“Show me a good and gracious loser and I’ll show you a failure.” – Knute Rockne
This is going to sound like I’m patting myself on the back, but please believe me when I say I wish I’d been wrong. And, to be fair, I never bothered to post about this before the season (because I really didn’t want to jinx us), so if you don’t believe what I’m about to say, then I wouldn’t blame you.
I knew this was going to happen.
No. I didn’t know we’d lose the first 3 games of the 2007 season by massive blowouts. No. I didn’t know we’d go the first 3 games of the 2007 season without scoring an offensive touchdown. I didn’t know we’d be close to, if not dead last, in total offense after 3 games. But I did know that we’d look really bad on offense, and here’s why: No f-ing leadership. Pardon my French.
The offensive line looks awful. The receivers aren’t getting open. The running backs, when there is a hole, don’t seem to find it. And our quarterbacks, those that chose to remain part of the team, anyway, can’t seem to protect the ball. All very coachable issues, sure, but ultimately this offensive group is young. Too young. And where that really hurts the group isn’t in experience. These guys are getting one hell of an experience right now, I’d say. Where it’s really hurting ND is there isn’t a single leader on that entire squad.
John Carlson, by all accounts, is a fantastic football player and a nice guy, but he’s not, from what I’ve seen, anyone that’ll lead the boys into battle. John Sullivan, the supposed anchor of this offensive line, is clearly no leader. Tonight he single-handedly destroyed the beginning of the game for the Irish in just about the most devastating way a center ever could. When he wasn’t throwing the snap over the head of Armando Allen or Jimmy Clausen, he was throwing bullets back to the QB, throwing off timing of the entire system. And then, instead of being seen on the sidelines looking like someone just killed his puppy, or like he was going to kill anyone who tried to talk to him, he was seen laughing. Laughing. Laughing while your team is getting throttled largely because your squad is inept. That’s awesome. I don’t care if he was just told he won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, there’s not one fathomable excuse for laughing at that point in time. But I sort of saw it coming.
How did I see this coming? Because I realized we had no real leadership on the offense when the coaches had to appoint John Sullivan as a team “captain” even though his own teammates didn’t make him so. It screamed to me that the offense was made up of a gaggle of talent with nobody to guide it. Clausen, who at the time wasn’t even the starting QB, had done nothing to earn the title of captain. Demetrius Jones? Well, I’d heard a lot of stories about how he was a natural-born leader. I guess we’ll never know. Travis Thomas? Sure, he’s a captain, but it’s awfully tough to lead an offense if you’re not able to stay on the field due to all the talent at your position. And can we really say, as outside observers, that Travis has proved himself worthy of the title anyway?
Some of you will immediately blame Weis. And I’ve got to admit, he’s not blameless for this debacle. I think this may be the most bitter learning experience of his entire career. He’s clearly made some mistakes, some miscalculation, But you can’t blame him for the lack of leadership. He can inspire these guys all he wants from his position as coach, but small running backs don’t pick up blocks on blitzing, hulking linebackers for coaches. Receivers don’t stretch out across the middle for coaches. Linemen don’t knock heads 70+ times in a game for coaches. Players play for each other. And right now, these players don’t have that center, that rock, that they can lean on. Players need a pair of eyes that can look at them in the huddle and make them believe in themselves. They need a guy in that huddle that can tell them to calm down, keep their heads up, and keep their mind locked in. Right now it’s as blatantly obvious that they don’t have such a person in the offensive huddle as it is that I could stand to lose a few pounds. And until that leader is found, we’re in for a lot of ass whippings.
I believe Darius Walker said that the greatest thing about Brady Quinn was that, no matter what the situation, in the huddle you could look at him and just believe that it was all going to be ok, and that the Irish would prevail. A new leader will emerge, a new pair of eyes will make sure every other pair of eyes in the huddle are up and ready to go. I’m just not sure when it will happen.
The good news, I think, is that Charlie’s about to lay the lumber on this team. The dorms may want to hide their ice machines, there’s about to be a run. A leader will come out of this week in practice, and those that follow, or Charlie may just well kill someone. And no jury would convict. It’s time for one (or two) of these young, hyper talented guys to grow up and stand up and take the team on their shoulders. This isn’t Brady, Jeff, and Darius’ team any longer. It’s time for one of the young guys to make this their own team. It may be a little soon for whoever it is. It may not even be quite fair, but it has to happen.
I’ll get to reviewing and grading the team’s “progress,” tomorrow, after I’ve slept on it. Apologies for any lack of coherence in this post. A nasty combination of beer, beer, more beer and unmitigated anger made it necessary to either write something here, or drive to South Bend and kick an offensive lineman’s ass, and I’m in no shape to drive.