be said. I’m counting BC as a likely loss until proven otherwise.

Washington St – This team will be the Syracuse of 2009. An atrocious team that we have no business losing to.

Navy – Gimme game

Pitt – Sounds like LeSean McCoy is coming back, which instantly makes them a pretty tough team. We also probably will not have the luxury of playing them without Bill Stoll next year. Most of their team is back next year, so I expect them to be ranked when we play them.

Connecticut – There is absolutely no reason we should lose to UConn at home, but they will probably treat this game like the Super Bowl. We better be ready to go.

Stanford – Harbaugh has not turned the corner with this program yet, but I get the impression that they are close. I’m predicting 8 wins for the Cardinal next year.

It’s certainly not a tough schedule, but there is one heavyweight (USC), 4-5 toss ups (Michigan, MSU, BC, Pitt), 4-5 potentially feisty underdogs (Nevada, Washington, Connecticut, Stanford), and 3 likely gimmes (Purdue, Washington St, Navy). I could see ND surging to 10 wins, but I could very easily see 8 wins or even 6 again.

3) What type of record are ND fans looking for?? 9 wins? 10? BCS game?? If Weis goes 8-4 next year, is ND going to fire him?? I can’t see it. I honestly don’t think he’s in any real danger of getting fired even after next year unless he goes 6-6 again. ND has committed $30 million to this guy. He is likely going to be around longer than next year as long as he shows improvement.

I will likely go to a bunch of games next year and talk myself into the Irish being better next year, but I have to say that I am very apathetic about this program at the moment. It's hard to get excited about Charlie Weis now that we have seen what his teams have done the last two years. ND is the most underachieving program in the country at the moment, and it's obvious to anyone who watches this team on a regular basis. That fact is incredibly frustrating.

Stay tuned to WEISND throughout the offseason for more thoughts on the upcoming season and what Charlie Weis needs to do to get this program back on track.

2) Speaking of coaching changes, I am a fan of what Tennessee did with the Lane Kiffin hire. There’s some risk of course considering his age and lack of head coaching experience, but look at his pedigree. He was the offensive coordinator at USC at the age of 30, he’s got football in his bloodlines, learned under Pete Carroll how to run a program, and he actually did some nice things with the Raiders in spite of the complete incompetence of that organization. It appears that he has hired a good staff with Ed Orgeron likely coming on board and possibly Kiffin’s dad, Monte Kiffin.

Phil Fulmer had a successful career at UT, but the guy was running the program into the ground the last few years. Tennessee needed to find a Bruce Pearl type figure who could get out there and sell the program nationally. Kiffin has the energy and connections to do that. I’d rather take a chance on a Lane Kiffin than hire some retread coach. He may be a bust, but he may end up becoming the next Bob Stoops. At least he has a high ceiling. Might as well roll the dice.

As great as the SEC has been the last few years, things are always cyclical in college football. Florida and Bama appear to be poised to dominate that conference as long as their coaches are there, but there is a lot of room to move in the rest of that conference. LSU may have already peaked as a program (more on that later), Auburn is declining, Spurrier might be retiring from South Carolina, and Georgia had a disappointing year. If Kiffin can put some life into that Tennessee offense over the next few years, he could quickly move them up towards the top of the SEC. And if Urban Meyer jumps ship at some point, the SEC East could be wide open.

Tennessee might be down now, but they have a brand name and tradition. It is going to take a lot of work for Kiffin to recruit and rebuild that program, but it can be done. Good hire.

1) Finally, I know I mentioned it last week, but I cannot believe that Oklahoma is getting a free pass to the title game in spite of their history of choking in big bowl games. I watched a good chunk of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game last weekend, and I just don’t see it with this Oklahoma team. No one is playing any defense in the Big 12!!! Bradford goes back to pass and has 3 wide open receivers to choose from. Does anyone really think he’d be able to do that against Florida or USC?? Those teams would punch OU in the mouth right out of the chute, and they would fold just like they have in other big bowl games. I would bet any amount of money that USC would beat Oklahoma on a neutral field. How are the Trojans any less qualified to play in the title game than OU?? They both have lost one game. OU might have a better loss this year, but USC has always proven that they are the best big game program in the country. That should count for something.

I don’t know what is going on in the Big 12 these days, but the defenses in that league are atrocious. Bad tackling, very soft, and completely overmatched by the offensive firepower. Maybe these Big 12 teams just put their best athletes on offense or something.

I cannot wait to bet against Oklahoma in the title game. I think they are a good team, but I have a feeling that they are about to get exposed.

No comments: