Thursday, February 24, 2005

One last note on Tyrone Willingham | by Michael

Today news is spilling out of Seattle that Tyrone Willingham has completed his staff by hiring former ND linebackers coach Bob Simmons.

To those few ND fans or many ND haters who are still harboring some resentment that Willingham was fired, this hire represents precisely two aspects of why Willingham failed.

First, Bob Simmons has never coached special teams before. He's been a head coach, a defensive coordinator and a linebackers' coach, but if you peruse his bio once Washington releases it on their official website, I'm pretty certain that he's never been a special teams coach. This is a bad hire. Willingham made the same mistake in 2002, after he took over at Notre Dame. Phil Zacharias had coached special teams at Stanford, and he had initially made the move to South Bend, but he then took an assistant coaching position with the Baltimore Ravens. Who did Willingham then hire to coach special teams? No one, he simply tapped current RBs coach Buzz Preston to handle the special teams chores. It's noteworthy that Preston hadn't coached special teams in nearly 10 years, and when he had coached them (for Hawaii), he was only responsible for half of them (either the offensive (return/kicking) or defensive (blocks/coverage) side, I can't remember precisely). If Buzz Preston were currently employed, I'd be able to look up his bio online. Of course, his poor special teams units at Notre Dame were one of the reasons why Willingham was fired.

And that leads me to my second point. It appears that special teams are not that important to Willingham. If they were, his units would have a history of strong performances; whether it's at Stanford or Notre Dame, the results clearly suggest otherwise. If they were, Willingham would have a history of emphasizing special teams with his hires. And as we've seen now, both in 2002 and in 2005, he doesn't. It's not rocket science.

Bad coaching hires/decisions and special teams were two of the biggest problems that Willingham had at Notre Dame, and they ultimately led to his downfall. Unfortunately for Willingham, it doesn't appear that he's learned from his mistakes.