Saturday, November 22, 2008

Karl Marx, Wrong Again | by Dylan

- History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.

Karl had it backwards. If he had been able to watch Notre Dame football for the past seven years, he would know that the latter precedes the former.

Before I start, I have some numbers for you to consider:

A. 2/107/33.9 D. 4/0/14

B. 41/108/209 E. 1

C. 24/110/18.3 F. 11
I'll get back to those numbers, but first I'd like to say that I like Charlie Weis. I think he's a good guy and I think he loves Notre Dame. I don't think he is incompetent, like Ty Willingham. I do not think he is an arsonist, like Bob Davie. I think it's awful that he has failed, and he has. I think it is tragic. Tragic that he could not save his alma mater from the farce that was the Willingham era. Tragic that a good man, with some real ability, was forced to discover the things that make him a poor choice for head coach in such a public forum. Tragic that he will be seen as just one more link in the chain of fools that has guided the program for the past dozen years.

Before the year started, I gave Charlie the benefit of the doubt, despite last year's inexcusable loss to Navy. Willingham left a huge hole in the roster, and the best Weis could have hoped for would have been a 6-6 record. I don't think it's arguable that he was blown up by the land mines planted by Willingham (much as the next coach at Washington will be over the next few years), and the year was basically a mulligan. But he made some truly awful decisions, and I viewed the 2007 season as an equal counterweight to the 2005 and 2006 seasons. I said at the time that Weis was starting from zero, that there was no evidence that he was a good coach, and that the 2008 season would tell us everything we would need to know. Now, it has.

I'll let the smart guys on this blog get into the nuts and the bolts of it, but this train has sailed. I think we all know it. All that remains is a fake punt, with SC up by 30 in the 4th quarter, next Saturday. That it is possible that, after four years, we are unable to line up against Syracuse or BC or Pittsburgh or San Diego State and get 2 yards is really all the confirmation you need. There is some basic football ability lacking in this (and every other) Weis team, and it is all because of poor coaching. The enduring image of the Weis era, in my opinion, will be that of an offensive lineman, standing, looking back at a running back or quarterback tackled three yards behind him. Looking like he's waiting for a bus.

It is 2004 again, and I want to stab myself in the eye. To Weis' credit, he is one hell of a recruiter, and the next coach will not have to worry about bare cupboards or waiting until "his guys" are in place. There should not be such a painful, prolonged struggle to reach basic and lasting competence. So what do we do? The uncomfortable answer to the question is that there really is no answer. Who's available? Who knows. There simply are no sure things, and Notre Dame, a pimply teenager right now, is going to have to lean in and try to make out with Miss America. The embarrassment potential is off the charts. But the checkbook has to be opened. If we've learned anything, it is that bad hires are every bit as expensive as good ones. Has any school paid more money to coaches over the past four years?

So all eyes will now drift to Jack Swarbrick who, having barely opened his office door, has found the whole place to be on fire. We will learn pretty quickly how much authority he's been given, I think. If I were him (assuming that Weis will not be fired until after the USC game, if at all), I would start taking some positions to rally the base and begin to set a new anchor for the program. The natives are extremely restless. Here are a couple of things he could do to forestall the uprising:
  • Immediately renegotiate all game contracts to designate that only neutral conference officials be used in any game in which Notre Dame plays. It's bleeding obvious, and today's game was just one more log on that fire. Taking it one step further, he should lead the charge in taking officiating away from the conferences altogether.
  • Send a letter to the NCAA demanding clarification of the "heel is not a part of the foot" rule, a rule which seems to favor the team that is not Notre Dame, as evidenced by the freakish occurrence of the scenario in consecutive weeks.
  • Demand that Notre Dame have some say (assuming it does not currently) in the selection of the announcers for NBC broadcasts. We don't need homers, but we could live without the glee provoked by Notre Dame's miscues evinced by the former Southern Cal quarterback and his figure-skating-devotee partner. We'd be better off with the actual Mitch Daniels and Bea Arthur. We should can their look-alikes.
This is low-hanging fruit, obviously, but I think Swarbrick needs to demonstrate that there is a hand on the rudder. One would assume he could get these things done in between calls to Denver, Tuscaloosa, Norman, Gainesville, Baton Rouge, wherever.

Back to those numbers. They referred to:

A. 2/107/33.9 - Touchdowns scored by Notre Dame today / Syracuse's national rank in scoring defense / Syracuse defense's points per game allowed.

B. 41/108/209 - Notre Dame's total rushing yards today / Syracuse's national rank in rushing defense / Syracuse's per game average for rushing yards allowed.

C. 24/110/18.3 - Points scored by Syracuse today / Syracuse's national rank in scoring offense / Syracuse's scoring average this year.

D. 4/0/14 - The number of ranked (at game time) opponents played by Notre Dame over the past two seasons / Wins over those opponents / The number of losses over the past two seasons.

E. 1 - Wins by Notre Dame over higher ranked opponents in the past four seasons.

F. 11 - Losses to unranked opponents in the past four seasons

There's really nothing more to talk about, is there?