by Dave Miller
November 08, 02009
Upsets occur all the time in college football. They just do. As we all know, they happen often in every sport. That’s why we continue to watch the games no matter how big the Vegas line is or how bad the mismatch looks on paper. Sports provide us with the possibility—each game, every sport—of David possibly upsetting Goliath.
In fact, one of the main reasons I love college football so much is because of the realistic possibility that a team’s national championship aspirations could expire on any given Saturday. It’s particularly enjoyable when a team’s undefeated season comes to an end in the cold November air.
What’s not enjoyable, however, is watching Charlie Weis’ Notre Dame football team consistently underachieve any given Saturday afternoon.
I can honestly say that I’ve never called for Weis’ job, no matter how badly the Irish have played or how hard the media, alumni and fans have been on him during his tenure in South Bend. But Saturday’s 23-21 loss to Navy really is inexcusable, no matter how good of a football coach Ken Niumatalolo is and no matter how well quarterback Ricky Dobbs runs the Naval Academy’s option attack.
This year’s loss is different than the one two years ago when the Midshipmen ended an NCAA-record 43-game losing streak to the Irish. While there’s no excuse for giving up 46 points, the game in 2007 went to three overtimes and the ND defense was still adjusting to Corwin Brown’s scheme (pre-Jon Tenuta). Plus, career backup Evan Sharpley was under center.
But for QB Jimmy Clausen to throw for 452 yards on Saturday and lose? Unacceptable.
I don’t care if Armando Allen couldn’t play because of injury. Being outrushed 348-60? At home? To Navy? What happened to the depth at running back? The top-ten recruiting classes? Why can freshmen step up for injured upperclassmen at smaller programs and be successful, yet we can't see it enough at ND?
I understand that Ohio State also struggled against the option attack of Navy in their season opener. But to be so dominated against an opponent you’re familiar with in a game that you needed to keep alive your BCS hopes? I don’t get it.
Again, upsets will happen—to the best of coaches. But consecutive games against Navy at home?
I can live with the BCS stinkers against Ohio State and LSU in Weis’ first two years because it was clear that ND couldn’t keep up with the speed of either team (yes, Ohio State once had speed). I also thought Weis did a great job of maximizing the talents of Tyrone Willingham’s recruits.
But after seeing the offense gel in their 4-1 start last year, with so many NFL prospects on the offensive side of the ball, and to finish 2-5 before a meaningless bowl game victory, one has to wonder if Weis is the right man for the job. With a less than daunting schedule and to be sitting at 6-3, this past Saturday in South Bend had to be the final straw for Weis and his staff.
I’ve never called for anyone’s job—including Matt Millen’s when he was in charge of the Detroit Lions. Fine, not until last season did I call for Millen’s head. Oh, and Terry Bevington’s when he managed the Chicago White Sox in the mid-90’s. But seriously, no one else. And I understand that Weis has a family and this is his career—but he also is paid millions of dollars to win at a university with its own television contract.
And the fact of the matter is, I don’t see the culture changing in South Bend. In fact, it could only get worse. What expectations can we have for a team that has underachieved under its current head coach?
Here is how Weis has fared in his ND career.
Notre Dame in the Charlie Weis regime:
2005: 9-2, lost to Ohio State in Fiesta Bowl
2006: 10-2, lost to LSU in Sugar Bowl
2007: 3-9, no bowl game *lost to Navy and Air Force back-to-back weeks
2008: 6-6—including loss to Syracuse (after starting 4-1), beat Hawaii in Hawaii Bowl
*combined 15 losses in ‘07-08 were most losses for any two-year span in ND history
2009: 6-3—including another loss to Navy, a loss to a bad Michigan team and a loss at home to a good but not great USC team
A career regular season record of 34-22 isn’t bad at all—if you’re at a school such as Iowa State, Minnesota or Connecticut. But this is Notre Dame, and Charlie Weis has a ten-year deal and between 30 and 40 million reasons why 34-22 isn’t good enough. Keep in mind that Bob Davie was let go in 2001 with a record of 35-25, and that Ty Willingham compiled a winning percentage of .583 when he was dismissed in 2004. Weis is no longer any different than his mediocre predecessors.
Jon Gruden may or may not be the answer, but I'd be willing to find out.
All I know is that I can’t wait until 2015, the final year of Weis' mega contract, to see whether or not he was the right hire.
I think I already know the answer.
Dave Miller is the Web Manager of the National Football Post and an unfortunate hopeless romantic. After receiving his Masters in Writing from DePaul University in Chicago, he realized that he would never be John Updike so he returned to a sports career. He enjoys coffee at any time of the day, CW teen dramas and has an appreciation for girls in boots. You can follow him on Twitter at Miller_Dave, where he constantly chronicles every moment of his mundane life.