Back when Charlie accepted the head coaching job at Notre Dame, NDNation was fretting and beaten down by years of incompetence and placation (aka Davingham.) The operative phrase for fans was “Hold Me, I’m Irish” (used because ND fans were disappointed so often that they expected
things to go wrong.)
When Charlie arrived there was a chasm of leadership and direction. Notre Dame needed a coach who wasn’t five shades of gray, wasn't willing to play the mediocrity game and wouldn't embrace lowered standards. Notre Dame needed black and white leadership -- someone who was ready to stake a flag in the ground and defend it at all costs. Someone who believed in the University and the program.
IMO, Charlie sensed this. He’s a leader by nature, but the Notre Dame job is so much bigger than leadership -- so there was a gap between what was needed and what a normal coach could be expected to accomplish.
We had morale issues.
We had talent issues.
We had major PR issues.
Our offense was the joke of college football.
Our team was soft and didn’t believe.
We had perception issues at the High School level.
Notre Dame was a mess if insecurity and conflict. It became a giant media piñata with no one willing to stand up and risk something to take the stick away from the half-brains who were swinging wildly at Notre Dame’s reputation. Everyone in power simply watched. Hell, many times they were the ones swinging the sticks.
But Charlie was willing to set high expectations in his first season and it paid off with a remarkable opening run.
He never deferred the kick-off.
He seemingly always went for it on fourth down and short.
He played a high stakes pressure game on offense. He declared his belief in himself and his University.
Ugly or crass or arrogant, you can think what you will, but I believe that Notre Dame needed Charlie Weis at the time and truth be known… I really don’t think Charlie had any real clue of what exactly needed to be done, but he sensed the void and he knew it needed to be filled with direction. It really didn’t matter what that identity was, we needed something and someone to believe in. We were on the edge of an abyss -- one more bad recruiting year and we were done until 2010.
Notre Dame needed a turnaround specialist and Charlie stepped in. Now, it really didn’t matter if he felt
confident. There were moments in his press conference where you could tell he knew he was in over his head, but what was critical is that he acted
confident. And I know he was scared. When your breath is short and your speech is halting… you’re scared. And Charlie’s weak voice and shortened breath betrayed him in his first months of press conferences. But it was always tempered by his words and his conviction. He faked his way through it. Remember, Belichick never let him talk.
I was going to note it at the time, but I didn’t see the purpose.
Charlie needed to step up and “represent” – and in many ways needed to overstate his case to do so. He needed to be bold.
But now things are changing and Charlie has to change with his new role. Despite how bad things look this year, with this next incredibly talented recruiting class, Charlie will have laid a foundation for the next four years that any coach could win with.
This will be the last year of uncertainty. It sucks to watch these games, but it was ten times worse with Willingham knowing
it was never going to get better. Even though these are beatings, our problems are where we know we have a solution.
Clausen is a brilliant quarterback and a leader. The 'sucky' offensive line will become very good. They're simply what everyone knew they would be... young and inexperienced. What surprised me about Clausen is that he’s unselfish, tough and a natural leader on the field. He’s everything you were told he wasn’t by idiot sports writers trolling for attention.
I digress... my point is that the dynamic is different. Notre Dame doesn’t need Charlie to be brash now; it needs him to make smart, purposeful decisions. We don’t have to go for it on fourth down. We know he can run a prolific offense, so we don’t need him to take the ball if we win the toss to instill a new attitude.
He’s past that point.
As my cohort Kabong wrote, If our defense is bad, we should take the ball. And until our offense gets over its struggles we should defer if we win. We don’t need the Weis of 2005 to set a tone, we need a Weis who can take us to the championship.
The needs of his role have changed.
Now I differ in the opinion that while I think Weis has struggled at times calling this offense, there’s no disputing his offensive background. I believe Charlie covered up for his defense the last two years with conservatism. When he unleashed Quinn last year, Quinn and the offense looked spectacular, but Notre Dame also couldn’t afford turnovers and we didn’t make many. That was by plan.
I do think Charlie needs to tweak his thinking to the realities of college as I covered earlier, but I’m not worried about him as a play-caller and don't see him relinquishing playcalling -- nor would you want him to. That may be the case over time, but not after three games with a hacked OL, bad receivers and a new quarterback -- that doesn't invalidate two years of college performance and three superbowls. Everything
seems bad and open to question now. We need to keep rationale and separate the real from the imagined or feared.
I do agree that this year he tried to do too much with too little, but understand that it was in an effort to make some changes to his longstanding system... something many thought he was too arrogant to do.
If he hadn't changed and still failed the fans would be screaming that he's arrogant. The fact remains that we can't block anyone and until that changes, everythings going to be varying degrees of bad. Hopefully Charlie can simplify and rebuild.
Charlie was trying to make chicken salad out of ________ and instead ended up with the primary ingredient.
Everyone’s got a theory now, but we’re in the perfect storm and you can’t tell what is, or is not, a root cause. For example, last week the offense practiced playing ‘quicker’ – the result – snaps flying in the air. You fix one thing… and break another.
Until the storm settles, nothing will be readily apparent.
And while I agree we need to have hitting practices, I understand that Charlie's walking a tightrope there. You lose Laws in practice and there aren’t more than three wins on this season. At this point, it “might” be worth the tradeoff because there’s no where lower to go, but I’ve always felt he was protecting our paper thin depth. I assumed that was the reason here, but I don't know.
Can you even call it depth when no one’s any good?
So there seem like many obvious answers, but the only one I see is to fix our offensive line and get some receivers who get us some breathing room. It is clear that Charlie really needs great receivers to give him the margin of error he needs.
That’s it. Brown’s bringing in the cavalry on defense with next year’s recruiting class.
Looking into the future, recruiting, which has been our biggest concern, isn't an issue. We haven’t had three straight top ten classes since the early 90s. That’s how long it’s been and how far we’ve come. The table’s now set for a very good run. I do think Charlie really needs Michael Floyd. It may not feel like it, but the worst has passed (okay, except for SC.)
Charlie can safely ditch the bravado and just be a coach and a teacher, what everyone who’s worked for him previously universally regards him as. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be confident, it does mean he doesn't have to prove it for Notre Dame's sake anymore.
When he came to South Bend, Charlie needed to be big and he needed to be bold, it was important for Notre Dame for him to embrace that challenge, but now all he has to do is settle in and be a great coach.