With that said, the main reasons I chose to believe in Coach Weis were not the rational ones, but rather my own personal ones. Coach Weis’s first game as the head coach was also my first game as a student. I remember sitting in the 4a section lounge less than two weeks after my parents dropped me off at Notre Dame watching Weis’s team demolish Pittsburgh. I remember the feeling when the team stormed out of the tunnel wearing the green jerseys later that year against USC. I remember my first road game to the Fiesta Bowl that winter when we were all hoping for a BCS bowl victory; when we all believed that the next three years of Irish football would truly be something special.
I remember the subsequent road trips: Michigan State and our comeback in the rain; the Navy game in Baltimore when all the Naval Academy Midshipmen marched across the field before the game and sang our fight song; playing flip-cup in front of the Coliseum; the tailgate between two RVs at Penn State; leaving the Michigan game early; the frat party at Purdue; the perfect tailgate outside the Rose Bowl against UCLA; thinking we had a chance against UNC; Ty Willingham running off the field in Seattle; staying dry while everybody else got soaked at BC. My friends and I literally followed the team all across the country.
Regardless of the outcome of those games, I continued to believe. Even when I wrote an Observer Column questioning (albeit not chastising) the decision to retain Weis last year, I believed. Even when we passed on 2nd and 3rd downs at the end of the Michigan game, I believed. Even when the clock hit zero (the second time) against USC this year, I believed.
I guess the real reason why I so desperately wanted Coach Weis to be successful in the long term was because it would have given meaning to all of those games I followed the team. Sure we had fun in each of those cities on each of those weekends, and I don’t regret one decision that we made, but a BCS game this year or a Championship next year would have meant that all of those games were leading somewhere.
So I continued to believe.
As a fan of movies and television, I’m programmed to think things are leading somewhere. Weis leaving now and another rebuilding project mean that all of those games were leading nowhere. It would be like if How I Met Your Mother [or Lost, to a much greater extent] was abruptly cancelled. Sure I’ve loved watching the series, but there would be a helpless feeling of emptiness if we never found out who the mother was or where everything was leading.
Real life, quite obviously, isn’t like television. Sure we can plan for things to happen and hope that things happen but rarely will it all come together nicely in the end. People get hurt, shit happens, and life moves on. In light of what transpired this weekend, the only thing I currently believe is that it’s now time to move on.
The night before the USC game, a hypothetical was proposed to me: if the stakes were life and death, which team would I pick to win the game. My answer was that I believed that Notre Dame was going to win the game, so I couldn’t possibly risk my life choosing something I didn’t believe in. As painful as it is for me; right now, I no longer hold those same beliefs.
If we’re now looking towards the future of Notre Dame Football, I want to share my thoughts on who I’d like to see replace Coach Weis. Before I do that, however, I’m going to address the men most commonly talked about on message boards (such as Rock’s House) and why I don’t think they will be (or should be) our next coach.
Urban Meyer: Despite the fact that he would have no real motivation to leave his job at Florida, I do believe that Notre Dame is his dream job. With that said, I was completely turned off to him after the Brandon Spikes situation last week. I want a coach we can be proud of, and right now Meyer does not fit the bill.
Bob Stoops: I wouldn’t be opposed to him at all, but I really don’t think that he would leave his job at Oklahoma. Until somebody gives a compelling reason why he would, I’m not counting on it.
Nick Saban: Am I the only person who doesn’t understand all the infatuation with him? He seems to me to be completely sleazy. He has no loyalty, does his best work with JUCO players (although the next coach might have to with Nate Montana), and had wins revoked last year for NCAA violations. He might bring us back into contention, but at what cost?
Jon Gruden: People seem to love Jon Gruden, but I don’t get it. He hasn’t coached at the college level in nearly 20 years (which would bring the same problems that Weis had). For most of his tenure with the Bucs, the team was mediocre (below .500 in his final 6 seasons). The players apparently hated him, and his offense was oftentimes bad (and he is an offensive guy). Sure, he won one Super Bowl, but many credit that to a team that Tony Dungy assembled and the fact that Gruden knew the opponent really, really well.
The biggest thing people seem to be overlooking about Jon Gruden, however, is that his defenses in Tampa were led by Monte Kiffin, a man that is probably one of the best defensive coordinators in the history of football. Irish fans that want Gruden as the coach point out that he always had great defense, but I doubt he had anything to do with the defense. He didn’t even hire Kiffin as the defensive coordinator in Tampa. The way I see it, Gruden is more unknown that Weis was five years ago, and unless he is bringing Kiffin with him (unlikely since the elder Kiffin is running the defense on his son’s staff at Tennessee) he wouldn’t be an improvement over Weis.
My position has always been that firing Weis is only a good idea if we can find a replacement that will most likely do a better job, and will actually want to come here and do it. I don’t think the above four choices (who are most often mentioned) meet those two criteria. Because of this, if Weis is fired, I believe that Jack Swarbrick should first attempt to hire Will Muschamp, the defensive coordinator at Texas.
While Muschamp is the “head-coach-in-waiting” at UT, I think it is far more likely that our administration can convince him to take the job (considering how uncertain Mack Brown’s retirement is) than it would be for them to convince the actual head coaches at Florida, Alabama, or Oklahoma to ditch their current jobs to come to Notre Dame. Anybody that thinks otherwise is living in a fantasyland.
Muschamp meets my three biggest criteria in that he 1) Has experience recruiting and coaching elite college teams (Texas, Auburn, LSU), 2) Is defensive minded and might not require a complete overhaul of the offense (see Rich Rodriguez, Michigan), and 3) Is young and on the upward arc of his career. While others might be looking for the sure thing hires, I think Will Muschamp would undoubtedly be an excellent choice.
If he is unwilling to leave UT (which is a big possibility) my second choice would be Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong. Strong has done an excellent job with the defense at Florida in recent years, has experience coaching under both Urban Meyer AND Lou Holtz, and previously was on staff at ND. Strong can recruit and has experience at the big schools, and unlike Muschamp is not a “head-coach-in-waiting”.
For the life of me I don’t understand why I haven’t seen these names on Rock’s House or other message boards, but then again I could never understand why those people didn’t believe in Weis. I guess there are just some things I will never understand.
Go Irish, Beat Panthers