Please, please, please before you jump all over me, note that I did NOT write “The Case for Weis”.Â There is a very important distinction there that I have to make clear.Â This article is not about how great of a coachÂ I think Weis is (he isn’t).Â It’s not about how much I love him as our coach (I don’t).Â This article is about pragmatic decision-making and the reasons why Charlie is still (and should be) HC of Notre Dame.Â It does not mean I’m thrilled with the situation, that I give him a ‘pass’ on things or anything of the sort.Â This also isn’t an article about how i agree with all the things I outline below.Â It’s just what I THINK happened and what I THINK the reasoning was behind closed doors, and how I THINKÂ it led to the decision that was made.Â And if I’m only right on 2 out of 3, I still think it results in the same decision.
Finally, I don’t think any ONE of these is the reason.Â I think it’s a combination of all of these factors causing ND brass to say ‘let’s give it one more year’.Â You can easily poke holes in any individual point I make below (and feel free), but I think it’s the combination of all of them that made it a pretty clear choice for Swarbrick.
First?Â The case against keeping him:Â
Pretty clear right?Â Â One horrid and one pretty bad season.Â A loss to Syracuse.Â A loss to Navy.Â Another almost-loss to Navy.Â Little discernible progress in the offense, at least with any consistency.Â USC back-to-back blowouts.Â Â Time to go right?Â Â
To me, wrong.Â Here’s why.
1)Â In college, recruiting = success.Â If a coach can do NOTHING other than recruit Top 10 classes all the time, for the most part that program will be decent.Â Not amazing, but decent.Â Talent = wins.Â And Charlie Weis is a HELL of a recruiter.Â He’s done something that Ty wouldn’t do and Davie couldn’t do.Â And he’s doing it with a 3-9 and 6-6 season.Â ND needs this influx of talented players.Â ND needs this more than anything else at this point.Â And if Weis were to go today, we’d lose the heart of the upcoming signees in Feb (why else do you think Evans and Watt’s first concerns were ‘is he staying?’)Â After this year’s Junior class became a bust (due to injuries and transfers) we simply can’t afford to have this incoming class next Fall fall apart.Â ND needs a strong nucleus of talented players – it makes the place more attractive to other recruits, and it makes it more attractive to other coaches should Weis not work out.Â And whether we like it or not, the players have bought into CHARLIE.Â Yes, ND the institution means something, but it’s Charlie Weis that brought these kids in.Â You think Dayne will stick around to learn from some other guy when he committed to Charlie?Â When he committed knowing that he’d be taught by the guy that built Brady and Quinn and (maybe someday?) Clausen?Â Nope, he’d be gone.Â And the same thing down the line.Â Let’s not pretend like it’s easy to bring in Top 10 classes anywhere, let alone at ND.Â Charlie has done it, can do it, and will do it again.Â And at this juncture, disrupting that process, IMO, would be disastrous.Â This is a factor that I do believe was worth serious consideration.
2)Â Money.Â Â Regardless of the what the exact buyout is ($10M, $12M, $150 bajillion!), it would’ve been expensive.Â Very expensive.Â And what would we get for that money?Â Another coach, most likely just as unproven, a bunch of lost recruits, and no continuity or stability in the program.Â Not a great deal right?Â Right.
I also believe that Swarbrick is a really good negotiator.Â A lawyer, and a dude that made things like the NCAA happen in Indy, dude MUST be good.Â My guess is (I have no data here to back this up) that Swarbrick struck a deal with Charlie that gives him another year to prove results (X wins or more) and if CW doesn’t meet that criteria, then the buyout is reduced in some way.Â Swarbrick is shrewd and he was in a position of power this past week.Â Charlie just botched a Syracuse game and got whooped by USC.Â It’s the exact opposite of the week of his extension, and my guess is that Jack took advantage.Â He gives Charlie that extra year and Charlie gives a bit of that ransom back.Â It’s a decent deal all-around.Â On this one, I also would agree with the move (if this is indeed what happened).Â Paying out that buyout, with all the potential negative ramifications this year, would just be painful.Â
3)Â Brand New AD.Â Speaking of Jack, his newness likely fed into his erring on the side of caution.Â He just got into this job recently, and he’s learning the ropes and getting settled.Â ND has, at the least, NOT hit a home run in it’s last 3 coaching searches.Â They’ve rushed through things and botched them pretty horribly.Â And those were under ADs that had been around for a while.Â Without Jenkins calling strongly for Weis’ head, I think Swarbrick figured he’d be cautious and set things in motion in case next year warrants a search.Â It gives him more time to get it right.Â And after the mistakes of the past, unless he has a really solid “Home Run” lined up already (doubtful given how late things fell apart), it’d just be too big of a risk.
4)Â No Other “Home Run” Options that are Viable.Â As much as people want to say that this is no reason to hold onto a coach, I strongly strongly strongly disagree.Â If keeping Weis had no positive benefits (the recruiting, savings on the buyout, continuity in the program, etc) I would agree.Â But since it does, just firing him to get ANYONE else is beyond foolish.Â “Someone out there will find somebody better” is the typical response to this.Â But no one I’ve talked to has been able to name viable replacements.Â ND fans seemed to hunker down around a few main options.Â Meyer isn’t leaving Florida this year, sorry folks.Â Gruden isn’t leaving the pros for ND until he gets canned (if he does) and I doubt that he’d be an improvement anyway.Â Kelly and Leach are pretty good coaches, but I’m not sold that either is the answer.Â Both have veteran-ass teams. My bet is that Leach is a one year wonder and better cash in now, and Kelly is against an extremely weak schedule this year.Â ND fans want an experienced HC that knows how to win, recruit and do it right.Â And this year there just isn’t much of an opportunity to pull one of those guys in.Â Will it be better next year?Â I don’t know.Â But given that the shite really hit the fan in just the last 4 weeks, I don’t think Swarbrick really had time to lay down the ground work.Â
5) Charlie is a Good Sand-bagger behind closed doors.Â To the public, 9-3 ain’t good enough.Â To the public, Charlie was bummed that we werent undefeated when we were sitting at 4-1 this year.Â To Swarbrick and Jenkins, I think Charlie sandbags big time, while in the process of explaining how he’s building this program. I think he warned Jenkins et al that last year was coming at the end of ’06.Â I think he managed expectations this year, asking that they understand when we’re not magically back at 9-3 this year.Â I think Charlie read the writing on the wall with the youth of this team and the gaps in personnell (both players and coaches) and his own significant learning curve.Â So while Syracuse was a shock and a huge disappointment to ND leadership, I think they pretty much expected the rest of what’s gone on this year (as did I for the most part), and therefore their reactions aren’t as strong or negative.Â Of course, this can only work so long, but I think Charlie’s doing a good internal PR job for himself, and it’s working.
6)Â Â Youth.Â Yes, YOUTH!Â This is NOT a ‘tired’ argument.Â ND is younger than every BCS Top 10 team this year in % Underclassmen Starters, in Time in the Program (e.g. time to practice and lift and develop) and Letters Earned.Â (ND ties UF in some of those, though).Â ND is younger than every team it played this year in Underclassmen Starters and in Time in the Program.Â EVERY TEAM.Â Yes, it’s Charlie’s year 4.Â But the first class was super tiny and a transition.Â The second class, somewhat highly rated, was decimated due to transfers and injuries.Â The third class are sophomores and the fourth class freshmen.Â And a ton of them start.Â (I’m going to do a pretty detailed post on youth all around, and by offense and defense, that tells a prettyÂ clear story.Â )Â The point?Â ND leaders know this and know that these kids need time to develop.Â Message to all those that say CW can’t develop players – how can you know this when they’ve only been around for 1-2 seasons?Â They haven’t had TIME to develop!Â Look at some of the older guys – Crum, Bruton, Grimes – they’ve developed!Â HUGE notable exception is the O-line, which is veteran and hasn’t developed.Â Totally agree here, but that one part of the team doesn’t negate the entire argument. (plus I think this is mostly scheme anyway, but that’s another topic)Â Swarbrick and company know this is a very young team, and they’ve seen flashes of good stuff.Â I think they figure one more year to see how that pans out is worth it.Â In a ‘regular’ program, Frosh and Sophomores spend time learning from veteran players and lifting weights.Â By the time they hit the field they’re 20 years old, with 20 pounds more muscle and they’re faster.Â They know the game better and they’re ready to do their job.Â For the past 2 years, ND has relied upon 18 year old frosh with athletic ability but little acclimation to the college game, little/no time in a college weight program – and they didn’t have anyone older to learn from.Â You can’t learn from ‘the man’ when you ARE ‘the man’.Â Â There’s not as much time to develop when you’re thrown to the fire that early.Â And for a lot of the time, these guys have done well.Â Youthtful mistakes abound, but the play of guys like Floyd, Tate, Blanton, Johnson, Smith and Smith, etc is very encouraging for the future.Â Again, OL is an exception (not you Trevor – you da man).
7)Â Goodwill.Â Charlie built up a ton of goodwill in seasons 1 and 2 and through recruiting success.Â 2 BCS Bowls (deserved or not) and a 9-3 and 10-3 combo after Ty’s nightmare-ish reign scored him major points.Â He used up a ton last year.Â He used up a bunch in the BC and Syracuse games.Â There’s none left after this decision for a one year grace period, but I think this was a factor.
8)Â Charlie COULD be the answer.Â At this point, I don’t think he is.Â But I think he has a 30-40% chance of being really successful in the long run.Â It COULD be that the youth of the team and some bad breaks made this year look worse than it really is.Â It COULD be that Jimmy was telling the truth when he said ‘we’re not the far away’.Â This year gives Charlie a chance to make any needed changes, to try to adapt, and to come back and prove it.Â
Granted, Charlie could just as well NOT be the answer and may just completely suck.Â But in that case, all the other reasons above still are important enough to give it one more shot.
So that’s that.Â I think that all of these things combined resulted in the decision.Â IÂ think it’s the right one.Â
Even if ND ends up mediocre next year, the school will be in better position to move on.Â They’ll (possibly) pay less, they’ll have another year of stellar recruits in the fold, they’ll have a year for Swarbrick to get settled, they’ll have a year to plan in advance who they’ll go after if needed, and the options for HC’s in a year may be better than this year (simply because this year was so limited), and probably can’t be much worse.Â
If we had a veteran team, or if there were a stellar option available, or if the buyout was less, or if Swarbrick were a veteran, or IF IF IF IF, maybe I’d think this was the wrong decision.Â But with all of this, ALL of this, I think they did what they had to do.Â Again, I’m not happy about it.Â I do hope that Charlie has a TON of success next year bc 1) I think he’s a good guy and 2) I love this team, school and program and I want to see them do well.Â I KNOW there are a ton of Irish “fans” that will be hoping for ND to tank and rack up losses next year just because they’re vindictive little pricks and would prefer to be right about Charlie suckingÂ over celebratingÂ Irish wins.Â To me, that’s childish and simply lame.Â I cheer for Notre Dame football – whether I love the coach or not.Â You should too.
I don’t love this coach, and I don’t hate him.Â I think he’s the best option we have at this time, and so I’m going to support him and this team with every ounce of my football spirit in the next year.Â Â If it doesn’t work out?Â I’ll feel like a true fan and look forward to the next guy to lean on.Â If it does?Â I’ll celebrate.Â
Bash away, haterers.