Monday, September 24, 2007

Sorry, Charlie

Fourteen years ago, I endured embarrassment and ridicule from my siblings when my girlfriend at the time insisted on shopping for a dresser during the second half of The Game of the Century: Notre Dame vs. Florida State. I deserved it.

Last Saturday during the Notre Dame-Michigan State game, I went apple picking. Voluntarily. After that, I caught about 10 minutes of the game before taking the family up to my grandmother's house for dinner. Instead of tuning in for the fourth quarter when we reached Roseville, I enjoyed the sight of four live deer grazing in Grandma Lou's back yard. As I watched the youngest doe bound back into the woods, I thought, "Wow, we sure could use her offensive firepower."

Like many of the Notre Dame faithful, I'm left scratching my head at the profound disintegration of this program. When Jerry Faust came in from the high school ranks, it was clear that he was in over his head. When Bob Davie took over for Lou Holtz, the mediocrity was apparent from the first offensive series against Georgia Tech (I was at the game). When Ty Willingham stepped in for Davie, we got the over-achieving bounce from season one, then fell back to feebleness the next two years.

Those three coaches were basically unproven commodities who didn't succeed at ND. Weis is different. Here was a guy who had achieved success wherever he had been--too much so for it dismissed as mere coincidence or the product of living off other great coaches vicariously. ND overachieved in its first season, culminating with the near upset of the mighty Trojans. It played only above average against a soft schedule in 2006, but it did not experience a dramatic fall. Now Notre Dame, the team I grew up with--the team I imagined playing for as I carried a Nerf football up the steps to bed every night in South Bend, Indiana--is the worst team in college football.

I have little to add to what's already being shouted in ND nation. But I do want to say this: The media has planted the seed that this drop off to oblivion is due largely to a "recruiting gap" between Willingham and Weis. I don't buy it. Sure, such a gap exists, and Weis has (theoretically) greatly improved recruiting from the Willingham/Davie eras. But where's the young talent? Where's the spark? Good-to-great coaches don't experience dramatic meltdowns. They don't suffer six straight blowout losses. They don't get bad performances from talented players. They get great performances from average players.

Unless this team improves steadily throughout this season and dominates next year, I have no choice but to believe that Charlie has simply lost this team. No, I don't think he should be fired yet. Like most Irish-in-denial, I'll give him this one horrible year out of hope (not belief) that the recruiting gap is legit. But then, using the typical Weis offense as an apt closing metaphor, it's four and out.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The worst team in college football" (?!?!) Damn, I don't think so. I think the Fighting Irish need to pay a little visit to the Golden Gopher Teflon Dome before they can lay claim to that title. Sorry to burst your bubble Marc, but hey, there's always next year.

Anonymous said...

Actually, ND is almost certainly worse than Minnesota. If ND loses 45-31 to Purdue like the Gophers just did, we ND faithful will be startled and overjoyed. I was at the Penn State game and saw firsthand the ten consecutive 3-and-outs from the second possession until garbage time in the 4th quarter. I've never seen a Notre Dame team this bad.

Anyone want two tickets to the Notre Dame - Stanford game in Palo Alto? I think bringing my son to that game, his very first game in person, could scar him for life. "Daddy, why are you yelling mean things at that fat guy on the sidelines?"

-Nate

Aunt Christy said...

It's the Whos in Who-ville whaa-hoo dor-ay action at the end--singing the alma mater before the invisible victory--that makes me cringe.

Marc Conklin said...

Nate, good to hear from you. How did you find my blog?

I haven't taken James to a game yet, but I thought it was telling that in the lead-up to the Michigan game, he kept shouting, "Go Michigan! Go Michigan!"

Anonymous said...

My daughter started doing the same thing right before the Vikings infamous 41-donut NFC Championship game. She kept shouting "Go Giants!" She was 4 or 5 at the time. Thing is, she's still a Giants fan. Let's all hope James sees the light re: ND (after all, his inheritance could depend upon it).